Beginners and advanced knitters often learn how to properly wash knitted items through experience. It’s a lot of trial and error (and lots of wasted knitted clothes and blankets).
That’s why in this article we’ll discuss how to wash hand knitted items and avoid the most common mistakes. This way you can make the knitted sweaters, blankets and other of your handicrafts last for several years to come.
Read the yarn’s label
It’s the first thing you should do. That’s because yarn labels often already contain instructions for proper care. For example, the label could contain whether it can be run in the washer or not. Most importantly, the label will tell you what type of yarn it is (acrylic, cotton or wool).
Different types of yarns often require different levels of care. For instance, acrylic yarn doesn’t require much precaution and care. If you knitted a sweater using acrylic yarn, you can wash and dry it with your regular laundry. It’s also often the case with other synthetic yarns such as nylon and polyester. They don’t shrink and synthetic fibres are often relatively inert to detergent. As a result, handicrafts made from synthetic yarns last long even with regular care.
It’s a different case though with wool and cotton yarns. For example, cotton yarns require a gentle approach (e.g. perhaps a “soft” setting in your washer) because the fibres might ‘break apart’ if the settings are too harsh. Cotton fabrics also stretch and get soggy because they hold too much water content. The extra weight and gravity will stretch the cotton fibres.
In the case of wool yarns, shrinkage can be a common problem whether it’s a wool hat, beanie or sweater. Just one session of improper washing and the craft can already get ruined. It’s especially the case when using a washer.
Good news is there’s superwash wool that can endure the motions, water and detergent. It’s even often called washable wool because of this characteristic. You won’t have to worry even if the superwool clothing accidentally gets thrown into the washer this weekend.
Whichever is the case, read the yarn label to know the yarn type and care instructions. The instructions are already often complete. When in doubt, test a small item first so you won’t lose much if anything goes wrong.
If you don’t know which yarn type it is, you can also do a quick experiment such as getting a short strand of the hand knitted clothing or accessory. Then you perform a “burn test” and see how the strand burns or reacts to the flame.
Cotton yarns burn like leaves and paper (the smell and appearance are similar). Wool yarns burn like hair (similar composition because wool is derived from animal hair fibres). On the other hand, synthetic yarns often melt (perhaps because of their polymeric nature).
If you still have huge doubts about which type of yarn the clothing is, do a gentle and short handwash first and use mild amounts of detergent. Watch out for any shrinkage, bleeding and other adverse reactions.
How to choose a detergent
In general it’s ideal to use a mild detergent for any kind of yarn. That’s because harsh detergents can result to shrinkage, felting and “bleeding” of the yarn fibres. After all, harsh detergents are made to react intensely with dirt and fibres.
It’s also recommended to use relatively cold water. High temperatures can damage the fibres (especially cotton and wool). Also, the reactivity and action of detergent gets accelerated because of heat. But with the use of cold water, the reaction would slow down or gets less severe.
In addition, there are specialty detergents so you could better care for your wool clothing and accessories. These specialty detergents may contain lanolin, which is a natural oil that can help preserve wool fibres. Moreover, lanolin-containing specialty detergents may also greatly improve the wool’s resistance against water.
How to handwash knitted items
For sure and gentle care many knitters actually prefer handwashing their crafts. Well, knitting enthusiasts often want everything to be done with their hands. They also want to make sure that what they’ve worked hard for won’t be easily ruined by the washer.
To successfully do this, you have to be gentle from start to finish. From soaking up to squeezing the excess water for drying, you should do it slowly and gently. This is to avoid stretching the fibres and making the whole item sag. Take note that gravity and manual force can easily stretch cotton and wool fibres. You want the original quality of your craft to remain intact even after repeated washing.
To handwash the knitted clothing or accessory, use a container large enough to completely submerge the item. Once you fill the container with relatively cold water and mild detergent, you can then agitate the item in the water (don’t scrub). If there are any stains, you can treat it locally and gently.
Once you know the item is clean enough, you should then drain the container and fill it again with cold water. You can repeatedly do this rinsing until the water is clear. And when it’s time to dry it, support its weight as you transfer it to another place (to avoid stretching and sagging). Many people place it on a dry and absorbent towel. Once the item is inside, you can then roll up the towel and firmly press to squeeze the water. Don’t squeeze and twist the towel as this will stretch the fibres in the knitted item.
The key here is to avoid stretching and making the yarn fibres sag. Also don’t apply too much force whenever you handle your masterpieces. They require a slightly delicate treatment to preserve their form.
How to dry the knitted items
When you lay down the knitted item on the towel, set it in such a way that the item is in its natural everyday form. For example, the sweater should be laid flat with the sleeves on the side. This way, the item would still be “stuck” on what its appearance and orientation should be.
It’s recommended to wait at least 24 hours before getting the item. If after one day it’s not yet completely dry, flip it gently so you won’t introduce new wrinkles in the item. As before, set the item as how it will be used or worn. Wait another at least 24 hours to complete the drying process.
Properly wash hand knitted items for longevity
Yes, maintaining your handcrafted masterpieces also require some detail. Although knitting is a lot more satisfying, properly maintaining the items is part of the hobby. You want the pieces to last for several years and maintain their quality.
It’s another challenge especially for beginners who are just starting to explore knitting. If you’re a beginner, focus first on gaining muscle memory so you can semi-automatically perform the hobby. If you’re already an experienced knitter, perhaps it’s the best time now to learn how to care for your excellent masterpieces.
It’s a whole new world and every day you might learn something new about knitting. Often, articles and books focus on the glamorous part of the hobby (doing stitches and making an adult sweater). They forgot to mention how to care for your masterpieces. Those knitted items are your accomplishments and they require special care from you.
Right now or in the future the information discussed here will be useful in caring for your accomplishments. If you’ve reached this far in the hobby, it’s very likely you’ll create more masterpieces and gifts for your family, friends and yourself. The information will then prove to be useful as you maintain an impressive portfolio of knitted handicrafts.
Whichever is the case, it’s just more fun to do knitting than thinking about how to wash the items. Also, it’s the actual knitting that will take most of your time (not handwashing the knitted sweater). That’s why it’s still more worthwhile to focus on the hobby and the act of creation.
If you think the same thing, you can find inspirations and projects here at The Aussie Knitting Co. It’s your one-stop shop for your all your knitting needs. We have high-quality yarns, needles and accessories and awesome patterns that will fill up your days and weeks.
You can now order online and we’ll have it delivered to you in 3 to 10 working days (sometimes we can actually accomplish this earlier depending on logistics and availability of supplies). If you have any questions about how to order and the delivery, you can contact us today.