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How to Care for Hand Knit Items

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How to Care for Hand Knit Items

Photo by MML

Mary Marlowe Leverette

Hand-knit items are treasures of someone’s time, skill and artistic talent. Whether you’ve received one as a gift or done the work yourself, proper care of hand knits will help them last for many years to come.

Cotton, Wool or Acrylic?

The type of yarn used to knit your garment will determine the best way to care of it. If you’ve done the work yourself, refer to the yarn’s label. You’ll often find care instructions. If you received the knitted item as a gift or purchase it at a craft fair, ask the knitter or seller.
  • Superwash wool can be hand or machine washed on the gentle cycle in cold water.
  • Regular wool must be washed by hand in cold water or it will felt and shrink.
  • Cotton, linen and ramie yarn can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle using either cold or warm.
  • Acrylic and other synthetic yarns can be washed and dried in with your regular laundry as they do not shrink.
  • Unknown fiber content items should be hand washed in cold water and laid flat to dry.

    Detergent Choices

    For hand washing, choose a mild detergent and cold water. For wool fibers, choose a formula developed for wool or mild baby shampoo. Specialty detergents containing contain lanolin are available, such as Eucalan. Lanolin is a natural oil produced by sheep and helps preserve wool fibers and increases the water resistance of wool. This type of detergent should be used for hand knit outerwear.

    Hand Washing Tips

    • Gently agitate the knitted item in the water. Never wring or scrub.
    • Drain the sink and add fresh, cold water for rinsing. Repeat this process until all the water is clear and free of suds.
    • Support the item from underneath as you transfer it to a dry towel.

    Reshaping and Drying

    • Gently remove excess water and lay item flat on a dry, absorbent towel and roll up in the towel, pressing firmly as you roll. Do not wring the towel.
    • Lay a dry bath towel on a flat surface large enough to hold your garment with arms extended if appropriate. A card table is the perfect size for air-drying sweaters and typically has a protective vinyl top. Always protect wood surfaces with a vinyl tablecloth under the towel.
    • Place the knitted item on the dry towel and reshape into its original shape. Pat it into shape; avoid tugging or pulling. Gently push the ribbing together at the neckline, wrists and waist. Fasten buttons. Fold collar.
    • Allow the item to dry for 24 hours.
    • If not completely dry, Flip the item over onto a dry towel, arrange into shape (the shape will have set by now but you don’t want to add wrinkles or slow drying), and dry for another 24 hours.
    • Fold your garment and put it away. Never hang a knitted garment. The weight will stretch out the shoulders very quickly.

    Hand washing may seem like a lot of trouble, but you can be sure that plenty of work went into creating your knitted garment.

    Specific questions? Just ask here.

Related Video
How to Hand Wash a Sweater
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