Have you ever wondered why you can’t throw a wool sweater in the washing machine? Each wool follicle is covered in overlapping scales and when these scales get agitated, they start clinging together, like velcro. This process is known as fulling or felting. In some instances felting is the desired outcome, however, pulling an expensive handknit item out of the wash and seeing it in a shrunken, matted state can bring you to tears. Many of your handknit items will require you to hand wash them. Look to your yarn label for care instructions.
To hand wash your knits:
- Plug a clean sink and fill it with lukewarm water.
- Add a small amount of gentle, biodegradable dish soap like Green Works Waterlily or Seventh Generation. You can also use Eucalan, which helps restore the lanolin to your wools.
- You may soak your garment for a few minutes if it is extra dirty. Gently lift the knit garment in and out of the water. DO NOT WRING, RUB, OR TWIST YOUR KNIT as it can cause felting!
- Rinse your knit item in clean water.
- Place your knit item in a towel and roll it up. Press gently on the towel to remove excess water. Knit items tend to smell like sheep when they are wet. This is normal.
- Lay your knit item flat to dry. Reshape carefully if needed. DO NOT PUT YOUR KNIT ITEM IN THE DRYER! It may take a day or two for your knit item to dry.
If your item is made of cotton or superwash wool (the scales have been either glued down or removed) you may wash it in the washing machine in cold water using the gentle cycle. Lay flat to dry and fluff-up in the dryer for 5 minutes when your item is nearly dry.