Our store associate, Suzette, has some great tips for washing and storing your knitwear.
When warm weather hits in late May or early June, it is time to put hand-knit woolens away for the summer. It is an active time of year for the small gray wool moths, and I have way too many sweaters! Here are a few tips I have come up with to make the process a little easier and more pleasant.
First, I sort through the pile, setting aside all the ones I know I have worn a fair amount. Moths love to munch where any food has splattered, so being a cook, I always include the sweater I was wearing to cook Thanksgiving Dinner. I hold each one up to the light to make sure there are not any holes already. If I find one, I carefully stitch it up using a matching cotton thread and a sewing needle. I find it easier to use thread because it is thinner, and I have made many invisible mends right in the fronts of cherished old sweaters. It is important to do this mending before you wash them so the holes don’t get larger. With any luck, you won’t find any holes.
I always end up with about 12 sweaters to wash, so I start early in the morning on a dry sunny day. I have a top loading washing machine, so I fill it with cold water and pour in about 3-4 tablespoons of Eucalan wool wash. This product is fabulous because it restores some of the natural lanolin to the fibers and it doesn’t have to be rinsed out. I turn the machine off and put in about 6 sweaters, pushing them down with my hands until they stay well under the water. After letting them soak for 30 minutes, I push them down a few more times, and turn the machine to the final spin cycle (no agitation!) The sweaters emerge clean and ready to be put outside in the sun. Then I put in the second load of 6 sweaters. If I am hand washing just a few sweaters in the sink, I soak them for the same 30 minutes and then carry them in a dishpan to the washing machine to spin them out. The final spin gets a lot of the water out and the sweaters dry much more quickly. Of course there is the roll it up in a towel and jump on it method too!
To save having sweaters drying flat on towels on every floor of my house, I spread a canvas drop cloth or tarp in a sunny spot outside and lay the sweaters out, patting them into shape. I usually turn them over once, and they dry in around 4 hours. I have never had any trouble with fading, but of course, something very delicate might be better off inside. So at the end of the afternoon all the sweaters are clean and dry
and ready for storage.
Any tight storage container will do. I use plastic storage bins and plastic bags that I close tightly with twist ties. Moth-balls are very effective, but I really can’t stand the smell, so at the top of each bin or bag I place two or three pieces of cedar wood. I bought a package of thin cedar boards (which are designed for lining a cedar closet) at Lowes*. I sawed them into 8 inch lengths – they would probably cut them for you for a small fee. I did use a little 150 grit sand paper to smooth off the corners so they wouldn’t poke through the bags. I have reused these same pieces of cedar for many years. If the smell fades, I just rub them with a little sand paper to reactivate the oils in the wood. When I open the bags in the fall, the sweaters smell fresh, and the cedar aroma fades quickly.
* Ever True 4 foot Aromatic Red Cedar Wall Panel Molding – $29.78- plenty of wood!
Amazon also sells cedar products, including drawer liners for around $11.00 but there is much less wood.