Spotlight on Process: Hand Washing Sweaters

We chatted about how simple it is to hand wash small items in a previous blog post, so I thought I would continue and show you how I wash and care for my sweaters, hand knit and store-bought, at home. It is an extremely rare occasion for me to dry clean my sweaters. My closet is filled with mostly wool and cashmere sweaters, so careful laundering at home is preferable. If you have a sweater that says dry clean only, please assess whether you should wash it at home. Most natural fibers can be hand washed, but if there is extensive beading and embellishments or if it is made of rayon or viscose, stick to the directions on the care label. 

I am laundering a sweater my daughter bought years ago at JCrew, and let's face it, it looks pretty sad. It is desperately in need of a refresh! 

Fill a sink or a blocking bin with tepid water and a small amount of wool wash.  If you are using a sink, ensure it is free of harsh cleansers.  You do not want your sweater to be in contact with anything that can harm or bleach it. We sell large basins in the shop, but I have used this bucket for years. I purchased it at a hardware store, and it is ONLY used for hand washing and blocking. My wool wash of choice is lavender-scented Eucalan. In a pinch, you can use a small amount of high-quality shampoo.  

Put the sweater in the basin, give it a gentle swish about, and let it soak for 15 or 20 minutes. You can repeat the process if your sweater is especially dirty. 

Next, drain the water excess water away. I like using a bucket or bin because I can tip the water out and then push the sweater against the side, letting the rest water drain away. If you lift the piece out of a basin, do so with care and support the sweater while squeezing it. Never wring the item out; you can easily stretch the garment.

Before laying it flat to dry, you want it to be damp, not sopping wet. I do one of two things to get the remainder of the water out. 

If it is not an incredibly fragile piece, I will put it on the slowest spin cycle in my washing machine.  Modern washing machines usually come with the ability to select a specialized cycle. No water should touch the sweater in this cycle! The centrivical force of the spin cycle helps to remove any excess water.

If I am not comfortable with putting the piece in the washing machine, I will lay it flat on a towel, roll it up like a burrito and gently step on the little package. Sometimes you must repeat the process with dry towels if the sweater is especially thick.

Now you can place your sweater on a blocking board or sweater drying rack, pat it out to the correct shape and size, and leave it to dry. I love my Cocoknits Seater Car Pop-Up Dryer. It allows for the air to circulate and can be easily stored away. Be careful when you open it and hold it away from you.  It does POP open.  I almost lost an eye!

After the sweater is completely dry, I keep my sweater looking new by using my Gleener to remove any pills.  This chunky knit needed it! Doesn't it look so much better?

Voilà! You'll have a happy sweater that feels renewed and you'll feel refreshed in wearing it. Save this post for reference and read more on my Spotlight on Process series

Older Post Newer Post

  • Leslie Baker on

    I love this sweater! Can you tell me what the pattern is? I knit a lot of sweaters when I was MUCH younger, but since taking knitting up again, I have not been brave enough to take on a sweater. This looks like it would be easy and a bit forgiving. Also, the yarn? I have bought a number of Shibui yarns from you and have always been really pleased with your friendliness and service!! Thanks!!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published