Spring is in the air and that means it’s time to start washing my sweaters! It’s always a good practice to wash your sweaters before they get put away for the season. I do not wash my sweaters really more than once a year, but if you have one that you wear frequently, like the sweater I’m going to wash today, you might need to wash it a couple times a season. You’ll see by the sweater that I’ve chosen to wash for this blog post that I need to take my own advice!
This is my favorite sweater! It is a modified Flax sweater that I knit using a 100% Targhee wool yarn that I did a special run of about 5 years ago. It is a heavy worsted weight sweater that is perfectly oversized and incredibly cozy. I wear this sweater most days in the winter, if I don't wear it out in the world, I put it on as soon as I get home to get cozy. I've even been known to sleep in it a cold night or two. I haven't washed this sweater in probably two years so it REALLY needs it!
The first thing I do I give my sweater a good look over. I pull off any debris that might be on it- in this case several threads and wood bits from carrying in wood for the fire. One of the ways you can tell your sweater is ready for a wash is when it gets all stretched out and loose. As you can see by the neck here, this sweater is definitely showing those signs. I also look for any areas that will need some extra scrubbing, in this case the cuffs have some extra grime and there were a couple of coffee stains.
I also inspect my sweater for any wear signs or in this case, full blown holes! I'll do the mending once it's all washed but I want to really see what's going on in case I need to be extra gentle. This arm pit is quite literally holding on by a thread and the other side isn't much better! I am not an expert in mending so I won't get into much detail about that in this blog post, but I will show you how it looks when it's done!
Now it's time to get to it! I use Long Winter Farm Sweater Soap for my sweater washing needs. I like the Merino bar (that's the name of the scent, not what type of wool you should wash with it), it's unscented which I prefer because I'm sensitive to smells. This is my favorite soap because it has lanolin in it and my sweaters LOVE that! I have Merino Sweater Soap bars available on my website, and if you prefer something with scent, you can find more Sweater Soap Bars on their website!
To get started I take a tub and fill it with warm water- not hot! While the tub is filling up I rub the bar of soap in my hands under the running water. You can see in the picture above this soap doesn't get all bubbly, and you don't need it to! Once your tub is full, I submerge my sweater and let it naturally soak into the water. Once it's all wet I find those stained spots and rub the soap bar directly onto the sweater. You don't have to worry too much about being gentle with your sweater, I know people get nervous with wool in water, but because you are using warm water and not hot, you don't have to be overly cautions.
As you can see here, this sweater is incredibly grimy! Normally I would just let my sweater sit in the water for 30 minutes and then dump the water out, but because this is so gross, I filled the water up again for a second round. You do not need to worry about rinsing the soap out of your sweater, but if you prefer to you can give it is spray down when it's done soaking.
After I'm done washing, I put my sweater in my top load washer and spin it out. If you don't have a top load, than I recommend pushing out as much extra water as you can and then wrap your sweater up in a towel and step on it to get out all the extra water.
After my sweater as spun out in the washer, I lay it out to dry. I have a little spot over in the drying station at my studio that I lay my knits out. I'm pretty unceremonious about it, but you can always put down a towel or drape it over the shower curtain. I don't recommend using a hanger, as the weight will cause your sweater to lose shape. If you do drape it over the shower curtain, just reposition it every couple of hours so that you don't get a line. Remember you're just drying your sweater, if it doesn't have any lace or cable details you don't have to block it in any particular way. I'll give this sweater a little steam once I'm done repairing it and depilling.
Once my sweater dried, I pulled out my Gleaner! I love this tool because it doesn't cut my sweaters, and it doesn't require batteries or charging. It affordable and very easy to use. I have never de-pilled this sweater in all its 5 years of existence, so it really needed it!
It took me about an hour to get all the pills off! Look at that pile! I also trimmed some threads that popped out from when I sewed in my ends, and evened out some stitches that my cat pulled out while kneading on me.
I definitely don't have any of the yarn leftover from this project, so I pulled out my basket of wool yarns, mostly handspun. Thankfully I'm a green lover so I had a few options to choose from for patching up my armpits.
I went with this ball of handspun I made many years ago. It's a mix bag of wool that I processed and spun myself. It's not the same yarn weight, but I'm just diving in with blind abandon here!
Again, I have no idea what I'm doin here, but the hole is closed and I knit in an extra patch so that should keep it going strong for a while! I think it looks fun with the handspun!
After I finished my patches, I ran the steamer over my sweater to work out any creases. This sweater is officially ready for another round of constant wear!
It feels SOOOO much better, I hadn't realized how grimy it really felt until I put it on after a wash. The fabric tightened back up, especially the neck and it is soft and lofty feeling again.
I hope this little walk through has helped. There are lots of different ways to wash your knits, this is just how I do it! The most important thing is that you find a process that works for you!
This sweater is 100% wool, but I use the same process for my superwash sweaters as it is gentle and effective and will ensure my sweaters last a long time! Now if you'll excuse me, I have about 30 more sweaters to wash!