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Tips For Hand-washing Knits
and sewing club updates
Recently, Mr. Domestique asked me for help with washing some of his wool sweaters.
He was asking if he should take them to the dry cleaner or if they were something that could be washed at home.
I guess I should start with explaining that he and I each do our own (clothes) laundry. Besides the early days of living together when we had to go to the laundromat, once we lived in a place that had facilities either in the unit or in the building we fell into a routine of each doing our own laundry on our own schedule and that routine has stuck.
I realize this is not necessarily common, but it works for us. He doesn’t have to worry about accidentally washing any of my temperamental vintage garments on the wrong setting, and I don’t have to find the energy to figure out his clothes needs. I think we probably end up doing about the same amount of loads as couples that combine their laundry, because one load of laundry can only be so big.
I also suppose I should confess something here: I do not separate lights from darks, and I can’t ever remember once doing a load of purely white clothes.
I’m a “lazy” homekeeper, meaning I find corners to cut wherever possible. For my own clothes I end up doing just one load of laundry, either on a delicate cycle or a cold-wash cycle so I can basically toss almost everything in there. I liberally use garment bags for my more delicate things that can still go into the machine, and keep any special hand-washing to the side to deal with in a batch once I have enough that feels worth it. Towels and sheets get their own loads with hot water, etc.
Now that I have that off my chest, we can get back to dealing with wool sweater question.
Mr. Domestique had looked at the tags on the sweaters, and one said hand-wash cold line dry, and the other said dry clean only. I also checked the tags and saw that both were 100% wool, which I knew meant that they could absolutely be hand-washed with care (wool jackets and such are a different story and must be dry-cleaned, FYI).
The trick with washing wool sweaters is to not agitate the fibers while they are wet. If you were to put a wool sweater into the washing machine, the agitation of the cycle would felt the fibers, matting them together and shrinking the garment.
Hand-washing gives you the control needed to avoid shrinking and felting the sweater.
Here are some tips and the steps for hand-washing a wool sweater:
If you are really worried about shrinking the sweater (or if it is stretchy), measure it first at the following points as a reference for re-shaping once you’ve finished washing:
shoulder to shoulder
across the bottom
along the outside of each arm
Make sure whatever you are going to use as a washing vessel is clean. I have used buckets, sinks, bins, and bathtubs.
You’ll need at least 2 large, dry towels per sweater (I’ve even used thinner beach towels with success):
1 laid out flat, ready to get initial water out of the sweater
1 ready to dry the sweater
Always, always, always dry the sweater flat and not hanging on a rack or hanger as the weight of gravity on the wet sweater will mis-shape it as it dries.
Use a mild detergent or dish soap. I’ve used Woolite, but any mild soap will do. You will not be able to use laundry pods for this.
Always use cold to tepid water. Never warm or hot water.
In your washing vessel (sink, bucket, bathtub, etc) dilute just enough soap in cold water to create suds that cover the surface of the water. Less is more here, start small and add more soap if necessary. I’d start with as little as a teaspoon for a small basin or tablespoon for a tub.
Once all the soap is completely dissolved in the water, immerse the sweater in the sudsy water. Gently swish it around while also gently squeezing the suds through the fabric, making sure to avoid wringing, rubbing, or twisting it.
Let it soak for at least several minutes. I have honestly started hand-washing something, left it to soak and promptly forgotten that I’m in the middle of the project and have come back hours later and the clothing was fine.
Gently lift the sweater out of the water taking care not to let it stretch out too much from the weight of the water. I usually gently fold it on itself to lift it and avoid creating looooong arms or something.
Drain the water from the washing vessel and replace with fresh water (no soap).
Rinse the sweater using the same method as when the water was soapy, gentle is key here too.
Repeat the rinse cycle until the sweater is no longer soapy and the water runs clear.
Gently squeeze the sweater over the basin to remove initial water, again taking care to avoid stretching or agitating the fibers.
Lay the sweater onto your prepared towel. Reshape the sweater (you don’t have to worry about the measurements yet, this is just to get some water out), and roll up the sweater in the towel like a cinnamon roll or a fruit roll-up, pressing as you go to remove the water. You can repeat this as necessary, even if you need to use a new dry towel. I usually start towards the top of one end of the towel, and repeat by moving the sweater to the bottom and rolling up again.
Place the second dry towel that you grabbed earlier in a flat spot that’s out of the way (on top of your washing machine or something similar). Reshape the sweater, using the measurements from earlier if you took them. You’ll be leaving the sweater here to dry, replacing the towel as it gets wet with new dry towels. You can also place hand towels inside the sweater, between the front and back, to help it dry faster.
And there you go! It seems like a lot of steps but it’s really not, I just wanted to make sure I explained everything thoroughly. Let me know if you have any questions and here’s to hand-washing!
This video from Remade In Brooklyn has a visual guide for how to clean a cotton sweater. While you can wash cotton in a washing machine like they show, I wouldn’t wash wool sweaters that way; I’d use the hand-washing instructions above. But, they do have a handy visual guide for how to roll your garment up in a towel to help get moisture out before laying flat to dry.
I have hit a bit of a snag in our trousers sewing club progress. I quickly sewed a shower curtain last week and was reminded by my sewing machine that something is not right. The bobbin side seems to be getting caught or is pulling too much thread or something:
I had forgotten that my sewing machine started doing this with the last project I worked on, so I need to figure out the problem before starting on the trousers. My first step will be to take the machine apart and give it a good cleaning. Hopefully that fixes the problem, and I’ll update you all once I’ve done that so you can follow along.
But in the meantime I am getting distracted looking at other patterns, like this new jeans pattern: Allie Olson’s Buttress Jeans
I guess I am feeling brave before even starting the pattern that The Mother Domestique and I picked out, because I think these will definitely be next on my list. Just look at the front yoke with hidden slit pockets!
**Service Announcement** With TikTok possibly on the edge of being banned I’m not sure how much longer this section will exist in the newsletter, but I’ll keep it going as long as I can (I am really trying to stay off of Facebook and Instagram)!
This video showing someone who turned old jeans into a gardening belt is great inspiration for Spring!
This video showing an easy way to cut a bell pepper will help speed up any kitchen prep process.