Sunday, March 7, 2010

Handwashin' Ain't So Bad

So you read the label on that yummy yarn and it says superwash or machine wash ...and you are very happy. Then you read, "Dry flat," and you sigh. Okay, maybe if you are knitting for a busy young mother (and her trying-to-be-helpful husband!), you may be right that your lovingly hand knitted garment might not retain its original beauty.

But handwashing is a very useful tool ...and it isn't really that bad. I actually get a kick out of the process. After all of that enjoyable knitting time making magic out of sticks and string, I get to extend the life of something I love.

All it takes is a few basic supplies in the laundry room and handwashing is a breeze. Elizabeth Zimmermann said that washing handknits was like bathing a baby. What a charming image!

To make the job really easy, I love to use Eucalan , a no-rinse woolwash (and great for lingerie, too, according to interviews on Cityline and Steven and Chris!) Just add a drop of Eucalan to a small amount of warm water and soak your garment for 20 - 30 minutes. Because wool is weak when wet, lift it carefully from the water (please don't pull it out by just the sleeve!), gently squeeze out most of the water and roll it in a towel to remove more moisture.

My super-easy method involves putting a small amount of warm water (and Eucalan) in my top-load washing machine, turning off the machine and soaking the garment. To get rid of the water, bypass all of the wash and rinse cycles and just spin on the gentle cycle. What could be easier?

When it comes to "Lay Flat to Dry," there are several options. For socks, I just lay them over a clothesline or drying rack. For small items like mitts or Felt Clogs, I've been known to use a cookie cooling rack.

A mesh drying rack for sweaters is always useful. Or you might try those colourful, puzzle shaped rubber mats that you can get at the hardware store. The great thing about them is that you can align them in one straight row for a long scarf or make them form a square which works very well for an adult sweater. You can even stick pins in them if you are blocking your newly knit shawl.
If the drying rack is not yet a tool found in your laundry room, you can always lay a clean sheet over some carpet before laying out your garment to dry. Just remember to close the door so the cat doesn't nap there. They do love the scent of wool!


  1. My cat has just discovered my wool stash. I am finding my balls of wool all over the house!! She is driving me crazy!!! She will not leave the hat I am making my husband alone. I find it in a new spot everyday!!

  2. I love the idea of the floor system squares for blocking. I will invest in some immediately. Thanks.

  3. Speaker Tuesday night at K-W Knitters Guild was the lady who developed SOAK. She gave a very entertaining and info packed talk and plenty of samples. Another speaker spoke about the blocking with lots of good ideas including the insulation sheets with the 1" marking on it.