Taking care of wool sweaters
Wednesday December 05th 2007, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Life

Blogging with pictures saved by the geek! Go Richard! (Yeah, and somebody taller than me had reset my camera to a setting I didn’t even know it had. Heh.)

Okay, for fiber artists, you can skim past this first little bit, you already know this stuff: there’s a great myth out there that you handwash wool or cashmere sweaters in cold water. Balderdash. There are three factors that contribute to inadvertent felting: water, temperature change, and agitation. Cold water can shrink up a sweater just as fast as heat can. Sweaters should be washed ever so gently in tepid water–and yet, you can do it in a washing machine, IF: you put them in after the water is already in, you don’t let it agitate, and you don’t let any water spray on them during the spin cycle. But you can use the machine for soaking and spinning out, making sure you take them out of there while it’s filling up again for the rinse cycle.

So. Being raised by a knitter, my kids have each gotten that lecture. Wash them in the sink or the machine, I don’t care, but remember, tepid water, etc etc.

I was cleaning out the laundry room, getting to the long-neglected bottoms of the big hampers that my four kids used for all those years. Things had been frequently cycled through the laundry towards the top, but, I found, were turning into sedimentary rock way below.

This is what I found down there. In the home of a fiber artist whose kids were taught about wool as if it were a religion. At least, it’s still great for dusting; the little scales in the sheep hairs clean like you wouldn’t believe.

The rest of you can go feel better now about your own sweaters that came out of the dryer a toddler size 2.

moth retirement condo community(Click on the picture for the full effect.)  Abercrombie and Fitch would be so proud.

9 Comments so far
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Oh I can’t believe it. I love your blog, the funniest things happen in your house!

Comment by Vicki 12.06.07 @ 6:14 am

Aaaaaaggggghhh!!!!!!! I hope that wasn’t something you knitted, Alison! truly, a candidate for the “You are never getting anything but cheapo Wal-mart acrylic for the rest of your mortal days” award. 😉

I, too, use the washing machine for my woollens, just as you say, but I am able to completely shut off the water supply when using the spin cycle. But I do use hot water for some things — mainly rugged wool items. (I tend to use Bartlett on my Arans. The stuff wouldn’t shrink if you paid it to. Hot water AND a run through the dryer. Way oversized sweater remains the exact same ungainly size and can double as a blanket.)

I also use hot water for washing yarns that have come from cones, since there is no better way to get rid of spinnig oils. So far no detriment to the finished product.

It’s the agitation that’ll kill your handiwork, though I tried that on the Bartlett Aran, too, with no success.

After all these years of fiber work, my mother still gasps in horror when I drop anything woollen into water. It belongs in the hands of a reputable dry-cleaner, don’cha know?

Yarn too, Maman?

C’est la guerre. 😉

Comment by Paula 12.06.07 @ 6:17 am

Oh my goodness. That looks like a boy sweater…who’s responsible!! Haha.

Robb’s socks get thrown in with the rest of the laundry every single week. Hell, so do my socks. They’re mostly superwash yarns, and I wouldn’t be half so daring if they weren’t, but I’m just careful to rescue them before we get to the dryer…otherwise, in they go! I’ve not noticed any really big difference in the wear-and-tear they go through…in fact, it would probably be worse if I tried to promise myself I’d handwash them, because I’d put it off, and off, and off…

But still. Entertaining. 🙂

Comment by kristine 12.06.07 @ 6:22 am

Yup, Kristine, it fit him about a foot ago. Not to worry, it was from Costco.

Comment by AlisonH 12.06.07 @ 11:14 am

Was there Oxyclean in the water? I’ve heard it can do that to wool. At a TKGA convention, around when Oxyclean started getting popular, a gal in line ahead of me for the Thursday night market preview told me about her best knitter friend who used a bit of Oxyclean to wash some chocolate out of a sweater–a Jo Sharp colorwork sweater, mind you–only to pull it out looking like that. Everyone’s mouths just dropped.

I’ve also heard tell that some enzymatic cleaners can do the same thing. I’ve never had that problem with the ones I use, though. Then again, I usually stick to Kookaburra.

Comment by Carina 12.06.07 @ 6:52 pm

Nope, although, thank you for the heads-up–and wow, what a thing to have happen. I don’t buy Oxyclean, (and I’m really glad now!) so it wasn’t that.

I washed and dried the sweater a few times after using it for dusting, and that curled the edges up around the bugbites.

Comment by AlisonH 12.06.07 @ 8:29 pm

There are some very satisfied moths in California I assume. Yikes!
I don’t want to know what’s in the bottom of my hampers. Probably old dog collars and such. Yuck!

Comment by Toni 12.07.07 @ 9:21 am

I am just VERY GLAD those moths couldn’t figure out how to get to your yarn. Whew.

Comment by Karin 12.10.07 @ 7:33 am

The bottom? Carpet beetles. Nasty little buggers, and they eat like fiends. Had a nice smorgasbord there, huh?

Sigh… If it had been there that long, someone didn’t miss it, anyway.


Comment by LynnH 12.16.07 @ 11:24 am

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