A lot of people avoid buying wool because they think it’s too hard to care for, and they’re afraid of ruining it. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Following a few basic steps knits are dead easy to care for.
First you’ll need a large vessel that can comfortably hold your garment and about 2 to 3 times it’s volume in water. My sweater is a jacket, so I’m going to use the tub. You can use a sink, large cooking pot or bowl, or even a Rubbermaid tub.
Second fill it with water, Luke warm, warm, hot, it doesn’t really matter, what does matter is if you’re using a soap that has to be rinsed out your rinse water needs to be as close to the same temperature as your wash water. If you go from hot to cold it contributes to felting.
Add your soap and mix it in with your hand. I usually use Eucalan, which is a conditioning wool wash with lanolin in it that you don’t have to rinse, but I’m fresh out so regular laundry soap it is. (You can get Eucalan at most yarn stores, you don’t need to use a lot, and it’s amazing. I highly recommend it)
Put your garment in and push it under the water squeezing the air out. You can squeeze it a bit if its really dirty, but don’t agitate it like a washing machine would. Now ignore it, go have a cuppa tea or walk the dog because you want it to soak for 15 to 20 minutes or so.
Next give it some more squeezes to remove any more dirt and let the water out of the tub or dump out your vessel pushing your garment against the side to squish some of the water out. NEVER TWIST OR WRING KNITS. You’ll distort them something fierce.
If you used Eucalan you can skip the rinse, if you used soap refill your vessel but do not pour the water directly on to the garment, this can also contribute to felting. Squeeze the clean water through and soak again, 10 minutes or so ought to do it. Let the water out, squeeze the water out and if it still feels soapy you can do another rinse.
Squeeze as much water out by hand as you can without twisting or wringing. If you have a washing machine you can skip the wash cycle on and just do the final spin you can spin the water out. I wish I did, this sweater is a beast. If like me you’re without that option grab all the towels you were about to toss in the laundry, (unless they smell like wet dog or you just found it in your son’s backpack smelling like must and chlorine because he left it there for 4 days…), and lay one or two on the floor, place your garment flat on it, roll it up and step all over the roll barefoot unless you enjoy soggy socks. It may take more towels than you think which is why I wash woolens when I have a lot of towels to wash anyway.
Lay it flat somewhere out of the way and not in direct sunlight, you can put it on a plastic bag, clean tarp, sweater drying rack, or like I did just a big folded wool blanket on the bed. Block it in the shape you want it in, wool has memory so if you dry it with one arm all stretched out it’s going to look funny when you put it on. If you have cats keep them out because they will lay down on wet wool, weirdos.
Lastly, once it’s dried, store knits folded up in a drawer or a cedar chest, (I love the smell!), please don’t hang them on hangers, it stretches the shoulders all out of shape. That’s one of the things I had to fix with blocking on this awesome thrift store score.
Go forth and wash all of your woollens with confidence!