When I started knitting properly (i.e. if we don’t count the zillion headbands I knitted during my school days) about 8 years ago, I was always relieved when I had cast off the last stitch, because then the job was complete and I could move onto the next project!
Fast forward 8 years and many projects later and nowadays a knit is never finished until it’s washed. In this blog post, I will tell you exactly why I wash my hand knits and how with before and after photos.
I’ve cast off the last stitch and here’s how it looks!
This is a little Elliot’s Cosy Set that I knit for a friend’s new baby.
The set shown above is knit in Drops Merino Extra Fine. I was really happy with how it turned out but as you can see the cardigan is curling at the edges – not much – but enough to irritate me. Plus what you can’t see as this isn’t a close up is small blemishes here and there where I might have knit a stitch too loosely or too tightly. This can easily happen when knitting way too late at night and watching Netflix, but rest assured in most cases it can be fixed i.e. evened out with a wash.
Straight into the wash
But not into the machine!! Some yarns are treated so that they can be machine-washed (superwash yarns) and in some cases the yarn supplier even recommends hand washing but I actually always wash my knits by hand. It takes very little time and it will always be gentler than a machine, which will prolong the life of your knits and is a small investment for your hard work. I almost always wash immediately after finishing so it has become a part of my routine. I do any necessary sewing before washing but I usually wait with sewing buttons until the work is dried and ‘flatter’.
What to wash with
I always wash with either a wool/silk liquid detergent, such as the natural products from Eucalan (these don’t need to be washed out!) or else a small amount of baby shampoo. Fill the sink with hand-hot water and about a teaspoon-sized amount of your chosen detergent and when the water is finished running add the knitted items and gently submerge them until they are wet all the way through. I usually let them sit in the water for about 15 mins now.
Roll excess water out!
What happens next is important and it is also here that you might freak out if you are hand-washing knitwear for the first time. How your knits look when you lift them out of the water and gently squeeze excess water out (try not to wring them too hard) will depend on the yarn you’ve used. Acrylics will probably not lose shape during washing but as you can see both my cardigan and trousers looked rather shapeless after washing. In the first two pictures shown below I had squeezed the excess water out with my hands (one garment at a time) and in the last photo I had rolled the pieces up one by one in a towel to remove excess water. It is important not to pull or stretch the garments at this time.
Hurry up and dry!
Once I’m finishing rolling I lay out the damp clothes on the floor near a heater. Take advantage of underfloor heating if you have this at home but don’t put the clothes on direct heat as this may damage the yarn, especially if using wool. I shape the clothes as I lay them out. If you have done a swatch and know your tension is correct you may also use a measuring tape here to help you lay the clothes out to the correct shape/size.
Dry and ready for a new home!
Baby clothes washed at night are usually dry the next morning. When gifting, I always include washing instructions.
Will you try it?
Above you can see before and after photos side by side. Can you see the difference?? And will you wash your hand knits from now on? And no, the clothes didn’t get bigger after washing, I have zoomed in slightly more in the right-hand side photo 🙂
What’s blocking then?
Although blocking and washing are somtimes described interchangeably they are not the same thing. In my next post I’ll tell you about what I consider blocking to be, how I do it and why. Stay tuned!