Thursday, April 20, 2006

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  • The Care and Feeding of Handknits

    The purpose of art is washing the daily dust of life off our souls.
    -Pablo Picasso

    I blocked the stole. (No, I'm not trying to prolong the suspense, but I need sun today to take the photos to post tomorrow, so hang tight.) Then I realized that lace is for spring, it was Easter, there are flowers outside, and all signs point to spring. Which means it's time to wash and store my winter woolies.

    Scarves. Mittens. Gloves. Hats. Sweaters. And also reblocking my Ene's Scarf, which I wear quite enough for it to be quite dirty. Also, I handwash all of my wool socks on a weekly-ish basis.

    So I thought I'd share the Knitting Underway (Un)Patented Method of Caring for Handknits:
    1. Ascertain that item to be washed is, in fact, dirty.
    2. Check again. Really make sure you can't wear it once more. What about those freak June snowstorms in Arizona? You just never know, and you are about to embark upon A Process.
    3. Assemble needed supplies:
      1. Water. Generally easy to find in the sink or bathtub.
      2. Container for soaking/washing. I use a small plastic tub (approx 11x18 in) that I never use for anything else.
      3. Washing liquid of choice. I use Suave Lavendar Shampoo and Conditioner. (99 cents a bottle, smells good, may even repel moths)
      4. Salad spinner. That is never used for food.
      5. Drying rack. The sweater racks are great; wish I owned one. I use a combination of regular drying racks and towels on the floor.
      6. Pins. If you are blocking lace.
    4. Stick all supplies next to water source. Decide to wait until tomorrow. Note that it is in the exact location where you are most likely to step into the bucket and spill shampoo when stumbling around looking for your contact lens the next morning.
    5. The next morning, decide to wear the sweater one more time that day and delay washing until the next day.
    6. The next morning, begin by filling container with moderately warm water, just a squirt of shampoo (wool is sheep hair, right?), and add appropriate (now decidedly dirty) knitting. IMPORTANT: It is fine to wash multiple small objects, such as socks, together, but make sure they are in the same color family or they really don't bleed. You don't want to know how I know.
    7. Let soak. A while. This can be anywhere from 20 min to all day while you're at work or overnight while you sleep.
    8. Agitate gently with your hands. Drain water from the tub and add lukewarm water.
    9. Rinse until clear. Be gentle - you don't want to felt it (unless you do, but that's a different topic). I generally pick up the soaping wet knitting and rinse the water, put the knitting back in the water, and swish to get the soap out.
    10. Rinse until actually clear. This is why you don't want to use too much soap.
    11. Fill tub with lukewarm water again and add a squirt of hair conditioner. Again, wool is sheep hair. This helps make it softer and smells nice like lavendar. (Once I tried the coconut scent, but it was too weird to wear a heavy wool sweater while smelling like the beach.)
    12. Let soak. A shorter while now, maybe 5-10 min, or until you're done doing whatever else you're doing.
    13. Enter the salad spinner. This is why I usually handwash near the bathtub.
    14. Place salad spinner in a container of sorts that can get wet. Add wet clean knitted item. Make sure it's balanced, and spin to get the water out.
    15. Dry on drying apparatus of your choice.
    16. Note that in the several days you've been diligently handwashing, you've accumulated 3 new dirty pairs of socks.
    I do a lot of handwashing (at least 7 pairs of socks a week, plus other stuff), and it's a background activity for me. I do "loads" by size and color, and generally let one soak overnight, the next while at work the next day, and another while studying at night. And then they look so lovely hanging on the drying rack together.

    The above instructions really only apply to animal fibers like wool and alpaca. Any other thoughts on handwashing?


    Blogger Liz K. said...

    Thanks for sharing your steps. I too use Lavender shampoo to wash my handknits. I aspire to having as many handknitted socks so as to have to do a load weekly! Of course, I do have two kids, so perhaps I shouldn't be wishing for my laundry.

    4/20/2006 5:46 AM  
    Blogger Marina said...

    How many of those 91 socks did you keep? Not that I want to encourage you (& not that you need it) but I was nearly sure you had enough for each cold day ;-)

    I do nearly the same thing but use a conditioning shampoo And I do spin the water out in a gentle cycle, per Starmore's instructions.

    4/20/2006 5:47 AM  
    Blogger amanda said...

    Very funny. I use Lavender Eucalan but the Suave? Great idea and saving money for more yarn!

    4/20/2006 6:20 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    First of all, in addition to being useful, this was a hilarious post.

    I use Eucalan because I like being freed from my inclination to obsess about rinsing out every last molecule of soap. But if my handwashing volume keeps increasing, I will need a more cost-effective product. I'll keep Suave in mind.

    4/20/2006 6:52 AM  
    Blogger Lynda said...

    Thank you for Handwashing 101! Such great tips! I'm going to get some of that Suave at the store today!

    4/20/2006 7:02 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I hardly ever handwash even wool as I'm lazy. ;) I explain my machine washing method in my 10/25/05 post, but make no guarantees - use at your own risk!

    4/20/2006 7:18 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Wow- I am impressed (and humbled) by how often you hand wash. I love the lavender Suave idea! Thanks for all the great tips- I'll definitely use them the next time I do some hand washing (whenever that is...)! ;)

    4/20/2006 7:55 AM  
    Blogger Chris said...

    I have this monster tub of Orvus paste that I use for handknits. It's completely unscented. For me, the unscented part is critical. I don't anticipate having to buy more during my lifetime. :)

    4/20/2006 8:04 AM  
    Blogger Kate Diamond said...

    Okay, this has nothing to do with knitting... but how did you get your "I Knit With Grey's" button to post without some obnoxious little dot or mark coming up next to it? Can you email me the exact code you used in your template?

    4/20/2006 8:39 AM  
    Blogger Stephanie said...

    Superwash wool =) I wash my handwashables in a large utility sink and then spin them in my washer (just the spin cycle).

    4/20/2006 8:48 AM  
    Blogger Pam said...

    I use Kookaburra wool wash (like Eucalan, no rinsing) and transfer things from the "dish pan" in my sink to the spin cycle of my washer. However, I share many of your preliminary steps - but you're right - NOW is the time.

    4/20/2006 8:49 AM  
    Blogger Jenn said...

    What a great idea - lavendar shampoo! I've always used woolite (i just recently got my first bottle of eucalan). And you do way more handwashing than I do - but I guess that's the main difference between TX and RI!

    4/20/2006 1:21 PM  
    Blogger Meg said...

    Hmm, if I know Providence, I know there will be one last cold snap when you least expect it, maybe the first week of May? Hope you haven't packed every winter article away just yet. I tend to use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in all cleaning activites - goes great in the handwashing, machine washing, floor mopping...maybe not so good in the dish washing though.

    4/20/2006 4:31 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The timing of your post could not be better. I need to wash all my new pairs of socks and have been a little concerned. Now I will just go buy some Suave and follow your directions.
    Thank you so much!

    4/20/2006 6:10 PM  
    Blogger Dana Watsham said...

    Hmmmm ... there's a GOOD reason for Superwash sock yarn! All my socks (Opal, Regia, Blauband, Wildfoote, LL, Socka etc) go into the machine on a regular wash cycle with unscented soap flakes.

    Everything else gets done as per need - a big bucket, soapflakes (again), rinse, and then a spin-dry in the machine. Sweaters get hung on a broomhandle through the sleeves, lace gets re-blocked.

    4/20/2006 7:18 PM  
    Blogger Disentangled said...

    Yup, I hate hand washing. I usually wait until I only have a weeks worth left of wearable clothes (and have already worn those same items, several weeks in a row) before I finally make myself do it. Maybe, I just needed a Process...I'll be sure to give yours a try. Thanks!

    4/21/2006 10:00 AM  
    Blogger Suzanne said...

    Wow. The salad spinner's a great idea. Thanks.

    4/23/2006 7:18 PM  

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