Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Airing My Dirty Laundry

Whoever came up with the phrase saying you shouldn't air your dirty laundry in public clearly didn't have any handknit items. Even though I wash my handknits during the fall and winter when needed, I still make a point of going through the process of washing everything during the summer months.

If you are a non-knitter reading this you must think I'm crazy to be taking all that time to wash things that aren't even dirty. I would be if it wasn't for the existence of one very small creature - the dreaded moth. Letting handknits sit and hibernate all summer is like issuing an open invitation to any moth within a hundred miles to come visit your favourite sweater and see if they can, in a very short amount of time, ruin what took you months to make.

If you have never washed a sweater or other non-washable item by hand here are some quick tips. (There is probably a better way to do it, but I have been doing it this way for years and have never yet ruined an item.) I start with a no rinse wool wash. Soak is my current favourite. I run some lukewarm water into the bathtub, pour a small amount of Soak under the faucet, then swish it around to make sure it is nice and bubbly. Then I gently take my handknit and push it under the water, making sure it is completely submerged.

Next I set the timer for fifteen minutes and make a cup of tea. (The tea is not crucial, but I recommend it anyway.) When the timer rings, and when your tea is finished, let the water out of the tub. Now comes the tricky bit. I very gently push down on the sweater before I lift it up, getting out some of the excess water. Then I carefully pick it up and very gently squish - note, squish, don't squeeze or wring, and yes, there is a difference - more of the water out.

Now that the tricky bit is over the fun part comes next. Have a large towel - a beach towel works well - flat on the floor. Put your handknit on the towel, roll it up, then walk on the towel. Yes, walk. If it is a bulkier item like a heavily cabled sweater you might want to have a second towel and repeat that last part. Then you just need to find a flat place out of harm's way where the item can dry.

It was always that last step that caused me so much grief when we lived in Kamloops. Although it gets so hot there you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, there was no way I could put something out on our back deck to dry. The wind was constantly blowing, and I'm not talking about a slight breeze. Twice while living there we had the wind lift up our patio table, and we once had it move our BBQ. This meant I had to dry my things inside the house, and the only place safe from animals was on a rack over the bathtub. The problem was it took me the whole month of July to work my way through all my things since I could only do them one at a time.

Not any more! I was so happy to discover that it is perfectly safe to put things out to dry on our new back deck.


Well, they are safe if you don't count the threat of squirrel damage or bird droppings. It's a risk I'm willing to take. It has been like a wool washing assembly line around here. Not only can I put things on a clean sheet on the deck, I have also been able to use the hammock as a make-shift clothes dryer.


It has taken me just a few days to do what used to be a month long process. All my sweaters, scarves, and shawls are ready for another winter, even if I'm not.

31 comments:

  1. Such a helpful post, Kristie. I don't have very many knits to wash around here but there is the odd thing that needs it.

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful, Jennifer. :-)

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  2. I have a top loader so I soak my knits in the machine (I turn it off so there's no agitation), then spin dry. It's faster and more efficient than using a towel, and very gentle.

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    1. Lucky you to have a top loader! You are right - it is much easier to do it your way, but I have a front loader so I'm stuck with the towel method.

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  3. I'd seen moths fly out of sweaters on tv (old shows/movies), but thought it was a joke (it was always accompanied by laughter). I had no idea that was a real problem.

    I'd be tempted to walk off wiht the little hooded brown sweater, it is just that cute!!!

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    1. Moths are not a joke. Knitters take them very, very seriously. The people laughing on those old shows were definitely not knitters. Knitters don't laugh when they encounter moths, they cry.

      The hooded brown sweater is mine. Sorry, you can't have it. :-)

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  4. Thank you for this tip. I've ruined my good sweaters in the past. So, I don't buy wool or cashmere sweater anymore.

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    1. Keiko, I think you should give wool and cashmere another try. They both keep you warmer in the winter than any manmade fibre. :-)

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  5. I wash my knits in much the same way, Kirstie, and it always works for me too. However, we also have the dreaded moths, and I'm not sure the washing alone is enough to deter them! I wage a constant war during the summer months, and now store all the wool items in calico bags, with moth deterring products of various kinds, and crossed fingers. I just found a hint to put a pantry moth trap nearby, so I am adding that to my armoury! Enjoy the warm weather. x

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    1. Do you have a big freezer, Patricia? If you have one and have some extra room in it you could put the wool items in a bag in the freezer for a week or so, take it out for a few days, then put it back in for another week. That is supposed to kill any moths and the eggs they have laid. I did it two summers ago when I had moths get into my stuff. It worked. Keep me posted on your pantry moth trap.

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  6. So far never had a moth problems (fingers crossed) I usually do a summer wash of all our knits, but I use the handwash setting on my machine and all come out fine

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    1. You are so lucky that you haven't ever had moths. I haven't had too many, and so far they haven't done any damage, but every summer I see a few and go into panic mode.

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  7. Sounds like a great plan - and yay for getting so many dry outside in such a short time!!

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    1. Yes, a few days is so much better than a month. :-)

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  8. Havw you not got a wool programme on your front loader? I have, and it's very gentle, and has a dedicated gentle spin for woollens as well. And my tumble dryer has a low heat programme, so I just go ahead and risk it - no problems so far. As I'm disabled with arthritis (in hands as well), I can't really do anything else! The freezer trick is supposed to work well, I'm told.
    I covet the green fern(?icicle) pattern sweater! Not to mention the whole of your lovely house and superb views!
    Blessings.

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    1. I did use the wool cycle once in awhile, but never completely trusted it not to ruin my things. The washer at our new house is awful. Not only does it not have a wool program, it doesn't even have options for washing in hot or cold water. Warm is the only choice. We are replacing it in the near future. You are much braver than me for trying the dryer. :-)

      The sweater is Boreal by Kate Davies. My project notes are here if you are interested.
      http://www.ravelry.com/projects/kristieinbc/boreal

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  9. Looks like you picked a knit friendly home! :)

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    1. I am hoping it is knit friendly, but not moth friendly. :-)

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  10. I've never had a problem with moths, but I worry about them all the time since there are bugs of all kinds abounding here in our warm climate. Thanks for the tips!

    Finding a place to dry things is a problem for me. It drives my husband nuts, but the dining room table is usually where my stuff is laid out. I think I need a hammock! :-)

    How's the new grandbaby

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    1. I think the dining room table sounds like a very reasonable place to dry things. :-)

      I go to see baby Lucy in two days. I can't wait!

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  11. You've got some pretty stuff there! I love using my hammock to dry handknits too because of the good air flow on both sides...faster drying. I've just been on Ravelry this morning trying to choose a cardigan to make. The chilly weather has me in the mood for a big bulky one. Can you believe we've been running our furnace here in SE Michigan in the past few days?? In July?? Crazy.

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    1. Seriously? You have had your furnace on? Out West we have been having a heat wave.

      I couldn't use my hammock in Kamloops for the same reason I couldn't use the deck. Too much wind. I did use it for drying my garlic after I harvested it though. :-)

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  12. i read the entry but was soooo distracted by all the beautiful clothing. i am a non-knitter who wishes she could knitt and make pretty items like these!!

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    1. Thanks Debbie! I need to confess the shawl was not something I knit for my self - a good friend made it for me. I encourage you to try knitting. If you go to Ravelry you can get all kinds of ideas and help. (It is a social media site for knitters and crocheters.) You Tube has some good "how to" videos as well.

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  13. Brilliant! Oh to have somewhere similar to dry mine!

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    1. I had the wind to deal with and you have all that rain the UK is so famous for.

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  14. there are some gorgeous knits you have there... I am still so envious of your Boreal sweater...

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    1. I think this should be the Year of the Boreal for you, Peony!

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  15. As a knitter who cannot wear wool because of eczema I don't have too much problem with my hand-knits, I'm glad to say. But if I did have lots of woollies, your porch would be the perfect place to dry them. What fills me with awe is that you had the energy to do all this washing so soon after a house move. You're made of stronger stuff than me. :-)

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    1. I'm not sure I had the energy so much as the perfect stretch of good weather. I wanted to get the job done while we were having a heat wave.

      Can you wear other animal fibres like alpaca or cashmere? Or do you have to stick with the manmade yarns?

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    2. I can wear anything as long as I have a cotton layer between me and the sweater, but I do tend to wear a great deal of cotton, knitted as well as woven. Part of the problem is that nowadays the worst of the eczema is on my hands, so I can't knit with fibres unless they are superwash or something very smooth like cashmere, which is beyond my budget most of the time.

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