Congratulations on knitting or purchasing a hand knit item. Whether that’s a hat, a scarf, a felted bowl or felted purse now that you own it you need to take care of it. That’s not hard if you know what to do! There is no set schedule for washing your hand knit items, it depends on how you use them and what they are exposed to. If you spill juice or food on your hand knits they should be washed as soon as possible. They should also be washed and thoroughly dried before putting away in storage. Of course washcloths and soap sachets will need to be washed often. Felted items need to be treated differently than other hand knits, so read on.
The first thing you need to know about your lovely hand knit is what kind of yarn it has been knit out of. If you don’t know, then treat it as if it’s made of 100% wool or animal hair. No matter what it’s made out of do not bleach or iron your hand knit, bleaching and ironing will damage it. Do not hang sweaters on a clothes hanger, gravity will stretch them out.
If it is 100% cotton and is a washcloth or soap sachet then you’ll need to find out if it has been preshrunk. All of the spa washcloths, spa faceloths, and soap sachets that I sell in my Etsy shop are knit from 100% cotton and have been prewashed. That means that you can machine was and dry them with your load of towels and they will simply return to the size they were when dry. No special laundry detergent is needed, use your regular detergent. Only very minor shrinking may occur. They are very easy to care for.
Soap and detergent are technically different although most of us use the terms interchangeably. Please use a small amount of mild detergent, such as Woolite when washing your hand knits.
If the hand knit item is made from acrylic or an acrylic blend it can usually be machine washed and dried. But some shrinking or distortion may occur. For longer wear, wash by hand with a small amount of soap, rinse well and lay flat to dry. It doesn’t have to be a big production, just use a clean bathroom sink for this. To get air to both sides of the item use a sweater rack. If this seems like an overwhelming task to add into your busy life, just hand wash when you can and machine wash when you need to. Most hand knits don’t need to be washed very often anyway, unless you spill something on them.
100% wool or silk, or items that are knit from animal hair; such as mohair and angora, need to be treated carefully. This isn’t difficult, just know that you can NOT put these items into a washing machine or dryer. NOT EVER, unless you want them to shrink and get fuzz all over the inside of your washer. Do not twist or wring these items while wet, it may distort them. So gently wash by hand with a small amount of soap, rinse well and lay flat to dry. To get air to both sides of the item use a sweater rack. This only has to be done prior to storage or if you spill something on them, or notice dirt on your item.
Felted items, such as the bowls and bags and purses in my shop have been prewashed and do not need to be washed unless you spill something on them. Or after a year or two of use you may want to wash them, it just depends on how dirty they get. A bowl that sits on your hall table holding your keys and cell phone may remain clean for years. A bag that you use daily to carry food and drink in while hiking and camping will need to be washed sooner. To wash a felted item; wash by hand with a small amount of soap, rinse well, and then reshape the item. This means that once it has been washed you need to put something waterproof inside the purse to help it keep it’s shape while it dries. Perhaps a book covered in a plastic bag. For felted bowls a balled up clean dry kitchen trash bag can help it keep it’s shape. That may work for your purse or bag too. Remember, your felted item will dry in the shape you leave it, so if you don’t want it to flatten on one side don’t flatten that side. Felted items are a dense fabric and may take 2 or 3 days to dry, so flip it over during the drying process so that all sides are exposed to air, or use a sweater rack.
That’s it! It’s really that easy to care for hand knits. Remember, if you don’t know what type of yarn something has been knit out of avoid the washing machine and dryer and gently hand wash. If there are Fabric Care Symbols attached to the item and you don’t know what they mean you can look them up here.