Are your sweaters ready for sweater weather?

The beginning of sweater season is right around the corner – at least here in Southern New England – it’s time to show those handmade garments some love!

While the best time to wash sweaters is really before putting them away for summer (since moths don’t like clean sweaters), I had a few sweaters that stayed on my shelf all summer that could use a refresh. Maybe you do, too?

Join me as I work through my laundry list!

Let’s begin with an easy one. This is my Yarden cardigan in Remix Light, a recycled wool-free yarn. I have worn this sweater all summer long. In fact, I love this cardigan so much that I am currently working on another one in Pima Soft. Since it’s one of my most worn sweaters and I anticipate wearing it a lot this fall, I wanted to give it wash.

Remix Light is machine washable and I have washed this sweater in the machine several times already, so I know it holds up. It goes in a delicate cycle together with other clothes. I put it in a mesh laundry bag to keep it extra safe, then lay it flat to dry.

Superwash wool and many wool-free yarns can be washed in the machine. This is great, especially for things like kids’ sweaters and socks that usually need several washes throughout the season. Check your yarn label to see if your garment can be washed in the machine. If you don’t have the label, you might be able to find the care instructions by searching Ravelry; they have a great database of both current and discontinued yarns! It is worth keeping in mind, if your garment has a very loose or open stitch pattern, it may not do well in the machine even if the yarn is machine washable. If you made a gauge swatch before making the garment (and you did, right?), you can throw that in the machine to see how the fabric holds up.

I don’t like to put anything handmade through the dryer, but there are some dryer-safe yarns. Again, if you’re unsure, try it with a swatch first!

Next up is my Elmgrove cardigan in Lanas. This lovely 100% wool yarn is not superwash treated and needs to be hand washed. Handwashing garments is not as fast as machine washing, though wool sweaters don’t need to be washed very often. And there is something meditative in taking time to care for the garments that we already put so much time and care into making.

For this sweater, I just fill up my soaking tub or sink with lukewarm water and a few drops of my favorite no-rinse wool wash and let the sweater soak for a half hour or so. (If you have a sweater that’s very dirty you can repeat this step with fresh water.) I then take the sweater out and carefully squeeze out as much of the water as I can, then roll it up in a dry towel to press out more water. Lay flat to dry and reshape if needed.

I wear my Elmgrove cardigan a lot, and it has a little pilling where the sleeves move against the sides of the sweater. This is easy to remove with a Lily brush or Gleaner. Fresh as new!

If you have a lot of garments to hand wash, or maybe something bigger, like a chunky sweater or a blanket, try using the bathtub!

Drying wool sweaters can take a while. A mesh drying rack will help speed things up. If the weather is nice and you have outdoor space to use, that’s even better! Make sure to protect your garments and avoid direct sunlight – and birds!

The last sweater for today is another easy one! This is my Uppbót cardigan in Álafosslopi, Icelandic wool. I washed it in the spring, so it is not dirty, but it’s been stored in a bin over the summer. This one just needs to hang outside for some fresh air, maybe an hour or two. This is a great, easy way to refresh any wool sweater between washes. Be careful not to leave sweaters for a long time on a hanger, as that can misshape the shoulders.

Any remaining creases from storage can easily be removed with steam, either use a hand steamer or the steam from an iron, held a couple inches away from the fabric.

Okay, that’s all for now. I do have a few more sweaters to wash, and would love to hear your best tips!

Happy wearing!

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