Warm, cozy and easy to style - quality knitwear is a true essential for every wardrobe that will last a very long time, provided it is taken good care of.
Knitwear can be made of a variety of different fibres, ranging from animal hair (e.g. lambswool, angora, cashmere) to materials derived from plants (e.g. cotton), but also petroleum-based fibres (e.g. acrylic). At The Slow Label, our knitwear is made from 100% certified organic, plant-dyed and mulesing-free wool, ensuring that it causes no harm to garment workers, animals and the planet.
Quality knitwear made from natural materials is a lifetime investment and should be treated as such; the guidelines below will help you do so. While the guide is based on wool, the most common fibre used for knitwear, you can also follow it to care for knit pieces made from different fibers.
How to wash knitwear
Wool has temperature-regulating and self-cleaning properties, is breathable and doesn’t absorb odors, so you won’t need to wash your knitwear very often. Most of the time, it will actually be enough to simply air out your woollen clothes by gently shaking them or laying them flat on a chair overnight.
If you find your knitwear does require some cleaning, wash it by hand using cold water and eco-friendly wool laundry detergent. It’s important to avoid harsh detergents and bleach, as those can damage the delicate material. Try not to rub and scrub your knitwear, as it can cause surface wear; instead, let the garment soak for up to 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing it with clean water.
Note: you may find websites stating that you can machine wash knitwear, or that it depends on the exact type of fibre. However, to play it safe and protect the delicate knitted surface, it’s best to simply hand wash it.
How to remove stains from knitwear
If possible, rinse any stains immediately with cold or warm water, but if that doesn’t work, try spot-cleaning. Apply some wool laundry detergent to a clean, damp cloth and gently tap the stain without scrubbing or rubbing it. Avoid harsh stain removers and detergents containing bleach, as they can ruin the surface and colour of your knits.
How to dry knitwear
Drying your knits the right way is important to maintain their quality and shape. Never wring or hang-dry knitwear, as wool stretches easily, especially when wet. Instead, roll the garment in a clean and dry towel before gently pressing it. Once the towel has absorbed the excess water, carefully ease your knit into shape and lay it flat on top of a dry towel or a drying rack. While you might be tempted to place your woollen garment near or on top of a heater to dry faster, you should avoid doing so, as too much heat can damage the delicate fibres and cause your knitwear to shrink.
How to store knitwear
Since wool stretches easily, it’s best to store your knits neatly folded in a drawer or shelf, leaving some room between them as tightly packed garments make for an inviting environment for moths. Placing dried cedar or lavender in your closet can also help protect your knits from moths, and if you plan to pack your knitwear away during the summer months, remember to gently shake it out from time to time to keep moths away.
What to do about pilling and pulled yarn
While wool will soften with each wear, it might also start to show ‘pilling’ – small pieces of fluff that occur particularly in areas that are subject to friction during wear. Although it can’t be fully avoided, you can reduce pilling by limiting friction where possible, for example by avoiding bags and belts that rub against the knit fabric. However, it’s important to understand that pilling is not a sign of poor quality, and can actually add personality to a garment. If you prefer, you can remove pilling by gently plucking it off by hand. Avoid de-pilling devices such as ‘wool-razors’, as they can damage the fabric.
Sometimes you may also snag your knitwear on jewellery or other objects and pull a thread loose. If this happens, you can easily pull the yarn to the back of the garment using a crochet hook before securing it in a knot. Avoid pulling it too hard, and don’t cut the thread, since this will create a hole in your knitted garment.
Holes can be mended easily, so don’t throw a garment away, simply because a few stitches have come undone. You can learn to mend it yourself – a process called ‘darning’ – or have it repaired by a professional or even someone among your family and friends.
Knitwear Care Do’s and Don’ts
- Always make sure to check the garment care instructions.
- When washing and drying, avoid exposing your knitwear to high temperatures and direct sunlight.
- Only iron your knits if absolutely necessary, using a low-temperature setting and a protective, clean cloth between the fabric and the iron.
- Never hang, rub or twist knitwear, as this can ruin the fabric and shape of the garment.
- Never tumble-dry knitwear; it can cause damage and might even shrink your garment.
- The easiest and best thing you can do to care for your knitwear is to wash it as little as possible!
It can seem a little tricky to care for knitwear at first, but following the guide above will ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy your knitted garments for many seasons to come.
Woolmark: How to Dry a Wool Sweater
Fashion Beans: Knitwear Care
Martha Stewart: How To Mend Knits