Helpful Tips For Storing Your Knits
Despite what weather forecasts and Game of Thrones would have you believe, the end of Winter is nigh. Most people are elated for the promise of warmer weather, but it can be a sad time for knitters. So long, sweaters! ‘Til next year, toques! Bon voyage, bulky knits! Spring heralds the long farewell to everything warm and woolen, and as your knitwear has lovingly carried you through these dark months, so should you return the favor by carefully treating your knits for their Spring/Summer hibernation.
There are 3 very important, unavoidable steps to keeping your winter knits fresh, clean, and free of moth holes. The last thing you want when October 2016 rolls around is to open a beloved Winter sweater and discover a mesh mess.
Yes, it can be a pain to wash knitwear, especially since much of it is handwash only, but you can’t skip this step. It’s the first and perhaps most important defense you have against wool-loving pests. They relish eating through sweaty animal fibers (no accounting for taste!), so the best thing you can do is strip your knitwear of all body odors.
If you can help it, don’t go the easy route. Many recommend using dish soap to wash your knits (everyone has dish soap), but some dish soaps contain harsh chemicals and cleansers that could bleach your knits and drain them of their beautiful colors. There are so many wonderful alternatives, like Eucalan, SOAK, Unicorn Fibre Wash, and The Laundress, there’s no need to use the Dawn. If you have nothing else on hand, your next best bet is baby shampoo. Animal fiber is hair, after all.
Photo credit: noricum via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA
TIP: Fill a basin, bucket, or your sink with cold water and your favorite wool-friendly detergent, and allow your knits to just soak for 15 minutes (no agitation!). If you chose a no-rinse soap, simply drain the water and press out as much liquid as possible—without twisting or wringing your knits! You don’t want a misshapen, ill-fitting sweater. Roll your knitwear in an absorbent towel and step on the towel to press out more water. Lay flat to dry.
Whitney: I always wash my handknits at the end of the season and store them with lavender sachets to keep the moths away.
Now that your knits no longer smell like you, it’s time to impart them with scents that drive pests crazy. As we said, with moths and fiber-loving pests there’s truly no accounting for taste; everything that smells lovely to us smells awful to them.
Fresh lavender, shaved cedar chips, rosemary, mint, thyme, cloves, peppercorns, eucalyptus, ginseng, cinnamon, dried lemon/orange peel—there are so many fragrant options for driving away pests. Fill a small bowl with any of the above and store it in your closet. Alternatively, cheap sachets can be purchased online quite easily, or you can even knit your own!
TIP: Sachets are fairly easy to make on your own, even if you don’t have time to knit or buy them. Simply take an old pair of stockings or tights and cut them into 6” sections. Tie one end of a section with yarn or string, turn inside out, fill with potpourri, then twist up the open end and tie with another piece of yarn or string!
Cynthia: For longer-term storage, I've been told acid-free paper is fantastic for preventing yellowing. I have also been told to put little reelings of acrylic yarn around the sweater if it is made from wool, cashmere, etc. Moths hate acrylic!
Your knits are washed, your sachets are ready, it’s time to put those knits away! If you own a cedar chest, use it—it’s the perfect place to overwinter those knits (remember, pesties hate cedar). If you don’t own a cedar chest, neatly fold all your knitwear and place them in Ziploc bags. Many will tell you your sweaters need to breathe, but that’s more a rule for deep storage—if your knits will come back out after the Summer, it’s perfectly fine to store them in sealable plastic bags. Durable fabric bags are another alternative if you have the budget, just make sure to throw some scented sachets in for double protection.
TIP: Plastic can trap moisture and odors (if there are any left), which is why many avoid storing in plastic. You can bypass the moisture issue with a little investment that goes a long way: a pack of moisture-trapping desiccants is fairly inexpensive and will last several seasons. Toss them into your plastic bags along with your sachets and you’re good to go!
Joan: I store my knits in one of my two cedar chests!
What do you do to prepare your knitwear for Spring/Summer hibernation? What is your favorite washing method? Do you have a bug-proof potpourri recipe? Let us know in the comments!