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How to Become an "Expert Knitter"   *Buy this book on CD for offline reading!

table of contents Ľ chapter 29 (of 29, epilogue next)

29: Garment Care (or the Never Chapter!)

Look after your precious creation. You have put a lot of inspiration, time, effort, intelligence and expense into this piece of knitting. As a wearer as well as a knitter, I have tried many ways clean and cherish my garments. Some worked, some are things you should never, never, never do!


Hanging and storage

Ideally, you should store all knitted clothes flat, but I find that because of space, I need to hang most of mine. I buy any interesting thick or padded coat hangers I can find. They always get used. Op-shops, fairs, street stalls and school markets are a wonderful source. Heaps of oldies know marvellous ways to tiddle-up a coat hanger and all these places are their best outlets. My ninety-year old aunt is moving to a new apartment and asked my advice about how to sell some of her treasures. She opened her closet to show me her furs and there were dozens of the most wonderful hangers. A friend at her bridge club had churned them out. The covers were knitted from strips of coloured plastic bags, in vertical garter stitch, fitted over wooden coat hangers. Not only did they look wonderful, the ridges of the garter stitch stopped garments from slipping on the hangers. There are so many fantastic coat hangers that I am now also a coat hanger collector!

Never hang knitwear on thin wire coat hangers. The ends make terrible bumps at the top of sleeves and there is no way to stop knitwear, or any thing else, slipping. Necks stretch out of shape and old wire can make marks on the garment. If you need to hang a long or heavy garment, find a thick wood or plastic coat hanger with a bar across the bottom, fold the garment and hang it over the bar, rather than hanging it from the shoulder.

To store knitwear for a long time, turn it inside out, fold it loosely with tissue paper and put it into a big sealed plastic bag. Make sure it is perfectly clean, or it will be attacked by moths. Even though most knitting yarns are moth-proofed, the moths donít seem to be able to read yarn labels. They love food spots, tiny particles of skin and perspiration areas, and move in relentlessly, through all obstacles.


Washing? Dry Cleaning?

If you only buy washable yarn, or if you have a good memory, or have saved a yarn ball band, you will know how to wash your garment.

I prefer hand washing to dry cleaning, especially for white or cream garments. Some yarns must not be dry cleaned as they wonít survive solvents. Some yarns are sold with a dry clean only warning on the ball bands. It is all very confusing, and daunting (see here). This is where your tension square is like a piece of gold. Use it to test a washing method. Draw a line around it on a piece of paper and then wash it. If the texture, shape and size are the same as before the wash, go ahead.

The main rule for hand washing knitwear is that you must never use hot or even warm water unless the yarn is 100% synthetic or 100% cotton. Even then, it is still a risk. The garment can end up looking as if it has lost any bounce.

If you use a wool-wash or knitwear friendly detergent, donít use warm water for the washing, even if that is recommended on the packet. Cold water washing powders are perfect. Dissolve powders or mix liquids in a small amount of warm water, then add cold water before you wash. Some people even use colourless shampoo and conditioner for washing wool, and it works very well.

The reason that wool is so touchy is because woollen fibres are made up of tiny sections that contract with heat, so the yarn shrinks if hot water is used, and you end up with a doll-size sweater. Cotton can stiffen, or conversely get very limp and just anything can happen with a synthetic yarn

Never soak knitwear. Always wash your garments when you have time to do the whole procedure from start to finish. Soaking can allow time for colours to start seeping out of the yarn. Sometimes excess dye will float out as soon as you put the garment in the water. This can be deadly with stripes. Wash these garments very quickly. Rinse in cold water until the colour stops coming out. Put the garment in to a washing machine, at the back of the barrel if you are using a front loader, or balance with a wet towel in a top-loading machine. Turn to the spin cycle and get rid of all the water. If you have a real disaster on your hands, go for broke. Start at the last rinse cycle before the spin, which is usually cold water, and run the sweater through that as well.

All hand-washed garments benefit from having the water spun out quickly. A machine will remove more water than you can. It is the water that carries the colour in stripes or mixed colours and allows colours to run. If the water is gone, there is nothing to carry the colour and wreck the garment. If you havenít got a machine, quickly squeeze as much water as possible out of the garment, fold it in thick towels and walk up and down on the bundle, changing towels as they get sodden, until as much water as possible has been pushed out of the yarn. (This is also a wonderful way to dry stockings if you have forgotten to wash them in time to go out on the town!)

Some yarns are machine washable. Wash on a wool cycle and then dry as described above.

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