How to Care for Something You Knit
The hours you spend knitting results in something you'll treasure for years to come-whether that's a vest for your baby, a pair of mittens for Mom, or pullover sweaters for you and a friend. The worst thing that can happen? Time wasted by losing it to the washing machine. That's why it's so important to check back on the notes in your knitting journal: Was the yarn made primarily from cotton, wool, or a synthetic fiber? The most important rule of washing clothes applies to your knit items, too: always check the care label.
If you're not sure how to read yarn labels, the Craft Yarn Council provides a helpful graphic for reference. Every symbol has a specific meaning that refers to recommendations for washing, bleaching, drying, ironing, and professional textile care. When presenting a hand-knit item as a gift, it's helpful to include a label from the yarn used in the project so that the recipient will know how to care for the item. And if you're the recipient of such an item, it's best to ask upfront.
Washing By Machine
In the first-time wash, always clean the item on its own, especially if it's a bright color. It may take a cycle or two in the machine for colors to completely set, and you don't want to ruin other garments in the same load. Knit pieces can be washed safely in a mesh laundry bag (this prevents it from snagging on the machine's interior) and on your machine's delicate cycle in cold water. It's always safest to let a knit item air dry.
Washing By Hand
Start by filling a tub container with tepid water. Add a few drops of mild detergent to the soak, such as dishwashing liquid. To neutralize perspiration odor, you can add 3/4 cup of white vinegar. Immerse the item and swish gently, never wringing or stretching it out. Wool, for example, is elastic, but it can be pulled out of shape permanently if handled carelessly while being washed. To remove excess moisture, it's a good idea to lay the item flat on a dry, absorbent towel and roll up the towel, pressing firmly.
Reshaping and Drying
As any experienced knitter will tell you, investing in a blocking mat will help sweaters, vests, and socks to retain its shape as you wear it. (Read: no droopy sleeves, curling hems, or misshapen edges.) Once you remove the item from the wash, lay it flat onto a blocking board and shape it onto the square surface, folding any collars or hems and fastening any buttons. Never hang and never iron-both will undo the work you've done stitching your knit piece together in the first place.