Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Washing your woolies

"Washing instructions are quite as important as knitting instructions" (Patons and Balwins 15th edition Woolcraft)

 Recently I have started to learn the tips I was taught as a child and take for granted are not common knowledge! I recently took on a few hours at my local pub and my comments have been met with suprise. I had thought it common knowledge if something was slow to ripen to put it in a fruit bowl with some ripe bananas, or to check if an egg is okay to eat pop it in a glass of water, if it sinks its good.

Practical knitting (1940s copy)

 I was in my garden preparing a raw sheep fleece for spinning and chatting to the neighbor over the garden fence, he had a lot of questions about washing wool. Wool washing does need to be done carefully as you can ruin a hand knit very quickly with improper care. This also applies to acrylic yarns as well as real wool! 

 Acrylic; Acrylic fibers can be machine washed (although I do recommend a gentle wool cycle) and can be tumble dried, but if you want them to last and keep their shape you should avoid the tumble drier and dry them flat, the stitches can become elongated when hung on the line and the fibers can get stretched. Some yarns especially soft and fuzzy acrylics can shed fibers quite heavily making them become brittle and stringy. You need to use a mild laundry detergent as some chemicals such as nail polish remover (acetone) will dissolve acrylic fibers (this is also a great way to test if a ball of wool is real wool or not!)

 Woolens; some woolens can be machine washed but they should never be tumble dried! Pure wool or 100% wool and wool blends are best hand washed to avoid shrinking and felting.

 How to wash your woolens step by step

Step 1: Fill an empty washing up bowl with warm water not too hot it needs to be comfortable on your hands.

Step 2: Add some laundry powder suitable for hand washing (wear gloves to protect your hands) and mix it up into a thick lather, if you're on a budget you can use just a small amount and really whisk it up. Always use a bleach free laundry powder for wool!

Step 3: Add in your woolens (wash dark colors separately) immerse them in the water and lather and gently squish the lather into the woolens. NEVER RUB the woolens friction causes felting. you can leave them to soak for 5- 10 minutes if you wish

Step 4: Remove the clothes and rinse the bowl fill with clean warm water the same as before and immerse woolens again removing the soap, repeat this step a few times more till the water runs clear

Step 5: Gently squish excess water from the woolens, you can lay them on a towel, roll it up and squish to remove more water. Then lay flat to dry in its original shape on a rack or a flat topped clothes horse in the garden. 

From Vogue knitting 23rd edition (produced in the 1940s)

Some extra wooly facts!

The sun helps kill bacteria but can bleach and fade colors (to keep 
whites white dry them outside!). Wool does not need washing as regularly as other clothing, you can just air them in the garden between wearing, trust me they wont smell. You are less likely to sweat in wool and it is thermo regulating, it will keep you warm or cool. Camel wool is the warmest and coolest of all wools keeping camels warm in freezing temperatures at night and cool in baking temperatures during the day, sheeps wool is also pretty good at this. Wool has amazing wicking properties and the natural lanolin helps keep it clean and bacteria free (its the bacteria that make sweat smell), wearing wool socks can help prevent some foot proplems caused by sweaty feet or for those that have smelly feet you need to change the type of sock you are wearing, if cottons not working for you try wool especially merino!

Practical knitting illustrated
Don't be afraid of the care involved with woolens its not as labour intensive as some people believe! I often see vintage lifestyle programs, you know the type, where families are sent to live in 'the past'. Inevitably the women spend hours washing clothing and complaining about the labour intensive process of all the washing they have to do. The problem is no one told them that 1940s women did not spend their entire days washing, many had jobs and families to take care of along with other social responsibilities. Woolens require less washing they would be washed once a week if needed, and these women took their looks seriously trust me they wouldn't leave the house stinky. If they spent their time washing in their free time they would not have had the time to craft those elaborate hairstyles and do all that knitting!

From Practical knitting illustrated

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