Updated: Nov 14, 2018
There's a misconception out there in the world that wool garments and hand-knits are difficult to care for. Since I used the word "misconception", it may be obvious that I disagree, especially since there are many reasons to switch to natural fibers! I will say that, to some, it may certainly seem more inconvenient, but care itself is quite simple.
During cooler seasons in which you are wearing woolen hand-knits, keep garments folded on a shelf. Hanging knits may cause stretching or hanger marks in the shoulders. If you find you have significant creases or wrinkles when pulling the piece back out again, hang it up and use a steamer to smooth over those spots. Pro Tip: If you can hang your garment away from a wall or door, this is ideal. Definitely do not hang and steam
on a wooden door. (Don't ask me how I learned this!)
If you are going to store your knits for extended periods of time (such as multiple months during the summer), it is best to wash them first (see instructions below) to prevent the attraction of moths, and then store in an airtight container. It is not recommended to store in fully airtight containers for years at a time without giving the pieces occasional time to breathe to avoid collecting condensation that may eventually eat away at the integrity of the fiber.
One additional tip to deter moths is to place a lavender sachet between the folds of the fabric. This will also allow your garments to smell divine upon removal from storage!
There are those moments when those of us with less finesse find ourselves at the mercy of stains, whether that be as a result of chocolate, wine, or a general predisposition to accidents. With most stains, it is recommended to mix a 50/50 solution of lukewarm (not hot!) water and white vinegar, soak a clean washcloth or rag in the solution, and then blot the stain until it has cleared.
My personal tip with red wine is to use an ice cube and rub it gently over the stain on the fibers until you see the spot fade. You can then blot with a clean rag/towel. This maybe require some repeating, but I find it works with a lot of fabrics and seems to do the trick!
At the moment you feel you need a true full wash of your hand-knits, you can head to the sink, a dish-washing bin, or even a large mixing bowl for this purpose. You can fill this basin with lukewarm water - please never use hot water as this will felt your wool and destroy your creation (the same goes with putting any non-superwash wool into a dryer - again, don't ask me how I know this).
If you have concerns about bleeding, especially with any two or three-colored yarns that are naturally-dyed, I recommend washing in cold water to prevent excess dye-bleed.
Note: This does not make a difference if the garment is one solid naturally-dyed color.
In the water, you can place a small amount of your favorite wool wash or laundry detergent and submerge your piece in the water, agitating just slightly to ensure the soap is taken in by the fiber. The bonus of many wool washes is that they typically do not require rinsing. If you feel you need to rinse, you can either run another clear basin of water (without soap) and place the garment back in and agitate slightly one more time.
Some reader-recommended wool washes are as follows:
I personally use Dawn because I have birds who have been known to land in dishwater, and I know they'll be safe if they do!
It's important to make sure your garment is completely dry before placing back into storage or wearing. Once you have removed it from the water, you can lay the piece flat on a towel and slowly roll the towel up, pressing gently as you go to soak up excess water. Then you can remove the piece from inside the towel and place on a clean surface (whether that's another towel or blanket, or space of your choosing that will absorb water). Typically, I turn the piece over or continue to replace the towel underneath periodically until fully dry.
It is not recommended that you hang hand-knits on a hanger or over a chair, for instance, as this will cause the piece to lose its shape.
I find that my wool hand-knits are often rotated in my wardrobe, and do not tend to get worn every day. Unless I stain them, or really sweat that day, I don't typically find the need to wash them after every single wear, so I truly don't find their care inconvenient. But in my opinion, special pieces just need special attention, and I think they are worth it!