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March 28, 2022 3 min read

It’s October.  You look out the window and see the maple tree ablaze in red and gold.  The air is crisp, perfect for apple picking and leaf peeping, and all the simple pleasures of fall.  As a knitter, you’re especially excited because you know just the sweater you’ll wear - practically the same color as that maple tree.  How good it will feel to pull that on with your jeans and maybe some boots! You imagined this day with every stitch of that sweater.  And now the perfect fall fantasy awaits. Only when you pull it from the cedar chest where you carefully tucked it away last spring, you see that some nasty critter has chewed three ragged holes at the back neckline.  You want to cry. You do cry. That sweater took forever to knit, and the yarn was NOT cheap.  

But wait. Wait. It's a dream - a nightmare.  You're awake now and you remember that it’s the end of March.  You only just finished that sweater last week, and haven’t worn it but once.  Whew!   But how do you avoid that nightmare becoming a reality?  

It’s really pretty easy.  Here are three tips to help ensure that the sweater you pull our in October looks as good as it did when you put it away in April.

  1. Wash it really well before you put it away.  If you don’t get your garments really clean, the dirt and debris embedded in the fine fibers of the fabric can decompose over time leaving dark stains or spots.    Additionally, moths are attracted not to the wool itself, but to this dirt and debris.  You do not need to take them to the dry cleaners.  You can easily wash your sweaters at home with a specially formulated cleanser like Soak or Eucalan.
  2. Rinse it really well.  Cold water rinsing can cause foamy soap suds to congeal and form a thin coating on your fabric that can cause light colored garments to turn yellowish.  Another reason I like low-sudsing, no-rinse cleansers for my handknits and delicates.
  3. Let it breathe. There is always a bit of moisture in your garments - wool can absorb a huge amount of moisture, which is what makes it so awesome to wear. But if you seal it up tight with that moisture inside, it can mold or mildew.  Your knitwear likes to breathe.  My mother swore that the secret was storing garments in old pillowcases.  It's not.
  4. Don’t put it away at allThis is my big secret, and I’ll share it with you.  I neverstoremy winter sweaters or put themaway. I keep all of my sweaters folded up in my closet, summer and winter.  Every so often, when the stacks get messed up I pull them all out, shake them, and re-fold them.  The truth is that while moths like dirt and food in your garments, they like being left alone best of all.  Moths don’t actually eat your sweaters, moth larvae do.  Moths lay eggs where there will be snacks for their larvae. Since the life-cycle of a moth is between 65 and 90 days, if you unfold your sweaters and shake them out every other month, you’ll never have to worry about moths at all.  I have never ever had a moth hole in any sweater I've handled this way.  

These four tips should keep your sweaters and handknits happy and healthy for a very long time*.  

Do you have any tips and tricks you're found for caring for your garments?  Reply to the email and let me know.  

Warmly,

~Ellen

 

*If you live in a pest-prone area, or you know you have a moth problem, call a professional to take care of it.