Ten Top Tips: Caring For Winter Woollens
Whether brand new or second-hand, keeping a woollen garment looking it best (for as long as possible) takes a little bit of care, but it'll be worth the effort. Here are my tips* for caring for your favourite winter woollens, plus you can feast your eyes on some bright, beautiful and cosy hand-knitted accessories that would keep you warm and toasty or make welcome Christmas gifts:
1. A stitch in time saves nine
Mend a woollen garment at the first sign of wear or moth holes and do not launder before repairing or the damage will only get worse.
2. Darn it
Learning to darn provides you with an excellent tool to keep your knits looking good for longer and it’s very satisfying. You can darn woven fabric too but I find this slightly harder (maybe I just need some practice). I estimate that by learning to darn in January this year, I've since saved around £200 on the cost of either paying someone else to darn my damaged knitwear, or buying new replacements. I've also bought some gorgeous knits second-hand that were damaged and have enjoyed darning them back to life.
3. Quick Fix
Tiny holes in woven fabrics can be ‘fixed’ by ironing on a tiny patch of double-sided interfacing covered by a same-sized patch of material in a similar colour and weight as the garment.
4. Expert tip
A great tip I had from Orsola De Castro, founder of From Somewhere, is to make a feature of holes in knitwear by crocheting around them. Likewise Tom van Deijnen aka Tom of Holland has a visible mending programme, the results of which are beautiful, practical and hard-wearing.
Try not to launder or dry-clean too often – less is better for the wool and the environment. Instead air garments after wearing them by hanging up on thick or padded and wide hangers (to avoid misshapen shoulders). New spills can possibly be carefully scraped or sponged off, but don’t rub the material as this will cause pilling on knits or make woven surfaces go a bit fluffy.
6. Keep it natural
When you do need to wash, do so carefully with a natural detergent, by hand if possible and avoid agitating too much as it causes woollen garments to shrink. Some 'hand-wash only' knits I own have been fine in the 'hand wash' cycle on my washing machine but proceed with caution - shrinking your beloved Christmas cardigan won't fill you with festive cheer.
After rinsing the garment well, squeezing out the water gently (do not wring or twist it) and carefully but firmly roll the garment in a towel and squeeze along the length of the towel to remove excess water. Care labels will often say ‘dry flat’ – great if you have the space, but if that’s not possible hang over a rounded banister or towel rail. If drying on a hanger ensure the garment is not too damp (as the weight of the water will stretch it)
8. Flat out
Woollen garments shouldn’t need too much ironing as their fibres are quite springy, but if you do need to attend to a few creases, iron on the reverse so you don’t make the front of your favourite jacket all shiny.
9. Moth combat
If moths find your wool garments they can still be saved. Fold them up and place in a sealed bag in the freezer for two weeks to kill any larvae. When you remove from the freezer, place the garment near a radiator – the warmth will entice any live eggs to hatch – then pop back in the freezer to kill those larvae (this radiator / second freeze was a tip from Tom of Holland who tells me if you miss this step, the eggs may survive the first freeze). Assess the damage when you remove the garment – if it’s beyond subtle darning, patching or visible mending then think about more creative alterations. Operation Wardrobe can re-work existing garments for you which is a great way to save your tailored wool garments.
Launder garments before packing them away for the summer and store in air-tight or sealed containers, if possible with natural moth repellents.
Here Today Here Tomorrow kniwear available from their website or their London store:
30a Balls Pond Road
Think Boutique knitwear available from their website and the Glasgow Think Boutique Pop Up Shop - open until 21st December:
112 Byres Road
*These are suggestions as tried by me and recommended by others. Some delicate items require gentler treatments so if in doubt, please contact the manufacturer. In other words, I nor The Good Wardrobe can be held responsible for any woollen garment mishaps you may have.