Oh, lucky you! Someone who loves you made you a sweater out of real genuine wool, none of that nasty synthetic stuff. You wear it for awhile, proudly exclaiming to everyone who admires it, "Someone who loves me made it for me." But after awhile, it gets a little funky, or you spill food on it. Now what? How do you wash your lovely handknit without ruining it forever?

First, understand this about wool: wool will shrink and felt when subjected to extremes of hot and cold and when it is agitated. These are bad things. You do not want your lovely handknit to turn into clothing for Barbie. That means you absolutely cannot toss it into the wash along with your jeans. Bad bad bad. But washing by hand is such a drag and dry cleaners are so expensive, you say.

No worries, mate.

How to Wash Handknits

The first rule of washing your handknits is do not use Woolite.

The second rule of washing your handknits is do not use Woolite.

Woolite is harsh nasty stuff. Do not use it on your precious handknit sweaters, socks, scarves, hats, mittens and whatnot that someone who loves you laboured so long to create.

There, now that we've gotten that out of the way, here is how to wash your handknits:

Fill your top-loading washing machine with lukewarm water and two or three capfuls of Eucalan Woolwash or other similar woolwash product. Eucalan is a no-rinse formula with eucalyptus oil, which leaves a pleasant scent and helps protect against moths.

Turn the machine off. It should now be filled with lovely, aromatic suds. Gently ease in a couple sweaters or jumpers, some socks and hats, whatever needs washing. Do not over stuff the machine. Swish them around a little so that everything is saturated. Do not turn the machine back on. Just let everything soak.

Go do something else for twenty minutes or so.

When you come back, set the machine to drain and spin. Be sure to not set the machine to agitate or rinse. You do not want your nice handknits to get agitated and you certainly do not want them to get shocked with a spray of cold water.

Carefully lift your handknits, one at a time, out of the machine and lay them gently on a towel, or better yet, a mesh sweater dryer, which allows air to circulate around the item. Gently pat each handknit flat, easing if necessary, back to its original shape and size. Allow your handknits to air dry. Whatever you do, do not put your damp handknits into the dryer, even on air dry. Be patient. I turn mine inside out after a day or two to speed up the process.

Never put away soiled sweaters. Moths just love to eat dirty woolens. A few cedar blocks in with your handknits will help repel moths, as well.