When you thrift-shop for knit items, you must be selective. Knits are challenging to care for, so if a previous owner has treated them poorly, they may have too much damage already. But when you find a knit item that has clearly been cared for wisely, or perhaps barely used, you know you have a treasure on your hands. Once that stylish sweater, hat, scarf or afghan is in your possession, you’ll need to care for it correctly so that it stays in nice condition. Here’s how.
Washing and Sterilizing
When you bring an item home from the second-hand store, your first priority is to wash it. If your item has a tag on it, read the washing directions, and follow them. If the tag has been removed, or the item was hand-made (lucky you!) then you’ll have to do a bit of detective work.
You need to figure out if the piece is made with synthetic yarn or natural yarn. Acrylic (synthetic) yarns won’t shrink in warm water, but natural fibers, like cotton and wool, will. Smell, touch, and examine the yarn to see what it is. Wool, for example, has a very distinct smell when wet. You can wet a piece that you know is wool first, to get the scent. Then, apply some cold water to a part of your mystery item, and see how the smells compare.
If you can’t figure out what kind of yarn your knit item is made with, hand wash it in cold water with a mild detergent. This is also the protocol you should follow for cotton and wool items. If it is an acrylic and wool blend, only use cold water. If you know for sure that the item is 100% acrylic, then you can use warm water.
Sterilize any hats that you buy used by washing them. If you can’t use warm water to wash, then also either freeze the hat or zip it in an air tight bag for one week.
Reshaping and Maintaining the Form
Once your item is washed, you’ll need to reshape it. Yarn stretches and deforms easily, so take care as you move the piece to a flat surface. Lay out your lovely Fair Isle sweater or other item and mold it into the shape you like. Once it dries, you can fold it and place it in a drawer or on a shelf. Don’t hang it up, because it could potentially stretch or sag.
Have you found any amazing, share-worthy knit items recently? Please do share!