Spring Cleaning: Repairing, Washing and Storing Handknits

Today's forecast high is 81! We may still have a few chilly days peppered throughout the month, but it's officially time to say goodbye to winter. And that means it's time to pack up the knitwear.

You never know when a chilly night or over-air-conditioned store might set your teeth chattering, so I usually keep a few key knits out for occasional summer use: a casual cardigan, light shawl, fingerless mitts and some ankle socks. Everything else gets packed away.

The first step is to assess the situation. Go over all our handknits, see what's been outgrown, what has holes or is worn out, what can be repaired and what needs to be tossed. Knits with small holes are darned, but things with lots of holes or large/numerous threadbare patches go into the trash. Throwing out handknits is my least favorite thing, but, well, nothing lasts forever. Too-small knits are given away--usually these are kids knits, and I give them to relatives, friends, or the Hufflepuff Baby Gift Brigade!

Then it's time to clean everything up. My washing machine has an "ultra handwash" cycle that I've been eyeing with suspicion, but I recently gave it a shot after Ollie threw hummus on my Monte Rosa cardigan (note: he did not actually eat the hummus). I was pleasantly surprised to see my sweater come out neat and clean, no felting or shrinking, just like handwashing. So I'm using the machine now, with some reservations--only on superwash wool, and nothing super delicate. Anything that can't go in the machine soaks in a big tub with an earth-friendly biodegradable wool wash that I can dump out outside. Some of my favorite cleansers for my handknits are Eucalan and Unicorn Fibre Beyond Clean.

Then, drying. I don't throw anything in the dryer, even if the yarn care label says it's ok--when JJ was a baby I tried machine drying my socks to save time, but they suddenly started wearing out much faster, and that was the end of that. It's a lot easier to air dry them and wait a day than it is to knit brand new socks!

I hang socks and accessories and kids sweaters on a drying rack; adult sweaters are laid flat on whatever surface I can find, usually a bed. If I'm in a hurry, I'll turn the fan on them to speed things up. 

Once they're dry (and you want to be sure they're VERY dry for storage!), I de-pill anything that needs it, so when I pull my handknits back out in the fall, they're ready to wear. I don't bother reblocking anything (like shawls) because they'll inevitably need to be blocked again when they come out of storage. 

Then everything is packed away in one of these airtight Sterilite bins and stored in the closet, away from sunlight, with some lavender/cedar sachets. Some day I hope to have a nice cedar chest, but for now, I make do. 

It always feels like a special day in the fall when I pull all the handknits out, ready for another season of keeping my family warm and cozy--and it's even better when I have a few new additions for the pile! 

Have you started your end-of-season clean up? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!