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Washing and blocking natural fiber knits.
Hand washing and flat drying will neatly finish your handknit items and be all the blocking you may need, especially with those knit circularly . If you like the size you have achieved after knitting, take a moment to write down the pertinent measurements. If you feel the sleeves are too short, or the body is too narrow, here is your chance to “tweak" your all-natural fiber garment, for when it is wet, you can encourage it to be a tad bigger, or smaller.
You may use hot or warm water and any neutral pH shampoo or washing detergent or soap. Hot water soaking alone will not felt wool, and may be the best way to lift grease and dirt from your garment.
Run a basin with hot water enough to allow your garment to be submerged. Add 1, 2 or 3 capfuls (tablespoons) of shampoo or liquid detergent (I like Palmolive or Dawn) and stir to dissolve. Add garment and submerge making sure all parts get wet. Let soak for 20 minutes. Lift garment out and let drip, squeezing water out gently. *Fill basin with clear water hotter than the soaking water had become. Add garment. Let soak 20 minutes.* Lift garment out and let drip, squeezing water out gently. If no suds are present in the garment,(or water) you are done. If suds are present, repeat ** Note: Stains may be gently treated by squeezing suds through the area again and again. Adding a drop of soap on the stain might help. Any agitation may cause felting...soaking and suds-squeezing is the safest way to naturally lift stains.
If you have a large garment and want to speed up the drying process, put it in the washing machine and run through a SPIN cycle only (make sure NO WATER is added in the spinning process) to wring out as much water as possible. NOTE: loosely knit items may stretch larger in this process, so carefully consider what you are starting with. You may also put your garment between 2 (or more) towels and roll them all up together, standing on the finished roll to squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
Once you have a damp-dry item, find a nice place to lay it out. A thick blanket makes an ideal mat. Take some time to consider where it might be undisturbed for 2 days (under a bed is ideal if you don't have pets). When laying it out, take note of the original measurements and use a ruler to help you pat the garment into the original size. Pay particular attention to patting both arms of a sweater into equal lengths, etc. You can lay socks or mittens together one on top of the other and pull them to equal lengths before separating them to dry singly. If your item is very thick, you will want to check on it and flip it over every 12 hours to encourage speedier drying.
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