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Dear Kay,

On my never-ending quest to be comprehensive, I bring you Washalong, Part 2: The Dampening.

You didn’t seriously think I was going to embark on a Washalong without bringing you along for every thrilling step of the way, did you?

For those just joining us, the other day I shared the humbling reality of my handknits: bedraggled, begrubby, beflabby. I pulled out six favorite sweaters, then realized that washing all six of these sweaters at once was going to tax my old-ratty-beach-towel inventory. I decided to start with three and see how long I could stand this terrible idea.

Lifelong learner moment: I had not photographed a handknit in a bathtub before. Pro tip: keep your wet hand off the camera.


You can see the sky in this one, kind of arty and metaphorical. What does it all mean? Whoa.


What wool wash am I using? Why, it’s a big ol’ jug of Eucalan I bought at Craft South, and it’s going to last at least a decade at the rate I’m washing handknits.

Now. The photos you’re about to see resemble a low-budget diet pill ad, where the Before photos are terrible and the After photos are suspiciously well lit. Can’t do much about that except to say, Try our diet pills. They’re great!

Sweater No. 1: Kim Hargreaves’ Heather, from Rowan Yarns’ A Season’s Tale. Yarn: Rowan Kid Classic. Circa 2002.

Before: So sad a garment, so beat down that this thing has lost the will to warm. Oh, man, I can barely stand to look at this. Hey Heather, bless your heart. Hang on to the memories, honey.


After: Restored! Resurrected! A return to its original fluffiness and depth. O Heather! I thought we had lost you forever!


Sweater No. 2: Back Home in Vermont Sweater by Marjorie Moreau, from The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright. Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed. Finished sometime in early Obama era.

Before: Stretched out, flat cables, all fit gone. Sadness. Dejection. This is the last day of summer, if the last day of summer were a sweater.


After: Snugged up, great dimensional cables, super satisfying.


Sweater No. 3: Knit Your Life sweater, a sweater that is a memoir of my life. Or something. Used the pattern above as the basic shape, then cabled randomly all over it. Yarn: Rowan Rowanspun. Finished 2013.

Before: Every cable a deflated balloon, worn down to the nub I tell you, the nub. Life can be so very exfoliating.


After: All that cabletastic energy restored. O joy! This sweater clearly took up Zumba or went on a girls’ trip to the beach.


If you’re looking for free new sweaters, just go wash your old ones. I can hardly express how delightful it is to wash your handknits.

Share your glory over on Instagram with #MDKwashalong. The mighty redemptive power of a good soak!








  • Who would have thought that a laundry tale could be so enthralling and have such great before and after shots. Now I’m scared to go to my wardrobe, think my hand knits might be glaring at me…………..

  • Wow! They don’t take long to dry. Since i never seem to finish anything for me, I have no hand knit sweaters, scarves, gloves. There’s just one short Honey cowl, never worn, (two) ends never woven in. Ann, your sweaters look great!


  • Delightful post! This settles it: if I ever knit a sweater, I will wash it someday. After years of washing what now seem like tiny little socks (they aren’t, really), washing an entire sweater will be thrilling, I can tell.
    And fingersnaps for my favorite image: “Tide Rising on a North Sea Island”

  • Every autumn I pull my wooly things out of the cedar chest (hand knit and other) and give them a good wash. Makes them nice and gets rid of the cedar dust that makes me sneeze!

  • Will washing help the stretched out wool sweaters? If so, how do you scrunch them back to shape?!

  • I wash my sweaters in the machine, all of them, always. Now I have a newer washer with a “wool cycle”, but before that, I had an ancient ordinary one, and I used the washer as a soaking tub (leave the lid up to be sure it doesn’t agitate) manually turned the knob to spin, rinse (lid up again), and then spin dry. Spinning won’t shrink anything, but it shortens the drying time. I can do four at a time this way, which is the most that I have space to dry at one time. And yes, Amy Lou, washing will restore the shape of your sweater.

    • I miss my old top-loader for this – I used the soaking tub and spin method as well. It really saves on towels if you can spin the sweaters. Then I got a LG washer that had a handwash/wool cycle (even featuring the “wool” symbol). That’s the cycle that will felt your sweater if you let it. Which I did. One heartbreaking time.

      Now I’m back to the soak, then roll in a towel method. Which I should probably do before it’s wool sweater weather again.

  • Ok, ok, you convinced me. But I’m not breaking my back over the bathtub. Not only can I soak the sweaters in a top loading washing machine, I can spin them dry. Well, dry-ish.

  • You think the before-and-after photos show the redemptive powers of a good soak? Just wait until you try the sweaters on! They’ll fit again! You won’t need to push the sleeves up in order to see your hands!

  • I got a new washer, and now I have to use the laundry tubs next to the washer for the cleaning. I only wear my knit socks, we live in chilly Seattle, and I spill stuff. It all goes into a laundry bag, and when it is full I fill up the tub with hot water and enough Euculan and let it all sit until it is lukewarm ( or until I remember ). I usually rinse, because the water is quite dirty. Don’t EVER run water directly onto the woolies!
    I heave it all into the washer balanced as best I can, and set the drain and spin (no agitation) cycle. Socks I hang up, sweaters I dry flat. I do this 3-4 times a year. 3-4 sweaters, 20 pairs of socks.

    The only time anything shrank was when my ‘helpful’ son saw the old machine filled with the lid up, switched it to full cycle and let ‘er rip! The socks were ok – I lost three sweaters. I still love him.

  • This is a great post…both entertaining and educational! Truly, the results of the washing are amazing. Enjoy your ‘new’ sweaters!

  • You have convinced me to knit A sweater for me!

  • This is probably why I am such a bad housekeeper, but I literally cannot see the difference between the before and after pictures (except for the lighting). I will have to take your word for it!

  • I thought you were supposed to wash them before you put them away for the summer. Or is that another of those Old Wives Tales?

    • I wash mine in the spring, hoping to prevent summer moth damage. In north Florida it doesn’t always work, even if the sweaters are clean and stored in plastic bins.

  • Wow, that’s powerful. I shall have to clean my bathtub for this.

    • That’s why I’m glad I’ve only finished one sweater! Yay, I don’t have to clean my tub!

  • You are hilarious, also you write well. I wash all my woolies in the spring before they go night-night for the summer. I use the utility sink/spin cycle method and plenty of Eucalan or Soak. Washing wool keeps moths at bay and conditions the wool to keep woolies perky. Thanks for the Public Service Announcement.

  • A Season’s Tale — a classic! I might make Heather now, too!

  • I’ll have to wait until the humidity leave’s town, but the results are spectacular. And I love the Story of Your Life sweater.

    • leaves, not leave’s That’ll teach me to proofread BEFORE I hit submit.

  • Do I have to show you the photo of the sweater folded up on the floor of the downstairs closet from when it went from chilly to summer? I use a japanese spinning gadget that gets all the water out and then sweaters dry so much faster. I’ll try to find a dry hand and photograph.

  • It’s amazing how much better they look. They look new! This is so much better than dry cleaning a sweater.

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