Monday, January 10, 2011

Refreshment and Rehabilition

It's that time of the year when I take time to refresh and rehabilitate the kids' knits (they may be 18 and 22, but I still think of them as "kids"). Over the last week I've made extensive use of my handy industrial-sized pill remover. I sent the kids off to Toronto in the fall with mini-versions, but this big guy is my favourite for serious cleanup.

Cascade's Eco Wool, which I have dubbed "Economical" wool, is softly spun, light to wear, and the colours in both the undyed and dyed versions are gorgeous. Unfortunately, because it's so softly spun, it also pills and sheds like crazy. It takes a lot of cleaning up over the first several months of wear before most of the shorter fibres have been removed. Interestingly, not all colours in this wool seem to pill so freely. James' "Sandridge" jacket, made of undyed charcoal heather, barely sheds at all, while Isabel's purple sweater needs cleaning up every couple of weeks. I wonder if anyone else has encountered this phenomenon.
Another part of my refreshment routine involves mending any snags. Isabel seems to have a habit of snagging her sweaters at the elbows. I used a double-pointed needle (dpn) to work any loose loops back into the fabric. Here's how dreadful her pullover looked when she came home from Toronto.

This slightly blurry photo doesn't come close to showing the true extent of the mess. However, I did some magic and the snags and pills have been taken care of. 
Next, I washed the sweaters, one at a time and a couple of days apart since they take up a lot of floor room while drying. While I'm writing this, I'm soaking Isabel's "Valentine" in my trusty old-fashioned top-loading clothes washer in warm water and a little Eucalan. At our old house in Ottawa we had an economical front loader, which I came to hate. It took hours to get something through the wash cycle and since there was no true soaking cycle (without any agitation at all), I had to wash large items in the bathtub. I know I should have loved the top loader for ecological reasons, but in truth I was thrilled when I discovered that our current house had an old Kenmore top loader. After a 20-minute soak, I simply spin the water out of the sweaters and lay them flat to dry, shaping them in the process. I have a strong preference for non-superwash treated wool because it is so much easier to control during blocking and drying. I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's instruction regarding the blocking of wool-- "bend it to your will".
Here's James' jacket in the midst of blocking--it still looks a little lop-sided before being stretched out to the correct dimensions. He seems to have grown a little taller, so I tried and managed to get an extra bit of length out of the sleeves and body.

With so much water removed in the spin cycle, the drying goes quickly, even in the dead of winter. I just love the way the sweaters look and feel like new again. So much effort goes into knitting them that it's important to me that they are loved and worn for many years. Don't you agree?