Updated: Oct 17, 2020
You, too, can enjoy heirloom-quality handmade items without fear!
Many people are intimidated at the prospect of taking care of a hand-knitted or crocheted shawl, sweater, or other piece of wearable art. But you don't have to be!
Pilling is usually caused by lower quality yarn coming apart and felting into tiny balls. Felting happens with wools and some wool blends when the fibers are "shocked" and agitated. The shocking happens when the article is moved from hot water to cold water, or cold water to hot water. Sometimes we do this on purpose in the process of making something, but if you want to keep the piece as it is, avoid sudden changes in water temperature when washing.
For most items, when they do actually need to be washed, all that is required is:
a wash tub or sink with plug
a small amount of detergent (preferably the liquid kind; wool wash if you have it)
a bath towel (optional, but it can help with excess water))
a place to lay the piece flat
Seriously. That's it. So here is how you do it.
Add the detergent to the tub/sink. (For something the size of a shawl, half of a teaspoon will do.)
Fill the tub/sink with cold water, allowing space for what you're washing.
Add the piece you're washing. Press gently into the water, allowing it to soak in to the fibers.
You can manipulate the item to allow water to flow through and around it, but otherwise, let it soak for a few moments to an hour. (If you are cleaning dirt or a stain, it can soak for several hours or overnight.)
Remove from the water and squeeze (never wring!) the water out. You can squeeze with your hands, you can press it against the side or bottom of the sink, whatever works best.
(optional) If your item was dirty, and the water was dirty, you may want to fill the sink/tub and rinse in clear water.
(optional step) Lay out a bath towel on the floor, folding in half. Lay your item on the towel at one edge and roll it up in the towel. Step on the rolled towel and squeeze more water out of your item.
Lay out your item as flat as possible. You can use a sweater dryer, or lay a dry towel over the top of your dryer or a bed (safe from pets who might be inclined to trample/claw it), and arrange the item to shape it.
For woven items, and some knitted or crocheted items, you can also iron them afterward to remove wrinkles! Be sure to follow directions for your iron based on the material of what you're ironing. (Cottons and wools can be ironed at a higher temperature, but for acrylics, don't go above the minimum steaming temperature.)
If you have any questions regarding these steps, or if you are concerned about your specific item, even if you didn't purchase it from me, feel free to ask!