Here are a few tips I’ve collected plus two full sheets of instructions from vintage Beehive knitting pattern books that detail how to wash and dry wool clothing.
The instructions are repeated a bit, but each set has some useful info that is unique.
- Dissolve completely a little soap, flakes or powder, cold water soap or good detergent in a small quantity of hot water.
- Add cold water until the soap suds are only lukewarm. (too hot for the elbow is altogether too hot for woollies). Detergents require much cooler water.
- Place the garment in the suds and squeeze gently. Do not rub or leave to soak.
- When the garment is clean, squeeze as much water out as possible but do not wring or twist.
Keep the garment supported by the hands whenever it is removed from the water.
- Rinse at least twice in clean water, no warmer than the washing suds. Every trace of soap must be removed.
- A few drops of white vinegar in the final rinse water are good for coloured woollies and particularly helpful when other shades are knitted with White.
- Never let woollies lie wet. Remove all moisture at once by rolling in a thick towel.
- Ease the garment back to its original size and shape. Dry on a flat surface away from excessive heat.
- Do not hang up–Dry flat.
Most washing troubles are caused by–too hot water, too much soap, too much rubbing, too little rinsing.
To Block & Press:
Place all knitted pieces on a pad, right side down, measure and pin them to size and shape using rustless pins. Cover with a damp cloth. Holding a hot iron close enough to the cloth to draw steam, smooth over each piece, except for the ribbed bands. Do not press the iron on the work at any time. Remove cloth and leave pieces to dry.
Source: Beehive for Bairns, Volume 3, Series No. 50A
Included below are two separate sheets of instructions:
Washing And Drying Garments
The beauty of your hand knit wool garments can be easily retained after many washings, provided a few simple rules are followed.
Before washing, measure the garment and note measurements carefully.
Lukewarm Water and Good Suds
- Use good mild soap or soap flakes. Dissolve sufficient quantity to make good lukewarm suds.
- Squeeze the suds gently through and through the garment until clean. Never rub. Keep the garment supported by hands when removing from water, because the weight of the wet garment may stretch the fabric.
- Rinsing Twice To Remove All Soap
- Rinse in clean, lukewarm water, gently squeezing to REMOVE ALL SOAP. Keep garment supported by hands when removing from water.
- Rinse a second time in clean, lukewarm water making doubly sure to REMOVE ALL SOAP. Keep garment supported by hands when removing from water.
- Remove All Moisture
- Never let the garment lie wet, but remove all moisture at once by rolling in a clean, thick towel.
- Dry Slowly on Flat Surface
- Remove garment from towel, lay on a flat surface AWAY FROM HEAT. Pin to required measurements using rustless pins.
Wool and Silk Mixture
In case of woollen garments containing a thread of artificial silk, add a little vinegar to the second rinsing water.
Plain and Fancy Patterned Socks
Follow the same instructions. In the case of fancy patterns with various colours of wool add a little vinegar to the second rinsing water. Put on wooden stretchers. DO NOT HANG UP–dry on a flat surface.
To ensure the fullest benefit of increased wearing properties, it is recommended that these washing instructions be followed for garments knitted from PATONISED Shrink-resist yarns.
It is absolutely wrong to put woollen garments to soak: to use strong soap, soda, boiling–or even very hot–water, (or in the case of white garments especially, a dirty sud!), to let them lie in a wet state, or to hang them up to dry.
Remove all Soap. Remove all Moisture. After Washing Don’t Hang Up–Dry Flat.
Vintage Instruction Sheet #2
- Before washing spread garment out flat on a piece of paper. Draw outline of garment on the paper.
- Make a good suds of Lux soap flakes thoroughly dissolved in lukewarm water. Do not rub soap on the garment. Squeeze garment gently in the water. If garment is very soiled repeat in fresh suds. Rinse out all soap in two or three baths of lukewarm water.
- Squeeze out most of the water. Do not wring. When squeezing has taken out most of the water stretch garment into shape of the outline made before washing. Lay on a bath towel or blanket near a heat radiator and leave to dry. While drying keep garment stretched to correct size. Do not dry in intense heat or cold.
CAUTION–We recommend good quality soap flakes without the use of water softeners. Use only lukewarm water. Rinse thoroughly. Dry quickly. Do not place garment on radiator. Never hang garment up to dry as this spoils shape.
Washing Garments Where White is Used with Colors
White yarn will tend to draw some color from most dark colored yarns in washing. This will not happen if the garment is thoroughly rinsed in two or three waters and all the surplus water squeezed out. The garment must be dried within two hours. If outdoor conditions are not favourable to quick drying–dry by artificial heat.
Pressing Finished Work
No garment made of yarn should ever be touched with a hot iron. This takes all the life and elasticity out of it. The correct method is to wet and wring out a clean cloth and spread on flat surface. Then lay garment flat, right side up, patting into shape. Pin firmly into desired shape. Cover with a dry cloth and allow to dry thoroughly.
Source: Loose sheets from Beehive Knitting Pattern Books, date and issues unknown