Knit wits: As sweater season ends, be smart about their care
Take a good look at your sweaters before you put them away for the season.
“Take time to analyze what you have in your closet and start pruning to make way for warm-weather items,” says Michelle Madhok, founder of shefinds.com and author of “Wear This Now.” “Say good-bye to those heavy winter pieces by storing them properly so when you need them, they will look good.”
First, it's time to sort. If sweaters have holes in them, have faded, are out of style, are too big or too small, or something you've just really never liked, “get it out of your closet,” Madhok says.
If you haven't worn it in the past two years, either toss or donate it, experts say. Formal wear gets a pass, Madhok says, because you just might not have had an occasion to wear those pieces.
“A small hole might be worth getting repaired,” says Lisa Adams, owner and designer of LA Closet Design, but “check the cost before committing to that.”
For the keepers, there are ways to store them so they will be fresh for next fall and winter. And don't forget to keep a few sweaters handy for unseasonably cool days, colder nights or air-conditioned offices and restaurants.
“Taking care of these knits and storing them properly will preserve the longevity of the items,” says Adams.
Be sure to clean your knits before you pack them away. The American Cleaning Institute recommends following the garment's care instructions before storing.
Garments that look clean may have invisible stains that will appear over time. For example, if beverage stains are blotted up, they will seem to disappear when the area dries. But, if left untreated, the sugar in the beverage will oxidize, potentially causing a yellow or brownish stain.
Make the decision to professionally dry-clean the items, machine-wash on the gentle cycle with gentle detergent or hand-wash. Sweaters dry best when they are laid flat. A tip to help with the drying process is to use a salad spinner to help remove some moisture before laying the garment flat, Madhok says.
You will be asking for trouble if you store a sweater that is damp, she says.
Store sweaters and knits in zipper bags under your bed or in another closet. You need something to keep the items dust-free and clean while allowing them to breathe.
“Throwing sweaters in a garbage bag is not a good idea,” Madhok says.
Cedar helps protect from bugs. Those little packets that come in new shoeboxes also help to keep moisture out, Madhok says. She prefers to fold sweaters versus hang them because they can get stretched out and sag at the shoulders. You also can save space by rolling them.
“When it comes to storing your clothes, as Joan Crawford would say, ‘No more wire hangers.' And make sure sweaters are always folded and never hung so they keep their shape,” says fashion stylist and Static Guard brand ambassador Phillip Bloch, who also suggests spraying each with Static Guard so they are fresh and cling-free when you bring them out next fall and winter.
If you must hang your sweaters, use sweater hangers, which have rounded edges and are often padded. You also can use the acid-free paper dry cleaners use to protect sweaters if you fold them over a pants hanger.
And skip the vacuum bags: Yes, sucking enough air out of a sweater to turn it into a pancake saves room, but it can cement wrinkles, too.
Adams likes sweater bags, which are made of linen and filled with cedar, lavender or eucalyptus. They are pretty and functional at the same time, she says. If you don't have them, cotton pillowcases work. You also can go with clear bins to store items.
“It is also good to store by color and type so you know what you have,” Adams says.
You need to be extra careful with cashmere, Adams says. Wool is less fragile.
Avoid storing in hot attics, damp basements and garages. Store woolens in cedar chests or other airtight containers. Add mothballs to the latter, and be sure they are suspended above or separated from the clothes.
To minimize wrinkles in sweaters and other knits, fold and wrap them in white tissue paper before storage. Make sure you turn your knits inside out to prevent pilling. It's also important to protect the material against snags if there are embellishments and trims, so as not to snag the material. Special trims, such as suede, leather or beads may influence the care requirements.
This sorting and storing process is a good habit to get into every season, Adams says.
“Doing this several times a year will allow you to take inventory of your closet and not have to keep looking at items you don't wear or like any longer, because you will be getting rid of them on a regular basis,” Adams says. “If it is something you really want to keep, find a professional tailor for repairs and alterations to get it done right.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.