Washing & Storage
First of all, I love wool but hate dry cleaning. With a lot of trial and error, I've gotten pretty good and washing almost all my clothing myself and have created Caulis pieces so that they can be taken care of at home, too. As always, double check the care instructions on your tag first, just in case.
If your tag says wool, mohair, cashmere or alpaca, it is wool. Wools are the hair that grows from different animals (sheep, goats, alpacas, rabbits) and is protein based, just like our own hair. Different animals create different quality of wool, from super fine to coarse. You can tell how fine the wool in your sweater is by how soft it is. A super fine wool will be very very soft and sometimes even have a halo-like appearance on the surface. Coarser wool will be a little itchier, a little thicker but it is also less likely to felt and pill the way a fine wool does. If your wool is SUPER fine or especially fluffy (like an angora, which I don't use because of animal cruelty concerns) your only option may be to have it dry cleaned, as even getting it wet can turn it into a shaggy, knotted mess. For the rest, you can most likely wash it by hand in cold water and lay flat to dry, using the method below. This method is also good for delicates, like silks, laces or items with a few embellishments. If it is a non-wool garment, use appropriate detergent and fabric softener, if needed. As always, use your judgement to determine wether or not you can wash your garment yourself, and best practice is to follow the instructions on the tag.
Fill a sink or bucket with enough cold water to fully immerse your garment. Add in a gentle detergent or even a baby shampoo. Use the quantity the bottle says for hand-washing, usually around 1 oz worth. Use 2 oz for a larger item or if it is exceptionally dirty.
Pick off or gently brush out any obvious dirt, dry stains or debris. If a stain is fresh, absorb as much of the liquid as possible with a towel and then rinse the stain with room temperature water. If it is still visible, spray it with a gentle stain remover before proceeding.
Turn the garment inside out and gently place it in the water. Let it soak for 30 minutes.
If it isn't particularly delicate, swish it gently in the water every once in a while. Otherwise leave it alone.
Drain the water. The garment will be soaking wet but DO NOT WRING IT. Very gently squeeze the water out of it and set it aside.
Rinse and refill your sink or bucket with cold water and then gently place the garment back in. Leave it in for 10 minutes. Swish it around if it isn't too delicate.
Optional: repeat step 5 and 6 while also adding a wool conditioner or gentle fabric softener to the water.
Repeat step 5. Then, lay it out on a towel and roll the towel with the garment in it to soak up as much water as possible.
Lay the garment flat to dry on a drying rack or a dry towel on a flat surface. Do not hang to dry, it will stretch it out in a really mishapen way.
Once it is dry, you can remove any pills that have formed with a sweater shaver, a sweater stone or gently with a razor being super careful not to create holes (not recommended for thin sweaters).
Store your sweater folded rather than hung.
If you wear your sweater often enough, it can simply be folded and stored in a drawer. I like to put cedar blocks and dried lavender in my drawers to protect my woolens against moths. Check your clothes occasionally for signs of moths, which can be clusters of eggs (that are so small they look like sand is caught in the fabric), tiny worms, holes, or actual tiny golden clothes moths fluttering about.
If you're storing your woolens away for a long period of time, my favourite way to store them is in the freezer. Fold your wool items and store them in a vacuum-seal bag, and leave them in the freezer. If that is not possible, make sure they are completely dry before storing them in a drawer or box. Ideally, woolens are stored in a breathable, clean, cedar chest with dried lavender. Check for moths and mold on occasion. Air out occasionally if you live in a humid area.