My Top Tips for How to Store Wool Sweaters and Hand Knits

A small Eastlake dresser with carved handles sits next to a dressmaker's form with a gray shawl draped on it. Hung on the wall behind them are a wooden clock and two framed paintings. On top of the dresser are antique books, a lamp made to look like an oil lantern, a basket of yarn, and a wooden head form with a knit hat on it.
A small Eastlake dresser with carved handles sits next to a dressmaker's form with a gray shawl draped on it. Hung on the wall behind them are a wooden clock and two framed paintings. On top of the dresser are antique books, a lamp made to look like an oil lantern, a basket of yarn, and a wooden head form with a knit hat on it.
I store all of my hand knits in this little chest of drawers. It’s gotten a lot of love over the years.

The cool fall mornings and damp evenings have settled upon us again here in Ventura. That means I’m taking my handknits out of storage. It made me realize that I never did a roundup of how to store wool sweaters and other handknits when I packed them away at the beginning of summer.

Now’s as good a time as any, though, because taking my hand knits out of storage involves a couple steps, too! But don’t worry. It’s a relatively simple process.

Here’s an overview of what to do for your handknits on both ends of the storage journey.

With a little thought and care, your hand knits will make it through their summer hibernation and be ready for use again in the cool weather. It’s easy peasy.

What To Do When It’s Time To Store Wool Sweaters And Other Hand Knits For Summer

If you’re stressing about how to store wool sweaters, hats, scarves, and whatnot, don’t worry! It’s easier than you think.

Clean Your Hand Knits Before Putting Them Away

If you do nothing else before popping your woolen treasures into storage, make sure they’re clean. If you pack them up with dirt, dead skin, body oils, perspiration, spilled food, or other stuff on them, those substances will have months to sink into the wool. That can make stains more durable and cause smells to linger. Worse, little bits of dead skin and oil can attract critters.

So make sure to wash, steam, dry-clean, or otherwise make sure your knits are cleaned thoroughly before you pack them in storage for the summer.

Make Sure Your Wool Sweaters And Other Hand Knits Are Completely Dry

This is a big issue with freshly washed sweaters, especially if you live somewhere humid. It can be hard to tell whether a sweater is completely dry or not. Here’s my rule of thumb:

When in doubt, wait it out.

It’s better to have your sweater sit drying on the couch or foot of your bed for another day than to pack it up a little damp. Over time, the dampness will lead to mildew and degrade the fibers in your knits.

Take Steps To Prevent Visits From Pests

There are all sorts of critters that love chewing on tasty animal fibers. You’ll want to do your best to keep those critters from getting to your hand knits while they’re in storage. After all, it’s not terribly fun to have bugs eat up the projects we spent so many hours on.

One option is to use cedar. I have a cedar chest that I store special linens in, and the scent of that cedar helps keep away moths, silverfish, carpet beetles, and more. My knits, though, get stored in a little chest of drawers, which is made of a different wood. To get the same protective effect, I have layered in a bunch of cedar sachets. You can see them in this photo.

A peek inside a dresser drawer where knitwear is stored. There are tan and brown scarves with lacy textures, two pairs of socks folded together (one purple striped, one gray), and two sachets full of cedar chips. Visible at top right is a carved wooden handle on the drawer above the one that's open.

I bought my cedar sachets in a pack of 20 on Amazon. Every now and then, I go into the drawers and squish the sachets with my hands to release more of that lovely cedar scent.

If the cedar isn’t doing it, you can also try chemical mothballs. Mothballs do have a rather strong scent, so you’ll want to use only as many as absolutely necessary, and then air out your knits before using them. If your knits are going to be in storage for an extended period, though, this might be a good option.

Store Your Wool Sweaters And Other Hand Knits In A Cool, Dry Spot

Hand knit items are full of little nooks and crannies where things love to grow in the dark and the damp. Think about a kitchen sponge and how gross it gets after a while. Now think about what would happen to your favorite sweater if it were stored in a damp, cozy spot where mold and mildew can flourish.

Yuck.

So try to keep your sweaters dry. Here in Southern California, humidity isn’t much of an issue, but if you live somewhere damp, consider packing your handknits with silica packets or other dessicants to keep them protected. You probably also don’t want to store them on the floor of your basement, where moisture tends to lurk.

Consider Sealing Smaller Items In An Airtight Container

I keep my smaller knits, like socks and fingerless mitts, sealed up in gallon-sized Ziplock bags. That helps keep pests out and prevents odors from sinking in, too. It might be overkill, but I’d rather play it safe than sorry.

What To Do When It’s Time To Bring Out Your Woolen Hand Knits From Storage

Give Them A Good Airing

A folded pile of cream, pink, speckled, tan, and chocolate brown knitwear on top of a brown wooden table.

After a whole summer of being tucked away safely in a box, cedar chest, or dresser, maybe with moth balls or lots of sachets, your stored items might have a bit of an odor. That’s okay! The great thing about wool is that odors don’t linger.

So if you pull your hand knits out of storage and find that they’re smelling, well, like they’ve been in storage, set them somewhere out of the way where they get decent air circulation and just let them breathe. I like to put mine by an open window or lay them out on the grass for a little bit.

Check For Signs Of Pests

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the critters find their way into the knits. If you find signs of moths, carpet beetles, silverfish, or other creepy crawlies, it’s best to take action quickly. You’ll want to deep clean all the knits that were stored together and take steps to deal with whatever the pest was. This might involve freezing your knits to kill any eggs/larvae, washing them thoroughly, or treating them with vinegar.

Mend Any Holes Or Weak Spots

The old saying about how a stitch in time saves nine is, frankly, the honest truth. If you can catch a small hole in your knits before it becomes a big hole, your mending job is much smaller. Those small holes will only grow with wear, so save yourself unnecessary work by patching up any worn spots before you put your knits back into your regular wardrobe rotation. Newly reinforced heels, elbows, and other spots will be ready for another year of fun.

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