The Fashion Memo

How To Expertly Care For Your Knitwear

LAYLA SARGENT, founder and CEO of specialist care-and-repair site The Seam, shares her professional tips for extending the life of much-loved cashmere sweaters, delicate wool garments and synthetic knitwear, so they can be worn on repeat for years to come

The Seam team proves that, with a little TLC and expert know-how, our knitwear heroes can become forever pieces

Understanding knitwear

Knitwear is defined by its yarn structure. Unlike woven fabrics, which take on more of a basket-like construction, knitting uses a singular yarn that interlocks around itself to produce a garment. As a result, knitwear is delicate because it can be prone to snags and pulls. If you pulled one yarn in a woven fabric, for example, the worst thing you might do is remove that yarn from the fabric. However, if you pulled on a yarn in a knitted material, you could potentially unravel the entire piece.

The second thing that makes caring for knitwear complex is that knits, particularly sweaters, are often made from protein fibers, such as wool, cashmere and mohair. These fibers are delicate because they are susceptible to their chemistry being changed when exposed to heat and friction.

This combination means caring for knitwear requires a little extra time and know-how to make these items last.

Washing and drying knitwear

Knitwear made from wool – or any other animal-hair fiber – should never be washed in water warmer than 30 degrees Celsius. Often, handwashing is the best solution for animal-hair knits, as the fabric is agitated less than during a machine wash. If the label permits machine washing, always use the delicate cycle.

Cotton and synthetic knits may be more tolerant to the washing machine, but ensure they aren’t washed with any garments that contain hardware – including snaps, zips or hook-and-eye closures – as these can get caught on the knit structure and cause pulls.

Knitwear should always be air-dried, too. However, avoid hanging knits on a clothes horse – their weight, when wet, can cause the structure to stretch out and distort the garment’s shape. Ideally, knits should be laid flat to dry.

As with most clothing, the best strategy is to wash as infrequently as possible. Try using a fabric-refreshing spray in between washes, or place wool pieces in the freezer for 48 hours to remove bacteria.

Storing knitwear

Knitwear should be stored flat to prevent it from stretching out of shape on a hanger.

Protein-based fibers, which include wool and silk, are susceptible to moths. Mending moth holes is one of the most common repairs we perform at The Seam.

To prevent moth attacks on your wardrobe, store woolen items in a vacuum-sealed bag during their off-season. In the fall and winter, when your sweaters are more likely to be worn in frequent rotation, use natural repellents to keep moths away. These include lavender and sandalwood essential oils, along with cedarwood.

If you do come across moths in your wardrobe or find knitwear with several holes, the best thing to do is freeze clothing for at least 48 hours, to ensure any remaining larvae are killed.

Caring for and repairing knitwear

At The Seam, we offer invisible repairs for pulls and snags, along with solutions for moth damage to knitwear.

Beyond this, another common sign of wear and tear that can appear on knits is pilling or bobbling. This happens when the loose fibers on the edges of the yarn begin to mat into tiny balls on the surface of knitwear. If you’re committed to regular maintenance of your knits, we suggest investing in a de-bobbling tool, which can safely shave off bobbles and return sweaters to looking like new again.

If you prefer to leave it to the experts, NET-A-PORTER offers a luxury repairs-and-alterations service, powered by The Seam.


The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown