Knit Blocking and Care FAQs
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I accidentally washed a wool sweater. I did not dry it in the dryer but it still shrunk. Any advice?
If you wish to stretch your sweater back to shape, it may be possible, but it's a little tricky. Washing the sweater, even by hand, tightened all the yarns. In a worst-case scenario, it may have "felted," which is very hard to restore. (But this usually results from tumble-drying.)

You can try this procedure at home or have your dry cleaner do it. (See the "What is knit blocking" FAQ for information on how this is done professionally.) Re-wet the sweater in a sink with a little detergent and a little dissolved hair conditioner. This should loosen and relax the yarns. Rinse gently, squeeze out the excess water, and lay it flat on a white terry towel. Once on the towel, you can try to re-block it to the desired larger measurement, with special attention to the areas you felt shrunk. The more you pull, the thinner or narrower it gets. Continue blocking it until it's dry, or it may continue to shrink.

ORIGINAL QUESTION:
I have a gorgeous St John Knit white sweater with gold trim around the neckline. One of the sleeves has a spot on it near the shoulder. What can I put on this to take this spot out? I have tried many dry cleaners around the area on several other outfits only to be severely disappointed so I am not going that route. Thanks I hope you can suggest a solvent of something. Mrs. Young.

ANSWER:
I empathize with your disappointment in area dry cleaners. Designer clothing like St John is best cleaned by someone well experienced with them. Not having any idea what the stain is makes it near impossible for me to advise you in the proper stain removal techniques. I would gladly help you with a less costly piece, but I can not advise you on a home remedy in this case. The good news is that knit garments ship very well and we would be glad to take care of this item for you. We are well experienced with St John knits and know what to expect from them. We often do cleaning for St John Corporation and we take care of all the St John garments for Nordstrom and Saks here in Southern California. Ship this item using our CleanByMail program and we will not disappoint you.

Knit blocking is the process of changing the size or shape of an item or returning it to its original dimensions through a process of redistributing the knit weave and not by altering. Blocking is accomplished through an iterative process of passing steam through the knit material, shifting and distributing the material to the desired position and tamping and cooling the knit to lock in the new distribution. Working iteratively in both dimensions is necessary to produce a stable result. A professionally blocked knit will hold its dimension through cleaning unless it was over blocked. Typically it is possible to reduce a half size or increase a size and a half without over blocking.

Fine knit garments sch as St John knitwear should be stored properly to protect from damage. Proper storing will prevent damage from insects, fading and mold.

INSECT DAMAGE—The wool in the wool/rayon fabric of St. John knitwear is attractive to moths, silverfish and carpet beetles. Wool contains protein, a digestible food source for insects. Always store your garments clean for the season, the scent of perfume and body oil attract insects leading them to the wool food source. Protect your garments from insects with a non-digestible barrier like the breathable garment bags discussed below.

FADING—The dyes used in coloring fabric and adhesives used to attach ornamentation give off gases that, if permitted to collect, can reach a concentration that will cause fume fading. Fume fading is one of the causes for white garments to yellow and brightly colored fabrics to discolor. For this reason it is always best to store garments in a breathable bag to prevent the collection of gases and the resultant fading.

MOLD & MILDEW—Wool is hygroscopic and can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture. It is necessary to air dry heavy wool garments after wearing before storing to prevent mold and mildew growth. Also, never store garments in a plastic bag or other vapor barrier which could promote the growth of mildew. A breathable bag is a suitable protector. Do not overcrowd your closet! An uncrowded closet promotes air circulation and reduces humidity. When leaving for an extended visit open closet doors to promote air circulation.

OTHER COMMENTS:
Knit garments are best stored flat for long term storage to keep their shape.

Cedar is relatively ineffective unless a cedar chest or a fully lined closet is used. Watch for mildew and fume fading in cedar chests. Cedar lined closets need to be rejuvenated frequently.

Moth balls should never be used. The odor that accompanies the moth balls can be nearly impossible to remove from fabrics.

Use low wattage dehumidifiers to control the humidity in closets. Margaret’s sells the Golden Rod style dehumidifiers.

Again, for fine clothing always store items clean following the wearing season. In addition to attracting moths, many stains are initially invisible and, with time, will become visible and set, making them more difficult to remove.

SUMMARY:
For the reasons stated above, we recommend storing St. John knitwear in breathable garment bags made of non-protein based synthetic material. Margaret’s offers many options to assist with the proper storage including three sizes of sweater bags with snap closure for flat storage and four sizes of garment bags with zipper closure for hanging storage. Please contact Margaret’s for further information regarding these and other garment storage products Please download our "Guide to Knit Care" newsletter!.

From its original size I would normally expect to be able to reduce a St. John knit one half a size and increase a size to a size and a half. It does depend on the blocking history of the garment. For extensive blocking it is best to make an appointment and have our knit blocker work with you and possibly block a few iterations as you wait. Of course, for custom blocking of this type the work must take place at our Convoy Street production facility in San Diego.

Blocking beyond that discussed above may make the knit too thin and loose the knit quality St. John is known for. It is possible to over block in one dimension by giving up a little in the other.

Here is a link to a PDF of our Knit Care newletter.

 


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