Are you hung up on your sweaters?

image of sweaters

These days closet and home organization are popular topics.  Some proclaim that hanging everything in your wardrobe, even your underwear, is the best way to control the clutter.  Others prefer folding all your clothes instead.  One thing is for certain, there are lots of options out there.

What many of these systems often omit, though, is the differences in the types of clothing.  We can all agree that a favorite wool sweater is very different type than a pair of jeans.  Similarly, a crisp white shirt is different than leggings.  But how are they different?  Most obviously the jeans and leggings are both pants and the sweater and shirt are both tops.  In both instances, the way the fabrics are constructed also differs.  The jeans and the white shirt are both woven fabrics and the sweater and the leggings are knits.

Woven fabrics are created by weaving the yarns over and under one another to create a stable material.

Woven constructions are what most of us think of when we visualize fabric.  The material is developed on a loom with the yarns interlacing by going over and under one another.  A good example is the potholders that many of us made as kids.  This creates a rather taut and very stable structure.

Conversely, in knits fabrics the yarns are looped together.  The loops produce a stretchy material.  Underwear, leggings, socks, tee-shirts, and sweaters are all garments typically constructed of knits.  They are less prone to wrinkling (yay!).  And, because of their ability to move with the body, knits are comfortable. 

But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.  Knits can fail to recover from their stretch.  It is this elasticity that is important in understanding how to correctly store your sweaters.

Knit constructions are made with looped yarns. With tension the yarns straighten and the fabric will stretch.

Have you ever hung a wet sweater on a hanger to dry?  (I’m just asking about experience.  If you haven’t done this, please don’t try.  At least not with a sweater you want to keep.)  The yarn in the sweater absorbs the water which makes it very heavy.  Just how much water depends on the thickness of the yarn and type of fiber (e.g., wool, acrylic, cotton).  An absorbent fiber like wool or cotton will hold onto far more water than something like acrylic.  And consider that one cup of water is nearly a half pound.

Like Bonnie and Clyde, weight and gravity can be a dangerous combination – feeding off of one another.  The more weight there is, the more obviously and quickly gravity will work.  So hang a water-logged sweater on a hanger, and gravity will prevail causing it to gradually stretch toward the floor and lose its shape.  Generally, the laundering instructions on most washable sweaters will specify “lay flat to dry” for this very reason.

No Water Required! 

You don’t need to water to grow a sweater.  The sweater weight itself can do the trick.

When hanging any knit garment for an extended period of time, the weight will stretch the garment toward the floor.  Like it or not, your sweater will grow.  So, unless your goal is to resize your clothes to fit a gorilla, storing your sweaters on hangers is strongly discouraged.

Be kind to your sweaters.  When not wearing them don’t let them hang out unsupervised.  Let them lie down and rest comfortably.  Fold your sweaters and store them in on shelves or in a drawer.  They’ll reward you by living a long life and staying in shape.

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