Fashion News

How to care for wool, according to Liz Mitchell

The renowned New Zealand fashion designer tells us how to look after her favourite fabric.

By Jessica-Belle Greer
Liz Mitchell has been crafting New Zealand designed and made clothes for more than 20 years. Over this time she has researched and campaigned for sustainable use of materials. Who better to ask how to make our favourite winter wool last longer?
Below are her top tips for caring for wool:

Air between washes

Airing garments on wooden hangers kills odours, halts bacteria growth and saves on energy and water.
The wood wicks moisture away from the fabrics, and a hanger mimicking the shape of the shoulder prevents warping.

Home washing

"When it’s time to wash knitwear garments, a gentle machine wash at 30°C, or a hand wash in luke-warm water is best.
Turning wool inside out when washing will prevent pilling, and adding a cup of vinegar to a full wash, hand or machine, is a great alternative to fabric softener and stain remover.
Vinegar will bring the pH of the wash water up to that of the wool, and is gentler to the fabric as a result.
Laying knitwear out to dry in a cool shaded place can help the garments to keep their shape and avoids sun-bleaching."

Dry cleaning

"Dry cleaning should be a last resort for knitwear, but is essential every now and then for tailored pieces, which shouldn’t be machine or hand washed as they risk losing their form.
Chemicals used in the dry cleaning process tend to be highly toxic, however there are now green dry cleaners all over New Zealand. Asking a local designer for a good recommendation is a great way to ensure that your garments, and the environment are being treated with the care that they need for a long life."

Seasonal storing

"At the end of the cold months, washing, folding, and storing garments in a cool, dark, and dry place with lavender or cedar blocks is a great way two ensure that they keep their shape and colour, and are protected from moths, silverfish, moisture, and bacteria.
According to the Care Label Project 25 per cent of the carbon footprint of our clothes comes from the way we care for them. The fashion sustainability movement is asking us to find new ways to look after our clothing, and if we treat our woollen garments with care, we can preserve their beauty and increase their longevity, while protecting our environment."