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Sweater-Washing Day

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My blood tends to runs a little cool, and I have a closetsful of sweaters, sweatshirts and giant fluffy blankets to prove it.

Maybe it's just me, but winter fabrics seem a tad stale at the start of every fall, so I've learned a trick that keeps that faintly sad fragrance of closed air and wool at bay for at least the first several wearings: Wash, rinse, and – most importantly – dry outside.

Even heavy winter fabrics can smell wonderful without the help of fabric softener or Febreze. When you dry your cold weather garments outside in the last flush of summer air, that smell clings to your garments for a surprisingly long time. And drippy sweaters drying indoors make me think of Russian winters during the Cold War anyway.

Is that weird?

Do you take one look at the DRY CLEAN or HAND WASH-only tag and run in the opposite direction, no matter how beautiful or flattering a piece of clothing may be?

Don't!

The best thing about good quality fabrics like wool? If you take good care of them, they will take good care of you.

If you're going to be living in northern New York – or anywhere that gets chilly, for that matter – you don't have to limit your winter clothing repertoire to cotton and synthetics. Yes, it's more time-consuming to take proper care of a wool or cashmere garment, but it's also totally worth it.

My favorite sweater is 100% wool, but surprisingly light weight. It's thicker than most of my other sweaters – about the thickness of a good-quality sweatshirt – but it doesn't seem to add bulk.

Even wool sweaters like this one are deceptively delicate. It took me years to figure out how to properly care for wool and I went through many expensive holiday sweaters before I got it right.

Wool is a natural fiber. Like cotton, it wicks away moisture when worn against skin, yet holds warmth with its tight, scaly threads. It is water-repellant because it contains an oil called lanolin. Firefighters used to wear wool pants and shirts because, with its high ignition temperature, wool is basically fire-resistant. Yet even in frigid weather, wool garments keep their wearer dry and warm.

If you've ever taken really good care of a beloved wool sweater, you'll notice that no matter how long you've had it and what you've put it through (spitty babies, spilled juice, spilled coffee, dog drool, etc), it probably doesn't have a spot on it. That's because wool is really, really hard to stain. In fact, I purposely avoided taking pictures of the tag on the sweater below because, unfortunately, it has not escaped said grime.

View photos and hand washing instructions for delicate winter fabrics at NNY Life.

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