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To say that alpaca sweaters are “immortal” is a pretty bold boast. But yes, without wanting to be macabre, if you properly care for your alpaca sweater, it might outlive you. If you intend to invest in top-end Peruvian clothing, you need to know how to wash and store it. We operated a retail store for 32 years in a small town and saw our sweaters go through the complete life cycle on many many customers, so we are speaking from experience.
Now, lets talk about how to keep this affordable luxury affordable: by not destroying it!
First of all, while alpaca fiber is extremely strong and durable, that doesn’t mean you can take a chain saw to it. Beware of snags, unraveling threads, or moth damage, and when you find a problem, stop wearing it and get it repaired (hint: try asking around a shop that sells knitting supplies, or check the internet for dry-cleaners or tailors that specialize in knitwear repair.). Follow these other rules of the road to keep that item of chic clothing looking great and reeling in the compliments:
HOW TO WASH A SWEATER
To hand-wash a sweater or alpaca coat you should wash it in cool water with a mild detergent like Woolite or shampoo, gently kneading and squeezing the garment. Don’t wring it rub the surface too much. Adding hair conditioner will make your sweater even softer. After rinsing, you should gently squeeze out the water and lay it flat on a towel to dry.
HOW TO BLOCK A SWEATER
Although you can’t shrink a sweater to size, you can still lengthen or widen it a little bit. This is called blocking the sweater. This works best with heavier sweaters, but can be done on lighter ones too. It’s great when the sleeves are just a little bit too short.
The old way is get your sweater soaking wet. Then, after squeezing out the water, and laying it on a towel, gently pull your alpaca clothing out to the dimensions desired. The sweater should then be weighted with clean heavy objects until it is dry. It will then retain its new shape.
However, we prefer to use a steam iron. In both alpaca and cashmere factories, ironing is actually a skill, where experienced workers block out the recently knit and assembled garment to the exact right dimensions. You don't need to soak it with this method, but set your iron to "steam" and use the highest setting. You can help by spritzing the sweater with enough water to get a good blast of steam going. Gently iron the sweater in the direction you want it to increase, putting a little pressure on the iron. Be careful not to let the iron sit in one place or toburn your sweater. It should only take a minute or two. Some sweaters can be expanded up to a full size! Works great on too-snug hats, also.
Follow these guidelines and not only will your investment last for many years, but you’ll still be getting compliments on it long after your other sweaters are a distant memory.