I want to bring to light a very serious topic…sweater abuse. There are thousands, even millions, that get abused every day. They end up suffering from holes, a rash of fuzz and severe dents in their shoulders. Sadly, most of these sweaters end up being left alone for months, suffering, until they are discarded into a donation or possibly even the trash, sure to end in death. But there is something YOU can do. The following is a list of ways you can help your own sweaters. Remember, change starts with just one person. Together we can save our sweaters.

 Clean up, Clean up, Everybody Clean Up…

Yes, dry cleaning can be expensive. And hand washing is a pain, it makes us feel like we haven’t evolved from colonial times. But we sweat in our sweaters, we spill drinks on them, and we get food on them. I’m not saying that we are slobs who don’t wear deodorant, I’m just saying that it is inevitable that we spill and sweat. And here’s the thing…sweat dries and stains can set in, sometimes we don’t even know that the stain occurred. It fades into the sweater and we put it away into our closet. The real danger comes when we put them away at the end of the sweater season. When Spring comes we are so excited that these poor sweaters get thrown into a bin or banished to the back of our closets. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and in this case it bugs who look at our dirty sweaters like they just won the lottery. They eat our leftovers, even our sweaty armpit threads.

How Can You Help? 

No, you don’t need to dry-clean or hand wash every sweater after every time you wear it. The most important time to do a thorough clean is AT THE END of the season. When you know you won’t be wearing that sweater again until it is cooler, make sure to follow the care label to be sure it can be stored sweat and stain free.

Segregation – It’s a Thing

Normally this is not a good thing, but with sweaters we need to talk about fat vs. thin and turtlenecks vs. crews and cashmere vs. cotton. Different types need different kinds of storage.

The first issue – To fold or not to fold. Here’s a quick quiz….

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Folder Beware!

There are a majority of closets that are blessed with those builder grade white wire shelving. Clearly this shelving was designed by Satan. Have you ever stacked your folded sweaters on the shelf, then pulled out the one on the bottom, only to discover that it has been branded with the wire bar imprints? That will ruin your look rather quickly.

How Can You Help?

Two things can save our sweaters from dented abs:

First, if you have wire shelves, buy this:

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It’s a clear plastic sheeting that you roll out on top of your shelving. BAM! WHAMMO! Now you have a flat surface. You’re welcome.

Second, group like with like. You wouldn’t let a sumo wrestler sit on top of a gymnast because it would crush the gymnast. Plus the sumo wrestler probably wants to hang out with other sumo wrestler, just as the tiny gymnast want to hang out with other tiny gymnast. It’s not mean, it’s just that they have more in common. So stack thicker sweaters on top of other thick sweaters and thinner sweaters on top of other thin sweaters. BUT keep in mind the leaning tower of Pisa. Stacks that are too tall will fall, or at the very least crush each other and create marks and creases. If space is limited you do the best you can, but optimally 4-5 is best.

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What if you have no shelves? Not even the annoying wire ones? Then you need to improvise. These hanging shelves are made of canvas and feature the perfect amount  of support.

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All Hangers Are Not Created Equal.

If you used the decision tree I made and came to the conclusion that your sweater should be hung, then listen up. Do not abuse your sweaters by giving them Lady GaGa shoulders. Whatcha talking’ bout Willis? I’m referring to that time that GaGa thought it was a good idea to put prosthetic points onto her shoulders. It was not a good look.

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Guess what wire hangers do? They are secretly abusing your sweaters, creating awkward dents into your shoulders when you go to put on your sweater. You are not shaped like a wire hanger nor should you be.

How Can You Help?

For a small donation to the Save Your Sweater fund you can purchase wooden and satin hangers. Why wooden? The wood is thick and supportive, and the frame is wide and sloped, therefore it more closely resembles the natural lines of your frame. “But I thought satin were just for lingerie in the 80s and the Dynasty soap opera?” Not so. The even thicker satin hangers are perfect for the gently slopping of those open and unstructured  cardigans, especially lighter weight materials like cashmere and angora. Your very delicate sweaters will appreciate being treated like a lady.

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If you are laughing right now and thinking, yeah, right, I am not buying new hangers than I beg of you to be compassionate and try this simple fix. You know when you pick up a sweater from the dry cleaners and they have folded like origami over the rolled cardboard part of the wire hanger? That works, seriously. If you are constantly wearing and dry cleaning your sweaters then by all means, leave them the way that the dry cleaner gave them to you. Chances are they will be worn and going back there again before you know it. And you know that stack of the empty wire hangers with the cardboard tube at the bottom? The ones you are trying to be environmentally responsible about by returning to the dry cleaners to be recycled? Give them another chance by folding your super delicate sweaters oh so nicely over that very gentle cardboard tube. Think of it as foster parenting until your sweaters can be adopted by wood or satin hangers.

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Stop Neglect, Now.

Your sweaters need to be groomed. Would you go to work without brushing your hair? Would you go to the beach without shaving your legs? It’s just cruel to let your sweaters sit around and feel unkempt and unwanted. It makes them feel old and unloved. And the worst part is that those sweaters that have suffered the most damaged are probably the ones you have loved and worn the most in the past. The end up getting thrown away and discarded, replaced with a new version even though they still had so much left to give.

How Can You Help?

If you are in reactive mode because the sweater is already suffering then you will need help. A simple sweater shaver will make that sweater look as good as you feel right after a much-needed eyebrow wax. And sadly, if you are sick like me and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the dirt you sucked up into your Dyson vacuum, then you will actually get a perverse kind of enjoyment out of sucking those lint balls off of your sweater.

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Want to be proactive? Try cryogenics. I’m not kidding. If your new sweater looks like it has a potential to go down the bad path of shedding, then you will need some scare tactics to steer it straight. Stick that sucker into a ziplock bag, seal it shut and place it in the freezer for approximately 24 hrs. The cold air will lock in those threads that are most likely to shred, essentially freezing them in place. That angora sweater will be scared so straight it won’t even dare drop a hair onto your favorite black pants.

I know we addressed a lot of serious issues during this post, but through awareness I believe that together we can save our sweaters. Each sweater deserves a fair chance, whether it comes from Walmart or Neiman Marcus. Cotton should have just as many rights as cashmere, and old sweaters should be given just as much care as new ones. I hope you join me on the journey to save our sweaters.

*Insider Tip – They Get By With A Little Help From Their Friends.

Think of all the sweaters that you just thrown on over your bra and head out the door. They are few and far between. It takes a thin knit with structure to pull of such a feat, I’m talking the likes of the classic Tippi sweater from J.Crew., and then even that sweater can be challenge because few women can feel comfy with direct wool to skin contact.

Most of the time we need a proper home for our sweaters, a good foundation so that we don’t feel itchy. Something else to be a first line of defense against sweaty armpits. It’s these unsung heroes that make the difference in a sweater being worn or left unworn. Here are some of my favorites:

The LL Bean Heat Keepers is a cozy undershirt. It feels super soft and makes you super happy from the moment you put it on. It is the ultimate “t-shirt” to layer under your sweater.

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But maybe like Nora Ephron you feel bad about your neck…this turtleneck will be a dream come true. It’s long, lean, and never bulky, and the turtle part sits just right. It’s mostly cotton with just a slight bit of stretch, the perfect layer to start with under your sweater. The best part? Yes, it’s from Target. Hallelujah.

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Have questions? Suggestions? Email me at suzie@suziegaffney.com

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Thanks for reading!

Suzie