I noticed that a discussion on the Ravelry forums linked to the garment labels I posted yesterday. The question is “how do you educate non-knitters you knit for, to care for their garment?” Especially with the Christmas season coming up, this seems like an important problem to try to resolve. Sewing in a fabric label, such as those found in shop-bought clothes, seems an ideal solution because people are accustomed to consulting them, and they are always available for quick reference on the garment itself. But this is clearly not an option for smaller knitted items such as socks and gloves, and may not be feasible on lacy pieces where they would show through. In these cases it would be necessary to provide the instructions separately.
So where would the recipient be most likely to keep the instructions?
1. Close to the garment.
Cardboard or paper sleeves wrapped around a pair of smaller items such as socks, gloves, et al., printed with instructions seem quite popular among knitters recently. I imagine they would work well because they can be stored like that. Items that come in pairs are a challenge to keep together anyway (I’m always losing gloves), so cardboard sleeves might also help with this problem. Similarly, if you are going to give garments away in gift boxes, you could encourage the recipient to keep the piece safely stored in the box all of the time. This would allow you to print the instructions on the back of the lid, stuck to the bottom of the box, or even just on a loose piece of paper tucked inside. A special box would be a great way to store lace garments (it was suggested to me on this thread at Ravelry), as lace, let’s face it, takes more care than almost anything else.
2. Close to the washing machine.
Are they very busy and unlikely to go searching around their house for it? Perhaps an arrangement to place the instructions near the washing machine would help them. Instructions could be stuck to the washing machine with magnets or with easy-to-remove stickers. If the labels were attractive enough, this could be an interesting solution, with novelty in its favour. For some people, though, it would probably just be annoying.
3. Close to the laundry basket.
Instruction tags could be attached to the handles of a laundry basket for quick access. In this case, designing gift tags to double up as instruction tags would be more efficient, and once again, attractive labels would be a plus. Of course, lots of dangly labels could get annoying, or get wet and fall off. Many people probably don’t even have handles on their laundry baskets.
4. In a planner/organiser.
If your recipient is one of those people who are great at filing and planning, providing them with intructions they can easily file would undoubtedly make them happy. Stickers, though they may take some extra printing time, might be an interesting solution. It would be simple enough to stick them on a calendar, in a home file, or in an organiser. The trouble, I suppose, would be to remember to refer to them, and to keep them from one year to the next.
5. Online or on the computer.
If your recipient is active online, perhaps it would be helpful to send them an online copy of the care instructions. You could easily attach a photo of the item too, so they remember exactly which piece you’re talking about. An advantage of doing this would be that you’d have a copy for your own reference.
In all cases where the garment is kept separately from the care instructions, it’s important to make sure that your recipient knows which piece the instructions belong with. Giving the garment a name (i.e. Green Cashmere Jumper), and if possible providing a photo or a quick sketch is a good idea.
Every knitter will tell you that it’s a good idea to know the person you’re knitting for, and to be absolutely sure that they will apreciate a knitted gift before you put in so much time and love into the knitting. In the end, all of these ideas still depend on convincing your recipient to do something, and unless you know your recipient well, there’s no way you can predict whether they will look after your garment well, however hard you try to make it easy for them. So if you know that someone won’t put on a wool wash, or wash an item by hand no matter how many tags/stickers/labels you fill their house with, either knit them something easy to care for, or don’t knit for them at all. But don’t skimp out on providing laundering instructions after you’ve spent hours knitting something beautiful.