Depending on the fabric and desired results, there are a few different approaches to garment care that can ensure a longer lifespan and help to retain the original fit throughout years of use and washing. It’s a bit subjective and lengthy to sort all this out on a care label, so think of this page as an addendum - a few routes I recommend from my experience making, wearing and washing clothes.
The hangtag notes the type of cloth and where it was woven, as well as the edition number - each piece is part of a limited set defined by that particular style/cloth combination. For example, a Field Shirt cut from a tumbled linen woven in Japan (tag above) was produced in an edition of 56 pieces total, each piece numbered 1 through 56. This is meant as a tribute to the provenance of the garment and a reminder that this is a rather small operation.
You may have noticed certain characteristics about the cloth when inspecting a new garment. Some of these are inherent to the textile (type of fiber, yarn process, weave structure) and will remain present through years of use. On the other hand, some attributes will change and begin to transform from wear and washing. I tend to choose cloths not only for their look, feel, and quality when new but perhaps more importantly how they will change and get better with time.
Looking at certain sewing details, a lot can be learned about the transformation that takes place depending on the chosen method of care - a hand wash, gentle machine wash or (non-toxic/green) dry clean.
Some details are intended to be revealed further after a wash - a 1/4’’ inset topstitch on the Field Shirt & Zip Jacket for example (middle & right, above), will allow the natural characteristics of a given cloth to express itself; rinsing a linen will result in an entirely different look compared to dry cleaning the same piece - which will keep the garment looking closer to new. Alternatively, the Two Pocket Shirt employs a 1/16’’ edge stitch on the pocket (above, left) and after a wash it nearly disappears to allow the pocket to float on the body.
(Green) Dry cleaning is an option for those who want to keep a garment looking brand new for as long as possible. For certain sweaters and more delicate wool garments, this is sometimes the safest route - however, spot cleaning and the occasional airing out of a piece should keep it from needing anything more advanced. If I end up wearing a wool shirt too many days in a row and it’s in need of a cleaning but isn’t suited for washing - I'll spray it lightly with a natural oil mix like RTH makes, and leave it to hang near an open window for the day.
Hand washing (process below) will subtly transform the cloth but for the most part will retain the original color and fit. Some textures can be brought to life through handwashing a textile, and offer a garment a more natural, worn look. If you prefer a newer appearance, you can steam & gently press the garment once its dry which would offer similar results to dry cleaning.
The third and more aggressive approach I would only recommend for certain fabrics - machine washing on a gentle setting with cold water and low spin cycle. If you find the appeal in a worn garment that looks and feels as if you’ve always had it - then the occasional machine wash may serve you well. This method involves more agitation and thus brings out the maximum character if the cloth is suited for it - however in terms of the life of a textile, hand washing will offer the most enduring approach.
If you imagine the arc of a garment’s life moving from brand new to threadbare, with ‘perfectly broken in and molded to you’ in the middle of that journey - then machine washing may help move faster to the middle but will likely move the entirety of its life with the same speed. Alternatively, one could machine wash a garment once or twice for the effect, then resort to handwashing thereafter. If ever you have questions about which approach may be best for you - don’t hesitate to write (firstname.lastname@example.org).
While it may seem an obvious enough process, after many conversations with clients visiting the studio or via email it seems like it couldn’t hurt to go over hand washing in detail. It helps to have a nice enough day to keep the windows open for when a garment will be hung to dry.
The water should be around room temperature or a bit colder. I recommend a natural soap or detergent to add in as needed. Start by soaking and gently agitating the garment, depending on the level of cleaning needed you can do a few cycles of rinsing, draining and refilling the sink to get all the soap out.
Once cleaned, it’s best to gently wring out the garment to get rid of excess water without straining the cloth too much, which can leave more lasting creases (sometimes desirable). Then it’s just about ready to hang dry, but the last steps are important and really shape the results.
To return the garment to its original fit - shake it out a bit while still damp. It’s helpful to put your arms through the sleeves, even using hands like paddles to open back up the full width of each sleeve and the body - pulling gently down the full length of both to straighten and return to the original measurements. When damp a garment is much more malleable than once it has dried…
Finally, the garment can be hung on a soft shouldered hanger (I use inflatable) or laid on a drying rack. If possible it’s best to leave it near an open window.For those seeking a more crinkled finish, when the garment is on a hanger and still damp - it’s the best time to experiment with tugging gently on pockets or scrunching it up before leaving it to dry.
As mentioned before, some sewing details are brought to life through washing - here we can see a variety of pocket types from the Field Shirt, Two Pocket Shirt & Three Pocket Jacket after the wash. These all happen to be linen of varying weights from the current set of editions - but similar rules apply for many cotton, hemp, and occasionally the right kind of wool or wool blend cloths.