I did it. I finally did it. I found not one, but two, perfect second-hand jumpers.
Shopping second-hand has its pros and cons (read my tips on thrift shopping and my favourite places to shop second-hand) but when applied to finding knitwear, it’s often more on the negative side. Don’t get me wrong – charity shops are FULL of chunky knits. But a lot of the time, they’re in terrible shape. So, I decided to put together a guide on how to find the best winter pieces without going to pieces…
Five Tips For Finding Great Second-Hand Knitwear
Ok, here’s my rough-and-ready guide for finding the best second-hand jumpers, cardigans, and sweater vests…
1. Choose Your Location Wisely
It’s well-known that charity shops in ‘posher’ areas carry better clothes. This is partly down to people having more money to spend (and sadly, more items they regret buying which in turn, are donated to charity) as well as people buying better quality items. So, head to these charity shops if you’re looking for high end bargains, and less-worn, better quality items.
2. Do A Little Touchy-Feely
Once you’re in the store, it’s time to sift! Sadly there’s no way of getting out of the arduous task that is sifting, but there are ways of cutting down your searching. Touch is your number one sense: run your hands over the racks of knitwear (often sectioned away from main clothing, although sometimes they’re organised by colour instead) and you’ll quite easily be able to tell between cheaper man-made materials and natural fibres. You should also check the label for the composition – I try to go for high percentage wool knits.
3. Avoid Ironed Knits (Oh The Iron-y)
We Brits are known renowned for many things: bowler hats, bulldogs, binge drinking… But the one thing I can’t seem to get away from is how many people IRON THEIR KNITWEAR. What is this! Go into any charity shop and I guarantee you will find a flattened sweater, hanging long and sad from its hanger. Please, for the love of your clothes, don’t do this. And don’t buy these knits either. The fit is bound to be different from expected, and the pool wool will have been permanently stretched.
4. Look For Brand Favourites
Alongside these tips, try going for brands you know and love. The brown cable jumper I’m wearing is from Cos, and looked practically brand new when I bought it. I’ve also got a great & Other Stories breton sweatshirt that has lasted me years now, found in a Barnardos in West London.
5. Love & Look After Your Second-Hand Knitwear
Finally, once you’ve got your knits home, make sure to give them a good wash, and continue doing so. By this I mean, turn your jumpers inside-out, choose a good natural cleaning detergent designed for wool, wash on a “wool wash” or a “by hand” cycle at low temperature (30°C max) and low spin count too. If you’re like me, you could also go in for a hand-wash instead, which is what I do for all my delicate cashmere pieces. And for the love of God, do not tumble dry.
To dry your knits, lay flat – this will stop jumpers from stretching. I like to use a clothes horse for this reason, and will even put mine outside instead of hanging with pegs! Take a read of my guide to caring for clothes for more info on mending and alterations too.