The Sweater Song
March 10, 2005 2:30 PM   Subscribe

My favorite sweaters are made of wool. They're dry-clean-only. And they're also stretched out and don't look that great anymore. How can I shrink them just a little bit to get them back to their original size? Oh, and any advice on preventing/removing pilling?
posted by SpecialK to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total)
I can only help you with the "removing pilling" part. Evercare and Singer make sweater combs like this. Buy several, they get dull after awhile. I have a zillion of them and have never found anything better. I have good luck finding them at Kmart and Target.
posted by suchatreat at 2:35 PM on March 10, 2005

Best answer: Getting them back exactly as they were is going to be difficult. When you are making a garment - you can knit a test swatch and then wash it to see how much it shrinks. You have nothing to test so putting it in the dryer is pretty much a crap shoot. It could shrink a little - or it could become a lovely felted baby sweater.
Wool can usually be handwashed in cool water then "blocked". Gently squeeze the water out of your sweater and lay it out to dry in the shape you like. If you want your sweater a little bigger - you can stretch it out and pin it to the towel on which you are doing your drying. This is good for reshaping and upsizing but I don't know how much you can do to shrink. This shaping is lost as soon as the sweater is cleaned again - but can be helpful in between cleanings.
What you can do is prevent it from happening in the future. Sweaters and hangers don't mix. Keep them away from each other all the time. The chemical in dry cleaning are hard on wool fibers - I try to launder everything i own that is wool as infrequently as possible.
Wool yarn pills - some less than others. Very little you can do about that other than what suchatreat describes. I mean - you could also not move your upper body at all when you are wearing your favorite sweaters - but I'm guessing that's not what you're after.
posted by Wolfie at 3:43 PM on March 10, 2005

Best answer: Blocking works. I have both enlarged and shrunk sweaters with this. Be careful as shrinking tends to be more permanent. If you do not get good results at cool or warm temperatures then crank up the heat a little. If you go to far you likely will not be able to stretch it back to a larger size, at least permanently.
posted by caddis at 3:56 PM on March 10, 2005

Another vote for blocking. You can find a sweater drying rack at your local Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, or what have you, which will help the sweater dry more quickly (it's a little mesh platform that you lay the sweater upon).

I prefer using a fine toothed comb (your basic little black Ace from the drugstore works fine) to remove pills. Simple, elegant, effective.
posted by padraigin at 5:53 PM on March 10, 2005

Blocking is easier with pins -- get a whole bunch of them and lay the garment out in the shape that you want, pin it into the carpet or a foam board or cardboard or whatever. Use a lot of pins so you don't stretch it out too much in one place. Let it dry thoroughly, or the blocking won't take.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:54 PM on March 10, 2005

What the others said regarding blocking - and, for my best woollens, I use a brand new, very, very sharp safety razor (the face-shaving sort) to lift those little fluff-balls. I find it's actually much gentler on the fabric than the combs (which I use on more "everyday" woollens), but only if you're careful with it.
posted by bunglin jones at 6:13 PM on March 10, 2005

The cheaper, more poorly spun yarn pills more. High lanolin content can prevent pilling, but the high-lanolin yarn garments are usually heavy outer-wear.

Cheap notions stores have those little battery-operated "sweater shavers". They work ok.

Another vote for blocking, here. I too, use straight pins.
posted by reflecked at 7:34 PM on March 10, 2005

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