Help! Shrunken clothing!
April 11, 2005 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Shrunken clothing filter: is this fixable?

So I shrunk an article of clothing. It's handmade, and I (stupidly) didn't double-check that the washing machine was set to cold. Is there any way to un-shrink this? I'd really rather not shell out another $100 to replace it. No, I'm not sure what the fabric is... something that shrinks in hot water, apparently.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Go on a diet, or buy a new article of clothing. It's a lost cause, sorry.
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:11 PM on April 11, 2005

If it's wool, kottke gives a HOWTO.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 3:22 PM on April 11, 2005

I just shrunk my best dress shirt ever-so-slightly this weekend (and I even *did* wash it in cold!), but I'm hoping there may be enough in the seams that I can have it let out just a skosh. Is there enough in the seams of your garment that you could try the same? Or is it a fabric that could bear stretching? It won't necessarily revert back to its original size, but maybe you could at least salvage it so it's wearable (tho' tight!).
posted by scody at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2005

Sorry, should have clarified. It's not that it's too tight... it's now too short.

Thanks, by the way, for your assumption, Alex.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2005

shrink, shrank, shrunk! It all seems so unnecessary, but I see cotton, linen even polyester clothing that one is advised to dry clean. I do not buy these articles.
You could try dampening and ironing the article with a view to stretching the damp fabric, but I doubt that will compensate for the loss of length. Sorry.
posted by Cranberry at 4:03 PM on April 11, 2005

This might seem crazy, but hair care products designed for African American hair (i.e. curl relaxer) can relax the fibers which are now more tightly wound and the garment will get a little bigger.
posted by fixedgear at 4:21 PM on April 11, 2005

If it's pants, you might be able to let out the hems. Or a friend of mine added some snazzy bands around the legs at about knee height to lengthen her pants.

If it's a shirt, it would seem that you have fewer options. You could try getting it wet again and hanging it up by clothespins with some small weights hung on the bottom to gently lengthen it. Be careful or you'll break it.
posted by mai at 5:10 PM on April 11, 2005

More specifics on the fabric would be helpful. I agree with wetting the article again, stretching it out or taking it to the cleaners to see if they can do it. Replacement is, unfortunately, what I have had to do.
posted by lag at 5:14 PM on April 11, 2005

Check with the Hints by Heloise website or book.
posted by lag at 5:14 PM on April 11, 2005

It really depends on the fabric, but the likelihood of it returning to its original shape is highly unlikely (even if you try the kottke method). The fact that it shrank in hot water most likely means that it is a natural fabric (wool, cotton, or linen).

As others have mentioned, your best bet is to take it to an expert. Cleaners, clothing designers, textile manufacturers, or even the store where it was purchased. It's possible that they might have some best practices around the type of fabric (again, depending on the type of fabric) and how to restore it to it's original size.

As an aside, if this is wool, an important fact to note is that felt is created by using wool, soap, and hot water. That is why it is not a good idea to wash wool clothing since it, in essence, changing the sub-type of fabric itself (at least, this is how I understand the process to work).

Sorry. I wish I had better advice.
posted by purephase at 8:17 PM on April 11, 2005

More details, please: thin & easily wrinkled, or heavy, knitted, and slow to dry? Stretchy like a t-shirt, or stiff like chinos? Not that it will probably matter much, sadly...
posted by obloquy at 9:08 PM on April 11, 2005

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