shrinking wool
May 24, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

ShrinkingWoolSweaterFilter: Ok, so I took a wool sweater, washed it in cold water then let it dry naturally. Result: it shrank! Now, I'm asking something slightly different than what you think I'm asking...

As it turns out, that sweater was a bit too large for me. So, the resulting size (after the shrinkage) is perfect! what? If I do the same process again (wash cold, dry naturally) will it shrink further or has it somehow reached some sort of wool-size equilibrum? Help. Thanks
posted by vacapinta to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Did you hand wash it or put it in the washing machine? Wool yarn, if it hasn't been pre-shrunk or treated, can shrink via the agitation of the machine. Also, washing in cold doesn't mean ice-cold. You should hand wash 100% wool and limit the amount of agitation. I generally clean my wool sweaters in the bathtub, handling them lightly using slightly colder than room temp water (so that it doesn't "shock" the wool). That should protect you against further shrinkage or the sweater getting misshapen. Then block it as it lies flat.

Hope that helps.
posted by Salmonberry at 8:48 PM on May 24, 2005

Best answer: Wear tons of deodorant! Spray yourself with Lysol liberally so you never have to wash again!
What you did inadvertently is called Felting, I think - don't hold me to the firing squad on that though.

Salmonberry had it right on with mentioning agitation. Wool is sensitive - especially when it comes to being moved around violently.


There is machine washable wool and it's possible to keep your sweater from shrinking more in the machine.

1) Make sure the tag on your sweater says it is indeed machine washable
2) Turn it inside out
3) Put it on the 'wool' cycle - You might get stopped here as all machines don't have this cycle
4) Use a wool-safe detergent (Ie, something without bleach or protease)
5) Dry it via the air - but be aware drying will take awhile.

Supposedly in the past people used to wash wool with urine, but I'm not sure how ready you are to pee on your sweater.

Good luck, in any case.
posted by tozturk at 9:29 PM on May 24, 2005

shrinking != felting. You will KNOW when you have felted a sweater (it will look like ... uhh ... felt) That is more of a problem when you accidentally dry a sweater.
posted by misterbrandt at 9:40 PM on May 24, 2005

Felting is usually done to roving (unspun wool). What you did is called fulling, though the two terms are often interchanged.

Felting and/or fulling require heat, agitation and/or alkalinity. Sounds like you had the agitation thing working. So the previous poster who said to wash it gently had it right. If it were superwash wool, it would not have shrunk at all, so it's not. If you put it in the washer, then don't--do it gently by hand using a just for wool product that asks you to just soak and gently squeeze the water through the garment.

Good luck!
posted by altobarb at 11:31 PM on May 24, 2005

The other thing to watch for is when you dry it - flat, not hung. While it's wet, pull it back to the measurements you want it at and pin or weight it to those measurements. Wet wool is quite malleable in terms of size, and you can get it to dry up or down a bit just by handling it properly.

But overall, yes, it can always shrink further. I once had someone shrink an angora sweater from a size 22 to a size 4X (and I mean the Toddler size, not 4XL). You should hand wash it with care, as described above.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:58 AM on May 25, 2005

I haven't tried it, but here's a tip in case you do happen to shrink it again.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:53 PM on May 25, 2005

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