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Unshrinking a Woollen Sweater

It is possible to unshrink woollen garments but it is better to avoid the problem in the first place; do what it says on the instruction label.

If it is too late and your best sweater or cardigan has been washed and become fit for a ten year old then you can try to stretch it back into shape when it is wet. You can make it worse if you are not careful so take care not to manhandle it when it is wet or let the weight of the water distort it in the wrong way. Use cold water and soak for twenty minutes or so, dry by rolling gently in a towel that will not pick up dye. Place the sweater on a towel and gently stretch and smooth it as far as it will go back into the direction of the original shape, too much force at this stage and you can do some damage. To help keep it in shape you can carefully pin it to a board. The message board type of material is good for this. Use pins that will not leave rust stains. This wetting and shape changing is known as 'Blocking' and you can find some good information on the Net. I have tried these methods several times with varying results, most times with some success. -- Agnes McDonald-Smith


Blocking - This is the term used to describe the soaking and stretching technique. There are some good videos on the subject on "You Tube". Check out the one by Knitpicks

Fulling - A process of washing woolen cloth to thicken the fabric by shrinkage. Felt is the eventual end product if one continues the process. Short fibres are needed and the material becomes more matted as the material is worked and compressed. The process is made possible because of the scales on the surface of the wool fibres. These are aligned in one direction and scales will act as a kind of ratchet and lock together when the agitated fibres are aligned in opposite directions.

Q: Help for shrunken wool. Hi! I need help in returning a slightly shrunken wool sweater to its former shape. I remember a tip once given that suggested soaking the garment in a solution of cold water and vinegar(?). This would restore the original shape. Is this correct? Do you have any tips? Please advise -- "Vera" Reply (Ref:0074)

A: How to Un-shrink a wool sweater ... Hi – I was trying to figure out how to make a sweater smaller and came across this article on un-shrinking…http://ezinearticles.com/?How-To-Un-shrink-A-Wool-Sweater&id=9105 -- Michelle. 'Dave & Michelle' Sep 24 2006

Q: Re: Shrunken Wool sweater Hi, I found the following query on your site: Q: Shrunk Sweater I accidentally shrunk a lambs wool sweater by washing it and drying it. The label says "dry clean only." Does anyone know if their is any way to undo the shrinkage and return the sweater to its original shape? I would appreciate any help. Reply (Ref:0359) 

Q: Did anyone Reply to this query with an answer? I would be greatly interested in the results, but was unable to locate any answers on the web site. There are actually three or four of these same questions on the site. Thanks, Gail -- Gail Saitow Reply 8 Jan 2003

A: Shrunken Sweater. Sometimes it happens to us all, in a careless moment we throw our brand new Arran sweater in the washing machine or dryer, shrinking them down about eight sizes and rendering it un-wearable to all but our children’s action man or Barbie Doll.

There is a short article by an excellent blogger called John Kottke on the subject - Unshrinking a Sweater

Thats it, long story short: you will have a good as brand new, fully functional sweater again. -- Take Care -- Al Reply. Nov 18 2006

Unanswered Questions

Q: Stretching a shrunken cardigan. How do I go about stretching a cardigan which shrank in the wash? Thanks Patricia -- Reply 21/07/09

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Q: Shrunk Sweater I accidentally shrunk a lambs wool sweater by washing  it and drying it. The  label says "dry clean only." Does anyone know if their is any way to undo  the shrinkage and return the sweater to its original shape? I would  appreciate any help. -- Julie Reply  (Ref:0359)

Q: Shrunken Sweaters. Help!! I shrank my all time favorite wool sweaters and I need a fix. I love these shirts and I am almost sure there is something you can use to help them stretch. Can you help? -- "BrandiKay" Reply  (Ref:0429)

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