Want to know more about shrunken wool?
Read on...

The last thing you want is a shrunken wool sweater, but that's what you have now that you tossed it in the washer! Yes - I'm sure most people have done it at some point, but why does wool shrink so badly in the wash? Read on to find out...

To understand shrunken wool you first need to understand a little about the structure of wool. It grows on sheep and is made of a protein called keratin. Each wool fiber is coarse, crimpy (wavy) and covered in tiny scales. The scales and the crimp of the fibers form pockets of air - this makes wool so warm to wear. Each fiber is also filled with cells. These scales and cells slide against one another giving wool its elasticity.

Though wool is naturally very 'elastic' it is the weakest of the natural fibers. Because wool is so elastic it is less likely to wrinkle than other fabrics. A good quality wool will bounce back to shape without wrinkles if you scrunch it up in your fist.

But what about shrunken wool? I'm getting to that. Sometimes, to keep up with demand, companies will use recycled wool in their clothing. This tends to decrease the softness of the garment, as the recycled fibers are shorter, but does make it more hardwearing. The use of recycled wool also makes items more affordable.

So where's the shrunken wool information?? I know, I know - just a minute. I'm almost there!

Sometimes wool fabric is pretreated to help prevent shrinkage. It should say on the label of your clothing if this the case. It should also say whether you should expect shrinkage to occur. You should ALWAYS follow the care instructions on the labels. If it says Hand Wash, then Hand Wash. If it says Dry Clean, then Dry Clean it. The instructions are there for a reason.

HELLO!! SHRUNKEN WOOL!!! OK! OK! Here we go...

Remember I said at the beginning about the scales and cells? Well, although that set-up is great for elasticity and warmth, it does make wool shrink more than any other fiber. Yup - that's the down side!

During a wash - especially if it's too vigorous, too hot and there's a heavy load in - your wool clothing will shrink!. The Wool Wash in your machine is the most gentle, as it uses the least amount of agitaton, but it can still cause some minor shrinkage.

So - once the cells lose the air between them and the scales cling together your garment is felted! Unfortunately there is no way to reverse this action - it has to stay shrunk! There is no way to stretch out shrunken wool. It's just not possible, as the fibers have bonded together.

I know - it's a pain! I've been upset by it too, but you can still use your wool garment in other ways. Before you give it away, why not check out my ideas for using felted wool first. You may end up with something new that you like more!

I'm so sorry that you shrunk your wool garment, but you could have fun making your shrunken wool into something completely new and different.

Go on - stop crying now and get crafting. That'll cheer you up! Good Luck with your wool project!

Use your shrunken wool to make a felted wool purse.
Learn about recycled wool - what it is and how to use it!
Return to Homepage from Shrunken Wool