I started my handmade wardrobe with bedsheets and quilting cotton. Then came the knits – jersey and interlock (I’m looking forward to Ponte). Most recently I dabbled with a silk-cotton blend that I didn’t realize was silk-cotton until after I finished the garment. Now I embark on a woolen adventure.
I have avoided wool for years because of its reputation for shrinking and itching. I had some bad RTW sweater experiences in middle and high school. You may recall the itchy, dense, pilling sweaters from the Mervyn’s or JC Penny’s Juniors department. Most likely what I disliked was the acrylic fiber blended in with the low-quality wool. Even with those experiences, most of my fears about wool were passed down to me from my parents. We didn’t have much wool in the house at all – it itched, it shrunk, it was hard to clean.
Then I noticed more of the Sewcialists talking about wool knit dresses and drapey wool crepe and so many different kinds of wool for outerwear. I got a little curious. I ventured into the wool sections of the fabric stores and started caressing the wool. Some was itchy, but some was soft and drapey. Ooooooooh. Ok, now I understand what everyone is gushing about.
During my Wardrobe Architect exercises I was pinning a lot of outfits with wool skirts, wool coats, wool pants. I liked that cozy look. I liked the weight that wool had. I liked its vaguely academic professor style. Yet, I had very little in my closet that looked reflected this style preference.
I think what finally tipped the scales was the release of Dahlia by Colette Patterns. I just fell in love with the look and the talked about the wool flannel and wool tweed versions they made. Admittedly the version I fell in love with was made out of raw silk and not wool, but I conceived of my Dahlia as a seasonal transition dress to wear in spring and fall and at the edges of winter.
So, here I am, pre-shrinking my first wool fabric for a skirt. (Not ready to work on Dahlia yet.) I’m using the wet towels in the dryer method as suggested by The Coletterie and Annabelle. I don’t want to risk felting this wool. While you are at it Gertie has a great summary about prepping all kinds of fabrics, Gertie specificall points to the Sewing Fanatic Diary’s instructions for more delicate wools like wool crepe. Colette also has a summary of instructions for pretreating multiple kinds of fabrics.
The white, gray, and black speckled wool (purchased at Drygoods Design in Seattle) started 63 1/3″ x 36″ and shrank to 62.5″ x 35.75″ after 30 minutes on high with one wet bath towel. I put it in for 10 more minutes (since the instructions suggested up to 40 or 45 minutes) and the “final” dimensions are: 61 7/8″ x 35 1/4″.
Those extra 10 minutes continued to shrink it. Is that enough? How will I know if it is done shrinking? We’ll find out.
Learn by doing.