Wool Worries

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. 


6 thoughts on “Wool Worries

  1. I believe that if you wash it cold and hang to dry, you should be good for a few years. Agitation and heat make the felting happen. You could always cut a swatch, measure it, and then just go to town on it.

  2. This post is so true for me too! I’m really determined to branch into sewing wool, and but I’ve got that same fear of shrinkage! Everyone says it’s a dream to sew though, so you should be good from here on in! 🙂

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