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How to pre shrink wool

user-233175 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I know I read in Threads or Sew News how to pre shrink wool yard goods by putting it between a wool blanket and misting that blanket and then wrapping it in an old sheet.  I can’t find the information.  Does anyone kinow of this technique?  I’ve had wool pre shrunk at the dry cleaners…made a pair of pants and they got shorter everytime I had them cleaned until I had to let them out.  Thought it might work better if I did it myself.  Thanks for any help.


  1. katina | | #1


    I remember Sandra Betzina talking about pre-shrinking wool at the dry cleaners.

    I Googled this and am giving you the link to my first hit. Hope this helps.


  2. NH | | #2

    This is the way I was taught to shrink wool years ago when I first learned to sew.
    Straighten the ends by tearing or pulling a thread. This is necessary to make sure the wool is on grain. Fold right sides together & hand baste with all edges lined up accurately. (doesn't take that long because you can use huge stitches) Wet a large sheet & wring it out thoroughly, then fold it around the wool like bread on a long sandwich, roll it up, & leave in a plastic bag overnight. In the morning, you will need a very long flat surface covered with plastic bags, etc. on which to spread the wool flat to dry. Shake & pat it until it is accurately on grain- obviously this is very important. Since the wool is quite damp, it can take a couple of days to dry- you can put it on towels, turn it over, etc. to speed drying. Frequently I press it (still basted together) when it's still slightly damp, but am careful not to let it hang or stretch to distort the grain.
    Hope this helps- NH

    1. user-233175 | | #3

      Thanks so much for the information.

  3. TJSEWS | | #4

    I have used two methods of preshrinking wool and unfortunately, they did not work for me. 

    I washed a bed sheet and then carefully wrapped the wool around the damp sheet.  Then I put plastic bags on the floor and put the "roll" on the plastic bags.  Then I put heavy books on top to make sure the wool gets saturated (not wet, but saturated with the "dampness.")  After 24 hours, I unroll the wool and then place it flat on my bed and steam shrink it with a steam iron 1/2 inch away from the fabric.

    After all of that, I made a pair of pants.  I wore them a couple of times and then once I took them to the dry cleaners, they had shrunk.  I had to let them out and then they just didn't hang the way they had before so I am disappointed.

    I don't know what I did wrong.

    On a separate occasion, I asked my local cleaners whether they preshrink fabric, and they did not know what I was talking about. 

    1. user-233175 | | #5

      I had my wool pre shrunk at dry cleaners and and they still shrunk when I had them cleaned.  Now I don't know what to do. Thanks for your information.

  4. KarenW | | #6

    I find I'm machine washing/drying more and more wools (prior to sewing).  Many come out just fine... a crepe will become more spongy and textured, but many others retain their integrity.  Try a 6"x6" swatch or 12x12 first though!  I usually do it on gentle in warm water then dry to start and if I'm happy with the results I wash the yardage.  If not, I may try a different temp or not dry all the way before deciding. 9 times out of 10 I'm washing the wool yardage... so much easier than the London shrink in damp sheets!  And a lot cheaper than my cleaners.  I did just recently get a continuous feed steam iron, haven't tried that yet but for long pieces (i.e. for a pantsuit) it's still a lot of yardage to stand and steam.   Oh - and I have a front loading washer.  I've had it not quite two years but do find it to be a lot more gentle than the old agitator, though I used that as well, just had to be more conscientious about the delicate cycle.


    Edited 11/30/2006 4:20 pm ET by KarenW

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