How to Stretch Shrunken Wool

You don't have to toss shrunken wool clothing.
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Discovering that your favorite wool sweater is now a perfect fit for a Chihuahua can bring anyone to tears. Hot water and dryers are the ultimate no-no for wool, as they insist on shrinking the fibers down to miniscule size. Before you turn on the waterworks and toss it in the trash, take some time to stretch your favorite woolly back into shape. While you shouldn’t treat it like Gumby, gentle stretching can actually work to return the wool to a wearable size.

Fill a sink with 1 quart of lukewarm -- not hot -- water and add 1 tablespoon of baby shampoo to it. Stir the water with your hand to mix the solution.

Turn the wool garment inside out and insert it into the water, pushing it down until all portions of it are wet. Leave the item in the water to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Choose an identical item of clothing that is still wearable from your closet. For example, if the shrunken item is a sweater, locate a sweater that is the proper size. Likewise, if the shrunken item is a scarf, look for a scarf that is the proper size.

Tear off a large piece of butcher paper, craft paper or other non-colored paper. Place the properly sized item on it and trace around it using a pencil. Remove the garment from the paper and set the garment aside.

Remove the shrunken item from the water and gently squeeze the wool fabric to remove as much water as possible. Don’t wring the fabric, as this can damage it.

Lay the wet garment on top of the paper, centering it inside the pencil outline.

Grasp the sides of the garment with your hands and gently stretch it out until it reaches the pencil outline. Place heavy objects on the stretched edges to hold them in place.

Grasp the top and bottom of the garment and stretch it upward gently until it reaches the outline of the pencil. Place heavy objects on the stretched edges to hold them in place.

Wait until no moisture at all remains in the garment before removing the heavy objects and storing the sweater.

  • If the wool garment is labeled “dry clean only” this process may not work. You can ask a dry cleaner if they can restretch the wool, but often these garments are permanently damaged.
  • If you don’t have baby shampoo, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of hair conditioner.

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.