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TUTORIAL- Pre-shrink Wool...Fast and Easy at Home! (revised)

(This is a revised version of one of the most popular tutorials I have written. Since I have so many new blog followers since it was first published here in 2009, I thought it was time to revisit it :)

First...the fabric! This luscious yardage is from my stash. One of the pieces was purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics a few seasons ago. The green check yardage is 100% tropical wool crepe, the gray check yardage is a medium weight blend of wool and silk.

Why pay big bucks to take this fabric to the dry-cleaner to steam shrink it, when we can do it so easily at home?

Wool Yardage

Now the method:

  • Serge or zig-zag the raw cut edges of the fabric.
  • Next, wet 2-3 clean thick towels with very HOT water. Then wring them out until they are a little more than "damp" but NOT dripping wet. Use towels you have had for a while, so that lint will not be transferred from the towels to the fabric ;)
  • Now toss the hot steamy towels and the fabric into your clothes dryer.
  • Set the dryer on HIGH heat, and tumble the fabric and very damp hot and steamy towels for 30-40 minutes.   (If you are using a high napped wool, or are just unsure about this method with your particular fabric, test on a 6"x6" swatch of your fabric before committing the entire length.)
  • If you have a steam setting on your dryer...skip the towels and tumble with steam for 20-30 minutes on high heat. If your fabric is still damp after 20-30 minutes, dry without steam for about 10 more minutes.
  • Lay the fabric flat until it is cool. 

  • Why it works--- Tailors regularly use  high heat and steam during the construction process, and also use precise "spot" applications of water and hot irons when making suits of the finest wools. Tumbling wool yardage with a few hot damp towels is much less intense than the heat and steam used during wool garment construction. Moreover, the yardage is being "fluffed/tumbled" in the dryer with steam...NOT twisted or agitated in the washer with water.
Align CenterThat's it! Your wool yardage is now ready for the needle.
The appropriate interfacing for most wool and wool blends  
is PRO-WEFT Supreme Lightweight Fusible or 
PRO-WEFT Supreme Medium-weight Fusible

Wool Yardage After SteamingAlign Center

As you can see above, this Dryer "Machine Steam Shrink" method did not visibly change the fabric at all, and it's hand is still soft and smooth. However it did shrink. Each piece was 60" wide and 2 yards long before steam-shrinking. After, the green 100% wool piece measured 59.5" wide and was 2.5" shorter in length. The gray wool/silk blend was still 60" wide but 1.75" shorter in length.


What do you think? Please add a comment by clicking here-->


Anonymous Lydia said...

I tried this last winter and report that it works! I cannot begin to tell you how much $$$ I have spent preshrinking wool. Money saved will purchase more wool! Thank you, Pam.

10:22 AM  
Blogger LC said...

Brilliant! As I only recently started following your blog I hadn't seen this before. I have quite of bit of wool that I have to preshrink, my dry cleaner is going to hate you.
8-) Thanks for reposting.

10:34 AM  
Blogger shams said...

I want to try this, but I have a wool that has embroidery on it - the embroidery is of the chain stitch sort. When I washed/dried a small piece of the wool (to see how it might felt), the embroiderey unraveled, so I wonder if it might happen with this tumble dry technique. Thoughts?


10:47 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hi Shams, hmmm...if your embroidered fabric did not "behave" well in the dryer, I would not use my dryer technique to pre-shrink it. Looks like you will have to steam it yourself, take to the Cleaners to be steamed, or do a "London Shrink".

11:03 AM  
Blogger Claire S. said...

I've used this tip a few times now and have recommended it without hesitation - what a time saver !

Thanks !

12:48 PM  
Blogger a little sewing said...

I have also used this technique (got it from your blog) and very happy with the results (and savings; both time and money)

2:11 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I have yet to try this method, but will definitely the next time I get a cut of wool.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

This is (IMO) the BEST way to pre-shrink wools. I use it on all my wool fabrics, even the most expensive designer wools, with great results. Thanks Pam!

4:48 PM  
Blogger meredithp said...

Thanks for revisiting. I can't wait to sew for fall. Well, really I just can't wait for fall, sewing or not!

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great tip. I have not tried this yet but intend to do so soon. You say dry on high for 30-40 mins. If the fabric is still damp after 40 mins, should I leave it in the drier until dry, or remove and airdry after 40 mins? I am assuming a larger piece of fabric might not be dry after 40 mins. Thanks, Deborah

10:19 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Anonymous...if the wool is still damp after 30-40 minutes, I would dry it "alone", this time on very low heat until completely dry.,

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious. Is this also a good way to preshrink wool sweater knits?

1:35 PM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

As for sweater knits....I "hand wash" mine in cold water with a little shampoo...spin the water out on the "low spin" cycle of my washing machine...then dry the yardage on the lowest temp in my clothes dryer for a shirt time (15 minutes), then lay it flat overnight to finish drying completely.

Please note...I am a risk-taker ;) Please test a small piece of your sweater knit to see if it "likes" water :)

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Sara Vee said...

Worked like a charm! Thanks for sharing such a fantastic technique :)

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! I just bought some wool, but had absolutely no idea how to treat it.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Mikhaela Reid said...

Pam, this tutorial is so exciting! Two questions for you:

* Does this work equally well with a wool doubleknit jersey?

* I normally just handwash sweater knits, wool or otherwise--is the drying method you mention above in the comments also needed?

11:06 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hi Mikaela,

Yes, you can use this method with a wool doubleknit jersey. However,washing this kind fabric with a tiny bit of shampoo in cold water on the most delicate/shortest cycle of your machine works for these types of fabrics too. I usually dry mine until damp in a very low-temp dryer, then lay flat to dry completely. Expect a little shrinkage.

If you hand-wash sweater knits, there is no need to add the method in the tutorial.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Mikhaela Reid said...

Thank you again Pam! I will try this despite my nervousness!

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I tried this method. I used a 60" by 3 yard piece of material, soaked two hot bath towels, and dried for 40 minutes. My wool is very dry, but the towels are still slightly wet/damp. Do I keep drying it until the towels are dry? The wool never seemed to get damp.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hi Chase,

No...stop the process after 40 minutes, the towels may very well still be damp. Please read on...

Hopefully you followed this instruction to the 'wring them out' part--

***Next, wet 2-3 clean thick towels with very HOT water. Then wring them out until they are a little more than "damp" but NOT dripping wet.***

Your wool should not get wet or even particularly damp using this method...the steam produced from the hot-damp towels as it all goes round and round in the dryer is what "pre-shrinks" your wool yardage. So...don't worry that your wool did not get wet...it is not supposed to, using this method :)

9:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this! I used it for my wool and it worked great!


10:52 PM  

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