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Life of Colleen: How to unshrink a shrunken wool sweater

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How to unshrink a shrunken wool sweater
posted by Colleen Shirazi on Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 6:33 PM (Pacific)

This is something I've been meaning to try for a long time. I had a wool sweater, and some bozo washed it in the machine and dried it in the dryer. It wasn't quite "doll clothes," but was too small to wear, so I put it aside until I had time to play with it.

The thing with wool is--heat causes genuine shrinkage, I think, but agitation causes what only appears to be shrinkage. Similar in concept to dreadlocks, where you have fine natural fiber, with a tendency to knit together and "lock." If the thing is doll clothes, then I say go ahead and toss it, but if it's "only just too small," it's worth a shot trying to stretch it out again.

The idea is to take your sweater and soak it in a mixture of cold water and hair conditioner. For this I got out my trusty L'Oreal Feria Deep Conditioner (you can buy it separately at a beauty supply shop like Sallys). It's what I use on my hair after I color it, so it's heavy duty.

The conditioner won't dissolve in the water, but it'll break up into little chunks. Once the sweater has soaked completely, you can rub the little chunks into the wool, gently (you hardly wish to cause more "locking"), and then stretch the sweater out. Depending on how small the sweater got in the first place, you can be fairly aggressive about stretching it.

So far it seems to be working. You won't get the sweater to its original dimensions, but soaking and conditioning the wool to relax it, then pulling it out piece by piece

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