What is best way to shrink wool sweater?

I have a a Fisherman Out of Ireland wool sweater that has sat in the closet for years because of its size. I could wear it if it were at least 4" thinner length and at least 4" thinner about the chest.

Its a nice sweater, and worth a shot.

Wash in hot water. Because wool washed in a washing machine can also felt (the fibers break and then merge to form a solid fabric, individual stitches can no longer be seen) I would start by handwashing in hot water. Second step if it has not shrunk enough would be machine-dry. I would only machine-wash as a last resort, if none of the above worked first, because like I said you might end up with the sweater felted.


It can’t be done. Wear it big or give it to someone it fits.

Heat shrinkage doesn’t just magically make it smaller. It contracts the fibers. This thickens and stiffens them, like touching a match to an earthworm. It will be unwearable: heavy (it will still contain all the wool of a larger sweater), thick, and stiff.

How about you re-read where I gave explicit advice to avoid felting the fiber. And I have intentionally felted many items, the process does not make the felted fabric stiff unless it was already very thickly woven. Such a sweater would be extremely heavy in its knitted state, there will be no change in the weight of the item.

And anyway what’s it to you if the item ends up ruined? The OP already considers the sweater unwearable. What’s to lose?

Never ask a knitter this question. We have an irrational connection to woolen knits and will wince and cry at any suggestion of rough handling of such. Comes from knitting several thousand stitches by hand for every sweater we do…

If you want to shrink something ask your spouse to wash it. That is the best way to [del]destroy[/del] shrink everything in the wash.

That’s a bit of a strong statement, I know plenty of knitters, and many enjoy deconstructing and reconstructing, frogging old sweaters for the yarn, felting, overdying, and other destructive pastimes. My friend who picks up wool sweaters from Goodwill, felts them and makes them into purses, does not suffer this pain, and she knits more than anyone I know. Her Christmas Present was 20 lbs of machine yarn I obtained free. 20 POUNDS.

Note that the OP did not ever say this was other than a machine made sweater. But even if it was handmade what is wrong with making something which is not useful, useful? If it is destroyed in the attempt it is not less useful than it ever was.

None of that is destructive. It’s making something new out of something else. Shrinking a sweater by heat with the intent of fitting it to a smaller person is a terrible idea and it will ruin the sweater. Unravel it and knit another; felt it and make hats or purses; cut it up and make a patchwork afghan with other sweater parts. Something creative. The obvious point to take away from all the things your friends do with old sweaters is that this proves those things will make the original sweater unwearable so you have to make it into something else.

If it’s destroyed it’s destroyed. Give it to someone who can wear it. Better the OP should gain 30 pounds to fit the sweater than destroy it in an attempt to make it fit her.

Ah, so you’re not a knitter yourself. Forgiven then. But please, if you don’t go around telling people to cut of their children’s feet if they’re too tall, then don’t go around telling people to put an Irish Fisherman’s sweater in the dryer to svelte it down. Better she should burn it for the heat than dryer it just to throw it away.

OK, you’ve alreay been told the unadvisability of this, so I won’t tell you the story of my King sized wool blanket which is now an inch-thick throw blanket. Since you want to try it, here’s the method I would use. . .

Use a spray bottle to lightly wet along the sides and bottom. Start with a one inch strip. Put in dryer, and assess the amount of shrinkage. If it’s not shrunk at all re-wet the same area but use more water. Dry, assess, repeat.

Every yarn is going to shrink differently. Some can go from a foot to an inch, others will only lose 15% of their length.

Please do come back and tell us how it went!

I know how to knit. By preference, I crochet.

I do not expect my work to be worshipped as a holy relic though.

The dryer will still shrink the dry areas. It’s heat and motion that has the effect.

Yeah, don’t put it in the dryer. Unless you want a doll-sized sweater, that is.

Ask me how I know.

Crocheted fabric is different from knitted fabric. It doesn’t have the same lengths of yarn restrained only by loosely looping through other loops. Yes it loops through other loops, but not in the same open series. Crochet is almost as similar to macrame as it is to knitting. Crocheted stitches are not actual knots, but most of them have a more static locus. They don’t make the same kind of fluid fabric that knitted stitches do. So it’s possible that your sense of what a handmade yarn fabric is like considers the fluidity of knitted fabric less important. Understandable, and crochet of course certainly has its strengths; I’m not suggesting a hierarchy, just pointing out a difference. But it’s that fluidity that shrinking will sacrifice. In a sense, the knitted fabric becomes more like crocheted fabric: less fluid, more static, a little stiffer (though of course there are many crochet stitches that are not at all stiff). So it’s likely that a shrunken sweater would be perfectly acceptable to you, Hello Again.

So maybe the OP will send you the sweater, you can unknit it, and crochet a new one out of it. But please don’t shrink it in the dryer.

I second that.

I had (had being the important word) three lovely Cashmere sweaters until hubby did the household laundry.
“To help out.”:rolleyes:
We are back to each doing our own laundry.

Hubby, God-bless-him, does not grasp why fabric weight and content dictate temperature and detergent nor why one separates items into “like colors” loads.
He had one (a grasp, I mean) for a short time after “the red garment + white briefs= pink undies” :smack:incident but has since forgotten.

Right. Most people don’t realize that the reason a garment is dryclean-only is rarely because the fabric is particularly delicate. It’s usually because it’s made of different types of fabric that will each react differently to water, detergent, and heat, leaving you with a deformed and twisted garment when the pieces no longer fit together correctly. I make a lot of things out of found fabric–silk scarves, sweater scraps, old prom dresses, whatever–and even when every component is laundry safe, the label I put on says DRY CLEAN ONLY because it’s unlikely that such a chimeric garment will come out of the wash the same way it went in.

Somehow I feel better about myself for defending the integrity of an artist’s creation than I would if were petty enough to pit someone over it. Thanks for the boost, HA; it’s reassuring to know I’m not THAT lame.


Throw the sweater out into the snow outside overnight. If it shrinks just right its yours to love. If it ends up ruined it was never meant to be.

Easy there, you two (billfish678 and lissener). It’s funny so far, but let’s not turn an MPSIMS thread into a snarkfest or insultfest.


And on the original topic: you just might shrink the sweater so that it fits well around the torso, and end up with sleeves that end at your elbow. Sleeves really shrink!

He IS the one that brought it up first and in here.

As for shrinking stuff on purpose, I’ve done it before and been happy with it. I’ll leave it to the experts to describe the how too’s and possible gotchas.

Something that fits so poorly you can’t wear it aint doing you any good. And not all wool sweaters are the equivalent of a Mona Lisa.