December 10, 2014

Caring for Your Woolens

I've been meaning to continue this series for some time and well, good gravy, life has happened! Thank you for your patience as we've been working behind the scenes here for new and upcoming things. I have been wanting to get back to my blogging habits for awhile now. I love connecting with others that sew on this level and I miss it terribly! So with that, we can now resume this regularly scheduled program on working with wool!

I think we're all wanting to know more about fabrics so that we can arm ourselves with this knowledge when we go to the fabric store. It also helps (tremendously) when you're purchasing goods online too. So today, I thought I would take a minute and give some thoughts on fabric care for woolens.


When I talk with people in real life about fabrics in general, there is a lot of misconception about fabric care. And I get asked about how one should care for a certain fabric all the time, so I'm going to give you some of my thoughts and some facts that will hopefully help you out with caring for your wool fabrics/garments. First some facts about wool.
  • Wool is a protein. It's the hair of any animal that has been spun into yarn and from there woven or knitted into cloth.

  • Moths love protein for their babies. Moth adults will lay their moth larvae in wool cloth (or fiber/yarn) and their younglings will hatch and eat the wool. It's a good source of protein after all!

  • Wool shrinks a little in cold water and a lot more in hot water. Wool felts when agitated in hot water. Depending on the weave and type, some wools felt more than others.
One of the biggest misconceptions about wool is that you can't wash it. If you're careful, you can care for your woolens at home. For the most part. Consider wool fabric yardage for a moment. If you're thinking about pre-laundering wool fabric, consider what the fabric is going to be and from there, pre-launder/shrink according to how you will launder the final garment. My thoughts are:
  • garments with a lot of internal structure, ie. jackets & coats, should be dry-cleaned sparingly. To pre-launder these, I spray down the fabric yardage with a water bottle and stick in the dryer for 20 minutes (or stick it in the dryer with a wet cloth). Works especially wonderfully right before you're ready to cut.

  • skirts, blouses, dresses and pants can be hand washed in cold water, hung to dry and from there, ironed (I also do this sparingly). I do the same with fabric yardage before cutting.

If you're unsure what a certain wool will do, the absolute safest route is to take a swatch of your fabric and wash it the way you plan before pre-laundering the whole yardage. If you're satisfied with the swatch outcome, go ahead and launder your full yardage. Whatever way you choose to pre-launder, consider using shampoo on your wools instead of laundry detergent as detergent will erode the wool away over time. Wool is technically hair so it benefits from a little shampoo anyway! (This one is worth a try too as it's specially made for wool and from personal experience, it's lovely to use!)

There's not just fabric and garment care to think of with wool, but also how to keep those pesky little moths at bay! I store my wool fabrics and wool garments in plastic tubs with cedar balls. You can also use cedar hangers in your closets when wool garments are in use. Cedar wood is something that repels moths naturally without leaving the horrid chemical stench of moth balls. Another thing to keep in mind is that carpet beetles love to eat wool fabrics/garments too (I've had this happen more times than I care to admit)! Keep your woolens picked up and off of the floor. Before I add a new piece of wool to my stash, I always either let the wool take a tumble in the dryer or a give it an overnight in the freezer as this will kill existing moths/creatures in the fabric. From there, I'll add to my stash. This way a new wool fabric won't infect my existing wool fabrics with moths.

Keep in mind that wool fabric that is folded and put in a tub may start to fade and loose its color over time. I've found this to be true with light colored woolens in particular. When they've been sitting in the same position for too long a time, they fade in the creases of the folds! It really makes the fabric unusable unless you're only thinking about using it for tiny items, like doll clothes. Use your stash! And you might consider going through your stash each year and refolding the pieces differently.

What are your thoughts on caring for your wools? I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings and things that you do differently, or in addition to!

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!

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