Wool is a pretty magical fibre. It's warm (even when wet), durable, renewable, biodegradable, breathable, and wrinkle resistant. It's also a DANG DREAM to sew with - when you're steaming and shaping wool, you can practically hear it purr like a cat. It WANTS to become whatever you're dreaming of - it's co-dependent in the best possible way.
If you're new to sewing with wool, the most important thing to know is that it can't be washed like typical fabrics. It will "felt" when wet and agitated, so the washing machine can be a danger zone (although some wools can handle cool water and a very gentle cycle - always test first!)
Rest assured, there are many options for pre-treating wool. Since it has a tendency to shrink, you definitely want to remove as much shrinkage as possible before you start sewing with it, lest your trousers become floods. Whether you steam it, press it, dryclean it or hand wash it, read on to see five methods for getting your new, glorious wool ready for your new, glorious garment.
Method #1: Use Your Dryer
Wet 2-3 towels with hot water and wring out until wet but not dripping. Put in the dryer with your wool yardage and dry on high for 40 minutes. The steam generated will help shrink the wool. We do not suggest this method for delicate or very loosely woven wools - they may not like all that agitation.
Method #2: Indirect Steam with an Iron
Cover your bed (or other large surface) with two layers of towels. Lay wool on towels in a single layer and hold an iron 1" above wool as you push the steam button. This also works with a handheld steamer. Be sure not to touch the fabric with the iron, and let dry for a few hours before moving.
Method #3: Direct Steam with an Iron
Fill a bowl with water. Dip a cotton press cloth in the water and wring out. Place press cloth on fabric and press with your iron on high to release the moisture and steam the wool underneath (lift iron each time you move it - no sliding!) Repeat as needed for each section of wool, wetting cloth frequently. Let fabric sit for a few minutes before moving to the next area.
Method #4: Hand Wash
To pre-wash wool, gently hand wash with lukewarm water and Woolite. To avoid felting, do not agitate fibres. Gently squeeze water from wool. Wrap yardage in dry towels and wrap up in a roll - squeeze to release water. Dry flat, ensuring the grainline is not distorted.
Method #5: Take to the Drycleaner!
Bring your yardage to the drycleaner and ask them to steam shrink your wool (be sure to specify no creases!) They have equipment especially for steaming and pressing - it costs money but saves time!
So there you have it... five ways to wash and pre-treat your wool before you get to sewing. And if ever you're looking for a lovely wool, we often have gorgeous deadstock wool in stock!