Thursday, September 6, 2007

"What are you going to make?"

Cidell posted a timely query on the Pattern Review message boards recently about pre-treating wool. The suggestions people offered up were:

- get it steam pressed or dry cleaned at the dry cleaners
- steam press it yourself at home
- wash it on the delicate cycle and line dry

I have a few wool garments that I made last year. I didn't pre-treat the fabric, I haven't taken them in for dry cleaning yet, and now I am afraid to because I'm worried they'll shrink. I wouldn't be completely crushed, but still it would be a loss (and a gain for someone shopping at Goodwill, I suppose). So I decided to go on the offensive here and pre-treat the wools I bought earlier this week.

I took two fabrics and swung by my dry cleaners after work yesterday to get them steam pressed. The woman who has been at the counter every time I've been there for the past 4 years was not there. A different woman was working yesterday. So I plopped my fabrics on the counter, and our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi. I'm going to use this fabric to make some garments, a coat and a dress. Should it be steam pressed first so that it won't shrink when I get the clothes dry cleaned later?

Her: Oh? You are going to sew this? You are so talented! What are you going to make?

Me: A coat and a dress. It's wool. Is dry cleaning going to shrink it if I don't have it steam pressed first?

Her: Oh I don't think so, but I'm not 100% sure. I don't think so. What are you going to make?

Me: A dress and a coat. So it's not going to shrink when it's dry cleaned?

Her: You are so talented!

I refrained from screaming "WHERE IS THE REGULAR LADY?!" and instead I just smiled, said thanks, picked up my fabric, and left.

Maybe I should have stayed and asked her to steam press the fabric, but I wasn't thinking straight.

Well, I am way too lazy to steam press the fabric myself, so I cut a few 4" x 4" swatches and threw them in the washing machine with a few other delicate cycle garments. I let them line dry overnight, and today I ironed them to get out some wrinkles.

I traced each of the swatches before washing, and you can see that they all shrunk a little bit. The good news is that the look and feel of the fabrics is unchanged. So, I guess I am going to have a little wool-washing party with these fabrics.

When I buy wool in the future, I'd do the swatch test again, because I don't think all wools are going to turn out so nice after washing.


Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

The exchange with the woman at the drycleaners was tooo funny! Yeah, I would wait for the regular counter person, too!

C.S. said...

I just hate it when people whose job it is to know things other people don't . . . don't know those things. It's like a taxicab driver asking you which way to take to get to your destination!

I have yet to work with wool fabric, though I have some in my stash that I'm planning to sew up soon. I pre-shrunk it the same way I wash my handknit wool items - handwashed it gently, with some baby shampoo (works just as well as any wool wash). I didn't think to measure whether my swatch shrank or not, though.

narcissaqtpie said...

LOL @ the dry cleaning lady. Great idea to experiment. I got some wool from my aunt so now I know what to try before I sew it.

Geek Sewing said...

I bought this wool/rayon from Stitches a couple of years ago and was afraid to cut it! I did exactly what you did: the 4" square swatches and tracing. But I decided not to throw the swatch in the washing machine. It's wool and rayon. The fabric is bound to shrink! So I just took the fabric to my neighborhood dry cleaner's and the owner lady there (who is very sweet... she doesn't say a word of english aside from "hello") charged what it would cost to dry clean a wool blanket. Now it's awaiting it's turn at the cutting table. It'll be a retro swing jacket.

patsijean said...

I have often washed, on gentle, and dried, on low heat, woolen fabrics. I used a Keritin shampoo and conditioner from St. Ives. Wool and hair both are protein fibers. There must have been some shrinkage, but no other obvious changes to the fabrics; perhaps a bit softer. I do not wash them once made up, but I usually do the worst that could happen before the fabric is cut and sewn. I wash rayon too. No problem. The swatch test is a good idea, but I can never tell from a 4" x 4" swatch.

A lot of chemicals are used by most comercial dry cleaners, although I've read that there are alternative processes. I believe I heard that some people "dry clean" at home using linen water, but I do not know how that is done. Perhaps someone else will know.

renee said...

You are so talented!!

Seriously, thanks for the demonstration and chuckle. I'm actually going to do the massive steam treatment at home that Carolyn suggested and dry clean thereafter.

Although, all of this made me realize I've had a dress at the drycleaner for the last few months. Hope it's still there.

Stephanie said...

I was going to tell you how talented you are, but Cidell beat me to it. I'm afraid I have no advice about pretreating wool fabrics.

Anonymous said...

Somebody should tell the regular dry-cleaning lady that her co-worker is doing drugs . . . I mean, surely no one could be that out of it without drugs.

"What are you going to make?"