How familiar is this?

You have had a brain explosion, and put a sweater in the washing machine on the heavy duty cycle and discovered its now 3 sizes smaller? Great idea if you want to give it to your daughter, not so great if its your absolute favourite knit.

Here is a trick that might save it. I said ‘might’ because there are 2 types of shrinkage.

  1. Knit relaxation – where the stitches have dramatically closed up and shrinking the size of the Knit – most likely this can be saved
  2. Felting – where the stitches have totally mashed up and turned the sweater into a solid slab of knit. It feels like felt. – This is terminal, sorry. Its time for turning into a nice piece of folksy arts and craft.

What you need for the rescue mission-

  1. Two basins/tubs big enough to fill up with water and submerge your sweater
  2. Hair conditioner/fabric softener
  3. A towel to remove excess water

Here we go

  1. Fill the two basins with warm water, and add a cup of softener or hair conditioner into one of them.
  2. Fold the sweater and place it on top of the softener-mix solution. Don’t push it down, just let it sink down by soaking in the solution.
  3. Leave it for 15 minutes to soak. We want all the conditioner to soak in
  4. Then transfer the sweater over to the fresh water basin, but do not wring it or squeeze out any of the solution. [its so tempting to give it a good old fashion wring]
  5. Let the sweater sink down into fresh water so that any excess solution is diluted but not flushed out.
  6. Now transfer the sweater out onto a towel and lay flat. [Don’t wring]
  7. Fold the towel over the sweater then roll it up which help pull the excess water out. Do it a couple of times until most of the excess water is gone.
  8. Now start pulling the sweater out to the original size/dimension you want. Pull from the sides equally so you get an even stretch, you don’t want to distort the shape by pulling in the middle. For stretching the sleeves, hold the top and the bottom and pull evenly.
  9. Then let it dry flat. Don’t hang it up to dry! Never, ever, ever…


How does this work?

The softener/conditioner in the solution basin is acting as a lubricant to the stitches which have ‘locked up’ during the excessive washing. So we are trying to get the stitches to open up again and make the knit more open. This is why you do not want to wring the knit during the process. The wringing action will cause the stitches to lock up again.

The fresh water basin is acting to remove any excessive solution from the knit, but we are still trying to leave some in the sweater so that the stitches remain lubricated.

Final note, this technique will be more successful with cotton blends. It may be less effective with wool and cashmere because these fibres have scales which cause the fibres to really lock up. If you have mashed the knit, its very hard to reverse, and you may just have to let it go.