Hello dears! We three are on a weekend vacation, so while we are gone we asked a few lovely ladies to fill in for us here. First up is a dear new friend we have met through the blogosphere, Emileigh of Flashback Summer. Emileigh is a fellow lover of vintage fashion, and her posts are a constant source of inspiration to me. I was so excited to find out, after being prompted by me on one of her outfit posts, that she will be sharing her tips with all of us on how to shrink a sweater to fit. So, without further ado, here’s Emileigh:
We all have certain things about our appearance that are harder for us to appreciate, but I’ve found that learning to find clothes that fit or making them fit me is a way I have gotten to appreciate my proportions more. It has helped me see that I am not the wrong shape or size to fit a garment; that garment is the wrong size for me.
As many of you know, I’m quite petite. I’m short, have narrow shoulders, and I’m just small in general. This creates some fit issues with vintage clothing, some of which I have provided solutions for in my Petite Fit Tips post. One of the tips I went over in that post had to do with shrinking sweaters to fit.
Let me just begin by saying shrinking sweaters is dangerous business only to be attempted by the brave at heart. It is a tricky, slightly nerve-wracking process, and while I will equip you with all of my sweater-shrinking knowledge in this post, please be careful with your items! I have successfully shrunk some of my own items, like the top of this sweater dress, and I do see it as a great option for helping clothing fit better, but it really must be done at your own risk and after you have weighed all other alteration options. I would recommend finding a cheap practice sweater to try it on before you attempt shrinking any more special items.
What is your sweater made of?
Some fibers will shrink more than others, and other fibers won’t shrink at all. Determine to the best of your ability what your piece is made of, and see if it will actually work for shrinking. I think the blue sweater I have for this tutorial is made of a wool blend, which is a good sign! Natural fibers like wool are the best for shrinking. Synthetics, like polyester, probably won’t shrink at all; they may even melt or get a slight sheen to them. I wouldn’t recommend trying to shrink these.
How much do you need it to shrink?
If you just need a bit of a shrink like I did with my sweater dress top, then this method will probably work just fine. If you need it to go down several sizes, I would be more careful. The non-fabric parts of a sweater like embroidery, beading, zippers, or buttons will not shrink while the knit fabric does, and this could make your sweater into a wonky shape.
If it’s just a plain sweater with no other pieces, then it just might work to shrink it several sizes! My sweater is a plain one, and I need it to get 2-4″ more narrow to work for me. This makes it a good candidate for shrinking.
How to Shrink
Have a measuring tape handy to see how much your garment is shrinking as you go.
First, measure your garment as a starting point. Measure the length, width, shoulders, and sleeve length. Write it down to track how your garment shrinks as it goes through the drying process.
Then I dampened my sweater just a bit. Not enough to make it dripping and soggy, just enough to wet the fibers. Like how clothing feels after it has been rinsed and spun in a washer. Wet, but not usually dripping.
Next, I tossed it in the dryer and put the dryer on a medium heat.
Check it in 5-10 minutes and re-measure everything. See if it is shrinking in the way you want it to and where you want it to. If it isn’t doing that (as in perhaps the long sleeves are shrinking faster than the body width), then stop the process. Your garment is probably not much smaller at this point than it was originally and you haven’t ruined anything. If it is shrinking in proportions that you are okay with, then continue…
Keep drying the garment and checking every 5-10 minutes. You can try longer periods of drying or a higher heat if it looks like your garment is shrinking slowly. My sweater was shrinking slowly, so I put it on a high “cotton” heat and dried it for a total of about 30 minutes. I noticed along the way that it was only shrinking in width, not much in length, hurray! Once your garment has shrunk to the size you are happy with, take it out.
If it is still a bit damp, let it air dry lying flat. Otherwise, it’s good to go!
As you can see with the sweater I shrank, it now fits me. The shoulder seams are now at my shoulders, and the sleeves are about a 3/4 length like they’re supposed to be. The length didn’t change much, to my surprise and delight. However, different sweaters shrink in different proportions, so don’t skip the measuring steps!
If you work up the bravery to try shrinking a sweater, I’d love to hear about it and how it went!
Thank you so much Emileigh for this wonderful, helpful post. Is anyone else out there courageous enough to try out this tutorial? I know I am going to try it out as soon as I can! Be sure and check out Emileigh’s lovely blog for more vintage and life inspiration.
Have you ever shrunk a sweater before?
Have you ever visited Flashback Summer?
Brigid, the Middle Sister and Singer