How to Shrink a Sweater: 3 Methods

You can shrink your old stretched-out sweaters or newly bought sweaters that are too big and shapeless by yourself. 

Sometimes, people prefer to seek professional (tailoring) services for these oversized sweaters. However, you can easily shrink them at home through different shrinking methods like the washer or dryer, which will leave them fitting and perfect.

You can shrink almost any sweater made with different fabrics like cotton, wool, cashmere, or mohair. 

How To Go About Shrinking A Sweater

Orange Sweater

You can start shrinking your sweater if you know the type of fabric used to make it. 

You must have prior knowledge because it affects the approach to the shrinking methods listed.

1. Use A Washing Machine Or A Dryer

Washing Machine and Dryer
Washing Machine and Dryer

Your sweater might shrink in the washing machine, the dryer, or both. When washing or drying your sweater, pay special attention to the temperature and the time it spends in each.

If you do it too much, the sweater will lose fibers and become less comfortable.

Some materials, like cotton and wool, will shrink properly when exposed to the heat of a dryer, while other fabrics may melt instead.

See these instructions for washing and drying your sweater to reduce its size.

  • Put your sweater in a pillowcase to protect the fabric fibers of the sweater during the wash.
  • Wash it on a hot cycle, but shorter than a complete cycle. Then, leave it for ten minutes, but check back every few minutes.
  • If it is a brightly colored sweater, you can turn the sweater inside out to prevent it from fading.
  • Dry the sweater with the dryer on low heat for 25 minutes, and check back every 6 minutes.
  • Put on the sweater to check if you have achieved the desired results. If it is still too big, put it in the dryer for another 25 minutes, and check on it every time. 

2. Irons Are Excellent Shrinkers

Woman Ironing

The Ironing method usually works better with cotton sweater types. Steam irons are commonly used for these tasks because they typically shrink sweaters like wool and polyester that are unsuitable for steam. 

  • Heat a bowl of water. The bowl should be wide enough to leave enough space for the sweater when you put it in.
  • Put the cotton sweater into the water and leave it for 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of white vinegar into the boiling water to prevent the colors of the cotton sweater from fading if colored.
  • Remove the sweater from the pot with tongs and use a clean towel to press out excess water from the fabric, or press the fabric to the walls of your sink.
  • Now, set the iron to high heat and turn on the steam.
  • Place the sweater on an ironing board or a flat surface between two clean towels to prevent the sweater from directly contacting the iron.
  • Iron the sweater until it feels dry to the touch.

3. Seek Professional Tailoring Services

If you’ve tried almost all these methods, and your oversized sweater doesn’t seem to shrink, you may need to consult this method as a last resort. Or, if you know the workings of a sewing machine, you can try this: 

  • Wear your sweater and pull at the sides to determine where you’ll need to take the seams.
  • Turn it inside out and lay it smoothly on a flat surface to avoid crooked seams.
  • Mark out the new seam location with chalk so you can remember exactly where to put the pins.
  • Use pins to make a seam allowance of about 1 to ½ inches in places where the seam is expected to be, starting from the armpit to the waistband.
  • You can use the seam guide on your sewing machine for an accurate seam allowance.
  • It’s time to sew the sweater together, so follow the pins all the way around. You can take the pins out as you go.

This method is often considered the best to shrink polyester sweaters since it can be hard to shrink them through other methods.

Reshaping Your Wet Wool Sweater

Wool Sweater

Wool is a very easy fabric to shrink or stretch when wet depending on how you treat it. So, you can use this fantastic property to shrink your wool sweater to the correct size.

  • Put one tablespoon of wool-safe detergent, or any detergent you usually use, into your sink full of cool water. Rub the detergent between your hands. 
  • Put the sweater in and allow it to soak for 5-10 minutes. Check back every 3 minutes and stir it in the water(don’t twist or squeeze the sweater when swirling).
  • After rinsing the sweater in cold water, lift it out of the sink, squeeze out any remaining water, or spread it flat on a towel and roll it up to extract the moisture.
  • Work your way around areas of the sweater that you wish to shrink. Use your fingers to push the material inwards and do it in places you wish to shrink or for the whole sweater, if needed.
  • Reshape it on a towel lying on a flat surface to soak up water from the sweater and allow it to dry on a clean, dry towel. You can also leave it on the surface where you reshaped it.
  • Store it in a cool, dark place from direct sunlight to prevent excessive shrinking.

How Do I Shrink Sweater Sleeves?

Sweater Sleeves

Many prefer baggy bodies and thin-sleeved sweaters but don’t know how to shrink them. 

You can shrink specific parts of a sweater, such as the sleeves if they are stretched out or is too big for you by following these steps; 

  • Heat water in a bowl and use a spray bottle to spray some of the hot water on the sleeves of the sweater to make it damp.
  • Don’t completely soak the sleeves, as you need them damp, not soaked.
  • Plug your hair dryer into the nearest outlet and set it to the highest setting.
  • Afterward, dry the sweater sleeves with the hairdryer and work your way around both sleeves until all the moisture is removed or you’re satisfied with the results.
  • However, if you don’t have access to a hairdryer, you may always use an iron to remove the dampness from the sleeves.
  • Check the degree of shrinking by trying it on again after washing.

Can I Shrink A Sweater By Hand?

Yeah, you can shrink a sweater by hand. There are several options for decreasing the size of a sweater without using mechanical means.

The amount of fiber you wish to shrink in the sweater will determine the method you use, and you have the option of shrinking the entire sweater or just the parts you like.

Although, the method typically works for wool sweaters.

  • Wet the wool sweater with hot water by dipping it in a basin of hot water.
  • Then, press the sweater to remove excess water and place the sweater on top of a dry white towel with another dry white towel on top of the sweater. Now press down on the towel to remove excess water from the sweater until it feels damp.
  • If the top towel becomes too wet, put it in the laundry and use another dry one.
  • Now, using your hands, squeeze the wool fibers inward and together to create a tight ball of yarn for your sweater. Pull the sweater horizontally to narrow it or vertically and lengthwise to make it shrink. 
  • This process usually works better when shrinking the cuffs and sleeves of sweaters.
  • Dry your sweater for up to 24 hours to allow it to shrink as it dries. Then, leave the sweater flat on a dry towel. Do not hang it up, as this may stretch the fibers.
  • Now, turn it over to allow the other side to dry.

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