Thursday, 7 February 2013

Shrinkage Happens

Even the most experienced of us make mistakes in laundering. I have two stories about sweater shrinkage. The Christmas my niece Clementine was five, I gave her a pink angora/mohair sweater I'd knitted for her. Clementine only got to wear it once. I had told my sister-in-law not to put in the dryer, but she did and it shrank several sizes and had to be given to Clementine's two-year-old sister. My sister-in-law reported that "there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" on Clementine's part, adding to my mother, who lives half an hour's drive from my brother and sister-in-law's farm, "I'm surprised you didn't hear her screaming from here." After that I never gave my sister-in-law's children any items that needed special care. She had three children under six and it just wasn't fair to saddle her with extra work.

Then circa 2003, I, who until that point had never ruined anything in the wash in my life, shrank three sweaters in a six-week stretch. Fortunately they were thrift shop finds rather than handmade, but still. One was completely trashed but the other two shrank down into perfectly proportioned little sweaters, so I gave them to my niece Peaches, who was then about seven. I was told she got lots of wear out of them. And, for the next two or three years, Peaches would occasionally ask me, very hopefully, "Aunt Orange, did you shrink anything else in the wash lately?"

Do you have any horror stories about the time you shrank a hand-knitted item? Feel free to spill them in the comments section. There's nothing like laughing at someone else's hapless shrinkage story to make one feel better about one's own.


  1. Two:

    The first wasn't actually me, but it was my sweater. I had this awesome green cashmere sweater when I was a teenager: But it was cashmere, and my mother didn't do special handling or dry cleaning, so when it was in need of a wash, it often sat in the laundry for weeks or months at a time. At one point, we went away on holidays and had two uncles from opposite sides of the family stay in the house while we were away. Well, one of those uncles got it into his head that he was going to be helpful and do all the laundry that was in the pile in the laundry room, not realizing that that pile was the special care pile. So, yeah, my beautiful size 16 cashmere sweater became a felted wool sweater suited for a 3 year old. I didn't happen to know any 3 year olds, so we just threw it away.

    I also felted my alpaca Laminaria ( ). It needed badly to be washed and I *knew* that washing it in the machine was a bad idea, but I just really didn't want to go to the trouble of washing it by hand. So I put it in the machine. And lo, it felted, and I was both surprised and not surprised.

  2. I had a really great cardi/robe that was my first large garment project. It was ribbed and had a gorgeous drape and I wore it frequently over yoga pants and t-shirts. My 6 year old coveted one like it. Alas, a mere day after wearing it and being loved by a friend's heavily shedding dog, I had a momentary middle-aged brain moment and tossed it in the wash with the rest of the darks. It came out the perfect size for my daughter and looks fabulous on her. She wears it with great elan and joy, which is fairly good comfort for losing a sweater that I really loved.

  3. Shrinking! Me, too, except it was my mother who had a brain freeze and put my newly finished long vest, one of my first knits, in the wash. It came out baby sized. We laughed until we couldn't stand up. I think mum used it as a duster.