Wool is a very finicky material that can easily shrink or become distorted from its original shape. But while the bad news is that your wool clothing can easily shrink up, the good news is that it's almost as easy to stretch it back out. All it takes is a steady hand, a lot of patience and one very big cooking pot. Follow these steps to save your sweaters, socks and mittens from being relegated to the children's hand-me-downs.
Select a cooking pot that is large enough to accommodate your wool garment and enough liquid to fully submerge it. In this cooking pot, create a mixture of two parts water and one part white vinegar. Put the garment inside and push it down so that it is fully submerged.
Put the pot on the stove and heat it over medium-high heat until it comes to a full boil. Keep the pot at a rolling boil for a half hour. You can put the lid on the pot to help it reach the boiling point faster, but you should probably remove it once it starts boiling to avoid the pot boiling over.
Remove the pot from the heat after 30 minutes. Get out a large baking tray (large enough to hold the garment) and move the hot, soaking wet garment from the pot to the baking tray using a large pair of kitchen tongs.
Put on your heavy rubber gloves and carry the baking tray to the kitchen sink. Pick up the garment, which will be very hot, and squeeze it over the sink to get most of the liquid out. You can wring out small sections of the garment as long as you do it very gently and do not overtwist it.
Set the garment back on the baking tray for a moment. Spread out a large, undyed towel on a flat surface. If possible, lay out the towel in an area where it won't be disturbed by children or pets, because your hot, wet garment will be drying on this towel for several hours.
Carry the garment from the baking tray to the towel and lay the garment out flat. This is the tricky part; you must very gently stretch the garment back to its original size and shape by hand. When you pull gently on different areas of the garment, you'll notice that the fibres will stay pulled apart and will not immediately shrink back into place. Think of it like you're kneading a ball of pizza dough into a perfectly-shaped crust, only you're stretching a garment back to a normal size and shape.
When the garment has been manipulated back to its desired shape, make sure that it is laying perfectly flat. Walk away and leave it to dry. You'll need to give the garment several hours of drying time on each side.
Check on the garment periodically, feeling the top side with your bare hand to check for dampness. When the top side feels almost completely dry, lay out another dry towel and reposition the garment on this towel with the wet side facing up. Let the second side dry completely.
When the entire garment is completely dry, fold it neatly and store it in an appropriate place.
If you have a large pasta pot with a built-in strainer, you can use it to avoid having to take the garment out with tongs. When it comes to sweaters and larger garments, this makes the process a lot easier. Don't worry about a vinegar odour lingering in your garment. The boiling and air drying processes will take care of the smell.
When you stretch out the garment, do it very slowly. It's easy to stretch it back to a larger size, but almost impossible to re-shrink sections with your hands if you overstretch them.