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Stretching a Shrunken Wool Blend Afghan

My mother made me an afghan using wool and acrylic yarns. I washed it and dried it (I was young, what can I tell you) in the dryer. Of course, you can imagine what it looks like. This was fifty years ago and it remains in my blanket chest. Is there any way I can at least stretch it out a little?

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By Marian H

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January 6, 20140 found this helpful

It will be a little labor intensive to stretch it, and I can't guarantee any huge success, but you will be able to stretch it some by doing this. Gather several beach towels, a flat bed sheet, a bottle of conditioner (yep, hair conditioner) in a smell you like, and someplace big enough to soak the afghan.

Fill your container/tub/basin with cold water. Dissolve about 1/2 bottle of the conditioner in a few cups warm water so there are no lumps (if it is really cheap conditioner, you may use more). Add the dissolved conditioner to the cold water, mix well. Add your afghan. Don't agitate/stir it around, just press it into the water gently. Let it soak 10-20 minutes, pressing it back into the water occasionally so it remains soaked in the solution.

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Empty the water, let the afghan drain in the sink or bathtub as long as you can, so you won't have much squeezing or blotting to do, but let it still be very damp. Gently press as much water out as you can while still in the sink. Then, roll the afghan in towels, changing them if they get really wet, until the afghan is damp but no longer drippy.

Spread your sheet out on a floor, preferably carpeted; if you feel you need to, spread plastic under the sheet first, but blotting the afghan should prevent too much water from dampening the carpet or floor. Smooth the afghan out on the sheet. Then, begin to stretch it out gently, attempting to stretch as evenly as you can. If you are so inclined, you can use rust proof straight pins or t pins at this point to make it easier and more uniform; stretch and pin one side, then stretch and pin about a foot at a time as you go until you are done. But, even without pins it will stretch and stay, just not quite as uniform.

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Then, leave it alone until it is completely dry. This might take a day, might even take up to a week. It all depends on the humidity and air flow in the house as well as outside. The reason this works is, wool is hair. Conditioners soften and relax the curl in hair, so if it isn't too shrunken there's a possibility you can restore it to size; if not you should still see it become larger look better.

However, if it shrunk to a point where it is now thick and stiff, with little or no drape, it may be time to make it into a mat or something, because once it is thick and stiff it has become felted and you generally can't turn back from that. Friction and heat are what felts wool, so if you are successful, take it to the dry cleaner in the future, or soak it then re-pin it to dry like described above, no washer and dryer any more. Good luck!

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January 6, 20140 found this helpful

Sadly no. Wool turns into felt when it's wet, and is like hair when it mats. If there is a square that you could cut off and bind the edges, you could put it in a shadow box and remember it.

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Can you unravel some of the yarn and make a heart from it, put it and a photo of the intact afghan in a frame? That is what I would do but I hope someone can help further.

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