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Pre-washing/Laundering Wool Flannel

Pre-washing/Laundering Wool Flannel

Old 10-31-2015, 07:47 AM
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Default Pre-washing/Laundering Wool Flannel

Hello, again,

I just posted a question about this same fabric, but since this is a separate question I figured I'd go the separate thread route.

I was gifted several yards of a not-cheap, coating-weight, Italian wool flannel (bright red plaid). I love it so much that I've been afraid to use it. Now, I have it in my mind to use it for a heavy winter blanket/quilt. I've always treated wools as dry-clean only, but now I'm wondering if that's really true. And, if so, should I pre-dry clean the fabric before I do anything with it? If I can launder it at home, can I use the machine? Should I pre-wash by machine or by hand? Skip pre-washing altogether? I'm doing a simple whole-cloth quilt with simple, invisible quilting. But, when it's finished, how do I care for it then?

Any advice on the care of a heavy, wool flannel would be much appreciated!

Thank you!
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Old 10-31-2015, 08:07 AM
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I have a couple wool blankets. When I do wash them (mainly to freshen) I have a rack DH made for hand washing. I can lay it across my tub (shower enclosure). I have a handheld shower head. I also have a garden bucket with a spout on it. I put a little Woolite into the bucket and add water. Swish it around and pour over the article I'm washing. Just run the bucket back and forth and let sit a few minutes. By doing it in the tub when you rinse you can rinse till the water runs clear. If you choose to do a machine wash I would set it for delicate cycle with intermittent agitation and cold water. You can also put a sheet in the bottom of your tub then put the blanket on it and do same procedure as bucket rinse. Just don't want too much agitation.
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Old 10-31-2015, 08:19 AM
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Don't know if it's the same type thing, but someone gave me a piece of gorgeous red wool flannel. I prewashed it in Woolite and cold water and am very happy I did so. The dye ran like crazy. I mean the water looked like the juice from a can of beets. I washed it several times, like 4 or 5 with the same results. It was less than a yard and I finally pitched it. I was afraid to use it for anything for fear the item would get damp and the dye would rub off. Can you cut a small sliver & try woolite? If it works on the sample, I would hand launder the whole piece with woolite.
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Old 10-31-2015, 08:20 AM
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I think the wool flannel you are referring to is what is often seen in men's suits and topcoats, not the fuzzy cotton we think of for bedding and sleepwear.
Can you sacrifice a small piece of it, say a 12" square? I would serge or zigzag all 4 sides of the square to keep it from raveling. Trace it off on a piece of paper because the stitching and handling will alter the size and shape, then wash the square in a lingerie bag in a washer load with something like sheets, etc. Run it through the dryer on cotton setting or whatever you use most. If it shrinks and there is still enough for the blanket/quilt you are planning, go for it. I have only one item of clothing that requires dry cleaning, the rest goes into the washer & dryer. I like to shop for old wool blankets, mend any moth holes I find, then run through a hot water wash and dryer on cotton or permanent press. Yes, they shrink, some a lot. I will cut up one of the blankets to add large patches to sides and top or bottom, making sure all the edges are serged, then the seams top-stitched with a decorative stitch. Most of the blankets are in shades of dusky rose or muted green. Some of the left over scraps make beautiful leaves, etc. for applique on the blanket/quilt or anything else. Somewhere in one of my notebooks is the tutorial for replacing the frayed and ragged satin binding on blankets with extra wide binding of purchased satin yardage or quilter's cottons.
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Old 10-31-2015, 09:11 AM
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I have a couple of wool blankets that I wash in my top loader. I put in the blanket and fill with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Turn off before it agitates and let it disk. Swish up and down several times, soak again. Then set the washer to spin. Refill and follow the same procedure to rinse. I then hang it on two clothes lines, using plenty of clothes pins to distribute the weight. This has worked well and no shrinkage.

For your wool, can you try a small test piece to see how it holds up with regular washing? Maybe a 5-inch square or two and try a couple of methods.
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Old 10-31-2015, 09:19 AM
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If you cut anything off for a test piece - I would go with something like a 2 x 12 inch strip from one end - Have the 12 inch part cut on the crosswise grain -

I have cut squares off pieces and regretted doing so. I also cut a long piece off parallel with the selvage. I also regretted doing that. If you cut a piece off crosswise, you will only mess up the over-all length by not-so-much.

Some wools can be gently washed (little or no agitation) in warm (around body temperature) water and rinsed in warm water and put in a dryer long enough to get the drippy water out and then hung to dry.

Wool has little barbs on it - a bit like Velcro - and a lot of agitating will make the wool bunch up.
Also, shocking wool with drastic temperature changes when washing it will also make it shrink.

Sheep get wet and don't seem to shrink. The wool they are wearing is usually untreated, though.

Last edited by bearisgray; 10-31-2015 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 10-31-2015, 01:26 PM
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I agree, cut a test fabric and see how it washes up. When it is wet, leave it on a white paper towel and see if the color runs. Than you can go from there.
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Old 10-31-2015, 05:20 PM
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[QUOTE=bearisgray;7362070]If you cut anything off for a test piece - I would go with something like a 2 x 12 inch strip from one end - Have the 12 inch part cut on the crosswise grain -

I have cut squares off pieces and regretted doing so. I also cut a long piece off parallel with the selvage. I also regretted doing that. If you cut a piece off crosswise, you will only mess up the over-all length by not-so-much.

Good advice about where to make the cut, I will try to remember that.
As for shrinkage and colorfast testing, I have put a scrap in boiling water in a glass bowl, then microwaved it to get super hot.
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Old 11-01-2015, 02:44 PM
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It's definitely worth the sacrifice of a 2-3 strip on the crosswise grain(from selvage to selvage) to determine who it will behave in your project. I'd cut it 3" wide x 42" long (or whatever the width of your fabric is) and then cut that in half to 18" x 3".
Save one piece for comparison; wash one as you'd be washing a quilt in your home washer, on cool with a gentle detergent -- which Woolite is NOT, by the way!
Only after this step can you really decide how to continue.
And you'll still have half the cut strip to use if the washing doesn't work for you. If it does work, then cool, you can use all of it!

Jan in VA
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