Wool Crepe Dress: Pre-shrinking

Hmm! What a week I have had. Researching how to deal with wool crepe, trying to fit my muslin, gathering confidence ( the hardest part), and trying to update my blog (did you notice?)

This week was focused on my dear fabric. In the last post, a couple of you pointed me to some interesting posts on pre-shrinking wool crepe. Thanks for that.  From one of the blog posts I read, in the comment section, someone mentioned that wool, is essentially hair. Well duh! That is so true. Wool is animal hair ( specific types of course, definitely not elephant). So, she reasoned, since wool is hair, we should treat it as we would our own hair. Well I can tell you that as an African, my hair is very delicate. It breaks easily, so I need to treat it with tender loving care ( something I am too lazy to do). My hair needs to be washed with a very gentle shampoo, or just a conditioner, and it needs to be moisturised all the time. So wool too, depending on the type, can be very delicate, and would shrink badly if exposed to heat, or felt if treated harshly. Oh dear. Talk about having issues. Get your act together wool, there’s no need to be such a drama queen.

So after toing and froing on the blogoshpere and some books, I gathered that you should pre-treat your wool crepe the same way that you will care for it as a finished garment and that there are various ways to pre-shrink wool crepe ( and most woolens). You can choose whichever method that suits your lifestyle.


For those with the cash to splash, you could always go to your dry cleaner, and ask for wool crepe to be steamed. I will not be taking this route, so I did not bother to find out more about what you need to discuss with your dry cleaner. Apparently the cost is high. As someone who has never taken anything to be dry cleaned, I am not interested in this method. I should probably say here that I am also not tempted by the notion of going to the dry cleaners after every wear. If I ruin this fabric now because I used another pre-shrinking method, then good riddance. I have decided to look at it from the point of view that spoiling the fabric now will mean saving Noah’s inheritance. No dress to wear, no dry cleaning bills to pay, and therefore more money for Master Noah when he turns 50 and collects his inheritance…all 50 pence of it.


There is the London shrink method, which I also saw in Couture: Fine Art of  Sewing by Roberta Carr. Here you wet your fabric, and roll it between 2 large sheets for a couple of hours or overnight, and let it dry naturally. You need alot of space for this one, and alot of patience too. Again, this is not for me, as I do not have the luxury of space in my tiny house, and though I could probably make the time, I can’t be asked to. I want to believe since this is mentioned in a book on couture sewing, it might be the accepted way in the couture houses. I have come to the conclusion that couture sewing might be a concerted effort by the experts to discourage mass interest in sewing. By making the dressmaking process look as time consuming as possible they can charge exorbitant prices for their garments. Less people with the knowledge or patience to make garments, more money for us aye?


There are two ways to use steam on wool crepe. There is the method highly favoured by Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, which involves steaming your fabric with a very hot steam iron and a wet press cloth. This reminds me alot of the way my millinery teacher taught me how to hand block wool felt. Which involved pressing the wool with a very hot dry iron, and a wet press cloth. It makes the wool pliable, and your can stretch it over your hat block, or stretch it so that you can do other things with the felt.  Carolyn says she does not move her fabric for 2 minutes after pressing. I suppose that is to prevent it stretching out of shape. She also says it is time consuming though not as much as London shrinking though.

 Now, for those that are not after a facial, and who do not have the time to spare, there is the other method where you chuck the fabric into your dryer with two wet towels, and tumble dry for 40 minutes. You can read more about from Pam of Off The Cuff Sewing Style. I am highly tempted by this one for the simple reason that I do not want to go on a play date with wool crepe and a hot iron with Noah in tow.


Yep! That’s me. I will gladly eat ice cream while sinking in snow. This method, detailed here  by Shannon of Hungry Zombie, involves immersing your wool crepe in a washer filled with a mixture of COLD water and a soft soap such as Eucalan. You only soak the wool in the water for 20 minutes, and then hang to dry or place in your dryer on a gently cycle. I am also tempted by this method because I can see my self washing my dress like this after it has been sewn. I am no stranger to hand washing clothes as I used a washing machine for the first time in 2005 when I came here to the UK. Yes. I was 25 years old before I even saw a washing machine with mine eyes. We used to hand wash all our clothes in Cameroon. Very special items were taken to the dry cleaners, and that was only by those in big towns who had access to such services. When I last went home in 2009, there was a dry cleaner on every street. Times have definitely changed.

Eucalan is available in the UK, and you can buy it from Sew Direct, or here, where I got mine. There are other places that sell it, and you can find a list of the UK stockists here.

So, I will try my little experiment to see which method to use. It was advised to experiment with 5″ squares of fabric, which I shall do.

In other news, I went and bought an extra metre of lining as I have decided to line the whole dress, and just not the bodice as the pattern directs.

I have also received my Deer and Doe patterns. More on that later.



  1. September 28, 2012 / 2:24 am

    Yup, I would totally be doing the soaking method. Easy peasy, done in 20 minutes then you can forget about it whilst its drying. Although I'm really tempted with the whole tumble dryer thing too (I don't have one, but I have friends who do).

  2. September 28, 2012 / 3:32 am

    Wow. You really have done your research on how to pretreat wool. I will be pinning this on my Pinterest board for future reference, as I have several lengths of wool that I will make something fabulous from one day.

    Love love love the new look of the blog. It has a happy look about it.

  3. September 28, 2012 / 6:14 am

    Great write up dibs, thank you and good luck!! Nice blog style too 🙂

  4. September 28, 2012 / 6:41 am

    Love the new look of your blog! And well done on the research! I find it very brave of people to make someting that they can't just toss in the washing machine after wearing it. For me, that would be a reason not to wear it. Or just wear it untill it needs to be washed 🙂

    The robe bleuet pattern looks really cut, do you have plans for making it anytime soon?

  5. September 28, 2012 / 7:06 am

    Girl, I going to hire you to do my blog… It's getting so cool.. I'm loving it.

    You are my hero, I just got some for Gertie coat sew along and was clueless what to do…

    I love those patterns, are you joining paunnet sew along?

  6. September 28, 2012 / 7:11 am

    I've done the London shrinking method and my fabric didn't shrink at all. Might have been something to do with that particular fabric but it did make me wonder if I'd done it right. Thanks for the roundup of methods; I'm going to try the cold wash one next time!

  7. September 28, 2012 / 9:45 am

    Really useful post, thanks Dibs. Also your blog is looking great, I'm feeling inspired to do my own though not sure where to start! You should do a post about that too – how did you get your own web address?

  8. September 28, 2012 / 10:00 am

    A great round up! I have to say though I've just had 3m of wool blend dry cleaned for £10 which I didn't think was that expensive (considering the original cost of the material!), but it might be more expensive for wool crepe… I can't remember how much it cost me when I was doing a dress in that. I really hope your way comes out right for you! Sensible to try a 5 inch square methinks 🙂

  9. aby
    September 28, 2012 / 10:42 pm

    Brilliant post,when I was a girl in lagos, we used to hang our clothes outside overnight as a means of drycleaning!!

  10. September 29, 2012 / 3:08 am

    Dibs – you've definitely done your research well. I'm sure that Shannon's method will work wonderfully for you since she's used it so effectively. I go between the two steam methods and have never had shrinkage with either method but then I do dry clean my finished garments. I'm sure that your finished dress is going to be AMAZING and I'll be following along as well as cheering you on!

  11. September 29, 2012 / 3:27 am

    Oh, what a great post! I'm interested to hear about your experiences with the wool crepe! The blog looks great, btw!

  12. September 29, 2012 / 1:29 pm

    I'm so excited to hear about your results! I'm thinking about purchasing some wool crepe of my very own, and I'm totally intimidated by the pre-treating process!

  13. September 29, 2012 / 4:20 pm

    I have a dryer, but I need to work out how to use it.

  14. September 29, 2012 / 4:20 pm

    Aww thanks Laurie.

  15. September 29, 2012 / 4:21 pm

    Thanks Winnie

  16. September 29, 2012 / 4:21 pm

    Yes I want to make it soon. After the wool crepe dress. I really like the silhouette of the dress.

  17. September 29, 2012 / 4:22 pm

    No, I don't have the pattern that they will be using. I will like to make the dress maybe next year. But for now I will stick to these two.

  18. September 29, 2012 / 4:23 pm

    hahahahhaaha. The cold wash is looking very appealing to me right now.

  19. September 29, 2012 / 4:23 pm

    Thanks Claire.

  20. September 29, 2012 / 4:24 pm

    I will send you a mail on this later. I got it from Google.

  21. September 29, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    Ah, £10 might not be much, but then it is the after care. I hope this dress will last a long time. so that means more dry cleaning bills for me …ouch!

  22. September 29, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    hahahahhahaha. We used to do that too. necessity is the mother of all inventions. lol

  23. September 29, 2012 / 4:26 pm

    Thanks Carolyn. Your blog post was very informative.

  24. September 29, 2012 / 4:26 pm

    Thanks Sonja. Will post about my results.

  25. September 29, 2012 / 4:27 pm

    hahahaha. I was too. I still am to be honest. At the end of the day, what will be will be. One thing I will say though is that wool crepe is a lovely fabric.

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