Did you hear? The American Girl has a new scarf!
Never, ever, ever, ever put wool in the dryer unless you are creating fiber sculpture (professional or otherwise), or are really angry and seeking vengeance.
I inadvertently felted my beloved infinity scarf, the one I knit by hand with alpaca and wool from Peru while IN Peru, no less. It was special. Unfortunately, it inadvertently got buried in the laundry room pileup and ended up in the washing machine (hot cycle, OF COURSE). And right on into the Dryer of Doom.
For the record: there were tears.
In addition to unprotected felting, here are 3 more ways to abuse wool:
Wool Torture Tip #1: Take it to the Dry Cleaners
I know, I know. All of your wool sweaters say "Dry Clean Only" but regardless of how superb the facility and how green their chemicals, dry cleaning and wool are not, in fact, friends. They're frenemies. Worse than the price tag, after it emerges out of its look-at-me-I'm-renewed dry cleaning packaging, the wool doesn't even feel, smell or look any cleaner to me, either. Which begs the question: "why, WHY?"
I prefer to use Eucalan and handwash (or even machine wash) my woolens. That sounded really pretentious, didn't it? Anyway, I absolutely love this soap and am a little evangelical about it.
Want to check to see if the "Wool" and "Delicate" cycle on your washing machine are a hoax? Do a test run on a thrift store sweater. Worst case scenario you have a brand new potholder.
Wool Torture Tip #2: Store it Dirty
This is like going to bed without washing your face. No.
Wool absorbs moisture, so all winter long it soaks in your sweat, those random droplets of coffee and all other manner of liquids. Oh, you might not be able to SEE all of the dirt and gunk - but trust me, it's there.
So if you store your sweaters, hats, mittens and scarves without being cleaned first, then what eventually emerges is . . . kind of funky. The smell is faintly reminiscent of my Great Aunt Eleanor's house, she of the pack-a-day habit and house full of many cats and one dog. Again: no.
Clean it, and clean it all before storing it away. You'll be grateful, promise.
Wool Torture Tip #3: Stretch It When Wet
The toddler years were kind of a living hell. But one highlight? Play dough. No, really - play dough is the best. It can be pounded, molded, stretched and pounded again. And it comes in such pretty colors! It should be distributed at our adult annual physicals along with flu shots and the lecture on self-breast exams and Vitamin D.
But here's the scoop: WET WOOL IS NOT LIKE PLAY DOUGH. Treat it roughly when wet and it gets cranky. It will felt, and it will felt fast, or it will distort and never take its original shape again.
Wool and other animal fibers are covered in tiny scales. Wetting and soaping fleece causes the scales to open; agitating the fibers causes the scales to latch on to each other. The result? Felt. So play nice with the wool.
Good luck with your woolens! May they keep their original size and shape, and may the American Girl Doll's wardrobe remain felt-free.