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Wool garments can shrink when subjected to (a) Mechanical

action and (b) In the presence of moisture, i.e., when washed


in a washing machine or dried in a tumble dryer. The rate
and amount of shrinkage increases with both increased
mechanical action and temperature.
Wool can suffer from two types of shrinkage
Relaxation Shrinkage
Felting Shrinkage

5.1 Relaxation Shrinkage


Relaxation shrinkage is caused by the release of strains and
tensions in the yarn, fabric and garment induced during the
spinning, knitting and making-up operation.
Relaxation shrinkage is not just specific to wool, but can
occur in
products made of all fibres.
Because the tensions which cause relaxation shrinkage are
also induced in the knitting process, then the potential for
relaxation shrinkage to occur can only be removed or
minimized during subsequent finishing.

- Perhaps the term relaxation


shrinkage is a bit misleading,
because sometimes an extension of
the fabric or garment, particularly in
one direction can occur.
Following finishing, it is essential that during the
steam pressing process, the fabrics or garments are not

overly stretched, otherwise the potential for relaxation


shrinkage to occur will be re-introduced.
Stretching and steam setting only temporarily sets the
garment, and as soon as the garment is placed in
water,
i.e., domestic washing, the garment will shrink back to
its normal size.
During steam pressing it is necessary to stretch the
garment to remove creases and to obtain the correct
shape. However, it is recommended that the
garment should not be stretched more than 5% in each
direction, i.e., width and length direction.

5.2 Felting Shrinkage


Felting shrinkage is unique to wool and wool like fibers, and
does not occur for example in garments made from cotton or
man made fibers.
An example of felting shrinkage is in the case of boiled wool
finish, where the fabric or garment is washed excessively at
elevated temperature to form a felt. This is an example
when wools unique property (felting) is used to an
advantage to create a novel garment.
The Woolmark Company 21

5.2 Felting Shrinkage


However for most garments made from wool, this effect is not
required, and the consumer requirement is that garment maintains a
as new look (shape, colour, appearance, etc.) upon multiple
domestic machine washes.
Felting shrinkage, unlike relaxation
shrinkage is irreversible, and if it occurs
the garment cannot be pulled back
into its original shape and size.
Therefore a felted garment is no longer
wearable, and results in consumer
dissatisfaction, with the result that the
garment is either thrown away or
returned back to the retailer.

5.2 Felting Shrinkage


Rightly or wrongly the consumer always associates
shrinkage with a poor
or inferior product, which they are likely to associate with the
name of
the brand or retailer.
Why does felting occur?
Felting is due to wools unique scale structure found on the
surface of
every wool fibre. The scales look rather like tiles on the roof
of an
house.
When a wool garment is subject to mechanical action, as in
a
washing machine or a tumble drier, it is constantly being
compressed
and stretched.
The Woolmark Company 23

5.2 Felting Shrinkage


The forces involved, cause individual wool
fibres to move or migrate (rather like an
earthworm moving across the ground).
However, wool fibres can only move in one
direction, i.e., "with scales (root to tip), and
cannot reverse and return, i.e. against
scales (tip to root). Because the scales on
the surface of the wool fibres act as a
ratchet mechanism.
The net result is that all the fibres eventually
become entangled, resulting in the fabric
structure shrinking and forming a felt.
Generally the finer the wool the greater the
propensity for felting to occur. Fine wools
have a higher frequency of scales per unit length.

How to Avoid Felting


Shrinkage?
The only way to avoid felting is for the wool at some
stage
in manufacture to be given a special machine
washable
treatment known a Superwash or Easy Care, etc.
The Superwash treatment was first developed in the
late
1960s and today is well established. Many spinners
of
worsted yarns offer qualities of yarns which are
machine
washable.
Machine washable yarns dont suffer from felting or
colour
bleeding when washed in a domestic washing
machine.
The Woolmark Company

26

How to Avoid Felting


Shrinkage?
The Superwash treatment is normally carried out at the
worsted
top stage following combing. From the treated wool worsted
spinners produce machine washable yarns, dyed with dye
stuffs
which have a very high degree of wash fastness.
The spinners also offer un-dyed machine washable yarns
for
those companies such as circular knitters, where fabric
dyeing is

a common route.
Normally woollen spun yarns are not sold as machine
washable,
because of the need to attain the characteristic raised
appearance on the garment as a result of milling during the
wet
finishing operation.
The Woolmark Company 27

How to Avoid Felting


Shrinkage?
The production of machine washable
woollen spun knitwear such as
Lambswool or Shetland is normally
achieved by applying the Superwash
treatment to the knitted garment
during finishing.
Superwash treatments are sometimes
applied to woven fabrics, by padding
for the production of machine
washable products such as trousers
and shirts etc.