I am not a very handy person – in life generally, but especially when it comes to the so-called domestic arts. For the most part, this is not something over which I lose sleep; I have mastered enough basic life skills to pass for an acceptably responsible adult, and I am fortunate to have money to throw at problems I can’t solve. Still, there are times when I wish I had spent more time in my youth learning practical arts – for example, every time I have to pay $20 for someone else to fix a basic hem on a dress. Sigh. Recently, though, I find that I am more inclined to take an occasional risk and attempt a solution myself; thrifting is often the catalyst because, well, the downside of a failed experiment is much less painful at thrift prices.

Such was the case with this red wool Smythe blazer.


This was my second time spotting Smythe at the thrift store, though it was a far more readily explainable occurrence. My first thrifted Smythe was in impeccable condition; this one … not so much. Commensurate with its retail price, the blazer had lovely design details. Real leather elbow patches; a windowpane print that lined up at each seam, and over the lapels too; that signature waist-nipping tailoring. The only problem? It had been shrunk to hell and back. In fact, it looked like it had made a trip to hell – wash ‘n dry cycle hell. The collar had shrunk into a permanently popped state, and the whole thing looked like a sad, misshapen child’s jacket.

It was also $6 (VV was running a random 50% off sale).

I suddenly remembered reading something online about how wool fibers have “memory” and can be un-shrunk. Without so much as trying on the blazer, I turned to my BFF and said “I’m going to try to fix it.”

When I got home, I decided to see how bad the damage really was. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a photo when I tried it on, but the image was comically horrific and my optimism took a nose dive; I pretty much wrote off my $6 then and there. No point in taking a photo to document my certain failure, right?

Well, as it turns out, this story has a happy ending after all. Behold:


There is no secret to this “magic”. I mean, all the instructions are right there on The Google. Here’s what I did:

– Soaked the blazer in a bathtub of lukewarm water with a bunch of Johnson’s baby bath shampoo. Don’t ask me how much; I eyeballed it. I realized belatedly that baby bath stuff + running water = foam, but luckily there were minimal suds to contend with. I left the blazer to marinate for about 20 minutes.

– Rinsed the blazer in lukewarm water, then gently squeezed (without wringing) the excess water out.

– Gently pulled and stretched the (wet) blazer back to a more natural shape/length.

– Put the blazer on a padded hanger, then proceeded to stuff it with towels until it looked like a dummy. The arms were difficult to stuff, so I used two small towels – one at each end. I closed the blazer button to hold the inner “stuffing” in place. Then I hung the (still wet) “dummy” and left it to air dry.

– Every so often, as it dried, I would gently pull and stretch – especially the bottom flaps.

The blazer dried much more quickly than I expected; it took about 36 hours. The lining remains fairly wrinkled, but the blazer is otherwise in great shape, including the leather. I think the elbow patches might benefit from a bit of conditioning, but they don’t look the worse for wear. This was surprising to me, though it should not have been; I had read accounts of people who have rehabbed vintage (leather) Coach bags by soaking them, re-shaping, and drying them (followed by conditioning) … still, I have always cringed at the idea of putting leather in water. This was a good lesson for me on that score as well.


As successful experiments are wont to do, this one has given me the confidence and desire to test my newfound rehabbing skills on new subjects. Next time I find a beautiful, shrunken Wilfred sweater at the thrift store, I shall not be disappointed; quite the opposite, in fact …

11 Comments on DIY Wool Rehab

  1. Amazing that it worked so well! I’ve tried halfheartedly to rehabilitate a wool cardigan that shrank in the wash, but I think I didn’t give it enough time or, er, actual effort. It didn’t seem to want to actually stretch, though I didn’t do it carefully, and gave up on trying.

    The thought of soaking a vintage leather handbag to fix it up is also terrifying to me! My old Coach City crossbody can probably do with a soaking (it was already quite old and well-loved when I got it around 2008, and I used it heavily) as it certainly can’t hurt to try.

    • I’m terrified of attempting to rehab a leather bag as well! I do have a good candidate, so if I find the colour of polish I need, I may work up the courage to try.

      I just rehabbed a wool cardigan and pretty happy with the result (it’s on my IG). I wouldn’t have the guts to try it if I had more money at stake though.

  2. Wow, I can’t wait to use this when I have a too-small sweater. The blazer still looks a bit tight on you, or is it just the photos?

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