Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fabrics: extra-sponged wool

Readers, I went to Paron’s today to buy fabric for some red pieces from this months Burda. (Not that I finished my Fall Palette Challenge, but, it’s nice to have everything in place for the next project…) I bought red wool and a couple of other pieces I didn’t plan for (fabric junkie! arghh). So, all the wools I got are apparently extra sponged according to the label.

It was the first time I saw ‘extra-sponged wool’ fabric. Labels at Mood and at many other fabric stores are rather laconic, so I was happy those at Paron’s gave more information. My immediate thought was that “extra-sponged” is GOOD, It must have been pre-treated as in man’s tailoring, where the wool is sponged overnight to pre-shrink the fabric. But I was not sure.


So, tonight, I combed through the web, trying to find more detailed answer, but there was hardly any information available. I started to worry, but a brief article in a 1987 issue of The Telegraph re-assured me explaining that 'sponged-wool' was not a Paron's invention but a real thing.

“sponged wool is wool fabric that has been treated for shrinkage. It’s nice to sew because you don’t need to preshrink the fabric before working with it.”

Well at least something and... no preshrinking IS excellent in fact. And, then, I found this post on Fashion Incubator, which explained the process of preshrinking in more detail.  The post also mentioned that sponged wool is about 20% more expensive than regular wool, so I was very very happy since I got it for really decent price at Paron’s.

Book search was also mostly a failure.  All I found, was a brief note in the Claire Shaeffer’s fabric bible that wool is sometimes labeled as “needle-ready” or “London-shrunk”, which means that these wools are ready to sew and do not need to be pre-shrunk.


What I learnt however, is how to test whether your wool fabric will shrink. Claire Shaeffer recommends steaming a fabric corner with a dry press cloth for roughly ten seconds. Allow fabric to dry and examine the area. “If an imprint of the iron shows,” explains the book, “the fabric has shrunk and must be treated before sewing.”

Readers, do you know more about “extra-sponged” wool? 


  1. This is the first time I ever heard of extra sponge. On the other hand, I have difficulty getting woolen fabric, so yeah

  2. When I worked in a "sweat shop" in the office many years back one of my jobs was to track the "piece goods" back and forth from the spongers. The wools purchased would get shipped direct to the the spongers, "Adams Sponging" in Boston for their treatment. Then they would be shipped to the factories we had. Sponging was big business but at that time so was textile and garment manufacture. That sponging house is long closed and now the Big Dig sits on top of it.

  3. @ Bunny: this is so interesting - I love your story!

  4. I've seen sponged wool at Paron for a few years. Why don't you ask them about it? Prudence suggests preshrinking it by wrapping it in a wet towel over night and then pressing it.



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