What’s the Word on Wool

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Spring styles are filling the stores and I’m writing a post about wool? Yes. Most parts of the country have many chilly days ahead. I often address questions from clients and readers. Pieces made from wool have raised several questions lately. First, here is the factual information.

Wool is  resilient and garments will last many years.  It will return to its original condition after being stretched or creased. For that reason, take time in between wear so it returns to its original shape. Wool  is pretty resistant to dirt, and wear and tear.

It will also absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp, which makes it excellent for winter wear.

Wool is generally thought to be  bulky and heavy. Wool often gets a bad rap for being “itchy”.  Times have changed. You will see many wool blends that are beautiful easy to wear fabrics that are soft and smooth. In recent years Merino wool (named from a certain breed of sheep) has become popular. Wool is typically considered as a warm weather fabric. In actuality, wool can be worn in other seasons. Wool breathes.

Merino wool is common in high-end, performance athletic wear. Several properties contribute to merino’s popularity for exercise clothing, compared to wool in general and to other types of fabric:

  • Merino is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin. This is known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent, yet you won’t feel like you’re wearing wet clothing.
  • Like cotton, wool absorbs water but, unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet, thus helping wearers avoid hypothermia after strenuous workouts (climbs) or weather events.
  • Merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales.
  • Merino has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio compared to other wools.

Caring for Wool:

  • Don’t wash wool too often! Washing wool too frequently can wear out the fabric, and shorten its life.
  • Instead, in between washing wool garments brush off the dirt and don’t let it settle. 
  • You can ‘refresh’ wool by putting it in a steamy bathroom. A warm iron on the wool or steam setting can also be used.
  • Treat small stains by rinsing them with cold water or seltzer and then blotting them dry with a clean cloth.
  • When you do need to wash wool, put it on a delicate settings and don’t rub it. If your washer allows you to adjust the spin cycle, make sure it is very low.
  • To remove excess water after washing, gently roll the garment in a towel.
  •  Dry on a flat surface away from direct heat or sunlight. Wool should never be put in the dryer, as that is likely to result in shrinking. 
  • When traveling, loosely roll or fold wool garments with tissue paper to keep the fabric’s shape and avoid wrinkles.
  •  Dry cleaning once a season is usually sufficient to keep wool garments in good shape. Some people like to dry clean more frequently.

The idea for this post was a result of clients being frustrated with their wool items shrinking even after following the directions carefully. I wish I could provide all the answers. Simply said, there are many different types of wool and many inconsistencies, often based on price.  Hopefully some the tips above will be helpful.

I have not had much trouble with my wool pieces, but I typically spot clean and dry clean because I’m often wearing something underneath the wool piece and they don’t need to be cleaned as frequently.

Over to you. What is your take on wool? Do you wear it often or not at all? How do you clean your wool?

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What is Modal?

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Continuing the series on fabrics, I once again chose a fabric that many of you may know by sight and touch, but NOT by name.

Modal is a type of rayon–a processed textile made from reconstituted cellulose from the beech tree. Modal is sometimes used alone or combined with other fabrics like cotton and spandex.

We classify modal as a rayon. While rayon may be made of wood pulp from several different trees, modal uses only beechwood.

Consumers often “write off” modal and other types of rayon because they are not natural. It’s important to know that the raw materials used ARE natural, but then they are heavily processed with chemicals

On the Positive Side:

-50% more absorbant than cotton

-takes dye like cotton

-color fast in warm water

-resistant to shrinking

-smooth, soft and breathes well

-hard water deposits less likely to adhere to surface so the fabric stays soft through repeated washings

Modal, orginally marketed as “artificial silk” is often mistaken for silk at first touch. The modal tops I’m familiar with are perfect layering pieces under sweaters and jackets. They are extremely comfortable. I refer to them as my “Second Skin”. I like them for layering, but because they tend to cling a little, personally I would not wear them without a jacket or sweater. However, you may find, they are just fine for you to wear that way.

The only downside I can find with this fabric is that it is prone to stretching and can pill.


Wash in cooler temperatures and again I advise that mesh bag. I meet women frequently who do not own a mesh bag usually used for lingerie. It is a MUST HAVE. I also recommend the lingerie wash. Don’t forget that the lingerie wash is also a great stain remover that is gentle at the same time.



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What is Viscose?

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This will be my first post in a off/on again series on fabrics. I hope to give you clear definitions along with ideas on how to care for them. When you spend good money on your clothes you want them to last. Costly mistakes are made with improper laundering.  Knowing how to give clothing the proper care often goes back to reading and paying attention to labels and also being in the know about fabrics. Most of us know the difference between cotton, wool and silk. However, now you read a label and strange names appear. Many garments are a blend of several different fabrics.

Have you ever looked at a clothing label and read the word viscose? Simply said, viscose is a rayon.


Viscose rayon is a man-made fiber made from wood pulp though other materials may be used. It is basically modified cellulose. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls and the basic building block for paper and many textiles. Cotton is the purest natural form of cellulose.
Viscose falls somewhere in between a natural fiber and a man-made one. The raw materials for viscose is cellulose which is usually reacted with caustic soda and carbon disulfide. It is reformed as fibers by spinning this viscose solution in an acid bath.
I know that’s a little technical, but hopefully it gives you a better picture.
Viscose is very similar to cotton and silk. Viscose rayon has a silky appearance and feel, and also has the ability to breathe in a manner similar to cotton weaves.

Rayon has become so popular by designers because of the silky feel and beautiful drape. The downside is that it wrinkles easily and can shrink in the dryer.

So now let’s talk about care. THE DRYER IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. Many labels will recommend dry cleaning because so many people use the dryer.

Another question comes up about “pilling”. A review of an earlier post will shed a little light on this topic.

Rayon can be difficult to iron. Enter the garment steamer. Steaming saves time, helps me get in those hard to iron places and keeps garments from getting the shiny look. Several years ago I wrote about the benefits of using a steamer and I still sing the praises of this appliance. I am now in the market for a new steamer and have been doing the research. I will be sure to share after I make my purchase.

What do you think? Do you get take the time to read labels and care instructions? Have you had any laundry disasters?


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