Caring for Your Woollen Textiles

Handwoven woollen textiles by Nicola Gates.jpg

Thank-you for purchasing a handwoven textile from my studio. I hope that you will enjoy using or displaying it for many years to come, so below is some tried and tested advice for caring for your piece.

Please note that I cannot accept responsibility for any damage caused to your textile as a result of cleaning, washing or repairing. If in doubt seek advice from a professional dry cleaner or textile conservator.

Washing Wool

I include basic care advice and fibre content on a swing-tag with most pieces – note that some items such as bags and purses will usually have other fibre types present, for example linen or cotton linings. Please keep this tag for future reference, or if you have any queries email me at and I will do my best to advise.

Wool is a resilient fibre with a wonderful ability to absorb and desorb moisture. The surface of a wool fibre consists of a series of overlapping scales, often making it easy to brush dirt off and for stains to lift out. These natural traits mean that woollen items should not require frequent washing. The washing advice below relates to my ‘soft’ woollen goods that are wearable or functional, for example, scarves, cushion covers and throws.

For smaller items, handwashing is usually the safest and gentlest way to clean your woollen textiles as long as care is taken to avoid shrinkage and felting. All of my handwoven cloth is pre-washed after weaving to achieve a soft, tactile finish. Here are some tips:

  • Only wash when necessary. Airing or spot cleaning may be enough to revive your woollen item.

  • Use warm but not hot water (maximum 30°C) with a mild detergent suitable for wool.

  • Leave to soak for a few minutes then move the item around gently to wash. Do not vigorously rub, squeeze or wring woollen textiles as this can cause shrinkage.

  • Rinsing water should be a similar temperature to the water the item was washed in – avoid extreme changes in temperature during washing as this can also cause wool to felt and shrink.

  • After the final rinse, press the item gently to remove excess water - avoid twisting or wringing. Roll or gently squeeze in a clean towel, ease the item into shape and leave to air dry naturally. Lay the item to dry across a clothes horse or on top of a towel close to the radiator. Do not put the item directly on a hot radiator and do not tumble dry.

  • If handwashing a bag or purse, take care not to saturate any leather zip-pull or wrist strap in the water.

  • You can use a steam iron on a low to medium setting to smooth out any creases. Use a fine, clean cotton or linen cloth over the textile to protect it during ironing.

Some items may be machine washed using your machine’s special wool setting at 30°C maximum and a specialist wool detergent. Please only machine wash if you have tried and tested the wool setting on other woollen garments.

Many woollen items may be dry cleaned - please seek advice from your professional dry cleaner.

Wall-hangings and Textile Art

Do not wash wall-hangings or textile art pieces. Regular checks and airings should suffice when these items are kept in clean surroundings. Please refer to the advice relating to moth damage prevention and storage below.

My wall-hangings can be shaken out carefully on a regular basis to shed any dust. As with many items in the home, keeping the surrounding area clean, dry and well ventilated will be a good help in preventing damage from dust, dirt and pests.

Do not display wall-hangings or textile art pieces in direct sunlight or under strong lights for long periods of time, to protect from fading and light damage.

Protecting Against Moths

Moths love dark, warm, undisturbed places, so pose the greatest risk to woollen textiles when they are not being used regularly and are in storage. It’s the larvae of the clothes moth that cause the damage - they feed on natural protein fibres such as wool and silk, creating small holes. Here are some tips to protect against damage:

  • Always ensure your woollen items are clean and completely dry before storing.

  • Give storage areas an annual spring clean and vacuum to check for presence of moths and help prevent establishment.

  • When not in use for long periods, store woollen items in a sealed box or bag, such as a box with tight fitting lid or zip-lock bag. Cloth storage bags can also be used as long as they can be effectively closed with a zip or tie and there are no gaps where moths can enter. It is important that items are clean and free from moths, eggs & larvae before storage to avoid trapping them in the container or bag with the item.

  • If storing more than one item, store items in separate, sealed bags when possible. This means that if one item is affected by moths (for example, if moth eggs were present in the item before it is put into storage), they won’t be able to spread to another.

  • Natural moth deterrents are available for hanging in storage areas but note that they should be refreshed or replaced regularly as advised by the manufacturer, and areas should still be checked and cleaned periodically. Lakeland (UK) is a useful supplier of laundry care products, such as moth deterrents and storage bags.

Pulls & Pilling

Many of my handwoven textiles feature a ‘supplementary’ warp or weft yarn that creates a pattern over the surface of the cloth. Please take care to avoid catching on jewellery, other accessories or pets. If the cloth gets a ‘pull’ in it (where a loop is pulled up on the surface), this can often be fixed by holding the cloth to each side of the loop in the direction the pattern yarn is running and giving it a tug to even it back out. You can also carefully use a small crochet hook or darning needle to draw the loop to the reverse side of the cloth where it won’t be seen. Never cut the yarn as this may cause a hole to form.

Pilling on the surface of woollen cloth may occur if an item gets frequent or heavy use. It is the attractive soft and insulating quality of woollen-spun yarns that unfortunately can cause the fibres to cling together and pill. However, unlike many synthetic fibres, pilling on wool can be effectively removed by hand or battery operated ‘de-piller’. These are available to purchase from homeware shops, for example Lakeland. Please test any de-pilling tool on the reverse of the cloth or an inconspicuous corner before using on the main surface. I do not advise using fabric combs or brushes on my handwoven textiles as these may catch on the yarn or cause further pilling by dragging loose fibres to the surface.