Whenever you have put on a garment that feels too tight, your heart may sink as to what has happened. Have you put on weight or, more likely, has the garment shrunk?
Either way, it can be reprieved before you are tempted to replace it and there are several ways you can try to stretch clothes and make them bigger.
Certain clothes require more tailored methods and there are many household items you can use for the job. The task of making clothes bigger can take some time but for those that want to wear them for longer and to make them more comfortable then it is a job worth doing.
In this guide, we will look at the ways you can stretch clothes, how to stretch certain clothes, and what equipment you may need for the job.
How Do You Stretch Clothes To Make Them Bigger?
While your clothes may stay the same size and shape, your body might not and over time your clothes may shrink the more times you wash then dry them. Without heading to a tailor to pay to do the job, there are some simple ways to stretch clothes at home to make them bigger.
The easiest method to stretch your clothes is to loosen the fibers. We do this by soaking them in warm water mixed with fabric softener or hair conditioner then stretching them out.
You can also use specialist equipment such as a stretching tool or by inserting a waistband extender so you can fit it into a pair of jeans easier. Certain fabrics react well when steamed or simply by using gravity to stretch them out when damp until they have air-dried completely.
The Methods You Can Use To Stretch Clothes And Make Them Bigger
Before you do try any of the following methods, it is important to check the manufacturer’s care label inside the garment you are wishing to stretch. This should give you some crucial information on the garment’s composition and whether it is made from one single material or many of them.
The label should also indicate how you should care for the garment as some garments will stretch better with certain methods.
The care label may also state that you should only dry clean the garment so that may be a warning you should pay attention to before exposing your garment to water mixed in with other substances.
Next, you should check your equipment so you are fully prepared to do the task in one go. For instance, if you are using a sink or bathtub give them a quick wipe to ensure that they are clean to use.
The method you choose may also require certain equipment so it is a good idea to check you have these tools available before you begin.
Finally, you will want some guidance to indicate how much you have stretched out your garment so you can judge it. Find a similar garment that fits as you wish to the garment you are stretching out and then lay it out on the floor or your bed, for instance, a similar shirt or a pair of jeans.
You can then create an outline of it on some parchment paper (newspaper or wrapping paper may dissolve when wet). Once you have completed the method of your choice you can check whether your garment has stretched as much as you need it to
In comparison to regular shampoo, baby shampoo should be milder which makes it a safe choice for stretching clothes made from various materials.
This should work on popular items such as cotton clothes and those made from a cotton blend as well as wool, cashmere, and knitted garments rather than silk or synthetic materials.
With a bathtub, washbasin, or bucket filled with warm water, throw in a couple of capfuls of baby shampoo (around a quarter to half a cup in measurement) and let your clothing submerge and soak for about ten minutes.
A thickly knitted garment may require over double that time so aim for 20 minutes or more but no longer than two hours.
Once that time has passed, massage the clothing gently to ensure that the shampoo gets into the fibers to relax them. Remove the clothing from the container then gently press out some of the water and lay out a towel to roll your clothing in too as this will remove even more.
Drain the water away and layout your garment on the prepared template then use weights to hold the edges down as you stretch it out to meet the template. Try to avoid using aggressive motions to stretch the fabric out as you could end up damaging or ripping the garment.
Removing the garment when damp may mean that the fibers contract which is not what you want to allow the garment to air dry which may take as long as 24 hours.
Fabric Softener/Hair Conditioner
We should all have fabric softener and hair conditioner in our homes and either one can be used with a simple method to stretch your clothes.
This is an ideal way of stretching cotton, polyester, and knitted garments but you may need some elbow grease and warm water on synthetic materials. It will also make them smell good after you have completed all the steps.
Fill a bathtub, washbasin, or bucket with warm water then add only a couple of tablespoons or, at most, a quarter cup of either fabric softener or hair conditioner then mix it in until evenly distributed.
Submerge your garment in the mixture though you may want to get your timer out as knitted garments will need longer at around half an hour but thinner shirts may only require ten minutes.
Drain the water out of your bathtub, washbasin, or bucket then press out some of the water from the garment. To remove even more water, roll the garment in a clean and dry towel as you want it damp.
Place the garment on your outlined template then spread it out flat. Grab the edges of the garment and slowly smooth it out until the edges line up with the template.
You can use some heavy objects, such as large books or canned food, to hold the edges in place as you will want to leave it for 24 hours to give the fibers enough time to dry out in their new, larger shape.
White Vinegar/Baking Soda
Alongside fabric softener and hair conditioner, there should be some distilled white vinegar and baking soda in your home. This may seem like a more dramatic solution to stretching clothes yet it can bring results by relaxing the clothing’s fibers.
Especially those garments made from natural fibers including cotton so you may be better off trying another method for synthetic materials such as rayon or polyester.
As you will be using baking soda you may want to wear gloves to protect your hands if you have sensitive skin.
Take the baking soda and measure out two tablespoons and add it to eight cups of hot water (not boiling). Give it a stir using a wooden spoon until it has completely dissolved so you should not see any baking soda as any that remains could stick to the fabric.
Drop your garment into the mixture and submerge it to ensure excellent exposure to the baking soda which is your live agent that will perform the stretching.
Remove your garment and press out any excess water then gently tug the garment using your hands in all directions and evenly to prevent an asymmetrical shape then return the garment to the mixture to soak for roughly one hour.
Then comes to your distilled white vinegar and one cup of that will be mixed with four cups of warm water. Add this solution to your baking soda mixture and it should foam up with your garment in it.
This reaction should help the fibers to relax even more and now you can allow the garment to air dry. You may want to throw your garment into the washing machine as you normally would remove any lingering vinegar smell as it can be quite potent.
Another way to stretch out your clothes and relax the fibers is by using the steam from an iron or handheld steamer.
This is ideal to make small changes in size to cotton or knitted garment and can be an ideal solution when you are traveling as you may not have ready access to an iron or any of the household ingredients you could otherwise use.
However, this is only good for making small adjustments as baby shampoo, fabric softener, and hair conditioner provide more obvious results and take up more time.
Find somewhere to hang your garment so you have a lot of room to work with. This could be a regular curtain or a shower curtain, even a door.
Give your steamer or iron some time to heat up and you should see some steam coming off the nozzle or from the iron once you have engaged the steam setting.
Be careful as the steamer or iron will be hot so keep them about two inches from the surface of your garment and slowly move it to give the steam some room to enter the fibers.
While the garment is still warm and damp, gently pull on the hems and sleeves to stretch it out. If you do not achieve the stretch that you wanted on the first go then repeat the process until you have.
It should not take long to dry naturally as it should just be warm and a bit damp. Once it has fully dried, you will need to test to see if you have stretched the clothes successfully. Try the garment on to see how it feels.
One method that should be ideal (and if it is not, you can probably take it back and get a refund) is a stretching tool. This can be the easiest method for stretching waistbands, rather than length, so try it on a pair of jeans that are just too tight when you try to zip them up.
You could also try it on a dress or a skirt if they are similarly difficult to fasten. The stretching tool is also known as a waistband extender and you order them easily.
Take a spray bottle filled with water and spritz your clothes to relax the fibers in the waistband of your dress, jeans, or skirt. If you cannot locate a spray bottle then simply place the waistband area into a bowl of water until wet, which should only take a few minutes.
It could be cold or warm water as you simply want to ensure that the waistband is thoroughly damp. Find the waistband extender and insert it then screw it into the extender section once you have reached the desired length.
The waistband should stretch and tighten up the further you extend it and this may prove difficult with a pair of jeans you have had for years.
Once stretched, allow the waistband and the garment to dry naturally which could take over 24 hours. Finally, unscrew that extender and try on your dress, jeans, or skirt to check that it fits and you can comfortably fasten them.
The term ‘blocking’ may seem a little vague but it is what a lot of professional dry cleaning services do to reshape a garment. This is a slight variation to soak then lay out your garment as dry cleaners use it to bring out professionally crisp lines while knitters use it to finish off a knitted garment.
For that reason, you should trust this method for knitted items too though you will need some particular equipment such as a blocking mat that can show you measurements. This is an ideal method if you want to resize knitted sweaters to exact measurements.
You will need to soak your garment, in this case for around fifteen minutes, and avoid wringing it out either as you may warp it. Gently squeeze out some moisture by pressing the garment between your hands.
Next, roll it in a clean, dry towel which should get rid of some more excess moisture. Find the crisp edges of your garment and insert the blocking wires along the seams then lay out the garment on the blocking mat.
Next, insert the blocking pins around an inch apart from the inside of the blocking wires and push them gently into the blocking mat that is underneath. There should also be pins that will hold down the outside edge of your garment as you finish it off.
You may have curved edges such as a collar where you can leave the wire out but use the pins close together to ensure that the garment remains attached to the mat. Leave the garment to dry naturally which may take 24 hours.
Perhaps the easiest method of stretching clothes is to use your washing machine. Fill the washing machine with cold water and do not be tempted to use any laundry detergent as the water is all you need.
Once the washing machine fills up and starts its cycle you can turn it off. Now what you require is some patience as you will need to leave your clothes for a full 24 hours of soaking.
After that time has passed, do not wring out your clothes but hold them over the washing machine to catch any drips. Give your clothes a look to see if they have stretched out as far as you want.
If not, put them back into the washing machine to soak for a further 24 hours. Again, do not wring them out or put them through the spin cycle.
Repeat this process if you are still not quite happy with the stretching as you can do this up to a maximum of a week. This is as long as you can expect the water to try to stretch your clothes but you should still check them every day.
Following the soaking, you can remove each piece of clothing individually and put them in a bucket. You can leave them in a bathtub or simply leave them to hang on an outside washing line to let them drip as they hang.
Now you can let gravity do the hard work as the heavyweight of the soaked in water can stretch out your clothes which is why they need to be soaking and dripping wet when you remove them from the washing machine.
As your clothes drip, they will also dry naturally and that may take a few days considering how wet they were. Once dry, you can check how much they have stretched when you try them on and a lot of fabrics will have stretched by as much as a full size.
How To Stretch A Pair Of Jeans With Water
There is a simpler method to stretch a pair of jeans if you do not have a stretching tool and that is to just use water. First, lay out the jeans and make sure that the pockets are empty so you can smooth them out properly.
Use a spray bottle to spray those tight-fitting parts with water which can be the waist, thighs, or calves though do make sure you spray both sides. The water is a loosening agent as those fibers will be able to stretch when wet.
Pick up your jeans and stretch them out evenly in all directions so the fabric is suitably loose. Once you have stretched your jeans all over, return to the tight-fitting areas and give them an extra pull to make them extra flexible.
You should start to feel some give in the material as it reshapes and you can pull hard as denim jeans are designed to be durable and tough. However, be careful if there are intentional rips in your jeans as these will be more susceptible to ripping.
After you have given your jeans a good stretch, let them air dry as putting them in a tumble dryer is likely to shrink them again. Keep them flat or simply hang them out on a washing line to let gravity do the hard work.
How To Stretch A Small Shirt To Medium
Stretching a small shirt out to medium size can take a fair bit of time. Thankfully, the first step is to wash the shirt in a washing machine though do not put it into the tumble dryer.
While wet, find a relatively strong clothes hanger to hang your shirt on then be prepared to pull. Start from the bottom of the shirt in the middle then pull the back and sides but pull gently and consistently.
That should be the length stretched out so you can next work on the width. Grab both sides at the bottom and pull them at the same time.
Gradually work your way to the top until you can visibly see that the shirt has been stretched. Finally, do not forget the sleeves and for them, you will need a chair to pull them over. Once stretched out, allow the shirt to air dry and it should be a whole size larger.
While you may think that simply pulling and tugging wet clothes over chairs is the ideal way to stretch them you may damage the fibers. Not only can the fibers be damaged but you may see that your clothes lose their shape, style, and function.
There are also more subtle ways to do it and the secret does not lie in the fibers themselves but the space between them.
If you were stretching out cotton you should be gentle when pulling the garment to stretch it out. Even when damp, the fibers are relaxed yet aggressive pulling could damage the seams and create rips.
You can be harder with denim jeans as these are built to be tough and more durable and eventually they should stretch out. Some synthetic materials such as polyester and silk are difficult to stretch out unless you apply heat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Stretch Out A Dress For A Longer Length?
Some methods, such as the stretching tool, work well for stretching out the width of a garment. However, to stretch out a dress to make it longer you can do most of the methods described above.
This should be easier as you do not have to worry about reshaping the fundamental fitted areas of a garment which include the bust and waistband.
You should still be careful with it and measure out your dress first to compare it to a dress you already have that you consider being the correct length. This should only be a minor adjustment as you should only expect to get longer by a couple of inches.
Bring a tape measure so you can stretch it while soaked and ensure that the length is correct as you do not want to overstretch it.
How Do You Stretch A Hoodie?
Hoodies can shrink all the time in the wash, especially those wholly made from cotton that can be shrunk by a couple of sizes. The easiest method to stretch a hoodie back out is to use the fabric softener/hair conditioner method as it should deliver excellent results.
Just like the other methods, try not to be tempted to wring the water out once the hoodie has soaked as you could twist the hood back into a shape that proves difficult to revert.
The fabric softener/hair conditioner method can stretch a hoodie by about three inches, depending on how much it had originally shrunk by. Once soaked, lay it out on a flat towel and spread it out then grab the opposite sides of the part you want to stretch.
This could be the chest or further down towards the waist. Ideally, use weighted objects, or just weights, to weigh down your hoodie as it air dries.
Is It Possible To Stretch A Piece Of Fabric?
Yes, though different fabrics are easier to stretch out than others. Polyester is a synthetic fabric so typically needs an application of heat for it to stretch but it may be that the garment has some give rather than the fibers that can be stretched.
However, cotton is a fabric that can work well with water and stretches quite readily. To find out more information about your garment, check the care label to check what material the fabric is made with so you can choose the most effective stretching method.
To reshape and stretch a polyester garment you would need to soak it in some hot water. Gently squeeze out a lot of the moisture then try wearing it as it is still damp.
Your body heat should dry off the garment and with you in it, the garment should reshape to fit your body. Other methods such as blocking can work well after you have soaked the polyester in warm or hot water.
Cotton is far easier to stretch as the fibers are so absorbent with water. That means they can shrink without much encouragement in the wash but also expand as they respond to moisture and an application of heat.
It should prove quite straightforward to shrink a cotton garment and then stretch it back out again. However, fabrics that are derived from animal fibers prove harder to stretch and this includes silk as well as wool, though you could try the blocking method.
Can You Use A Washing Machine To Stretch Clothes?
Not really, a washing machine during a hot cycle is more likely to shrink clothes rather than stretch them. Even on a gentle cycle, the water is generally just sloshing around the clothes and is not putting in any direct force into stretching.
There is one method of stretching your clothes that uses the washing machine but this is simply to use it as a vessel for soaking your clothes which still requires you to physically stretch them out.
If you did want to stretch a few items of clothing then you are better off doing it yourself. Get the clothes damp and then gently pull at them by grabbing the fabric at either end then stretching it out.
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