Today's topic is what to look for when buying used wool. I am definitely of the "buy used to save money" persuasion in most areas, and generally buying used has worked very well for me. Wool can be quite expensive, so it's definitely helpful to save on it however possible! However, there are a few things to be aware of when buying wool used.
The biggest thing you want to know is whether your used wool has any (unintended) felting. The area where this is most likely to occur is in the wet zone, but it could also happen to the entire garment if someone accidentally tossed it into the dryer or dried it over a heat register. Note that felting will not interfere with the garment's ability to absorb moisture, but it will make a huge difference in fit-wool that has felted usually loses its stretch. The stretchiness of wool (in my mind) is one of the things that really contributes to its value-typically your child can wear the same wool garment for months and it will fit well because it will stretch to accommodate them. You just have to decide how much this is going to be an issue for you-if the price is really great and you are fine with the garment only fitting for a few weeks to a month, then go for it! However, if you really want something that is going to grow with your child, you may want to be cautious about felting. Now, you should realize that a little bit of felting can occur without loss of stretch. If you are there in person, just take the garment in your hands and stretch it around to see how much stretch and/or rebound it has! If you are buying online though, you are taking the word of the seller as to whether it has a lot of stretch left or not, and that can be a little chancier.
Felting is a bit difficult to see in photos, but below are some examples. Hopefully the seller will disclose any felting issues-if not, I recommend asking about them prior to purchase!
|If you look closely at the wet zone, you can see how it is a bit "softer" looking and the colors almost seem to bleed into each other-this is typical of felting. I would call this moderate felting-so probably some stretch left, but not a ton.|
|These are interlock soakers that were accidentally felted.|
What was used to wash these? (If they say "woolite" then run away!)
Any holes or wear/tear?
If the "for sale" listing states that the wool could use a shave, that is fine! It does not impact the function of the wool garment in any way whatsoever. It just means it will look a little "fuzzy" (see this post for details). You can shave it (or ask them to) if you want, or not-just depends on your personal preference! One thing to note-shaving with a non-quality shaver can eat holes into your garment, so be careful! If you have them shave it, ask for a photo again after it has been shaved.
One of the great things about wool, and the reason it holds its value, is that it is VERY hardy and holds up incredibly well while retaining its shape and function. Most likely, buying used will be a great way for you to grow your stash if you are looking to save a little money (but be aware-you won't save a ton of money-as I said, it holds its value very well! As a general rule, my new garments are less or equal to the price of used wool, at least for right now while I am building my business. However-you may find a mama who is just looking to get rid of outgrown items and she may give you a great price, so it's worth a look!).