SurvivalBlog has recommended stocking up on wool sweaters from thrift shops. I took your advice, went to a thrift shop, and found lots of cheap sweaters in perfect condition, cashmere no less, that were hopelessly too big, as well as one baggy Merino sweater.
Since cashmere is very warm, as well as comfortable, I decided to make them fit, and bought them anyway. First, I turned them inside out (to reduce pilling) and put them in the washing machine on Delicate cycle, Hot water, without soap. A couple of the sweaters shrank to the right size just from the hot water; the rest needed more work.
I put them into the dryer on Warm. This is the tricky part: You have to stop the dryer every 10 minutes. Take out each sweater, and check to see how much it has shrunk. If a sweater looks like it is now about the right size, spread it out and let it air dry. Throw the rest of the sweaters back into the dryer for another ten minutes, stop the dryer, take them out, and check to see how much they have shrunk. Repeat.
Almost all of the sweaters downsized perfectly. Not only that, they were now thicker, warmer and more sturdy. And unbelievably, the cashmere was even softer than before, and so was the merino.
A couple of sweaters needed a second complete treatment before they shrank enough. I had to dry them on Hot the second time, rather than Warm.
Do not put the sweaters into the dryer and walk away, unless you want your toddlers to be wearing them! Also, never put them into the dryer again, unless you have lost a lot of weight. They will continue to shrink each time they are put in the dryer.
My sweater stash bin is now stuffed with cheap sweaters that I would have had to pass up without the downsizing method. This will work with any kind of wool, merino, mohair, or cashmere, since protein (animal base) fibers shrink with heat.
It will not work with synthetics or silk, and only a little bit with cotton. Nor is it recommended for extremely thick, heavy wool sweaters, such as Irish fisherman’s knit, as the result is too thick for normal wear. I found this out the hard way.
I hope you find this helpful – Mary M.