Wet finishing is the final step in making a piece of cloth on a hand loom. It is easy to think that the fabric is complete when it rolls off of the cloth storage of the loom, but that is not the case. Handwoven fabric in “loom state” is not yet finished. Wet finishing is the process of washing and drying the woven cloth for the first time.
Weaving yarn is (for the most part) spun in industrial mills. The equipment that spins the yarn is lubricated with oil, and this spinning oil ends up lightly coating the spun yarn. The wet finishing process removes this oil, allowing the yarn to ‘bloom.’ As the fabric goes through the process of being washed and dried, the individual fibers in the yarn are able to fluff, shrink, and/or settle into their preferred state.
Measurements pre- and post- wet finishing can vary by 10-15% or more. Every yarn and every fiber combination will have different rates of shrinkage. In the case of wool wet finishing must be done carefully, allowing the wool to full (bloom) but not to felt. In general wool should washed in cold water with minimal agitation. Always follow your care instructions!
Many machine-woven baby wraps are delivered to the customer in loom state and the buyer must do their own initial wet-finishing. Most handwoven baby wraps, and all 14 Mile Farm handwoven babywearing wraps, are delivered to the customer post wet finishing and ready to wear.