I just finished a buckskin hoodie that fit pretty perfect, just snug when I finished it initially. I then dyed it with Oak Galls and it feels like it shrunk a lot from that dying process. Its now incredibly tight. Should I just keep wearing it as is and struggle in and out of it, or would it help to get the whole thing wet again and possibly wear it wet as it dries to help stretch it a bit that way?
Any thoughts are helpful. It seemed like it was going to fit just perfect because it was starting out snug but man is it hard to get on and off now!
Yipes! Bummer, I am all too familiar with that experience, it is a common one. The short answer is, there are some things you can do to help the situation, but a lot the change is, unfortunately, permanent. So sorry. The problem is the most of the dyes that work really well in cold water and that are lasting are those that have natural tannins in them. It is the tannins that provide the color. Unfortunately, these tannins are just that- tannins. Left too long or dyed too strongly, they start to actually tan the hide, which necessarily involves a sucking up and shrinking of the length of the protein fibers as bonds are formed between them. Things will always be a little smaller, a little less flexible, and a little less stretchy aftet they have been dyed with anything containing tannins, and the darker the color the stronger this effect. Oak galls have some of the highest tannin content of any plant material, and while many dyes are even in tannin quality and dye quality, galls in particular have more tannin than coloring agent. This effect of tannins is part of why I always recommend dying hides first, then making your projects out of them. Unfortunately, the chapter covering dyeing isn't finished yet so I haven't sent it out. I think that I mention this in one of the chapters in part 2 though, maybe the layout or hide selection chapter? I am not sure, I should check and make sure it is in there!
In terms of what to do, I would recommend washing/soaking it in warm, not hot, water both to relax the fibers and to get as much of the unbound tannins out as possible. Then I would work it and stretch it as it dries. Not as intensely as pulling a hide to tan it, just moving it and stretching it every so often as it dries, pulling in the direction you want it to stretch in. You could also wear it dry once it gets to being just damp enough to be wearable, not slimy soaking wet. Another side effect of the tannins is that they tend to make hides dry and a even a little squeaky (creaky sounding when stretched, a sign of being over dry). You could condition and soften it a little bit by adding a little bit of olive oil (less than a tablespoon! You don't want it to get it actually greasy!) to the final rinse water, with just enough liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) to emulsify it. Beat these really well into the water so the oil is broken up, not a slick on the water's surface.
If this all fails, the only thing to do is to re-tailor it a bit, adding in some panels here and there to expand it. This can be done in an artistic and attractive way so that it will look like you did it on purpose to give it extra flair. I hope it doesn't come to that though.
I hope this helps and that it will still be wearable. Such a bummer, but sure a good way to learn this lesson and remember it forever, huh? I still remember when I turned my favorite buckskin bra into a small, stiff dolls bra,oops!
Good luck with it!