Old wool sweaters, wool roving, second-hand store wool suit treasures, and wool yarn can all be used to make some really fun and soft felt. Although some of the steps and process are different for felting these wool items, the principles are all the same. When wool fibers get wet and are then aggravated, the scales on these fibers react to this friction and form a cloth.
Felting Old Wool Sweaters
You can find old wool sweaters just about everywhere. Check your bottom drawer or your local second-second hand store; there are usually tons to be found in the children’s, men’s, and the women’s section. Don’t worry if there are moth holes in them, but do make sure they are 100% wool! Here’s what you do:
- Gather a few wool sweaters and toss them into the washing machine. Wash the sweaters with hot water and a cold rinse cycle. Add about ½ cup of laundry detergent and start the washer.
- Check the sweaters every 10 minutes. I set an alarm and then run to the washer when the alarm goes off. There is a point when the sweater is perfectly felted, compact and fluffy, but not stiff and super thick. This process of making felt cloth from garment is actually called fulling. Keep in mind that not all sweaters are created equal and some will felt or full really fast, and others may take a couple or cycles in the washer.
- Rinse the sweater in cool water to get rid of any soap and then roll it in a towel to soak up extra water, then hang them up to dry.
- Once dry, the felt can be cut up and used in a variety of project.
Dyeing (and Sometimes Felting) Wool Suits
Did you happen to find a suit with a great pattern at the thrift store? Is it 100% wool? Great! Turn a boring black and white garment into fabric with lots of personality with some dye. You’ll add colorful character, and depending on how the wool fibers have been treated before they were woven into the cloth you may get some felting as well. The amount of shrinking/felting will differ for each fabric. Here’s what you do:
- Grab an old wool suit and cut away the lining, pockets and the waistband. Cut the fabric into chunks.
- Heat up a big pot of water on the stove and just before the water boils, add some liquid Rit dye and stir. Wet the wool suiting fabric and place it into the pot and stir. Continue stirring, occasionally checking the fabric color.
- When you have that perfect color, rinse the wool suiting in cool water and hang out on a clothesline to dry.
- Press the wool lightly with a pressing cloth and an Iron, or leave it wrinkled and fluffy.
Now what? Well, if you just made some felt you have a couple options. We’d love you to check out our new book, Stash Happy: Felt, of course! And click on over to Cynthia’s blog for a project idea or two!