Thursday, June 29, 2006

Felting Wool for Fun & Profit

Hee. Well, ok. Maybe not for profit. But it sure is fun!! This Friday Tute is all about the wool, baby. Perfect topic for the 97 degree heat of summer dontcha think?

I became fascinated by felting wool a few years ago, after I bought this book by Charlotte Lyons. The book is filled with fabulous crafts to do & daughter, but mom & son would work fine too. The wool felt appliqued projects have always been my favorite.

There are pattern/directions for this adorable bunny & bear....
& this yummy kitty pillow:

and, if you're really adventurous and/or a crafty sort, there's this gorgeous hooked footstool:

All 3 of these project are made using your very own felted-at-home wool.

The best part about felting wool is that it's quick and easy! Not to mention that you get to dig around in skeezy old flea markets, thrift stores & the nearest Salvation Army looking for 100% wool sweaters! Here's the basic process for making your own wool felt:

Step 1: Scavenger Hunt!!
The main reason for giving you this tute in the middle of summer is that the Salvation Army, thrift stores, etc. are practically GIVING AWAY all the wool items right now. It's like getting all your supplies for free. Or at least $1. Last summer I scored 10 wool sweaters, all different colors, for $5. Sweaters were $1 each (because it was July) and I happened to be in the
Salvation Army on 1/2 off day. Woohoo!!

Try to look for odd and varied solid sweaters. By odd I mean olive green rather than "mint" or "kelly". You'll appreciate the kitsch more in the finished product, trust me. And while striped or patterned sweaters are great to have on hand...most of your appliques are going to need solid colors. So I try to stick to solid color sweaters.

Step 2: Wash.
Ok, the Salvation Army--while having a lot going for it per se--isn't exactly a bed of roses. Your sweaters will be smelly. And frankly, smelly wool is one of the smelliest smells EVER. No worries. The first part of felting wool (ok, really the only part) is to wash it! I wash in hot water, with Dawn liquid detergent. Tide, if I'm in a pinch. (liquid dish detergent is recommended first, although I've never really seen enough of a difference to say one way or the other!)

The basic process of making felt involves warm/hot water & agitation. Thus, the washing machine! Perfect. I'm not so good with the hand wash items anyway. The combination of the agitation, hot water & detergent makes all the wooly fiber scales stand on end and sort of meld to each other, tightening into a frenetic wad of, er, felt. It's really the coolest thing ever. The kids love it too, so be sure to let them see the "before" sweater, and then the magic of the "after". It's like an itty bitty dolly sweater when it's done!

Step 3: Dry.
Some directions for felting say you don't have to dry, some say you do. The basic consensus is the additional heat from the dryer will tighten up those wooly wads even tighter, giving you a smaller, tighter piece of felt. I always dry mine in a warm/hot dryer.

You can repeat the process, especially if the sweater is a looser knit to begin with. It gets smaller & tighter each time you wash it. I also usually cut my pieces into "flats" after the first washing & drying...cut the arms off & cut up the seam; cut the front from the back. Now I've got 4 pieces of felted fabric, instead of a sweater. (This is only after you've let the kids watch the process at least once with an intact sweater. Oh ok, at least twice. It's that cool.)

Here's a pic of a knitted hat before & after washing/drying (pics courtesy of

Since felt doesn't fray, it's perfect for applique. Applique some cute flowers & leaves along the hem of a jacket, or how about some red cherries on the flap of a handbag. There are so many places/uses for this stuff! It's addictive. It also washes up/wears much better than the 10 cents/sheet of craft felt, which pills all to heck after a little wear & tear. Wool felt just gets better with age. So, felt a wool sweater today and give it a new life!


1 comment:

  1. LOL you are a braver woman then I to felt wool in the summer! I want to see the hat when finished! ;)



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