We all have obsessions, right? My latest is tracking down old wool sweaters and felting (technically it’s fulling) them. The result is a ‘new’ inexpensive (but luxurious) fabric for my own one-of-a-kind creations! I love the feel and texture of wool. It gives me a warm, cozy feeling. It becomes so versatile when it is fulled because it does not ravel when cut. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Start with a 100% wool sweater. I’ve read that it works to use 80% or higher, but I have not tried it with one less than 100%. Another important thing to look for on the label is, ‘dry clean only’. Some newer manufactured wool is pre-shrunk so that it can be hand-washed, and that will therefore not result in the felt we want. My best finds are men’s sweaters, which are bigger, and therefore produce more resulting fabric to work with. However, the colors are not usually as nice and bright. Where to look? Your closet, your family and friends closets’ and second-hand stores!
Find an old pillow case, preferably one with a zipper. This will encase 1-2 sweaters and the lint that is thrown off in the process. I’ve also used a regular pillow case with a rubber band closure. Without a case of some sort, the lint gets in the washing machine. Who wants that mess?
Take a good look at your washing machine. The old washing machines work best, because they allow you to use the hottest and coldest water. They also fill to the level you need with both wash and rinse cycles. I’ve used one of each and found the older one at my father-in-law’s house worked the best! If you have a newer, high efficiency washer, you can make do. It may just require a second or third run, and you need something to agitate (see below.)
There are 5 IMPORTANT ingredients to successful felting. Knowing these helps us set our washing cycle.
- Hot water wash
- Laundry detergent (use standard amount for the size of your load.)
- Agitation. Place a towel or pair of jeans in the washer if you only have one pillowcase, and/or the washer does not have an agitator. (By that I mean a center post in the washer. Older machines fill and move the clothes around in the water. Newer machines move the water through the clothes.)
- Cold rinse
- Hot dryer (leave the sweater(s) in the pillow case). When dry, pull out of the dryer and bag immediately and layout to avoid wrinkles.
Check the sweater to decide if it has the desired density. Will it ravel when cut? Is the stitching no longer visible? If not, repeat steps 4 and 5.
That’s it! Now you are ready to create something wonderful! What will it be? A bag? A vest? A quilt?
‘The hunt’ for sweaters was in full swing this fall. I am grateful to have the time in my life for all this fun. In my next post I will share my first success story, and pass along some tips. It’s all a thrill!