How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!

  • Serger Pepper - How to felt wool

 

Serger Pepper - How to felt woolWhen I was a little girl, my mom used to teach me how NOT felt a sweater but, just because I’m an offbeat, today I’d like to share with you all what I know about how-to felt anything wool, to obtain one of my favorite sewing supplies for clothing, bag making, shoemaking and hat making: boiled wool! Try Googling Images for “boiled wool” to see how many things can be made with this gorgeous material, if you still don’t know it (and love it)!

.-oOo-.

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This is what I’m having this time: Sewing on the Edge – Finishing techniques (with Lynda Maynard)

Serger Pepper - How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!

Serger Pepper - How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!.-oOo-.

As a matter of fact, boiled wool has so many properties, inherited from wool, but enhanced: thanks to its higher density of fibers, it’s warm(er), wind-proofmore durable…

For the sake of accuracy, when you have a woven wool textile, you should talk about fulling, and not felting!

For our purpose there’s nearly no difference, but I’m telling you this just because… it’s true!

You can simply Google Images for “boiled wool” to see how many things can be made with this gorgeous material if you still don’t know it (and love it)!
Serger Pepper - How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!

Let’s talk about wool cloth diaper covers…

One of the first times I stumbled upon felted wool was during my pregnancy when I was collecting all the info about cloth diapers (did you know I’ve sewn my daughter’s ones?) and I got to know that boiled wool was waterproof (and pee-proof, too… yippie!)…

…wait, what?

So there’s no need to wrap my daughter’s butt in plastic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first 3 years?

So the commercials are lying to all of us?

Unbelievable!

Then I took a 100% cachemire* cut of fabric, tossed it into a cotton pillowcase with a couple of tennis balls and started the longest and hottest washing program, and waited!

The tiny cut I took off my washing machine was really thick and… uhm… far too small! So I took a bigger piece of cashmere and repeated the cycle… and now I had a wonderful piece of boiled water, that I transformed in the most fashionable cloth diaper cover, made of cashmere!

*Please note that I’m not a rich daddy’s girl for using cashmere for cloth diapering, I only live in one of the most important wool districts of the world, between Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna, if you know who they are… We eat bread and wool every single morning! I’ve even covered my Low-Budget Sewing room shelves in wool…

Long story short, I was hooked from felt wool, this natural material, that was “alive” in my hands, unlike a polyester piece of fabric that you can’t change not even by boiling it at very high temperatures (consider that a polyester thread dyes at 130°C, nearly 270°F, while wool starts dying at 40°C)

Now, what about if you don’t have diapered babies in your life, but you could use some felted wool for a hat, a bag, slippers or anything else?

Let me tell you:

How to Felt Wool in your Washing Machine: no-hassle, no hard job!

The chemist in me has to analyze Every. Single. Process., step-by-step and why by why so I’m always asking myself:

What happened? And why? And how can I recreate it the easiest way?

To felt wool, you need only 3 “ingredients”:

  1. Agitation
  2. Heat
  3. Moisture.

As you can guess, the best place in your house to find all of them is your washing machine!
Serger Pepper - How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!Along the time, I’ve collected some interesting tips and tricks about how to felt wool, and now I’m pleased to share them with you…

Here are my best tips and suggestions

(all tested on my skin wool!)

  1. Felting wool is frugal: you basically create a new substrate refashioning old clothes, nearly for free… what’s better in your book?
  2. Felted wool is naturally dirt-repellent and water-proof: this makes it perfect for sewing accessories like shoes, hats, and bags!
  3. 100% wool felt well, anything lower than 75% wool will more likely give you a poor result: always check labels! If you’re a beginner in felting (new term!), search for a 100% for your first experience! So Much Better. (Just a side note: cashmere, Angora, mohair, merino… they’re all wools!)
  4. There’s no fixed formula about how much does wool shrink, it depends on in too many factors… just experiment (better start with a piece of fabric much bigger than your needs… you never how much it will shrink!)
  5. Choose a hot washing cycle (with your usual laundry soap kind and quantity) with cold rinse; don’t load it too much (but also don’t let a small piece of fabric float in an ocean)
  6. Put your wool fabric or sweater inside a mesh bag (or a cotton pillowcase) and close it tightly with a rubber band, or you’ll have to spend your weekend cleaning your washing machine’s filter from wool fibers – been there!
  7. Add weight! I use tennis balls but, if you need to shrink a small amount of fabric/knit, you can put it with your weekly jeans laundry load: wool felt well when shaken & slammed… treat it bad!
  8. Check result after one cycle and, eventually, repeat!
  9. A good rule of thumb to decide if it’s felted enough is to look at fabric’s (or knit’s) threads: if you’re not able to distinguish them one from each other and, cutting, there’s no fraying: congrats, you’re done!
  10. Lay flat to dry, if you don’t have a dryer (personally, I don’t have it!); try to smooth out all your wrinkles (well, your fabric’s ones…) BEFORE it dries.

Serger Pepper - How to felt wool: my 10 best tips!

Pssst… I’m telling you a secret… I have a new FREE pattern coming, using this fabulous material, EXCLUSIVE for my lovely newsletter’s readers… it’s a hat, I’ve called it “Joan the Wad” Hatbut this will come really soon (not today!)

For further insights:

Woolipedia. where you can read everything about wool

Felt a Sweater!: my Pinterest board all felt related!

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

16 Comments

  1. Diane Cullum March 17, 2014 at 05:52 - Reply

    I think I might finally try this. I’d like to make the diaper cover for my new niece or nephew. Thanks for the inspiration, Irene!

    • Mamma Nene March 17, 2014 at 19:02 - Reply

      You really should try, Diane! I used to love boiled wool diaper covers for my daughter! I made them edging with bias and using velcro for closures!

  2. […] boiled wool for the exterior layer (you can use felt, or boil your own sweater of wool fabric, just choose […]

  3. Ali March 20, 2014 at 09:03 - Reply

    I’ve felted 3 jumpers but now I don’t know what to do with them! They’re so small!
    A tip tho for getting rid if the fuzzy bits.
    I used a Velcro hair roller to brush the felt and it worked a treat!

    • Mamma Nene March 20, 2014 at 20:46 - Reply

      Ooops! At least we can say that you’ve been great at felting 😉
      Why not piecing them together?

  4. […] think to denim, wool, patchwork bags, because you can use also little scraps of fabric, too little felted pieces of wool, match different colors/patterns: there’s so much freedom in refashioning a […]

  5. […] think to denim, wool, patchwork bags, because you can use also little scraps of fabric, too little felted pieces of wool, match different colors/patterns: there’s so much freedom in refashioning a […]

  6. Cucicucicoo January 28, 2015 at 22:11 - Reply

    This is such a great post! I actually wanted to write a post of my own about this to link to in my patterns, but heck, I just might link up to yours instead! 🙂 Lisa

    • Mamma Nene January 30, 2015 at 23:21 - Reply

      Thanks Lisa, I would love it! It’s one of my passions… felt sweaters… sometimes isn’t intentional, sometimes it is LOL

  7. […] fare solo tre o quattro maglioni a volta. Un segreto che ho imparato dalla mia amica Irene (il suo post sulla lana infeltrita è molto informativo!) è di mettere delle palline da tennis in lavatrice con i maglioni per creare […]

  8. […] 50 cm (20″) full width padding material of choice (fusible fleece or sew-on other non-woven padding, or even fleece or boiled wool, maybe an old shrinked sweater can do the work)* […]

  9. […] only do three or four sweaters at a time. A secret tool that I learned from my friend Irene (her post on felted wool is super informative!) is sticking tennis balls in with the sweaters to create more agitation. […]

  10. […] Another great easy plushie pattern made using repurposed materials: these sweet sweater foxes! The designer suggests you use a sweater with little or no stretch. A great way to make any sweater stable is to purposely felt it in your washing machine. […]

  11. […] my pincushion, I used a scrap from a felted wool sweater. If you don’t have this kind of scrap, substitute a regular 100 percent wool felt. […]

  12. Rajesh Tatineni December 12, 2017 at 03:18 - Reply

    Dear Irene ,
    I must say a well written article which was simple , precise and informative .
    Your passion for what you do came across very clearly.
    I have been in the knitwear industry for the last 20 yrs and want to take this opportunity to leave you this note of appreciation.

  13. Becky January 12, 2018 at 17:09 - Reply

    I have 10 yards of wool fabric and would like to make it boiled wool. Have you ever used larger cuts of fabric to make boiled wool fabric? I don’t think I will be able to put into a pillowcase, just wondering if I can use the same guidelines you have given for a large cut of wool fabric.

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