When 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)!
This post contains affiliate links to the Craftsy’s Endless Creativity Sale on Craftsy: I’d really suggest you take a look at their classes if you don’t already know them… it’s a huge spring sale:
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This is what I’m having this time: Sewing on the Edge – Finishing techniques (with Lynda Maynard)
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-proof, more 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)!
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!)…
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?
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”:
As you can guess, the best place in your house to find all of them is your washing machine!
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
- Felting wool is frugal: you basically create a new substrate refashioning old clothes, nearly for free… what’s better in your book?
- Felted wool is naturally dirt-repellent and water-proof: this makes it perfect for sewing accessories like shoes, hats, and bags!
- 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!)
- 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!)
- 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)
- 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!
- 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!
- Check result after one cycle and, eventually, repeat!
- 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!
- 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.
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” Hat…
but 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!