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Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Felt Wool Sweaters

I had a good day at the second hand store last week!  Look at the amazing wool sweaters I found.  I frequently make stops at the thrift stores in town to see if they have any GOOD sweaters.  As you know, I love making things from upcycled sweaters, wool in particular.  Wool because when you felt it, (shrink it down) the fibers get tight and dense and has a texture that I find irresistible! Felted sweaters are great for all kinds of projects from slippers, mittens to baby toys and hats.



You may ask, "what makes a GOOD sweater?"   Here are a few tips when purchasing sweaters for felting.
  • Make sure they are at least 80-100% wool if you want them to truely felt.
  • Thin sweaters like cashmere are nice to use as lining, but not so great for maybe a slipper sole.  
  • Thicker sweaters will only get bulkier when you wash them.  It is good to have some of these on hand for slipper soles, purses, or projects needing some density.
  • Sweaters that have a lot of heavy texture or patterns may not feel so good on your feet or hands if using for a slipper or mitten.  Just use your hands to feel the sweater and imagine what it could be used for.
  • Look for other wool clothing like SCARFS, and JACKETS.
  • If the project you are making requires some stretch to the fabric, make sure the wool garment you are buying has some stretch to it.
  • Buy a variety of colors, patterns and textures.  I like to have a good selection of plain colors on hand.
  • Thrifts stores are great to find sweaters, but GARAGE or TAG SALES are where it is at!  You can usually pick a good wool sweater up at a garage sale for 1-3 buckaroos.  (the garage sale season has started in my area) YEA!  
  • Thrift store sweaters seem to run from $3 to $7.  It just depends.
This is how you FELT wool sweaters.  Felting wool requires three conditions — heat, moisture and friction — which can be provided by your washing machine and dryer. Here are a few tips.
  • Use a hot-water wash, a cold-water rinse, and the usual amount of laundry soap.
  • You can add a pair of washable sneakers or a few tennis balls to help agitate and cause friction. 
  • Dry the sweaters in the dryer on the highest heat setting. Put the sneakers or tennis balls in the dryer too.  This will tighten the fibers even more.
  • You can repeat this process a few more times if you are not quite satisfied with the texture.  (Once usually does it for most sweaters).
  • The beauty of using felted wool, is that it will not fray when cut. 
  • Store the felted sweaters in bins where you can see what is inside. If you have several sweaters, like I do, it is helpful to sort the bins by colors or by light and dark colors.
100% wool sweater before felting
After felting

SAVE ALL OF YOUR WOOL SWEATER SCRAPS!!!
I have learned to save even the smallest scraps of your felted wool.  They come in handy for smaller projects.  One project I have posted on using small scraps of wool can be found here.

Look on my Etsy and Craftsy shops for some fun ideas of what you can make with felted wool sweaters!
Stay posted!
If you have any questions, send me a note.
Happy wool sweater hunting!

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