felt52Felted wool fabric is a really nice material for many sewing projects.  It’s thick, dense, and doesn’t fray easily.  Felting is the process of making wool fibers shrink & interlock into a tighter piece of fabric.  The best place to buy wool for felting is at the thrift store.  I purchased these 80% lambswool sweaters from the thrift store for about $.50 each.  I’m not sure what I’ll make with them, but some ideas are pursescup cozies, or stuffed animals.  Either way, I’m felting them now so they’re ready when I get the right idea.  Here are instructions for wet felting a wool sweater.

Materials:

wool sweater (the higher percentage of wool the more felting you can achieve; plus instructions that say “dry clean only” are a sign that your wool should felt)

washing machine (with a lint collector)

tennis ball (optional)

detergent

d-fuzz-it (optional; I love this tool for removing lint & pills from sweater fabrics)

Instructions:

1.  Place your sweater and just a bit of detergent in the washing machine (about a tablespoon or less).  Add a tennis ball if you have one to speed up the agitation process.  Make sure you have a lint collector on the washer or else you’ll end up with tons of lint clogging up your drains.

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felting supplies

2.  Set your washer to the warmest temperature cycle (the warmer the water, the faster the felting).  Set the water level to the smallest option (the less water, the more agitation.)  Run the cycle.

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washer settings

3.  You may need to run the cycle multiple times to achieve sufficient felting.  Each washer, water temperature, water level, and garment varies.  I washed my sweaters two times.   Basically you felt until you can’t see the original fabric weave or knit, so you can cut the felt without it unraveling.

Also, below you can see all the lint I hand-pulled off the sweaters after washing.

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felted sweaters after two washings

4.  Dry the sweater.  You can either line-dry it or put it in the dryer.  The dryer heat may felt it a little further (the hotter the dryer setting, the more felting that can occur.)  I could noticeably see more felting after drying, even though the sweater size wasn’t noticeably smaller.

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felted sweaters after being dried

5.  Finally, to give the fabric a nice finish, you can remove lint & pills with a d-fuzz-it.  You just run this comb across the fabric, and it grabs the extra fuzz (if you don’t want to buy something like this, just do your best job removing pills & lint with your hands and/or a sticky lint remover).  By the way, keep extra lint & fuzz for projects that require stuffing;  my friend Megan shared this thrifty advice with me.

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remove lint & pills from sweater

Notes:  Sorry I didn’t get exact measurements on how much the sweater sizes shrunk, but basically they went from an adult medium to something a 5 year old could wear.  The material is thicker & denser after felting.  And the interesting thing is that the two sweaters were originally the same size, same material composition on the tags, and made by the same company, but the green sweater didn’t shrink quite as much.