Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to make wool felt…

Many of you have asked where I buy my wool felt or how I make my felt…I have been wanting to explain this anyway, so here you go!   I make my felt from wool sweaters, blankets, hats, scarves, coats, etc.   This scarf is made from alpaca wool. 


I use the process of fulling to create felt.  I have actually gotten comments on my blog from the fiber purists pointing out that what I call felting is actually fulling!  Basically it boils down to this…if you start with something already made (knitted, crocheted, woven,etc) you are fulling when you attempt to shrink it to produce felt!


Fulling is A finishing process in which the woven or knitted cloth is subjected to moisture, heat and friction causing it to shrink considerably in both directions and become compact and solid. In heavily fulled fabrics both the weave and the yarn are obscured, thus giving the apprearance of felt.

Felting is an ancient technique that produces a non woven sheet of matted material which is most frequently made from wool, hair or fur created by the entanglement of a mass of fibers that takes place when heat, moisture and pressure are combined. 


Ok, so now that we have cleared the air on that topic, I actually start out at the thrift stores, yard sales, auctions.  Those are the places that I look for anything that is mostly wool.  I prefer 90-100% all wool, such as shetland, merino, lambswool, alpaca, llama, cashmere, mohair. 


Now cashmere and mohair is wonderfully soft, but it won’t give you the tight felt that I prefer to work with, so I might buy it to use on some delicate projects, like baby blankets or soft flower pins.  Look for wool solids to start with as prints are difficult to predict until you have some experience in how pieces look after they are washed. 


Avoid any wool product that says superwash, because it will not shrink…it is meant to be washed.  The good sweaters are the ones that say DRY CLEAN ONLY!  Occasionally if I need a certain color, I will buy a sweater that is less than 100% wool if it is mixed with angora or mohair.  Those fibers will bond with the wool so they will still give a nice finished product with more texture.


OK, so let’s say you have your wool sweaters…get them ready to shrink!  The hardest part of all this is finding the wool articles to shrink so after that it’s all downhill! 


Start by putting the similar colors together.  I like to wash my sweaters all together…to save $$$.  If you mix different colors together, the colored fibers from one sweater will attach itself to other sweaters in the washer.  To prevent the colors from mixing I enclose my similar colors in a zipped pillow case cover or just tied up in a old pillow case.


You want the zippered bags to be loosely filled, not full and snug by any means…the pieces need to be able to move around freely.  Another take on the zippered bags…this process will yield a lot of fuzzy debris that will clog your washer’s lint trap, so it is a good idea to contain that in these bags.  Trust me, I know.  Some of my fellow crafters use their local Laundromat for this process. 


Nest fill your washer with water as hot as you can get it…add your regular laundry detergent. Never use fabric softener when fulling/felting wool as this causes the wool fibers not to stick to each other and therefore wont make felt!  Then toss your pillowcases into the washer!  Add an old pair of tennis shoes or rubber balls or old tennis balls as this adds some mechanical agitation of the wool, helping it to felt. 


Set the washer on hot wash and hot rinse too…my washer is not fancy so I just hand set the rinse cycle.  The next step is to wait anxiously while your washer does the work…You can open the lid and look inside every few minutes….I usually do that but I have to warn you about the smell of wet sheep which will emanate from the washer!  And if you used old sweaters, think of the wet sheep smell combined with mothballs!  Mmmmm, lovely!


You remove the sweaters from the zip bag outside preferably…this part is plenty messy as the fuzz will be everywhere!  Shake each piece off and stuff it into the dryer.  I usually clean my lint filter once while the sweaters dry and of course at the end of the load because it will be full!  Once everything dries, you have wool felt!  It might look really fuzzy…like this…


So if your sweater is fuzzy, then you brush off the fuzz…I use this Sweater Stone.  It neatly cleans all the fuzz off the sweater in just a few swipes!  You can get one here for only $5.99 and I have heard Target also carries these stones!  You can see the left side of this sweater has been de-fuzzed and the right side (where the stone sits) still is fuzzy.

Now let’s compare a pre felted sweater…(you can see the rows of the yarn if you look closely)


with a post felted (or fulled!) sweater (all you see is fuzz)!



These two green sweaters made wonderful felt! One was an Old Navy and one was a Gap sweater…seems like the more expensive brand name sweaters make the best felt!


Grab some scissors and start cutting up your felt!  It will not fray or ravel…the edges should be finished looking…if you can see threads or stitches, then the piece needs to be fulled again!  Now you are done!  All you have to do is find something fun to make…like this or this or this!

I am linking to these great parties!



Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I'm going to have to give this a try!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I'm going to have to give this a try!

Jill said...

Great tutorial. Maybe I'll get brave enough to try it!!

Pati @ A Crafty Escape said...

This is brilliant- I love it.

P.S. Come visit my blog for a chance to win 25 FREE Shutterfly Holiday Cards:

The Sunflower Patch said...

I just went thrifting yesterday for sweaters. Thank you for sharing!

Shiloh said...

Thank you so much for this! I tried this on one of my sweaters, but I didn't know what I was doing...therefore, it didn't work.:) I think the sweater was cashmere too. I'm going to pin this and try again.:)

Jill said...

Great tutorial Ellen! I'm definitely going to try this sometime!

Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
Hope you have a great week!
Jill @ Creating my way to Success

Suzanne said...

I really enjoyed your post and pictures. Thank you for taking the time to share!

Anonymous said...

Pretty darned cool! I think I might have to try this out...

Thanks for linking to Totally Tutorial Tuesdays.


Deana said...

Thanks for joining my party! I've seen so many pretty things made from felted wool, I've always admired the art. Maybe some day I'll try it.

Seaweed and Raine said...

Thanks for the tip about superwash... Someone gave me some old balls of it (I didn't know it was superwash) which I crochet up into flowers, and then tried to felt/full... whatever. It didn't work. Think I'll find another use for it. :)

Anonymous said...

I had so much fun doing this a few years back. I am still pulling out pieces that I fulled to use now from my stash. Thanks for sharing the process. You did an excellent job!

Anonymous said...

Great tute and what a fun talent! Thank you so much for linking up at ECE!

Unknown said...

Wow! That was an amazing tutorial.. I think that I would love to try this.. I have done it plenty of times by accident so intentionally would be great!
Thanks so much for sharing with the Pink Hippo Party.. can't wait to see what you share next!

Knitrageous said...

Love this! I've felted (fulled, whatever) and love doing it. But I especially like your little trees and the wreaths! Thanks!

Chris said...

Hi Ellen, this is fascinating. I have never heard of it before. I have heard of Nuno felting. Both produce beautiful wool. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris