Felting Your Finds

by Laura Stone Roberts
Felting Your Finds

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Please note that felted wool is not the same as wool felt. Felted wool has been woven and then felted. Wool felt is made of unwoven wool fibers.

Thrift stores, garage sales, and attics can provide treasure for the frugal wool lover. Patterns and colors found nowhere else are available in wool garments. Train your eyes to look at the condition of the fabric, not the garment itself. Don’t be put off by worn or damaged areas, as long as there are sizeable sections of fabric that are in good shape. Be sure to check the men’s section; menswear has interesting and appealing weaves and patterns. Look for garments that have large areas of fabric, such as skirts, shawls, and men’s jackets. Read labels; for successful felting you need at least 80% wool (100% is ideal). If there’s no label, know that you are taking a risk.

It’s easy to deconstruct a garment. Turn it inside out and, using scissors or a rotary cutter and mat, cut apart on the seam lines. Pockets and lapels can provide useful scraps. Discard any lining.

Next felt the wool in your washer and dryer. You will need to clean the lint traps often during this process. Toss the wool in your washer (set to hot wash/ cold rinse) and use any detergent that is not “made for wool”. Wool detergents contain ingredients designed to keep sweaters from felting. Wash normally; agitation is a key ingredient in the felting process. Rinse and spin, then remove the wool and examine it. Is it felted enough? Are the edge threads hard to remove? Is it the thickness you want? If it’s close to the way you want it, dry on high heat to complete the process. If you are felting smaller pieces of wool, adding an old clean towel to the dryer will help with the felting process.

Wool will continue to felt in the dryer, so keep an eye on it and remove when it reaches the desired level of felting (if you over-process wool it will get too thick). Press your newly-felted wool with a steam iron on the wool setting. Then step back and admire your prize! You're ready to add your felted wool to a quilting project or other craft.


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