I realize the timing of this post is a little off, since most of us (myself included!) are thinking Spring (and not wool sweaters) but I’ve had it half-written for a while, so here goes.
This past winter I decided to try out felting (after seeing an awesome patchwork throw blanket in a magazine) and found it to be a really fun, easy, and versatile craft. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this form of felting, you basically machine wash and dry wool sweaters, which (as you’d expect) shrinks them up, creating a thick, dense wool material that’s easily cut and doesn’t unravel, making it ideal for all kinds of projects. Both of my daughters’ teachers got felted wool projects as (part of) their Christmas gifts this year –
Felted wool wreath –
Felted wool business card/gift card holder –
(I also made myself one)
Although I’m far from an expert on felting wool, I’ve been having fun with it for a few months now. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way 🙂
Be picky when choosing sweaters. Stick to those that are at least 80% wool. Still, I’ve had, by far, the best luck using 100% wool sweaters. While I’ve heard that other animal fibers will also felt well, that wasn’t true in my experience (I also had minimal luck getting merino wool to shrink up to the consistency I prefer). Keep an eye out for bright fun prints & patterns, but be aware that knits with “things” (animals, letters, etc.) may be rendered undecipherable by the felting process. I got my sweaters at thrift stores, almost all of them on “half-off” day (for $3.50 or so).
Don’t over-shrink. It’s fine to run a sweater through another cycle if it didn’t shrink as much as you’d like the first-time around. But do this with a bit of caution – I had a couple sweaters shrink too much, making the material too rough and almost wavy in texture.
Use very sharp scissors (or rotary cutter blade) These are kind of obvious, but since you don’t hem felted wool, it’s important to cut with a nice sharp blade for a clean edge.
Hand vs. Machine Sewing felted wool. You can sew felted wood either by hand or using your sewing machine. I tried it both ways and strongly preferred to do it by hand. It’s very easy to work with, and I liked the flexibility of using colorful crewel wool or embroidery floss and various stitches to create different looks. If you do choose to machine sew your felted wool, in most cases you can just “smush” the edges of the pieces you’re sewing together, and use a zig-zag stitch to sew across the both pieces (use a ball-point needle for knits).
I got great info about working with felted wool, as well as neat project ideas, from the book The Sweater Chop Shop by Crispina Ffrench (totally genuine, non-affiliate, non-sponsored recommendation).