Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Felt Wool Sweaters

Tutorial on felting wool

How to make wool sweaters into felt, so you can make other crafts "like a bow"

Exhibit A

DIY Felting wool

  I have a great new tutorial all ready and I am so excited to share it with you.  This tutorial is all about how to make bows from felted wool.  Sounds freaking cool right?...Okay, well it is there!

 I spent a long time working on it, in hoped that it would turn out great. So I did all these little time consuming extras. I am talking about things like fancy picture effects, with clever little captions. See exhibit A.  (one of the lovely pictures that I spent so much time on).

 When I was all finished with my beautifully executed tutorial, about making bows with felted wool.  I excitedly rushed off to go publish my newest tutorial.  Feeling that when I pushed the publish button that I was going to be propelled into the next level of craft blogs.  After all I would be helping crafters world wide with my "bow".  Sounds ridicules now...looking back on the whole thing.

 Well just as I was about to push publish and help change the world. I was hit by a harsh realization.  I froze and my mouth fell open and I felt devastated inside. I had just realized. …"what if you don’t know how to felt wool"?

 I had just spent hours and hours of my time on a tutorial about using felted wool, with out including any directions on  how to felt wool.   My previously happy visions of you reading my tutorial with such enthusiasm, that you immediately set out making a  bunch of bows...CRUSHED.  Replaced by New visions.  Visions of you reading my tutorial with just as much enthusiasm, wanting to make just as many bows. Only you need to learn how to felt wool.  You look around my new little blog and can't find any thing on felting.  So off you go, over to a more established blog. One that will have provided easy felting directions!  Now you are gone and…never ever coming back.  I felt sad. I wanted to cry.

 But instead I pulled my self together.  I took a Valium and a few deep breaths and started out ready to fix the sad situation.  So that is how I created this post.


How to Felt Wool, In Case you Want to Make a Wool Bow 

Wool I felted this week

Before you can get to the fun of felting, you need to know a few things. 

First the basics  

There are a few different methods too felt wool, I am going to tell you about the method that I like, and use most often.  This method is called washing machine felting.  Felting can be a lot of fun.  You put something old into the washing machine and it comes out a new fabric just waiting to be refashioned. Once the fabric is felted it is very easy to work with.  Everything that you felt will turn out a little different, so its always a surprise.  You can have two sweaters that are both made out of 100% wool. After you felt them they will each look a little different, but still awesome.


 Next some tips 

Q: What can be felted?  
A: All animal fibers except silk can be felted.  AS far as mixes some will give you a very beautiful result.(My favorite mix to work with is 70% wool, 20% angora, 10% nylon!  I LOVE when I find this mix)  Myself I would not buy something for felting that is less than 70% wool.

Q: The first time I felt what should I use?
A: Starting with 100% wool is a good idea because it works the best with the least amount of work.  However the felting process is easy and you can't mess it up(well you would really have to try to mess it up) so feel free to start with what ever item you want.  

Q: Wow Kasey, how did you learn this?
A: I first learned it on acceded when I washed my first angora sweater on hot. 

Q: I need some patterns to use my felted wool on.
A: I own a great book that has directions and patterns to make all types of things with felted sweaters.  The book is called Sweater Surgery by Stephanie Girard. I recommend this book to anyone who need some more idea, or patterns.

*Side note, things can be felted other than wool (like 100% angora).  I am less familiar with other fibers.  So this article is about wool felting, but that is not all that can be felted. If you have questions about other fibers I might be able to help 

If you have any more questions please ask me because I obsessively check for questions from you.

Okay then, let’s get started!

Step 1

Get the wool sweater that you want to felt.  

(or what ever wool item you have selected, I am going with a sweater) I got my sweater at the local thrift store. 

Step 2

Protect your washing machine.

Put the sweater into a pillowcase. Then twist the open end of the pillow case shut.  Secure the twisted end shut with a rubber-band.(I like the hair kind).

During the felting process a lot of fibers come off the item you are felting . They will get everywhere and make a huge mess of wool fuzz balls.  You will be cleaning out your washing machine and your laundry room for weeks. Not to mention possibly ruin your washing machine for good. So don't let the fuzziness take over! Don't skip step 2.  It is a simple step that will make the whole process a much happier one

Put the sweater into a pillow case and secure the open end with a rubber band.

Step 3 

Load the washing machine

Place the items(a bunch of sweaters individuality warped in pillow cases) in the washing machine. Also put a pair of jeans that will not fade into the washing machine. Agitation helps the felting process.  So adding a pair or two of jeans into the load will create more agitation. More agitation creates better felting. :)

(this step is optional but I like to do it) Add about a tablespoon of little Arm &Hammer Baking Soda,  Along with a tablespoon or two of your favorite laundry detergent.  A little soap goes a long way when working with wool.

 Step 4

Start the washer

Make sure that you use the correct settings, the names of the settings will vary depending on your machine. The settings you want are...

  • The hottest wash cycle, this starts the felting process
  • The cold rinse cycle, the cold water stops the felting process
  • The strongest agitation, agitation helps the felting, remember that is why we added the jeans
  • The longest wash cycle, This give you time to get your item fully felted

Step 5
The wash cycle  

If you just put the sweater in the washing machine on hot, then leave the washer do its thing.  Your felting project will turn out just fine.  If you are not working with 100% wool you might end up having to do the whole process again  in order to get your sweater all the way felted.

                However if you can't just let the washing machine do it's thing.  If you need to have more  control then here are a few more tips for feeling like your in charge!

Tips for people who need more control

While the wash cycle is going keep an eye on things. I do this by leaving the top open, preventing the cycle from finishing with out my permission. (Not all washing machines work this way)  Sometimes you might think that your sweater is not felted enough.  So you can  turn the dial back and let it  agitate longer, or vice versa

Step 6

Yeah the fun part! 

Before felting

When the wash cycle is finished pull the sweaters out of the pillow cases.  Then you can either hang them to dry or put them in the dryer(this will felt them even more and I almost always put them in the dryer) If you feel you want more felting when the sweater is dry you can repeat the whole process.  An item that is less than 100% wool will often need more than one cycle of felting.

If you just put the sweater in the washing machine on hot, then leave the washer do its thing.  Your felting project will turn out just fine.  You might end up having to do this again (especially if your not using 100% wool).  

Look at this wool skirt I felted

Yeah you are all finished! Hope you enjoyed to tutorial. Let me know if you try it how it turns out.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask me.


  1. This was a great tutorial post Kasey. I love your bow that you made for your hair too. Really pretty and fun! Thanks so much for reading my 5 things post! So happy you liked it. :) Hope you're having a great day!

  2. Great explanations. Thank you four sharing. Can I use a front load washer?

  3. Loved this post and have a sweater all ready that was my husband's.
    What temperature do you use for the drying in the dryer......the hottest and do you tumble it dry or put on a rack in the dryer.
    Thank you so much for your answer....excited to do this.