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Tools & Materials : Recycled Wool - Felting Tips & Techniques

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In winter, it seems that wool and felt are to crafting as mashed potatoes and soup are to cooking—if you're a crafter, the desire to use soft and fuzzy materials is as strong as the yearning for comfort foods. On cue, we've been picking up wool felting in many different forms recently—one of my personal favorites being the recycling of old and damaged sweaters through wet-felting: creating a versatile, soft, all-natural material with little to no special tools or techniques.

Soft baby blocks/rattles from felted sweaters, recently made on The Martha Stewart Show

Soft baby blocks/rattles from felted sweaters, recently made on The Martha Stewart Show

Click here for our instructions on how to felt sweaters in a regular washer and dryer. I prefer using dye- and fragrance-free detergent. Here are some of our other tips for recycled wool felting:

  • Sweaters must be 100 percent wool. It can be a few wools blended together (mohair, cashmere, lambswool) but not a "wool blend" (cotton/cashmere, silk/wool). Check the label first to avoid disappointment.
  • To speed things along, add a pair of jeans (that you don't mind shrinking a bit) or a couple of tennis balls into the washer and dryer with the wool.
  • Be nice to your appliances afterward: Clean all fuzz from the dryer, lint trap, and underneath the trap, and run a damp paper towel around the washer basin to collect wool bits. Fill the washer with cool water and drain before using again for laundry.
  • Sweaters are not the only thing you can felt. Try winter hats, scarves (which usually have great patterns), gloves, a blanket, the knitting/crocheting project you abandoned—if it's 100 percent wool, it will work!
  • Use a sweater comb (not an electric shaver) to condition the material once it's felted. It will make the material uniform and softer and will remove any unattractive fuzzballs ("pilling").
  • felted sweater - not defuzzed

    felted sweater - not defuzzed

    defuzzed with comb

    defuzzed with comb

  • Once you've felted the item, cut it apart at the seams. Use everything! Arms can be unfolded into decent-sized pieces; ribbed necks, wrists, and hems can be used for trims or embellishments.
  • Felted wool can be machine- or hand-sewn together. Felt will not fray or will fray minimally, so don't worry about hiding raw edges.
  • Wool likes wool: You can even needle-felt wool roving into the felt pieces to create designs! (Kristin did it here.)

Below are some more ideas for using felted recycled wool.

bags and pouches

bags and pouches

heart-felted scarf

heart-felted scarf

teacup pincushions

teacup pincushions

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felted stuffed animals

Let us know of any felted wool tips or projects you'd like to share!

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