Monday 8 April 2013

Turning Woollen Garments into Felt...

When I made felt superhero masks, I mentioned that I was experimenting with turning woollen garments into felt. My experiments were successful. I've learnt a lot along the way, but I still have more experimenting to do and a lot more to learn.

I cleaned out my wardrobe last week and ended up with a huge pile of clothes to go into my refashioning stash and several bags to be taken to the Op Shop (Thrift Shop).

In amongst the clothes to go, were these 100% woollen garments:
  • Two cardigans made from a very soft lambswool, but starting to pill. I always liked the style and feel of the cardigans, but they always looked creased.
  • Two merino wool skivvies, which were always scratchy. I have other high necked woollen skivvies, but these were the only ones that were not soft. They were cheap and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

First step was to find out as much about the process of felting as I could. After much reading, I decided I would need to:
  • Put the garments individually into tied pillowcases (to prevent excess fluff in the washing machine and pipes).
  • Wash in hot water using washing detergent and rinse in warm water.
Opinion was divided as to whether to dry in a clothes dryer or to line dry. Before washing, I removed all labels and buttons.

After the first two washes, I could see hardly any difference. I have a top loading machine, but one that has to use the same detergent as a front loader. Apparently front loaders are gentler on clothes and mine was advertised to be gentler, too, as it doesn't have an agitator.

According to everything I read, it's the combination of hot water and agitation, which causes the garment to felt. Some people recommend throwing a pair of jeans into the wash to increase the agitation.

As there was next to no fluff, I decided to wash again, but without the pillowcases. This time the results were much more visible. It was harder to see the individual stitches. For the first time in many years, I used the clothes dryer, on the cooler setting. Success... the garments looked felted. I probably could have stopped at this point, but I decided they could do with another go in the washing machine and then another in the dryer.

It's really hard to tell from these photos, but the knitted stitches have completely disappeared from the two skivvies.

You can still see the stitches on the bone cardigan, but not on the navy one. Even though the stitches are still visible, there is no fraying when the wool is cut. The two lambswool cardigans have pilled even further, but this pulls off quite easily.

Quite a while ago, my niece gave me a beautiful Country Road jumper, which she'd accidentally felted. It was a 100% woollen jumper which was Dry Clean only. I'm not sure what my niece did, but I'm guessing she washed it in hot water. Apparently, wool that is Dry Clean only, felts better than other wools. Again, I could have left it as it was, but I gave this jumper one more wash and put it in the dryer and it's turned into a slightly thicker felt than the others.

There are no visible stitches left in my niece's jumper. It's actually a camel colour, so not a very good photo. 

I cut off and discarded all the seams. There was no fraying at all, even when I tried to make it fray. I've successfully made felt!!!

As you can see in the photos, the ribbing doesn't appear to have felted as well as the rest of the garments. Even though the stitching still shows, it doesn't fray when cut. The most successful garment, was my niece's jumper. It's made the nicest looking felt and required less washing and drying.

It's become obvious to me, that the type of wool is a BIG factor in the success of making felt.

I've raided Mr TMW's wardrobe and he's allowed me to continue my experimenting with felt, using two very old hand knitted jumpers.

These are the resources I used to help with my experiments in felting:
One thing that concerned me about the felting process, was the amount of electricity I was using. I never wash in hot water. I always use cold. And I haven't used a clothes dryer for many years. We live in sunny Australia and I find I can get by without using the dryer. I have no idea how felt is made commercially and so cannot compare or work out if it's better environmentally to buy felt or to make my own. I do, however, have enough felt to keep me going for quite a while.

If you know of other ways to felt, or if you can give me any tips or suggestions, I'd love you to leave me a comment. I'm keen to learn more...

If you are interested in felting, I would recommend you check out Terrie ~.~ smiling.... The projects that Terrie makes with felt, are simply stunning!!! She has recently combined felting and embroidery to create amazing wool felt purses.

... Pam


  1. Interesting experiment Pam. I have managed to shrink jumpers before by washing them on too hot a wash by accident, but not yet tried felting anything. As it is still cold enough for snow here, my tumble dryer has not yet been mothballed for the summer so maybe I should give felting a go :)

    I love the term skivvies, I have never heard it to mean a jumper before. Here it usually means a menial, female servant :)I wonder where the meaning changed?

  2. fun! I felted a sweater once (had holes and was too small). I can't remember how I did it, though. I think it was just hot water and the dryer. I still haven't done anything with it. I can't wait to see what you make with yours!

  3. I've never felted but have read that if you put in a pair of trainers with your jumpers while washing it helps the felting process. I'd love to give it a try but its warm her for most of the year so I don't own any jumpers. The ones that I did own had acrylic in them and have read they won't work.

  4. Well sadly this weekend I felted my sons lovely lambs wool sweater by accident. I had grabbed a heap of washing and did not notice I had managed to catch hold of his sweater too when it came out of the washing machine urrgh!!! It had shrunk to one third or even smaller its original size and it was completely felted.
    Hot washing is the most effective way to felt as it uses the soap to help cause the fibres to knit and stay knitted together. When you wet felt fairy liquid is used to assist in this process. It works very well I've done a lot of felting this way.

    1. Oh no!!! I hope your son coped OK. ... Is this what you mean by wet felting and is fairy liquid, the same as dishwashing liquid? Sound like it would be quite therapeutic.

  5. Pam I have purchased wool clothing from thrift shops and felted them. I prefer to use the thinner wool from things like suits, skirts as opposed to wool sweaters as they are really thick. But it all depends on what I will be using the wool for. I have a front loader washer and no dryer. Drying in a dryer makes the wool shrink more. It's always an experiment and you never know if you need to felt the wool more than once. Sometimes it takes more than one washing, sometimes you can wash it several times and the results are no different.

    Looking forward to seeing what you create with your new wool felt.

  6. I recently felted a couple of old sweaters with mixed results. Good to hear that they don't unravel when cut. I've been nervous about putting a pair of scissors to them.

  7. Wow! I've never heard of this before, how cool. I wonder if I could do something with this over summer break with the kids. Kind of a science/art project. You come up with the coolest ideas! :)

  8. This is great. I never knew you could actually make felt from old sweaters, but like you mentioned, I 'm a little concerned about the energy usage!

  9. I'm very keen to see what you will do with your felt Pam. I have seen handbags made from felted jumpers and the results were fantastic!

  10. This is something new to me, very interesting! So what are your plans for those felt? I know you will come up with fantastic use!

  11. Great instructions! My dad accidentally did this to a sweater of mine when I was a kid...that wasn't so great! Pinning!


  12. Thanks for a great post Pam. I have a felted blanket pinned on pinterest that I hope to make one day, I just need to accidentally ruin a few jumpers first!

  13. I've picked up several sweaters at Thrift Shops, never more than a dolor or so..felt them in the washer on hot, and dry them in the dryer. They make great purses, in all styles, and cost so little! I'm hooked!


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