Felting Wool Made Simple



As much as it pains me to say it….winter is coming.  I am a total fan of hot weather and 16+ hours of daylight…I blame it on the time I lived on the coast and a faulty thyroid….but winter and I just don’t jive.  But nonetheless, cold weather is on the way, so I want to share a fun little skill with you to help you prepare for the {{{brrr shiver shiver}}}.  I learned about felting wool when my children were very small and we couldn’t find accessories that would keep them toasty.  They loved playing in the snow, but even with the best quality gloves we could find, they’d come in with frozen fingers and ears and that just hurts a mama’s heart, you know?  So I did some research and found that felted wool would make mittens and hats FAR superior to anything I could find in a department or discount store.  AND it was a cheap, easy and quick project, which were huge bonuses for me!  Here’s what you do.


Felting wool begins with second-hand, quality fibers.


First, you need to find 100% wool or wool/angora/cashmere blend sweaters and blankets.  No rayon, acrylic or cotton or other blends;  you need animal fibers that will shrink under heat and agitation.  Believe it or not, you CAN find them very inexpensively, especially wool, at yard sales and second-hand stores, often for as little as a couple dollars.  Buy the biggest sizes you can find because you’ll be shocked at how much they shrink up (think 60% or more.)


Next, you are going to throw that beautiful wool sweater or blanket in the washer on the hottest/longest cycle available with a small amount of detergent and no softener.  I know.  Our mamas and home-ec teachers are rolling over in their collective graves right now, but just do it, my friends!  In fact, do it several times if you’d like.  After a long, hot soak and an agitating wash, you should notice a difference in the size and texture of your fabric.  Now throw it in the dryer, on the hottest, longest setting and let it dry.  When you pull it out, it should be *substantially* smaller.  It should also feel thicker and denser, for lack of a better word.  If it isn’t, repeat the process one more time and that should do it!

Now, begin cutting the sweater into the largest, workable pieces of fabric you can.  Cut the sleeves off at the shoulder and at the inner arm seam (**see the tip on mittens before you cut the inner arm seam).  Cut the sides and shoulders of the body of the sweater.  Remove any tags, labels, buttons.  What you should notice is that the wool, while it may be fuzzy, doesn’t fray like a sweater typically frays.  Instead of individual threads, you should have one solid piece of fabric.  That’s one of the beautiful things about felting wool…it doesn’t ravel.  No matter how you tug, cut, poke or pull, it won’t fray like a woolen sweater or blanket made from animal fiber.

To make mittens, simply trace your child’s hand or a mitten onto the fabric (X4), leaving 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance all the way around.  Cut out carefully, match up the pairs, pin them together, then using either a sewing machine or by hand, stitch the pieces together with a sturdy thread, tie it off and you’re finished.  (**Whenever possible, I used the wrist of the sweater for the wrist of the mittens because they made for a nice finished edge that would tuck right up inside my children’s coats without any bulkiness or gaping.)  To make a hat, trace a hat shape (X2) onto the body of the sweater, using the waistband as the banding of the hat if possible, leaving 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance.  Cut out both pieces, line them up and pin them, then sew them together using a heavy thread.  If you’re feeling particularly crafty, add a cute pompom, an applique, a button or ribbon or whatever you like to dress it up.  Or wear it plain.  Either way works.

The fantastic thing about felted wool is that it turns moisture and is super warm without feeling itchy or bulky, so when I bundled my kids up in their wool accessories, they’d come in hours later with warm, dry, pink hands and ears instead of soaked mittens and numb fingers.  Using the same procedure, we’ve made slippers, earwarmers, scarves and a dozen other cold weather items.  In fact, I have a thick wool sweater set aside this year—for a “jacket” for our German short-haired pointer, who LOVES to play outside, but can’t stand the cold!  (She must’ve taken that after her Mama.)  Felting wool is also a great way to reuse or upcycle quality fibers that are perhaps out of date or just a little too itchy to wear/use as intended.  Ma Ingalls would absolutely approve of felting wool to keep the children warm!  Give it a try and tell me what you think!  Til next time—