Tutorial: Wool Felting 101

If you aren’t thrifting this time of year, you still have time!  Get your patootie to a thrift store and look for some wool.  What can you do with it?  You can applique, open up a felted wool store on etsy, make some stockings, make some stuffed elephants, or whatever.  All I know is this– I pay way too much for wool at my LQS, so I must supplement my stash by felting wool garmets from my local thrift store.  It’s cheap and easy (no comments about my character, please.).

First things first– buy 100% wool garmets.  It can be any combination of different wools such as 92% cashmere and 8% lambswool.  It can say 100% shetland wool, virgin wool, angora, or my personal favorite, 100% cashmere.  Just make sure all the wool numbers added together equal 100.  Silk won’t work.  Acrylic won’t work (and you’re going to be shocked at how many acrylic sweaters there are). Cotton won’t work.  See a trend?  Wool only!  On sweaters, jackets, and tops, you’ll find the tag in the neckline or a couple inches from the hemline on the side seam. 

Personally, I only pay $4 or less for a wool item.  At my thrift shop, jackets are $12, which is more than I want to pay.  Sports coats are $9, which is more than I want to pay.  $4 for sweaters and $3 for pants.  Usually, I can find a hole in the garmet, and if I can, my thrift store will take a dollar off.  Check all over, especially in the shoulders where a hanger might go, for holes.

When you get home, go directly to your washing machine.  You can sort by color if you want, but I’ve never had anything run, so I don’t bother.  Using Tide detergent (I heard it HAS be to Tide, so I just follow the rules.), wash the garmets in hot water with a cold water rinse.  I use the Tide powder because it is more abrasive, and I like to treat my wool badly, just to see if it can handle it.  Yep, it can. 

When your wash is done, dry your clothes on high heat.  Empty the lint trap every 30 minutes or so, depending on how many items you have.  Too much dryer lint on high heat can lead to a fire, and secondhand Wool, even if it is cashmere, isn’t worth that.

Now dump your pile in front of the tv while you watch your favorite show (I recommend anything on Bravo).  Grab your fabric scissors and trim away buttons, zippers, linings, and seams.  If there is a shirt pocket, I cut the pockets off and them trim the seam away.  You will end up with a sizable trash pile like this.

I save the ribbing on sweaters– I just cut the seams off so that I have a usable chunk.  Here’s a sample piece.  Notice the fold down the center of it.  That was the bottom edge of the sweater, and it was doubled over, so I just cut off the seam.  Easy peasy.

Now take all your good pieces (keep even the small ones) back to the washer.  Tide. Hot water.  Cold rinse. High heat drying.  And you’re done.

I have some wool-mongering friends, and we’re evolving into a little wooly co-op.  Our plan is to split up, hit the various thrift stores, and then get together for felting and swapping.  It’s a great idea since we can’t thrift together because we all want the same stuff.

Added note:  I’m not a professional woolologist, so if you have something to add to this or more tips for sharing, just post them in the comments.

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7 Responses to Tutorial: Wool Felting 101

  1. Skye Daniels says:

    I have this to add: AWESOME!!! You are the best, girlfriend!! Thanks! `:_D

  2. Love this post! And “Woololgist” might be my new favorite word. My big tip is to check the children’s sweater section. Sometimes I’ll find sweaters that were felted on accident, and then donated because they are now child size instead of adult size. At my thrift store the kid’s sweaters are half what the adult sweaters are. Which means more thrifting money for me!

  3. Jessi says:

    WHat if you do not have an agitator on your washing machine?

  4. Jessi says:

    PS – after looking at your swanky tags and cool finds, I must switch goodwills – there were a lot of target brand clothing at my goodwill – I did find a couple of Spurs shirts for a t-shirt quilt – and I bought some little girl dresses to beef up my Schmidt bags!

  5. Pingback: Wool Frenzy | Nacho Mama's Quilt

  6. Lori says:

    I don’t ever use Tide (because I coupon and get what’s on sale!) and I haven’t had a problem yet with felting anything! Also I have a high-efficiency top-loading washing machine with no agitator and it still works wonderfully! Thanks for sharing this post, I am felting 4 more sweaters as we speak. Also if your area has a Goodwill Outlet it is a fantastic place to find wool if you don’t mind digging and at $1.59 per pound it’s totally affordable! I got a giant bag of wool sweaters for just $11 🙂

  7. RJ Shafto says:

    I use liquid soap (all). I sort by colors, I’ve had issues with colors running. Also the sweaters shed fibers like crazy. I live in an older home and water pipes need to be treated with care. I place my sweaters in pillowcases and tie a knot at open end. I’ve tried other ways of tieing the cases shut, because it can be difficult getting them untied, but have found this way of tieing keeps them closed. I’ve had so much fun, starting with shopping for sweaters at thirft stores, watching how they shrink and seeing what lovely fabric is created by this process. I’ve made many Christmas crafts and slippers and use the fabric with my needle felting projects. I love wool.☺️

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