Instructables

how do i felt a wool sweater using washing machine, and is dryer needed?

when felting a wool sweater using hot cycle washing machine method, is it absolutely necessary to dry the item in a dryer afterwards? also, should i cut seams off before or after felting the fabric?

Stew25 years ago
Well, I have to admit, when I saw your question I had no idea what "felting" a wool sweater meant. Being curious and the google addict that I am, I came up with this: Take an old sweater that is at least 50 percent wool and and cut off the sleeves and separate the front from the back. Toss these pieces into the washer and wash with soap on hot cycle, and rinse on cold cycle. They should shrink like crazy. If you want them even more dense, toss them into the dryer too. They may shrink as much as 70 percent. So, now I know what felting is and hopefully it is the answer you needed for your question as well. :)
cherishedpotato (author)  Stew25 years ago
thanks for that, but i needed to know whether the dryer part was essential or not.
Not really. Most of the "damage" happens in the wash. Thought the dryer is nice because if you live in a wetter climate it can take *forever* to dry... and it can suck off some of the little pilled bits.<br /> <br /> You will need 100--->90% wool, and sometimes lighter colors don't work as well... but sometimes they just need more times through the wash until they are the size/thickness you want.<br /> <br /> I've also found that commercial/laundrymat washers run at hotter temps, and can be more effective than a home-washer. If felting (though technically "fulled") by hand, Also HOT-COLD temperature changes will help the fibers "freak out" and grab eachother tightly, causing the shrinkage.<br /> <br /> <br />

soap is crucial; must remove natural emollients or the scales on the fibers won't be activated. I mean sheep go out in the rain, but they never have felted pelts.

the prior comment that the fabric needs to be only half wool is misleading; the wool will full, but the other fibers will not.  For some artsy effects, this may be pleasing, but if you're looking to make felt, I believe you will be disappointed. 80% is the minimum animal wool fiber most "experts" and my own experience suggest. Also, it depends what the other fibers are.  Silk or sme kinds of poly are acceptable to me, but my experience nylon and acrylic are rough and unsightly. So, I wouldn't bother with these blends except maybe housewares that aren't seen up close, like a throw rug.

Sheep's is best, but alpaca, and related animals, goat, bison and other wools also work. These "alternative" fibers may never thicken and shrink to the same extent as sheep's wool, but they will mat and form a more-or-less solid fabric. Beware fibers with a lot of guard hairs like angora: Hair does not full -- rasta dreadlocks notwithstanding.

I separate pieces of the garment before fulling; or the pieces might full to each other.  If your sweater is factory made -- the pieces are cut and serged together -- you may need to baste the cut edges, if they're loosely knit or for some reason you need every cm of fabric. Handknits will be sewn together and the pieces will have solid edges. 

Hint: put something in with the sweater to agitate it. I keep worn-out Keds just for this purpose.

Hope this helps.

threadbare5 years ago
Hi there, I love felting! The thing that causes felting is hot water and agitation. Most if not all of felting happens in the washer. You can also use a sink of warm water. Using a sink makes it so you can control your shrinking and even just shrink certain parts of the wool. If a wool item doesn't shrink enough in one washing just repeat the process until it's felted the way you like it.

I wouldn't recommend cutting any knitted wool until AFTER you felted it. Knitted wool will unravel. Cutting wool fabric before felting is fine.

This Instructable uses felted knitted wool....

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Childs-Cardigan-from-recycled-felted-wool-s/

For this one I felted a wool skirt and the gray is a felted wool shirt....

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-KIDS-Anti-Boredom-I-Spy-Bag/

Both knitted wool (sweaters) and woven wool (skirts and shirts) felt by using warm or hot water and agitation.
P.S. You don't need a dryer at all.
cherishedpotato (author) 5 years ago
i tried 2 different sweaters, one pure merino and one 70% angora/30% lambswool. i washed them in hot water, rinsed in cold, but did not use a dryer (don't have one- it's kind of ridiculous in australia :) ) the sweaters shrank about 40%, but the weave is still visible, so i think that indeed the dryer part is necessary.