Introduction: Felting Wool Sweaters

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Martha…

Felting old wool sweaters is an easy way to make room in your closet AND get really great material for all kinds of crafts!

Step 1: Check the Blend

There are only two things that are important to felting success:

1. The fiber type / blend:

I have found that a blend of 65% or higher wool content yields the best results. 100% wool is desirable, but not necessary.

2. The knit stitch:

This one is a little harder to pin point or predict. I've found that certain knits refuse to felt no matter what I do - even if the wool content is high. The best thing to be on the lookout for is stretchiness. If a knit is too stretchy, it will most likely not felt well. But I say if in doubt, try it!! If it's something that's just been taking up valuable closet real estate, you have nothing to lose!

Step 2: Get Felting!

Like I mentioned, this process is really simple. Felting occurs when the wool fibers of the knitted sweater are agitated enough to bind to each other. (aka, get fuzzy and stick to one another so fraying doesn't occur) Here's how I make that magic happen:

1. Place sweaters in a washing machine and chose a long, HOT cycle.
*For extra agitation, you can add a pair of old running shoes to the cycle. These will help 'pummel' the fibers into felted submission.
2. Add half the normal amount of washing detergent for a single load and start the cycle.

3. Once the wash cycle is complete, transfer the sweaters to the dryer (not the sneakers, if you chose to add them to the wash cycle).
4. Chose a setting that is long and HOT. 'Cottons' is usually a good one to use.

When the dryer is finished, pull the sweaters out and give them a good close once over. If the fibers do not appear bound/matted enough to not fray when cut, you can repeat the above wash/dry process as many times as needed. For your reference, the three sweaters pictured took 3 rounds of washing and drying to achieve their felted state.

Step 3: Shrinkage

If all goes according to plan, you will notice that at the end of your wash/dry cycles, the sweaters have shrunk considerably. As an example, the above cream sweater shrank just under 5"!

The true test of felting success is whether or not you can cut a piece out of your shrunken sweater without having the edges fray. The blue patterned and cream sweaters passed with flying colors. The green was just ok. As you can see in the above image the edge is fraying a tiny bit when pulled. It's not unusable, just not as clean and felt like as the other two. This was one of those stretchy knits I warned about earlier. But I always think it's worth trying if you're unsure.

Step 4: Making the Most of the Material

How you cut up the sweater will affect how much usable material you'll have to work with. Follow the above 'Cut Line Maps' to achieve maximum usable square footage.

Step 5: Get Crafty!

Now you have some wonderfully chunky and cozy material for winter crafting!

Be sure to let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!