Next time you’re shopping at DI and you spot a polka-dotted wool sweater, toss it in your shopping cart! Throw in some wool vests, wool sweaters, wool coats, and wool cardigans too. Wool is a great item to felt and upcycle into all sorts of fun DIY crafts.
The process of felting wool requires heat, moisture, and friction. Throughout this process the wool fibers join or hook together. In a wool sweater the weave and individual strands of wool are still visible. After the wool has been felted, however, it becomes a single piece of fabric.
A single piece of felted wool fabric can be used to make gloves, hats, or almost any other item you can think of. Felted wool keeps your hands and head warmer than most commercial products, and it wicks away water to help keep you dry during the winter.
You can buy skeins of wool or sheets of already felted wool from the store, but felting old sweaters is much less expensive and gives you a higher-quality product.
Start by looking for wool items at thrift stores. You can felt anything as long as it’s wool. Check the tags that show what the item is made of, and look for items that are 100 percent wool. It’s okay to use items that aren’t 100 percent wool, but they will felt together less evenly. Felting can be a little unpredictable, and sometimes it’s a process of trial and error.
Felting works with all types of wool—lamb’s wool, angora, cashmere, and so on. Different types of wool will have different feels after being felted. For example, felted cashmere is softer than felted lamb’s wool. Test different kinds of wool and decide which you like best.
Buy a mix of patterns and colors, including neutrals. You might want to mix and match fabrics for different projects. Avoid buying sweaters or items with loose weaves—they can make the sleeves felt together.
Wash the wool item in hot, soapy water with a pair of jeans or some old towels. The jeans or towels will provide friction, which is what causes the wool to felt.
After felting the item in the washing machine, stick it in the dryer. This causes the item to felt together even more tightly.
Check to see how tightly the item has felted. If you can still see the weave of the wool, repeat steps two and three. The finished product should have a tight, flat weave and be dense and smooth.
After the wool has been felted, it can be cut into pieces and used in various projects. Before cutting it, iron the felt to give it a nice, crisp look.
Here are some craft ideas for inspiration:
Make a simple flower clip from a square of felted wool, a button, a clip, and some hot glue.
Starting at one corner of the felted square, begin cutting in a circular pattern until you have a strip of felt cut into a swirl. Glue the swirl into a rose shape, and attach a button to the center and a clip to the back.
To make a pouch like this one, cut a rectangle from a piece of felted wool. Create a rounded edge on one of the short sides of the rectangle. This rounded edge will be the top of the pouch. Saddle stitch the sides together and around the rounded edge. Attach a button or a hammer-on snap fastener to the front to keep the pouch closed.
Gloves are another winter clothing item that can be made with felted wool.
Use a die-cutter to make different shapes out of felted wool.
Scraps of extra felted wool? Make a pincushion. The lanolin, or wax found in wool, keeps the pins sharp.
The crafting possibilities are endless. Felting old wool sweaters is a great way to upcycle outdated items and “do it yourself” in an inexpensive way.
Ready to try your own felted wool project? Pick up some sweaters at your nearest Deseret Industries.