Felting sweaters is a "must try" technique for any crafter! It is an afforable and eco-friendly way to get sturdy yet soft material for stuffed animals, diaper covers, baby clothing or baby quilts!
Felting is a process by which the wool fibers bind together when exposed to lots of hot water and agitation. You may be familiar with the results if you've ever accidentally put a wool sweater in with the wash. Felting the sweaters makes for a really nice quilt surface, because they'll be more rigid and thick, making the quilt seem as if it had been lined with quilt batting, like a traditional quilt.
- Grab some pillowcases from your closet, putting 1-2 sweaters in each case. Close the pillowcases near the end (so that the sweaters have room to move around and felt) with a rubber band, or tie a knot in the case. This is so that the wool which inevitably pills off the sweaters as they're felted doesn't clog your washing machine.
- Toss the pillowcases in your washing machine with a small amount of laundry detergent and the fleece fabric that you choose to back the quilt with. You can also add a few pairs of jeans at the same time if you want to really add to the agitation process. Let the machine go through most of the wash cycle, and then force it to repeat itself by turning the knob back to the beginning. This extra-long wash process ensures that you've got some good felt. If you do this and the sweaters still seem to be a similar size to when you started, run it through another wash cycle. If you only have a pay machine (in which you can't manipulate the cycle length), try to find a friend with a machine.
- Once the wash is finished, run the pillowcases through the dryer until the sweaters are dry. This is a more violent felting process than you'll read about in most knitting books, but I find it works great for sewing with felted sweaters.
- Take the sweaters out of the pillowcases and cut them apart. Cut off each sleeve, then turn the sleeve inside out and cut it along the arm seam. Turn the sweater inside out and cut it along the side and shoulder seams. Steam iron the pieces so that they are smooth and wrinkle-free. Alternatively, you could pre-cut your sweaters before felting for evenly felted pieces.
Project Ideas: Felted Sweater Baby Quilt or Felted Sweater Mouse Puppet
Back to the top of the Felting Sweaters page.
Contributing Author: Shira Adriance
This article was written for us by Shira Adriance who makes lovely, handmade felted baby quilts as well as knit and sewn baby apparel at Papou. Please visit her shop, support our contributors and buy handmade!