Published on December 5th, 2011 | by Julie Finn8
Reader Question Answered: Felting Wool Fabric (NOT Wool Sweaters!)
We talk a lot about felting wool sweaters, because it’s such a great upcycling project. Thrifted wool sweaters are cheap, felting them is easy, and the felted wool is extremely versatile in a wide variety of crafts.
Recently, however, a reader wrote into CAGW asking about felting a different type of wool–a wool tweed jacket, to be specific, but the question applies to all types of wool fabric, other than that which is knitted.
Yes, Virginia, you CAN felt wool fabric!
Wool jackets, wool suits, wool dress pants, wool long johns, wool blankets, wool mattress pads, and anything else sewn from wool fabric can all be felted. There are some challenges, of course (One of the fun things about upcycling, at least for me, is that nothing is ever THAT easy–every project is unique).
The main issue that you’ll need to address if you’ve thrifted something sewn from wool for the purpose of felting it yourself is whether or not your wool piece was treated for washability. That wool mattress pad that I washed on cool and gentle in my washing machine and then dried on air-dry in my dryer, only to have it come out sized for a crib mattress instead of my queen-sized bed? That wool mattress pad was NOT treated to be washable.
That candy-colored wool roving that I stubbornly tried for an hour to felt around a plastic Easter egg, failing utterly, only to notice later that its packaging identified it as “Superwash”? That wool roving WAS treated to be washable.
If you’re purchasing new wool fabric and the accompanying information doesn’t say, all it takes is a question to the sales clerk or a quick email to the online retailer to find out if your fabric will felt. If you’re thrifting, it’s somewhat of a crap shoot–even instructions to only dry clean a garment may not mean that it’s entirely untreated, but since making wool fabric wash-and-wear involves an extra process, the odds are in your favor for being able to felt any particular wool garment.
If you’re new to the process, check out my wool sweater felting tutorial. Just keep in mind that felting wool is easy but imprecise–it’s that handmade look, though, that inability to ever completely mold the finished work to an exact specification, that’s such a slap in the face to all that cheap, machine-made, identical junk.
And that’s why I love it!