Sew Basics: Felting Wool

Last week I happened upon the mother-load of wool sweaters at my local thrift store – only $1 per piece!  I’m always hunting for 100% wool for felting, but it’s sort of hard to come by these days, so I definitely felt like I hit the jackpot last week!!  I love felted wool, but haven’t done a ton with it.  So this last week, I spent the day over at my mother in-laws felting all my wool finds from the thrift store (she has a super-awesome washer and dryer).

Felting wool is very simple.  In order for the wool to felt, you need 100% wool (or close to it).  If the sweater or garment has acrylic in it, it will not felt.  Additionally, most natural animal fibers will felt well – try searching for alpaca, mohair, cashmere, just to name a few.  Check the garment label for fiber composition.

Felting is caused by heat agitation and can take a regular knitted sweater and turn it into a solid piece of wool felt – very cool!  So here’s how The Cottage Mama felts wool……..

Gather your wool for felting.  As you can see here, I have many different pieces – sweaters, pants, blankets, blazers, skirts, ect……you can felt just about anything as long as it is 100% wool, natural animal fibers, or a combination of the two.

Place your wool for felting into you washing machine.  You may want to put your wool inside a delicate washing bag or a zippered pillowcase as it does tend to produce a lot of lint.  It’s up to you.

I set my mother-in-laws washing machine on “sanitary” because that is the highest temperature and longest agitation.  Set your washing machine to the highest temp. setting – extra hot/cold or hot/cold for the longest length of time.  I do not add soap.

After the wool has cycled through the washing machine, place it in the dryer and dry the wool on the hottest setting possible.  Generally this is the cotton setting.

Once dry, remove from the dryer and see if the felting is to your liking.  Felting has occurred if your garments have shrunk a considerable amount and the stitching is less noticeable.  On some garments you will not be able to see the stitching at all and on others it will just be less noticeable.  Some items will felt better than others.  You can always run your wool through another washing and drying cycle if you aren’t satisfied with the felting on the first try.

The sweater above is one that felted really well.  This started out as an x-large woman’s sweater, but once felted, you can no longer see the individual knitting stitches and it would not even fit my 2-year old.  Felted sweaters tend to get thicker and a bit more stiff after felting as well.

Once wool is felted, it becomes an entirely different piece of material to work with.  I almost equate it to working with fleece (but much cooler).  As you probably know, fleece will not fray on the raw edges so you don’t really need to hem garments or worry about finish edges.  Wool felt is the same way – once felted, the fibers are bonded together and will rarely fray.

This weekend we had some fall fun at the pumpkin patch and I made my daughter, Savannah Rose, a felted wool sweater coat to keep her toasty in the cool autumn air.  This sweater coat was made entirely from thrift store items – total coat $4.00!  Here is the design I came up with…..

For this sweater coat, I used three different wool sweaters and one piece of felted wool suiting.  I left the bottom edge of the coat and the sleeves unfinished.

The back panel was the piece of felted wool suiting.  I cut leaves out of the other three sweaters and stitched them onto the back.  I used a straight stitch around each leave.  I also cut two elbow patches and stitched them with a straight-stitch as well.

For the front button closure, I simply cut a slit into the wool flap – no button hole!  I added some basic embroidery stitching and finished it off with a little mushroom button.

I cut a peter-pan collar from the wool suiting and left all of the edges raw.

I added some simple embroidery stitches onto some of the sweater leaves as well.

I love the earthiness of this coat – perfect for fall!

It was a gorgeous fall weekend. This is definitely my favorite time of year in the Midwest.

Sometimes it just feels so good to scoop up those fall leaves and throw them all over your head!

I think Miss Savannah likes the little fall coat her mama made for her!
Happy Felting!
Cottage Mama’s Note:  Stay tuned for a felted wool project tutorial coming later this week!

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  1. Your coat is toooo cute and of course the angel wearing it just makes it that more adorable.

    Thanks for the felting tutorial.

    Have a God Filled Day

  2. Thanks, Lindsay! Once again, you’re just spoon-feeding me information I’ve been wanting to learn for ages. I have been dying to figure out felting wool.

    Also, I have been meaning to go back and comment on your post from the other day about being your own person, in addition to staying home with your girls. I think that it is so so important that our children see us (especially as mothers to our daughters) developing our identity as individuals, fulfilling our own dreams, finding happiness. It is such a special gift that you can do what you love and be home with your girls. Congratulations! Loved that post!

  3. This coat is just adorable!!! I LOVE to read your post, you are inspiring me to try my hand at creating my own designs. I thank you for ideas and thoughts. May you have a blessed day♥

  4. great tips and what a super cute coat! wish I went thrifting more (or was at least good at finding things). 🙂

  5. Thanks for the tutorial – I’ve been meaning to try felting for a while. And that coat is just beautiful. Really, really pretty!

  6. Thanks, I can’t wait to go thrift shopping. I am curious as to how you size your garments, did you use another coat that fit her to base your measurements off of??? I hope to try this soon!

  7. I can’t believe you just pulled that coat out of thin air! The mushroom button and appliques are so cute. It makes me really want something with elbow patches…

  8. Wow, Lindsay, great job — GORGEOUS! And even more gorgeous than the little coat is your little girl! Oh goodness, she looks SO adorable in her little dungarees and her little boots!
    Best regards,

  9. WOW love the coat- what a great idea!

  10. Ohhhhhhh, fabulous my dear! so friggin adorable! i am in love with this! I’ve got to give this a try! Thanks for a great tutorial, makes felting seem way less scary and time consuming. Love it!

  11. This coat looks perfect….
    so cute….
    Your photos are so good ..

  12. So darn cute!! Who knew you could do this with just old wool garments. Love the elbow patches!

  13. I love the coat & the beautiful pictures of your daughter, playing with the fall leaves! Thank you, for sharing. Once again, you’ve inspired me!

  14. I found your blog today and can’t tell you how much I have been blessed. I am a grandma and you have taught me today. I am blessed by your teachings and insights. Loved the post on “IT Just Came to Me” from Where women create mag. I have struggled with this “creative spirit” that will not go away forever and how to use it because that is who I am. thank you for reminding me that it is from God for the purpose of teaching and blessing others. Now I am at peace! Beautiful and very sweet little fall coat for your sweet little one. I have 2 little granddaughters. I am a goodwill treasure seeker and you can bet I will be looking for wool the next time I go there! Bless you .

  15. this is SUH-WEET! totally inspired to go thrift store hopping and shopping.

  16. This is beautiful!!! I hope you don’t mind if I try to make something similar for August.

  17. Oh, I am so so so loving the coat you made! AWESOME! If I had enough felted sweaters I would make one for myself! And I am NOT JUST SAYING THAT! 🙂
    (I actually lost the link as my computer closed my browser and I went through all the blogs in my reader – over 100 – for AGES today to find that post again!!!)
    I am thinking that maybe I could make one for my daughter though. The felted sweaters that I have might be enough for a coat for her …
    I am wondering though … this might be a weird question:
    When felted the sweaters do get kidna stiff – is it not uncomfortable to have such a stiff coat? Or can one compensate for the “stiffness” by making the sleeves wider maybe … so that it is not so thight?
    And how warm would you say is a coat like that? I think it should be warmer than a regular wool sweater … Overhere in Germany some days it is really cold already. And I am wondering whether it would be worth it to make her the coat now … I am not sure whether it will be too cool with it already. In that case I would rather wait until spring as my daughter has the tendency to grow quite quickly … would be a shame to make it now and it would not fit in spring anymore …
    Hope those questions were not too weird … 🙂

  18. This an informative, beautiful and wonderful post. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your daughter’s “new {felted} outfit” is far nicer than anything in a high end boutique.

  19. this is my first time over on your blog and I must say this tutorial is great. My husband is just now putting our 2,5 year old daughter to bed but my heart is pumping so fast out of exitement that all I really want to do is run upstairs and rummage through our closets looking for wool sweaters to coolify!!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. So awesome! I didn’t know how to felt- I’m so happy it’s that simple! Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

  21. This is a beautiful coat! I would happily wear it myself. 😉 You know, I felt sweaters all the time to make new garments, and I’ve felted wool suiting to make fabric for stuffed animals, but somehow, I’ve never incorporated the suiting in with the sweaters in garments. Must do this–it looks wonderful.

  22. I’ve been looking for a felting tutorial since a lady at our church gave me a huge bag of 100% wool sweaters that don’t fit anyone in our house. They’re really beautiful sweaters and I never find anything this nice at the thrift shops. Your little one is so precious in the coat her momma made!

  23. I LOVE this too. I think I’m just going to have to go see what I can find at a few thrift stores around here. Unfortunately in my area I imagine I’ll have a lot of competition. 🙂 I think I’m definitely going to have to try this felting wool thing now. Thanks for the tutorial!

  24. That coat is just adorable and your little girl is so sweet too!
    I’m definitely going to try this.

    thank you so much for the inspriation.

  25. Today these days and cannot show you just how much I have been previously fortunate. I am a granny plus you’ve got educated me right now. I’m fortunate because of your lessons along with experience. Adored the actual post on “IT Merely Found Me” from Where ladies produce magazine. I’ve battled with this particular “creative spirit” that won’t disappear once and for all and the way to utilize it because that is whom I will be. appreciate reminding us it is coming from Our god for the purpose of teaching as well as good thing other people. I am just peaceful! Stunning and intensely nice minor drop cover for your nice child. We have Two little granddaughters. I am a goodwill cherish seeker and you’ll guess I am trying to find wool the next time The year progresses presently there! Bless you .

  26. This coat isn’t just darling – it’s a marvelous piece of art! I recently attended a felting class and made a flower and now I’m hooked. You’re right that 100% wool is difficult to find, but I snapped up a couple of sweaters at a couple of thrift stores and I hope to do something with them soon. Now I have a dumb question – How do you clean a felted piece of clothing – okay to wash in the machine again? Or hand wash? Or dry clean?

  27. Hey, just a tip for those of you who use an old fashioned (not high-efficiency) washer like me – I use a Shout Color Catcher sheet in the load of felting laundry, then I wash all colors together and it traps the excess color that is in the water so, for instance, your tans don’t turn pink…

  28. Excellent blog post! thank you so much from someone who’s been curious about wool felting for some time, now I think I’ll give it a shot. Thanks, and by the way your daughter is adorable! and the pics are great!

  29. That coat is adorable! I am new to sewing and never knew what was meant by “felted”. This was a great read! Thank you!