I began my creative exploration as a child by learning to sew with my Grandmother. I have always been very inspired not only by the texture of fabrics, but the unique personality given to the fabrics with dye and the printing. My personal stash of fabrics can rival anyone (just ask my husband!) and I find it hard to walk out of a fabric store without adding just a little something more … in case that perfect project comes up where I might need it desperately. LOL I save every little scrap of things I love, cut buttons off old clothes for the next project, and buy at thrift stores, flea markets, and antique sales. It is amazing what can be created from an old tablecloth or a well-loved pair of jeans!
My newest creative urge has been to “felt” wool sweaters and make fingerless gloves, mittons and accessories from the wool. I have scoured thrift shops for inexpensive, nearly wool sweaters made from animal fur. I have found cashmere sweaters with a couple of holes for 5$! The sweaters made from about 80% or higher in wool that contains animal fur works best. Blankets, suit coats etc. work well too and you get even more “felt”! Have you ever accidentally put a sweater in the wash only to have it come out looking like a children’s sweater and have it be incredibly dense? This is exactly what you are shooting for with felting because when the wool is cut it won’t ravel and you can make pretty much anything from it!
The felting process is simply to wash the wool item in hot water, rinse in cool and then dry it in a hot dryer. Some sweaters need a little encouragement and might need to go through the process 2-3 times. If you are doing a lot of sweaters, it is recommended to put your items in a mesh bag so all the fibers don’t muck up your machines … In the “olden days” they would call this boiling wool, only they actually DID boil it in a pot of water over a hot fire! They used the “boiled” remnants for extra warm blankets and coats.
Now that your wool is ready … the game begins! How do you want to cut your items out? I like to cut at the seams and spread out my sweater so I can see just how much wool I have, look and mark any holes I need to work around, and get a good picture of the design I might be incorporating into my hand-made, one-of-a-kind product. I have been known to use a men’s sweater collar for a decorative cuff and I like to use the bottom of a sweater or the sleeve cuff for the cuffs of gloves etc. Pin your pattern and cut it out!
Since your wool doesn’t fray you don’t need finished seams (which is why I do this in the first place) you can easily construct just about anything from your wool … purses, hats, mittons, decorative items, flower pins, scarves, headbands – pretty much anything goes! Decorate your item with embroidery, buttons, ribbon, complimentary wool or whatever is appealing to you.