I've always enjoyed working with wool felt for applique. It's also great to use when making things like needlebooks, pincushions, tote bags and lots of other sewing projects because the edges don't need to be finished. Woven wool fabric needs to be felted so the edges won't fray.
I often do this in the washing machine by washing the wool on the longest wash cycle using hot water with a cold water rinse. You then dry the fabric in a hot dryer and voila........you've shrunk those fibers up nice and tight.
We replaced our washer and dryer recently with newer models and I never gave it a thought when I was ready to run a load of wool to felt it. Surprise........surprise............I opened the lid of the washer and there was my load of wool still floating in the rinse water!. I tried more than once to get the water to spin out with no success. Only a sour moaning from the washer. It was hard the next day to watch the front cover come off the washer and see parts dismantled across the floor as they were tested. In the end, the connection tubes (about 1 1/4" in diameter) which take the water from the machine, through a cute little motorized pump and out of the washer were plugged with gummed up lint from the wool.
I visit the laundromat while I'm staying at the cottage and that's enough for me. My Mom always talked about 'boiled wool' and a few jackets made from it. I like spending time in the kitchen and set out to cook me up some boiled wool of my own. It was quick and easy. Here's how I did it.........
- Sort the wool fabrics you want to felt by color, just like you would when washing clothes. Match the size of the pan to the amount of wool. I didn't pull out my biggest pan so I cooked up more than one batch.
- Put your wool pieces in the pot and fill it with enough warm/hot tap water to cover the wool. Place it on the stove and crank up the heat. You don't want the flames whipping up around the pan but set it like you would to bring water to a boil
- When the water comes to a rapid boil, reduce the temperature a bit but keep the water boiling. Continue to boil for about 7 minutes, stirring a couple of times. While you're waiting, fill one side of your sink with cold water.
- After 7 minutes of boiling, remove the wool from the pot and place it in your sink of cold water. You can use a sturdy pair of tongs to grab the wool. I got out one of my big mixing bowls and pulled with wool from the pot, into the bowl and then over to my sink.
- A word of caution..........some colors of some wool fabric do bleed color like other fabrics. Adding a Color Catcher sheet won't work with this process so sort your colors accordingly.
- Squeeze the cold water out of your wool pieces and dry in the dryer on high heat until completely dry. You might want to check the lint trap once during the drying cycle to remove excess lint.
- Nice tight felted wool ready to use. You can also use this method to felt old wool clothing or sweaters you sometimes find in thrift stores too. Just remember to remove zippers, buttons, etc.