Inspired By Moths – How to Felt Sweaters
February 10, 2010
One cold morning in November, I arrived to school in a zombie like state, unaware that I had holes all over the sweater I was wearing. At the time, I was the mother of a newborn, and so I had no idea whatsoever that my sweater bore a keen resemblance to swiss cheese. Fortunately my students were pretty forgiving because they had become accustomed to the reality that most mornings I was a tired, sleep-deprived mess. At first I was completely baffled as to how the holes could have gotten there. Yes, I was tired all the time, as we have already established, but holes in my sweater, how did that happen? After a few bewildering moments my morning coffee kicked in. It hit me. I must have moths. The rest of my day was filled with worry and thoughts of powdery wings and nursing home closets. Finally, I was able to get home and check every single one of my favorite sweaters for damage. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my closet is actually trimmed in cedar and so most of the sweaters that hung in there were safe and hole free. It was the sweaters that I stored downstairs, during the spring and summer months, that had been ravaged by the fluttering beasts. I was immensely saddened by what I saw. Some of these sweaters I have had for 10+ years. I just couldn’t throw them away. These sweaters and I had a history. Click. That was the lightbulb going off in my head. If only I knew how to felt.
And so I asked around, took the advice I received, and did a little experimenting of my own. Here’s what I found…
Step 1: Let me see if I can confuse you from the start. Some people recommended cutting out the seams before you start the felting process. I did this for some of my sweaters, but for others, I wanted to see how they would felt up before taking the shears to the sheep (pardon the pun). For now, just know that you can cut the seams out from the start, or wait and do it after they’re felted.
Step 1 and 1/2: Some people also recommend only using 100% animal-fiber materials like wool and cashmere. While this is mostly true, and I too endorse this idea, I also am of the opinion that it doesn’t hurt to try felting on sweaters that are mostly animal-fibers with just a little synthetic thrown in to save money on a few lamb haircuts. In my experience, some of these felted up nicely. I don’t think felting is an exact science, but rather a fun experiment. Scratch that. It’s not a science, but rather an art.
Step 2: Wash all the items with soap in the hot wash, cold rinse cycle. It is advised that you wash these in a mesh bag as the sweaters will throw off lots of fibers that could potentially be harmful to your washing machine.
Step 3: Dry them in the dryer.
Step 4: Evaluate your progress so far and see if you need to repeat the aforementioned processes for any of the sweaters. Again this is not an exact science. Some of my sweaters needed a second round through the washer before they were fully felted. I could tell because they didn’t shrink up enough. To test some of them I did a cut test, meaning I cut into the fabric to see if it held it’s shape without fraying. You can also just look very closely to see if you can still see the pattern of the knitted stitch.
Step 5: Start planning your project based on how the materials felted up. You might want to use some for applique, others for a bag, and yet others for childrens’ clothing.
Step 6: Check in later and see my felt projects. Maybe they will inspire you to do the same.