Wool that has been felted and wool felt are quite different products. Wool felt is a nylon product as seen in the familiar colorful felt squares available in fabric stores and craft departments used for crafting projects. Wool felt has a specified amount of wool added in the milling process. Wool that has been felted is made from carded wool, raw fleece, or true wool garments or wool pieces deliberately washed in hot water and dried to shrink and mat the wool fibers closely together. As the scales on the wool swell with the water they become locked tightly together as they rub against one another. A dense fabric is created although much smaller than its original size.
To make your own felted wool place an all wool fabric or a wool garment (at least 80% wool is best) that will be used for making the felted wool in your washing machine (one with an agitator as front-loading machines do not agitate the wool sufficiently to felt), fill with hot water, agitate the fabric on the long cycle and set the rinse cycle for cold water. Machine dry for about 30 minutes using the regular heat setting or air dry flat. When dry, if the wool seems not quite felted enough, repeat the cycle one more time however the amount of shrinkage may be only slightly more than before.
Two 14-x-14-inch squares of felted wool
Pearl cotton or embroidery floss
Felted scraps to make trees, geometric shapes, flowers, animals or assembled scenes.
Pin and baste stitch your felt scraps onto the felt piece that will become the pillow front. Blanket-stitch around the pieces using contrasting thread colors for a country look or with right-sides together, pin the pillow front to the pillow back. Use a 3/8 or 1/2-inch seam allowance and hand or machine sew the front to the back, leaving an opening for stuffing. Stuff the pillow with fiberfill and whip stitch the opening closed using very small stitches.
One-half yard (approx.) felted wool.
Contrasting color pearl cotton or embroidery floss
Thick craft cording or decorative purchased purse handle
Consider the finished size of purse you want to make; using a rectangular or square shape is easiest. Cut the felted wool three times the finished size in length and the exact width of the purse shape. One-third will become the back of the purse, one-third the front, and one-third the flap closure. Fold the felt into thirds to create the purse pouch and flap. Leave the flap as is or cut into a slightly rounded shape, v-shape or just straight across and slightly less in size than the purse front. Stitch the purse front and back together (reinforce the outer opening edges slightly at the point where the purse pouch becomes the purse flap by taking a few extra stitches) using the contrasting color thread and applying a simple blanket stitch. Use the same stitch around the purse flap. Cover the cording with the felt and hand stitch closed. Attach to the purse with several hand stitches or attach a purchased purse handle using the manufacturer instructions. Apply a decorative button to the flap if desired.
Gift Tags and Ornaments
Using simple large cookie cutter shapes as templates, cut two of a snowman, tree, bell or star shape, place the two pieces wrong-sides together then hand-stitch about ¼ inch in from the edges, using embroidery floss or pearl cotton in a contrasted color or same color as the felt. Leave an opening to insert a little fiberfill stuffing, then continue to sew the now padded shape closed. Embellish as you’d like and add a gold cord for attaching to a wrapped present or to hang later on the holiday tree.
Dating from the 1800s, penny rugs were not really rugs to walk on at all but were made from scraps of wool and used as table runners, to decorate walls, and dresser tops. Originally coins or pennies were used as templates to draw circles (pennies were quite large then) hence "penny" rugs. They are an inspiring example of thrifty folk art.
For more felted wool projects:
Better Homes and Gardens Felting Projects
Felting Projects from Martha Stewart
Sew happy, sew inspired.