Sewing with Felted Wool

Sewing with Felted Wool
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 all wool fabric or an all wool garment (or at least wool content greater than 80% for best results) that will be used for making the felted wool in your washing machine (one with an agitator, 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.

Whether sewing by machine or by hand, felted wool is one of the easiest of fabrics to use for crafting as it does not fray or ravel, has enough body to easily take on needed shapes, and has a luxurious depth of feel. For two quick and easy (great for sewing beginners) last minute gift ideas made from felted wool consider the following:

Cheery Pillow
Two 14-x-14-inch squares of felted wool, pearl cotton or embroidery floss, Polyester fiberfill, felted scraps to make trees, geometric shapes, flowers, animals or assembled scenes.

Additional embellishment ideas: sequins attached using clear or coordinating seed beads, iron-on rhinestone transfers (follow manufacturer's instructions for application) felt scraps for applique or buttons.

If using felt appliques, pin and baste stitch your felt pieces onto the wool piece that will become the pillow front. Blanket-stitch around the pieces using contrasting thread colors for a warm rustic country look.
With right-sides together, pin the pillow front to the pillow back. Use a 3/8 or 1/2-inch seam allowance to 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.

Variation: Pink the edges of the pillow front and pillow back pieces. After embellishing the pillow front piece, place the front to back wrong-sides together and hand or machine stitch 3/8 or 1/2-inch from the pinked edges using a contrasting thread color, leaving an opening for stuffing. Fill with fiberfill and continue top-stitching till closed.

Clutch or Purse
Create using one 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.

To assemble, fold the felt into thirds to create the purse pouch and flap keeping right-sides facing out. Leave the flap as is or cut corner edges into a slightly rounded shape, V-shape or leave 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 adding a few extra stitches). Using a contrasting color thread and applying a simple blanket stitch, hand stitch around the purse flap. Apply a decorative button or frog-type closure to the outside center of the flap if desired. A simple silk-like lining could be added if desired.

Sewing by hand or machine with wool that has been felted is surprisingly easy. Felting no longer used wool garments and then recycling them into hats, mittens, soft toys, even simple gift tags allows for an economical way to extend the life of a once worn and delightfully warm garment.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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