Turn old wool sweaters into fun do-it-yourself home accessories. This felting technique can be used to make blankets, pillows, lamp covers and more.
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How to Felt
Start your projects with wool sweaters or scarves. To create the nonraveling fabric, turn the pieces inside out and toss into the washing machine on a hot-cycle wash with detergent; machine or air-dry. If you have a mound of sweaters, take them to a laundry center as your machine might not appreciate the loads of lint left behind. Every sweater is different, but expect considerable shrinkage.
Tip: Look for sweaters, scarves, etc that are at least 80 percent wool. If the fabric has less, it won't felt.
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This shapely lamp base enjoys a cozy cover. When covering a sphere, measure the height and the circumference, then cut a rectangular piece of felted wool to size. Wrap it around the object with right side facing in, and pin evenly spaced darts at the top and bottom. Remove, sew darts, then sew the piece into a tube. Turn right side out and slip over object. Using heavy-duty thread, hand-stitch a running stitch at the top and bottom and pull to cinch tight, then tie off at the back.
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For extra flair, create felted
embellishments by knitting or crocheting from scratch. At crafts stores, choose 100 percent wool yarn that’s labeled for felting. We knitted wool flowers and leaves. Felting them is just like the process for sweaters, but for best results, place the small pieces in a mesh laundry bag before washing and hand-shape before they dry. We found washing two or three times produced the felt density we desired on these flowers.
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Display a bowl of felted rocks as a cozy accent. This multistep process takes elbow grease and patience. Layer five alternating rows of roving fiber (found at fabrics stores). Place a rock in the middle and wrap it. Submerge the covered rock in hot water, squeezing out air bubbles. Remove and rub in soap until you have a foamy ball. Gently pat the ball, smoothing out creases and bubbles. This takes time as well as more soap and water. When the roving starts to hug the rock, start rubbing and rolling it, gently at first, then more vigorously as it felts. Add more soap and water as you rub. When the roving is tight to the rock, rinse in hot then cold water; let dry. Embellish with perle cotton stitches if desired.
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Cut squares of felted wool to make a patchwork blanket in a snap. A finished throw of 56x64 inches requires fifty-six 9-inch-square blocks. We sewed four 5-inch squares with right sides facing and 1⁄2-inch seam allowance to make some 9-inch blocks. Arrange one-piece and four-piece blocks in a pattern seven squares wide by eight squares long. Sew together rows of seven blocks using 1⁄2-inch seam allowances, matching seams, then sew the rows together. Back the quilt with a flannel sheet, sew perle cotton ties at intersections, then topstitch 1 inch from edge around perimeter.
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Make a cozy basket by strategically cutting a single felted cable-knit sweater and slip it over a hatbox. Leather handles add a sophisticated touch.
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Get creative with felted sweaters and scarves and turn them into stylish pillows.
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Tuck and Fold
To create this turquoise pillow, cut a felted cashmere sweater to about 27x23 inches and stitch six equally spaced 1-inch tucks along the width. Press the tucks in one direction, locate the center of each tuck, and stitch across all tucks to secure. Repeat in the same direction about 6 inches from each end. Press the tucks in the opposite direction and stitch at the midpoint between the first row of stitches to create a subtle zigzag. Cut a back from coordinating fabric, place right sides together, and sew using a 1⁄2-inch seam allowance, leaving an opening for turning. Turn, insert pillow form and hand-stitch closed.
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Felted Rosette Pillow
For this fun spiral pillow, cut the front and back from a felted sweater and lay flat. Cut a 2-inch-wide strip from each piece. Ruffle the outside edge of each strip by machine-stitching a zigzag stitch and stretching the wool from front and back as you pull it through the machine. Place one piece on top of the other and wind as you arrange them on top of a round pillow. Tack the strips together and to the pillow with a combination of fabric glue and hand stitches.
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Because felted textiles don’t fray, they’re perfect for cutout shapes and embellishments, such as a monogram. To make this pillow, we cut initials from a felted wool sweater and secured them to a pillow made from wool felt. You could stitch the letters on, but we used Clover brand’s needle-felting tool and mat to punch and fuse the wool fibers together. We punched a length of wool yarn over the top to add even more texture. Some wool items needle-punch together better than others, so test your pieces first.
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You’ll need about 100 yards of 1-inch-wide wool strips to make this 2x4-foot braided rug (we used a large wool throw and about 10 sweaters). Cut felted wool items into 1-inch strips and braid together in manageable lengths of about 3 yards. Machine-stitch all the lengths together end to end. Tape one end to a flat surface and stretch to 4 feet, tape to surface, then round back in the opposite direction, hand-stitching the two rows together until you reach the other end. Tape the end down and round back in the opposite direction again, repeating the back-and-forth pattern and hand-stitching until your rug is 2 feet wide. Tuck the end to the back and hand-stitch to secure. Remove all tape.
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Boost glass vases and cylinders with felted slipcovers. Stretch a piece of felted sweater, inside out, around the vessel. Pin for a snug fit, then remove and sew where pinned. Cut excess, then turn right side out. The fun part here is making use of sweater accents, such as button plackets, pockets, sleeves, and ribbing. Or add your own embellishments fashioned from scraps of wool sweaters. The floret shown here was made from a thin length of felted cashmere, twisted and tacked with fabric glue to a felt circle. The small heart was cut from a felted sweater scrap and secured to a felted sweater sleeve using a needle-felting tool and mat.