Thursday, March 1, 2012

Upcycle old sweaters by felting them in the washing machine

Frugal crafters have found a new use for old garments to create a versatile fabric for hats, mittens, electronics cases and many other projects. Felting is the process of turning knitted wool fabric into a dense, solid piece that's easy to craft without the danger of edges unraveling. While you can felt any wool garment, the easiest method is to use sweaters found in thrift stores or your own dresser drawers. Turn wool sweaters in solid colors or intricate patterns into attractive felt pieces, using a simple method with your washing machine.

Things you'll need:

  • 100% wool sweaters
  • Sharp scissors
  • Old pillowcase
  • Washing machine and dryer
  • Laundry detergent

The process:

  1. Turn the sweater inside out. Cut off all the seams from the body of the sweater. Seams and other pieces will felt, but not at the same rate as basic knitted fabric. Felting is a process of shrinking, so uneven shrinking can result in unattractive felted fabric.

  1. Remove all the ribbing from around the bottom of the sweater, the end of the sleeves and around the neckline.

  1. Cut off any decorative pieces that may be on the sweater, such as appliqued flowers, stitched-on bows, buttons, zippers or pockets.

  1. Put all the pieces of knitted fabric into a pillowcase. If you want to experiment with felting the seam fabric and ribbing for decorative pieces, put them in the pillowcase along with the sweater fabric. Knot the pillowcase to keep all the pieces contained.

  1. Place the pillowcase in the washing machine. Add half the amount of detergent you would normally use for a load of laundry. Wash the pillowcase with sweater pieces on hot for the longest time setting available.

  1. Remove the pillowcase from the washer when the cycle is finished and inspect the fabric inside. If it is felted enough for your design plans, lay the fabric out flat and allow it to air dry. If you would like the fabric to felt further, making it tighter and thicker, place it back into the pillowcase, tie the case shut and place it in the dryer. Dry the fabric on a medium-heat setting.

  1. If your fabric is still not felted to your liking, repeat the entire washing and drying process to create super thick and sturdy felted fabric.

Many crafters felt their fabrics by simply washing them in the washing machine and drying them. While this method works perfectly well, the process of felting creates a large amount of lint which can clog up your washer hoses and dryer vents. Place the pieces into the pillowcase and the large clumps of lint will accumulate at the bottom of the case.

Use your new felted fabric to create applique flowers to decorate outerwear, to make hats and mittens or to craft soft and protective pouches for cellphones, eBook readers, MP3 players and other personal electronic gear. Felt is soft, tough and easy to work with. Attractive handmade felt may become your favorite new fabric for crafting!

Danielle, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands, appreciates a good wool sweater on a cold, winter afternoon- even more so when it’s one she’s made on her own. Read her work

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