How to Felt Sweaters for Fabric Art

Last night I felt just the slightest nip in the air. Just enough to remind me that fall will, indeed, be coming soon. That school will start in a week. That it's time to check the sweaters.

felt lining for fabric art book
The interior of this Movable Studio book is made from a felted sweater.
Art by Jenn Mason.

With any luck, I'll be able to persuade my husband that some of his wool sweaters are too worn even for working around the house. Then I can turn them into felt for fabric art.

There are so many ways you can upcycle felted sweaters and other wool apparel into fiber art. You can stitch it, make artist trading cards out of it, use cutout shapes to make appliqué designs, embroider it, or just use it as a background substrate for mixed-media textile art.

Jenn Mason likes to use felted sweater material as the inside of a "movable studio" mixed-media fabric book. The cover is collaged, inked, and stitched paper covered with iron-on vinyl.

Here are Jenn's directions for making felt from a sweater.

1. Use one of your old sweaters or pick one up at a thrift store. The larger the sweater, the bigger your piece of felted wool will be. The sweater should be 100% wool. Note: "Washable wool" will not work.

2. Zip any zippers and remove any tags or embellishments from the sweater.

3. Wash the sweater in a washing machine on the hottest cycle. If you have a "sanitize" cycle, use that. (Note: A top-loading machine is usually recommended for its agitation, but I have felted several sweaters at a time in my front loader and it has worked just fine.)

Tip: When felting multiple sweaters, separate darks from lights.

felt lined fabric art book
Jenn combined collage, stitch, and paper
for this mixed-media fiber art cover.
PAGES 2012

4. Put the sweater into the dryer and dry it on the hottest heat option.

5. Take the sweater out of the dryer and be amazed at its new size. If you think the sweater can tighten up more, repeat steps 3 and 4.

Tip: Thick sweaters make thick felt. For thin felt, avoid cable knits and the like.

Personally, I love the look and feel of this "handmade" felt, and it's much easier than wet felting from roving. Also, don't judge the potential felt by the sweater: when the fibers meld via the washing process, the resulting felt often looks better than the original garment.

You can get the instructions for making this Movable Studio book in the 2012 issue of PAGES magazine, along with many other techniques for making books and journals with fabric art, paper art, stitch, and more.

P.S. Do you felt sweaters? What other kinds of clothing do you use in your fabric art? Leave your comment below.

Categories

Art to Wear, Blog, Fabric Art

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