I have a confession to make – I can be a bit of a hoarder! I’m at my worst when it comes to clothes, even when they’re worn out, damaged, or utterly unsuitable, not even good enough for the charity shop, I look at all the lovely fabric and can’t bring myself to throw them out. Instead, they end up pushed to the back of the cupboard, or in bags and piles for ‘doing something with’, one day.
Browsing around the web a few months ago, I came across a reference to washing-machine felt, a technique for taking unwanted woollen knitwear and turning it into a wool felt which can then be used in other projects. All the tutorials I found seemed to hinge on also having access to a tumble dryer (which I don’t), but I had a dig about in the back of the wardrobe, rounded up three dead jumpers (two of which had already suffered and shrunk a little in the wash) and decided to give it a go. It’s important that the jumpers you’re felting are entirely – or almost entirely – made of natural woollen fibre, as polyester and other synthetics won’t felt properly. Mine ranged from 80% to 100% wool.
I threw them all in the washing machine with a scoop of normal detergent, and selected a 60 degree cotton wash with all the ‘extras’ selected – extra dirty, extra spin, you know the sort of things. Kids, this is not a good or friendly thing to do to knitwear (do kids these days even wear woollens??). The jumpers came out of the machine half the size they went in, and undeniably now made of felt. Success – and no dryer required! After a couple of days drying, I was ready to have a play.
The fabric you’ve made will now behave very much like manufactured felt (though it’s a bit thicker than the stuff you buy by the square foot at the craft shop – and rather more robust) or polar fleece. You can cut it without it unravelling, and the edges don’t need finishing.
For a really quick satisfying up-cycle from your first washing machine felt sweater, how about a pair of fingerless felt gloves?
Work out how long you want your gloves, and cut the appropriate length from the sleeves of the felted jumper.
You’ll probably want the cuffs of the sleeves to be the cuffs of the new gloves.
Now decide where you want your thumb holes, turn the sleeves inside out, and snip out that part of the seam from the inside of the sleeve, leaving a slit of the right length to fit your thumb through. Err on the small size, you can always cut more later.
But you can embellish these gloves really easily, if you like. The sky’s the limit, really, for embroidery and embellishment, but I decided simply to add some blanket stitch to the unfinished edges and thumb holes, using some pretty multicoloured contrasting knitting wool I had lying around. Blanket stitching the cut edges, like I did, has the added bonus that it should stop the seam coming undone as time goes by.
Quickest, simplest fabric recycling project ever, isn’t it? Anyone can do this, so give it a go!
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