Every year, my friends and I hold a big craft weekend. This time, I had fun felting old wool sweaters and turning them into plush animals for my family.
And now that it’s the season for spring cleaning, there’s no better time than spring to go through your closet for wool sweaters you’re ready to discard. Thrift stores are also a great place to find old wool sweaters in many colors and patterns.
When choosing sweaters for this project, remember that they must be animal fiber, like wool, alpaca and cashmere. Some wool sweaters have been treated for washing, so pay attention to the tag because you don’t want to use these. Big bulky sweaters might shrink and felt so much that they are too thick to sew into plush, and might be better suited for handbags or pot holders. Thinner sweaters should felt up just right to have a nice drape that is easy to sew.
• Wool sweaters in many colors
• Embroidery sewing needle
• Embroidery floss
• Pinking shears or scalloped scissors (optional)
• Store-bought felt (optional)
Step by step
Felting sweaters is easy. Simply wash them in hot water with your normal detergent, and then a cold rinse. Put enough water in the machine that they can move around, but not so much that they float and don’t have anything to rub up against. Agitation helps the felting process, so washing the sweaters with towels can be helpful.
Dry the sweaters on high heat. If they’re not fully felted at the end, you can repeat this whole process. You know you’ve done it when the sweater has shrunk considerably and you can’t see the knit stitches anymore.
Now you’re ready to create your plush. Cut off the ribbed cuffs and cut the sweaters at side seams so you can lay them out flat and draw your shapes in pencil.
I created an owl by sewing two circles with pointy ears together, and then layering the details (eyes, wings, feet) on top. Simply draw out the shape and cut two pieces and sew them together. Little details like pink cheeks and sewn facial expressions will make your animals come to life.
I love layering many sweaters together, mixing and matching colors, patterns and textures. That’s one of the reasons doing this project with a group is so great: You can all share your stash of felted wool. The plush that my friends and I created had so much personality from the reused material.
Experiment with big decorative stitches such as blanket stitch. Look online or in embroidery books for these techniques.