Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Felting Jumpers

The past couple of months I have turned my attention to the thing I love to do most - crafting.  In the run up to Christmas I had a couple of craft fairs booked, and so it galvanised me into crafty gear.  I am very conscious on the materials I use for my work and am always thinking of ways of minimising the use of brand new materials by finding materials that are from sustainable sources that are easily biodegradable if they should eventually end up in landfill.
My favorite choice of textile has to be felt but not the felt you buy in craft shops.  More often than not, this is synthetic felt which is great textile as a starter craft but I prefer to make my own out of old wool jumpers (see below, link to tutorial).    The process can be a bit fiddly but the end result is worth all the effort.  Patchworked felted jumpers and blankets look great when sewn together plus, because they are made of natural fibres, they are supersoft.

Here are some pieces I made from my own felted wool:

Patchwork 'laptop' blanket with a recycled quilt cover lining
Patchworked felted cushion stuffed with Cornish organic wool






Making felt from old jumpers
Making your own felt is very satisfying and worthwhile.  It’s not a difficult process but finding enough quantity of jumpers in the right shade of colour for your project can be time consuming.  

Sourcing jumpers
The best places to find them are in charity/thrift shops and car boot sales.  Also you will be amazed at how many of your friends have accidently shrunk a favourite jumper and have not realised that it is not ruined but just transformed into a new texture that can be reused.  The jumpers have to have, at least, 80% wool content or more.  Anything less will not felt nor do acrylic jumpers.


Machine felting
To get the jumpers to felt, they need to be washed at the hottest temperature as possible.  They don’t always felt on the first wash and often the process of agitation is needed to get the jumpers to felt.  This can be achieved by rubbing the jumpers together by lessening the load and the quantity of water in the machine or by brute hand force by rubbing the jumpers together.  I often get sore hands from the felting process.  Another way to get them to felt is by the use of a tumble dryer but I prefer to hang mine out to dry! 


Preparing the felt
Once the jumpers are felted the next stage is to prepare the felt ready for the creative process.  I open the jumpers out by cutting down all the seams.  At this stage I look at the shape and patterns on the jumper and think about what I might make it into.   I don’t waste any of the felt and even keep hold of the seams.  

Cutting the felt
The next stage is to cut your felt into the shape you require.  For this I use a rotary cutter and ‘self healing’ mat and, a big metal ruler. 
It’s really important to look at the shape and patterning of the felt to ensure that you get an even cut.  I cut out 10cm X 10cm squares for cushions and the left over scraps will go to make three dimensional characters. 

Once all the preparation is out of the way the next stage is deciding what I will use the felt for.  This is the fun part of the process.  Often I have no firm plans.  I like to play around with the felt, mixing and matching colours and I like to see what evolves from my hands.

Because I spend a great deal of time ensuring that my work is sustainable I am also very conscientious about other materials that I use.  For stuffing for my cushions and my three dimensional creatures, I use Cornish, soil association approved, organic sheep’s wool available from Knitwits in Cornwall http://www.knitwitspenzance.co.uk/ which is very soft, durable and long lasting but most importantly biodegradable.