Felting with old sweaters

I’m a great recycler, as I suspect many textile lovers are. Much of my business is based on scouring charity shops and jumble sales for items that other people have discarded and transforming them back into desirable objects. Some old scarves get used for nuno felt; others are overdyed with indigo or overprinted.

Recently I had a go at darning an old sweater, after being inspired by an exhibition for a craft prize. But some of my sweaters have gone waaaay past the darning stage – so I thought I would try felting with them, using them as a kind of prefelt.

For the first sample I cut out circles and felted them on to two layers of white superfine merino. As they were 100% wool, they felted in really easily. I forgot to take any photos before felting, but the picture below shows the finished sample.

flextiles sample of felt with sweater circles

The circles on the left were covered with another two layers of superfine merino, as I wasn’t sure whether the base of two layers would be enough to support the circles. Obviously this felt was much thicker and you can hardly see the colour of the circles through the top layers.

The sweaters were knitted in stocking stitch, and the circles on the middle were laid out with the right side up, while those on the left were reverse side up. They looked quite different before they were felted, but after felting there was very little difference.

As you can see from the photo the superfine merino shrank a lot (around 50%) so there was very little space between the circles in the final piece. So in the next tiger stripe sample I left more room between the stripes.

flextiles felt tiger stripe sample before felting

You can clearly see the texture of the sweater before felting; after felting you can just about see the vertical rows of knitting.

flextiles felt tiger stripe sample

Although the stripes are also wool, they have not shrunk as much as the merino they are attached to. This leads to a pleasing texture of ridges, where the stripes are much higher than the base layers of merino. I’ve tried to show this more clearly in the photo below.

flextiles felt tiger stripe sample close up

After I made this sample I realised that white, green and purple were the colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which campaigned for women’s right to vote in the UK. White symbolised purity, green hope and purple dignity.

So to celebrate the centenary this year of some women in the UK getting the vote, I made a small suffragette neckpiece. 🙂

flextiles felt suffragette neckpiece

I really like using old sweaters this way – it saves me having to make prefelt!

What’s your favourite upcycling tip?


This entry was posted in Guest Writer, Wet Felting, Wool. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Felting with old sweaters

  1. Pingback: Felting with old sweaters — feltingandfiberstudio – Flextiles

  2. Janet Chalmers says:

    I love seeing what you did with the sweaters. I’ve been wanting to use a hand knitted sweater I’ve been hanging onto for ages and make it into a cat cave. Now, I just need to jump in and get started! Thanks for sharing your photos with us.

  3. koffipot says:

    I love the tiger stripes. 🙂

  4. Jill says:

    Great idea!

  5. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    Great experiments! I love the stripes and the Neck piece is a great tribute besides being so bright and colorful.

  6. The scarf is magnificent! Your experimentation really paid off.

  7. You got great texture with the sweaters. A great experiment.

  8. tracey2008 says:

    Lovely stripes, I like how they raised up. Can’t beat a bit of Mud eh 😉

  9. zedster66 says:

    They’re all great pieces! I like White, Green and Purple together because it reminds me of some Fluorite minerals. My favourite upcycling tip is to never throw anything away 🙂

    • Flextiles says:

      Yes Zed – I know the feeling: “It might come in useful for something”! Interesting to hear about fluorite – I wonder if there are lots of suffragette mineralogists. 😉

  10. Karen Lane says:

    Oooooh….you’ve got me inspired again Kim! I like the raised texture on your tiger stripes and the suffragette scarf is lovely.

  11. ruthlane says:

    Thanks for the post Kim! I really like the texture you achieved.

  12. This is a great technique Kim. I had never thought of trying to felt old jumpers onto Merino! I might try and felt one of Alex’s jumpers into something else, maybe a cushion. WHEN I’ve finished Lucy’s floorcloth, the painting of which is taking up ALL my spare time as the design is pretty intricate, finished sewing up the cardigan I knitted for Virginia and my first baby jumper ……. my favourite recycling thing is to reuse packaging. Bubble wrap for feltmaking obvs, Amazon cardboard book packaging for sending things on to other people. A neighbour gave me the wool batting used (encased in plastic) to keep the ingredients of her food delivery box cold. I’m going to use it, without the plastic casing, to pad a play mat for forthcoming grandkid.

    • Flextiles says:

      Thanks Carol – you are always SO busy! I think making one of Alex’s sweaters into a cushion is a lovely idea – I’m thinking of putting up a notice at events asking people if they would like their old sweaters recycled in this way.

      I’ve made felt from the wool used for insulation on food deliveries – it’s quite rough but good for things like bird pods (as long as the squirrels don’t nab them!).

      Best of luck with Lucy’s floorcloth – I look forward to seeing this masterpiece when it’s finally finished!

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