Sweater Hunting and Felting Part I

I could also call this post L.L. Bean’s dirty little secret….

Since I started felting old sweaters in the washing machine, I have been tracking my progress, and today I’d like to share some of that information. It is interesting–part of me is so excited to tell you what I have learned, and part of me wants to keep all the information to myself–because you know, there are only so many old wool sweaters out there.

On a regular basis, I have people say to me, “Isn’t it hard to find wool sweaters?” The educated answer to that question is no. If you know what to look for, there are enough sweaters for everyone. It does help that I live in Alaska where people wear sweaters almost year round–this means there are a lot of sweaters at the thrift stores.

The other thing I have going for me is that I like the hunt. I’ve got almost 40 years of experience hunting for things at garage sales and thrift stores. Just call me hawk-eyed. And after reading these posts about hunting and felting you’ll be able to do it too.

The Sweater Chop Shop book by crispina ffrench is where I started. She gives the beginner great basic information.

As I have said before,there really is loads of good info in this book especially if you like to felt sweaters but don't know what you want to do with them.

As I have said before,there really is loads of good info in this book especially if you like to felt sweaters but don’t know what you want to do with them.

At first I made quite a few mistakes, so I decided to write down key information about each sweater.

I knew this would hone my skills at tracking wool in the wilds of the Salvation Army and Value Village, and besides I love keeping records.

For each sweater, I write down the brand name, a good color description, the price I paid, the size, the type (turtle neck, cardigan, cowl, etc…), the wool description on the label, and finally the result of my efforts.

Here is a page out of my felting log.

Here is a page out of my felting log.

To take this documentation process one step further, I decided to photograph a set of sweaters before and after the felting process. I tried to select a good variety of sweaters to share what particular sweater types do when felted.

Up first is an American Eagle 100% wool sweater.  This is a very thick, but loosely knit sweater. I know by looking at it that it will felt up nicely, but be a super thick fabric to work with. I like to use this fabric for cuffs. It is not as versatile as a thinner wool, but it does have its place in my stash.

This is a really thick yarned sweater. It would be too thick for making mittens.

This is a really thick yarned sweater. It would be too thick for making mittens.

Here is a close up of the weave before felting.

Here is a close up of the weave before felting.

And here is what the edge of the sweater looked like before felting.

And here is what the edge of the sweater looked like before felting.

Can you see the difference? My boys always love this phase. They can't believe that and Extra Large Women's sweater is not theri size.

Can you see the difference? My younger boys always love these felted sweaters. They can’t believe that an Extra Large Women’s sweater is now their size.

See how the felting changes the look of the weave. I am always surprised by what happens. I just can't wait to open my washing machine and see what has happened!

See how the felting changes the look of the weave. I am always surprised by what happens. Call me crazy, but I just can’t wait to open my washing machine and see what has happened!

This felted edge will make lovely cuffs. It is super strong and durable.

This felted edge will make lovely cuffs. It is super strong and durable.

Here is a Lands End 100% lambs wool sweater. I love the way 100% Lambswool felts up. It is dense but not too thick, and it is soft. I can use this weight in all areas of my sweaters.

This is what the Lands End Sweater looked like before the washing machine did its magic. It is large Woman's v-neck sweater.

This is what the Lands End Sweater looked like before the washing machine did its magic. It is large woman’s v-neck sweater.

This sweater is a beautiful shade of red.

This sweater is a beautiful shade of red with flecks of purple and blue.

And a lovely edge too. I can't wait to see what this one is going to look like!

And a lovely edge too. I can’t wait to see what this one is going to look like!

This is a beauty. I love 100% Lambswool. It is the perfect weight and softness for making sweaters.

This is a beauty. I love 100% Lambswool. It is the perfect weight and softness for making sweaters.

Here is what the wool looks like after felting.

Here is what the wool looks like after felting.

Here is the beautiful edge. This will make a great detail in one of my sweaters.

Here is the beautiful edge. This will make a great detail in one of my sweaters.

I will tell you a little secret here. I always  thought Lands End and L.L. Bean were about the same.

I no longer think that.

L.L. Bean’s 100% wool sweaters are not 100% wool. I was fooled several times before I figured it out. L.L. Bean wool sweaters may look and feel like 100% wool, and the label may say they are 100% wool, but they are not. And they will not felt.

L.L. Bean is not the only clothing company guilty of claiming to have 100% wool sweaters, but they are the most consistent fibbers.

Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of my adventures in sweater hunting felting!

This entry was published on January 12, 2013 at 11:53 AM. It’s filed under My Process- Clothing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Sweater Hunting and Felting Part I

  1. Maria, this looks like a fun distraction! Do you have to do anything to keep your washing machine from getting mucked up with wool lint? The blog looks great.

    Like

  2. Do you have to do anything different to keep the washing machine from getting mucked up with wool lint? I had a friend who used to stitch for Crispina and said she bought huge amounts of used sweaters from Italy. We can dream, huh?
    The blog looks good!

    Like

    • Jeanne- My husband regularly cleans the washing machine thread catcher thing–but if I keep this up, we will have to be a little more proactive. The same goes for the dryer. Thank you for the support Jeanne. I hope you are doing good.

      Like

  3. Pingback: Prelude to a Spring Frock | Maria Shell

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