Friday, March 30, 2012

Tips and Tricks for Working with Wool Felt

It never fails:  I pick up my sketch pad to begin a new design and am torn between using the lovely hand-dyed wools that hang on my color wall or pulling from the rich colors of wool felt next to my work table. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and I know I'm not the only person out here who has trouble choosing.

What's the Difference Between Working with Wool or Wool Felt?  When I buy hand-dyed 100% wool, it comes to me pre-felted. That means the wool was placed in a warm or hot bath and then dried (usually in a dryer).  If you know anything about 100% wool, you know that causes it to shrink or "felt" as the industry calls it.  The "felted" wool can now be cut for rug hooking, quilts, applique templates and just about anything, because it can no longer fray.  That's wonderful, because you now don't have to worry about hiding or turning the edges under, which opens up a whole world of possibilities.

There are many advantages to using 100% wool, and the most important are (1) unlimited color possibilities and natural mottling variations, (2) durability, and (3) it is washable. Once wool has been properly felted, you don't have to worry about further shrinking, so you can wash it and give it a little steaming to return your project to brand new. The main disadvantage is hand-dyed 100% wool is expensive and can ultimately run $30 to $50 a yard depending on where you get it. However, if I am working on an heirloom project that I want to last for 300 years,  then 100% wool is my choice.

Wool Felt is a Whole New Game!  Here in the United States, wool felt is primarily manufactured by National Nonwovens.  There are many retail distributors of wool felt, one of which is Commonwealth Felt and another is Wool Felt Central.  The wool felt I use is a 20/80 or 35/65 blend of wool and rayon.  Its advantages are (1) it is inexpensive and runs only $8 or $9 a yard or about $1.75 for a 12x18" sheet, (2) it comes in near 100 colors, (3) it is already felted, and (4) it can be made to look like expensive "boiled wool".  Unfortunately, wool felt should not be put in a washing machine and it's not suitable for projects that will get heavy use in your home, like a bed quilt or a hooked rug.  However, wool felt is great for table runners, candle mats, wall quilts, penny rugs, etc!

I've created an easy printable tutorial sheet called Tips for Working With Wool Felt  I hope you enjoy.  It shows you how to make your felt look like "boiled wool" (if that's how you want it), how to use it in projects and how to care for your wool felt.  There's lots of information on the tips sheet, so please feel free to share it with your friends or even pass the link forward.  I think you are going to love working with wool felt!

If you haven't joined my Birthday Club yet, don't forget I'm drawing three names early next week for the January, February and March Birthday Club winners! It's free to join and you get big discounts and can win free patterns during your birthday month.  Several of you birthday babies have already taken advantage of their membership to purchase kits for my "Snow Days" and "Halloween Jacks" designs and they are shipped and on their way to you!  My new design for a Halloween table runner is done and I'm working on the pattern and a kit I know you'll like, which should all be finished and ready for shipping in the next few days.  I take the photos outdoors and will get the photography done as soon as it stops raining (geez, I mean if it stops raining).  Remember, you'll be able to pick up the pattern and kit for 25% off during your birthday month if you're a Birthday Club member.

That's it for today.  I've got my brain full of another idea I want to get started on over this weekend if the hubby doesn't decide we're going four-wheeling or fishing.  I can never decide if I like fishing or stitching better--are you the same way too?

Until next time, Happy Stitchin'!  --xoxo Melanie

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