- not labeled – you rolled the dice and took a chance — so not really wool or it’s machine washable wool
- Labeled as machine washable, definitely will not felt
- the knit is just too delicate or the stitching too airy so the fibers can’t grab onto each other and tangle
- Mislabeled? Sometimes they are labeled as 100% wool and the label states dry clean or handwash only. Looks like a perfect candidate for felting, but doesn’t felt
So if it’s not one of the above reasons, what do you do?
If the label says anything less than 100% wool you are taking a chance that it won’t felt. The closer you are to 100% the more likely that the sweater will felt up perfectly. The care instructions should say hand wash only or dry clean. If it says machine washable, it will not felt.
Make sure your water is super hot!
When I bought a new washing machine (the cheapest, most basic I could) it came with a water saving feature. I am all for saving water, but even when I washed on the HOT cycle the water was barely lukewarm! So test your water make sure it is actually hot! If it isn’t you could fill your machine manually with a bucket (make sure you don’t fill it any higher than the machine would, otherwise it might not empty out correctly). You can also turn off the cold water feed to your machine while the machine is filling and then turn it on again after filled (otherwise it won’t work in the rinse cycle).
I generally do the first attempt at felting at a shorter cycle maybe 10 minutes of agitation. If that doesn’t get it started on felting I will do it again and maybe add five minutes to the agitation. I will keep washing it on longer and tougher cycles until I’m sure it will not felt or it starts to develop holes.
Use the least amount of water and soap
Unless your fabric is dirty, just use a little bit of detergent, sometimes as little as a drop will create a lot of suds. Don’t use more water than you need so that the sweaters are rubbing up against each other to help them felt. If you only have one sweater throw something else in the machine like a towel.
So you have done all this and it still won’t felt.
What do you do with it?
- If it hasn’t torn, donate it back to a charitable organization
- Use them as dust cloths, wool is fab for picking up dust and lint
- Make some fabulous sachets like mine on Etsy
- Use them to protect your precious vegetable seedlings, not for persnickety gardeners!