An Old Blanket Gets a New Life – Felting Pure Wool

Follow Up, 9 Years Later, in February 2020 : Popping in to say that I still love this lovely warm and heavy blanket. I was just nice and cosy under it on a recent cold stormy evening, while watching a movie. I wash and dry it regularly in the machines, and it keeps getting better, while always smelling clean and fresh. That said, the nature of pure wool means it will never be as soft as cotton or synthetic, and will always have a slight scratchiness, but I don’t mind. It’s become a winter staple that I look forward to getting out every year.

Catch a glimpse of it, amongst our winter decor in this post, with our vintage pure wool Hudson’s Bay blanket, which we also regularly wash and dry in the machines.

Good luck on your search for a vintage woolen blanket that you can felt! xo

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I bought a vintage red pure wool blanket from Ebay 5 years ago. That Christmas, family staying over at our place, and I made up my nephew’s bed with it. In the morning, I overheard him say to my mom in a joking way, “Aunt Louise gave me the prickliest blanket ever!” He was laughing but I got the hint that the blanket was really scratchy.

So, since then, it has been stored in the linen closet. Recently, I found that Nick had put it in the cat’s bed, which was a good idea for our much loved Eddie.  But, I wanted to check something out first, that might make it feel softer, so I gave him another blanket.  I was going to try felting it.

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I first became aware of felting wool this past summer, when I visited a farmers’ market and met an artisan who had the cutest up-cycled felted wool items for sale. However since they were wool I was concerned that they would be too scratchy for a baby, and she explained that the process of felting softened the wool. And indeed, the items did feel soft, so I bought a cute little pair of baby shoes for my cousin’s new baby, and my mother bought her a stuffed owl. (You can see photos of these in this post.)

Then I encountered the notion of felting wool once again, more recently, when I saw an Etsy vendor selling something called ‘felting balls’. My interest was piqued and I researched what these were, and found that they are balls you use in the process of felting wool. Basically, to felt wool, you wash it with detergent in hot water using your washing machine, and then dry it in the dryer on high heat. To make an item really soft, this process has to be repeated several times.

At this point, I should say that the usual way to clean any pure wool items is to have them dry-cleaned or hand washed in cool water, otherwise, they will shrink. I did discover this the hard way once, but had no idea I was on my way to felting that sweater!

So this week I went about the first stages of felting that old scratchy blanket! I ran it through the machines twice and have noticed a marked difference in texture and size. I didn’t have felting balls, but read that washing and drying it with a pair of jeans would serve the same purpose (use old jeans you don’t want to wear anymore, because they might shrink in the process).

I wasn’t concerned about shrinking the blanket, because my intention was to use it as a throw on the sofa, so I actually wanted it smaller.

And shrink, it did. It began at 65″ x 81″, and is now 60″ x 75″. I will do it again because it’s not as soft as I think I’ll be able to get it, but for now, I love it! It’s worth noting that if you want to try this, but your blanket has the silky-satiny material sewn to the ends, that they often have, I would recommend taking this off, because it won’t shrink like the wool will and it will end up looking puckered and strange. I didn’t have to worry about this because my blanket was finished with a blanket stitch on the ends and no satin piece.

Also, if you’re going to try this, please make sure you clear the lint trap in you dryer after each cycle. It was quite amazing how much loose fiber came off the blanket in the process.

While my old woolen blanket is softer than it originally was, it is not, and probably will never be, as soft as an acrylic or cotton blanket is.

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A note about this blanket … it was made by Globe Mills in Meaford Ontario, and the tag says 1957. I looked this up, and it turns out that the plant is no longer in business and the land on which it stood is now a seniors’ home.

Now, I’m wishing I hadn’t recently donated some old woolen sweaters to charity, because I would have loved to do some more experimenting with this interesting process. Have you ever purposely felted a woolen item?

Thank you for stopping by.

xo loulou

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