An Old Blanket Gets a New Life – Felting Pure Wool
UPDATE : 10 Years later – A decade has passed since I wrote this post. We’re still using this lovely blanket, washing and drying it in the home machines a couple of times a year. You can see how nice it still looks in this (short) new video. And then, start looking for old pure wool blankets at the thrift store, or pull one out of your cupboard and start using it without worrying about the cost of dry cleaning!
Also, there is a new blog post on the subject and some photos of the blanket 10 years later, found here.
I bought a vintage red pure wool blanket from Ebay 5 years ago. That Christmas, we had family staying over at our place, and I used it on the bed for my preteen nephew. 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 quite scratchy.
So, it has been stored in the linen closet since. Then recently, I noticed that my mister, Nick, had found it and put it in the cat’s bed. That was a good idea for our much loved Eddie, but I wanted to try something out first, before relegating it to a pet blanket; I was going to attempt to make it feel softer by felting it.
I first became aware of felting wool this past summer, when I visited a farmers’ market and met an artisan who had some cute 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 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 discovered this the hard way once but had no idea that, while the sweater came out of the wash several sizes too small, I was on my way to felting it!
NOTE : Please only wash and dry your woolen blankets in the machines if you don’t mind if they shrink. This method is only recommended for old blankets that are not highly valuable.
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). However, I skipped the felting balls and the jeans and it seemed to have worked out fine.
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, it did shrink some. 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 important to note that if you want to try this, do it with a blanket that doesn’t have the silky-satiny material sewn to the ends, (that they sometimes have), because it won’t shrink like the wool will and your blanket 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 your dryer after each cycle. It was quite amazing how much loose fiber came off the blanket in the process.
In summary, while my old woolen blanket is definitely softer than it originally was, it is not, and probably never will be as soft as an acrylic or cotton blanket is.
(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.)
Thank you for stopping by.