Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wool, Wool Felt, Wool Applique

The other day someone called and asked if we have wool felt.  So today, let's talk about wool fibres and felting.
Wool fibres will felt together when exposed to warm water, a little soap and friction.  Remember wool sweaters that were mistakenly thrown in the washing machine and came out many sizes too small?  I belong to the Canadian Embroiderers' Guild, London chapter, where I took a class on wet felting around a rock. We took some pieces of loose wool roving, wrapped them around a rock and then wet them with warm water and a little soap.  We started working the fibres to create friction until they started to mesh together and form a firm fabric tightly around the rock. 
Needle felting is the process of melding fibres into a fabric using barbed needles instead of water and friction. The needles cause the wool fibres to hook together.
We sell some wool felt in black and white.  It is not woven but is felted until it makes a fabric.  You know it is 100% wool because it is at least $25 per metre.  We have had other colours of wool felt for under $15 per metre but, even though we called it wool, it was mostly acrylic fibres with a little wool.  Both work for wool applique.  Because the fibres are tightly bonded together they fray very little when cut so are easy to applique with a blanket stitch. 
Wool applique can be done with woven wool fabric.  It can be felted to make it more firm and denser but this I call felted wool fabric.  Marcus Brothers came out with a line of wool fabrics this fall in about 20 antique like colours for wool applique.  It is $54 per metre but we have cut it into 9" by 10.5" pieces for $3.25.  Usually you use smaller pieces for applique so you can get a wider variety of colours without having to invest by the metre.
If you search through second hand and thrift shops you may find wool suits, coats or sweaters.  You can take them apart and felt the wool fabric for applique. 
Aurafil makes a wool blend thread.  We have a few colours which I like for wool applique.  There is no shine to the thread so it blends well with the fabrics.  The thread is 50% wool.
Now, knowing a little about felting and wool, you can figure out that wool batt may take special care.  If you machine wash wool batt in a washing machine with warm water and soap you will be encouraging the batt to felt.  If you go the expense of using wool batt for warmth, take extra care to clean it very very gently!!  If you choose wool batt because you want a warm quilt remember this.
It is not one quilt's job to keep you as warm as you want to be!!
I am up to 3 quilts upstairs at the store (we live here).  If it is a cold winter like last year, it may be a 4 quilt winter.  The last quilt is Aunt Bessie's wedding present, a 100% polyester crimplene top and bottom quilt with polyester batting and hand quilted.  No heat escapes under that quilt!

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