Sweater quilt: washing the sweaters

Washing wool to promote its usability in a quilt is called fulling. The word felting was often substituted for fulling in many web sources for sweater quilts, so out of curiosity, I looked up both words in the dictionary:

full vs. felt

Today I continue with answers to questions about washing sweaters before cutting them up to make a quilt.

Q:  How do you prepare the sweaters?

A:  This was the easiest part of the entire project!

1. Sort by color. I had four loads: light, medium, dark and red.

 four loads

2. Add detergent (I used Cheer) in an amount appropriate to the size of your load.

3. Toss in a pair of old (done fading) blue jeans. The jeans supposedly aid in abrading and matting the sweater fibers.

4. Hot wash/cold rinse.

5. High spin.

6. Now it’s time to babysit the dryer. Run the dryer for 5 minutes on high heat. Stop and vacuum the lint screen.

 dryer fuzz

Repeat until the sweaters are dry or nearly dry, vacuuming after each 5 minute cycle.

7. When you are finished drying the load of sweaters, wipe down the inside of your dryer with a clean, wet cotton cloth.

fuzzy cloth

Do not skip this step. You will be amazed at what you collect.

Q:  If there’s that much fuzz, why risk washing and drying the sweaters at home?

A:  Some sources did recommend washing at the laundromat.

Others recommended securing the sweaters in a large pillowcase to contain the fuzz. Doing that, however, would not allow the sweaters to agitate freely, something most web sources insisted upon. I took a chance and washed mine at home, primarily to avoid the hassle and expense of a commercial facility.

Q:  Should the sweaters be cut apart prior to washing?

A:  I decided against it.

Although some sources recommended cutting before washing, I was concerned about losing valuable inches due to possible raveling in the washing machine.

Q:  How much did the sweaters shrink?

A:  My wool sweaters shrank

from 2% to 26%.

shrunken sweaters

The ones that shrank the most looked like they might fit a four-year-old!  Coincidentally, those were the ones that were easiest to work with.


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