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Boiled Wool

Dragana2 | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hello sewing friends,

I am really keen to make my own boiled wool. I tried machinewashing a fine wool jersey in hot water and then drying in the dryer. Nothing happened. I tried another wool fabric and nothing again.

Does anyone know: what exact fabric type I need, how to achieve the boiled wool look and where to get the fabric?

Thank you my trusted advisors.



  1. meg | | #1

    There was an article in Threads once upon a time...  I remember the instructions for making your own boiled wool included the direction to wash in hot water, dry in a hot dryer three times.  If your wool jersey has nylon or another fiber in it, perhaps that would keep it from shrinking? 

    1. Dragana2 | | #3

      I rememer that article as well, but I cannot find it. I looked thru my collection.

      Perhaps Threads can advise which issue it was.

      Thank you, will inform all when I get the response.

  2. woodruff | | #2

    Some wools will just not felt, like "shetland" wools. for example. I've had good luck with wools knits called "merino" by the vendor. Several of them came from http://www.fabricmartfabrics.com

    They shrank up wondrous well--lost a LOT of width, going from nearly 60" to 47."

    1. Dragana2 | | #4

      You may be right. It has to be the right wool and perhaps even the knit.

      I can buy Pure Merino Wool Jersey here in Australia but it is quite expensive and given I need almost 3 times the amount, it becomes a rather expensive garment.

      Will keep you informed.

      Thank you.


  3. knitwit | | #5

    A lot of the "boiled wool" you see today was originally a loosely knit or crocheted fabric.  100% wool felts best although a small amount of other fiber is usually okay.   Wool treated to fade or shrink generally will not felt.  Dark colors often felt better than light colors. It is not just the hot water that causes it to shrink; it is also the abrasive action--which is why loosely constucted fabrics felt better than tightly woven fabric-- and the temperature change when you rinse it in cooler water.  Add a small amount of detergent.

  4. User avater
    paddyscar | | #6

    The Threads index provides the following articles:

    Articles found for "Wool, boiled":

    Article Title      Issue      Pages
    sources for       115       16-20
    Reinforcing clipped seam allowances, sources for boiled wool and knit binding, protecting pockets

    Articles found for "Boiled wool":

    Article Title      Issue      Pages
    See Felt.           087        27
    edges and flat seams for

    Articles found for "Felted wool":

    Article Title                  Issue      Pages
    buying and making       078        10
    QUESTIONS  To buy or make felted wool?, more on copyrights

    cutwork                       080       60-63
    by Jean Cacicedo
    Slash, and then machine-wash and -dry wool jersey for lacey, cutwork-like effects

    Articles found for "Felting":

    Article Title                    Issue           Pages
                                          002             60-62
                                          004             78
    for children’s jackets      030             52-56

    by Anne Einset Vickrey  
    Making seamless garments from a few wool fibers and a little soapy water

    needle-punching equipment, reviews of   Issue 110   Pages 76
    Fabric and Fit 
    by Therese M. Inverso
    A stylish vest from old sweaters techniques for    Issue 062  Pages  31-32

    techniques for    Issue  061   Page 32-35

    by Katherine Tilton
    Nonraveling wool and a simple shape are the keys to this weekend project

    wool jersey    Issue  109   Pages 70-73
    by Karen Tornow
    Exercise your creative options by shrinking wool jersey before, or after, embellishing with it

    Many of these are availabe from the publisher, but some may be available from your local library, if they have back issues of the magazines.



    1. Dragana2 | | #7

      Thank you Frances, you are an absolute gem.

      Do you have your own index? If so, how did you set it up. It is on my "to do list".

      I would love to know what program and how you went about it.





      1. User avater
        paddyscar | | #9

        Hi Dragana:

        There is an index to Threads.  Go to the red bar across the top of the screen, under the Threads banner and you can click on the following sections:



        Current Issue

        Pattern Collection

        Tips & Tricks

        Magazine Index


        Gatherings Discussions

        Hope this helps,


        1. Dragana2 | | #11

          Well, you just never stop learning.

          This is one of the reasons I love Gatherings, always someone there to help you.

          Thank you all. I will keep you informed on my quest to make boiled wool.



          1. HeartFire2 | | #12

            wool does actually not "shrink" in the sense that the fiber shortens. What happens to wool when it is AGITATED is that the microscopic scales on the fibers grab each other so to speak and cling to each other in a tighter bond. This is what makes the fiber look as if it has shrunk. its really only gotten more dense.the company SmartWool (they do longjohn undies and t-shirts etc) have chemically removed the scale so you can machine wash (agitate) these products and they don't 'shrink' (the technically correct term is "felt" or "full" ) So, there must be very aggressive agitation in order to felt wool. the agitation is more important than the temperature of the water.

          2. Dragana2 | | #13

            Thank you all for the wonderful knowledge and advice on boiled wool.

            After much research, visits to various local fabric stores and discussions I have come to the conclusion that I am better of buying ready made boiled wool.

            I have decided that it would be more economically friendly. I live in Melbourne, Australia and we have water restrictions. I feel guilty using so much water to felt some fabric.

            It has been a great learning experience.



  5. PASDENOM | | #8

    Check the care label on the bolt. If it says it's washable it won't felt, but if it says dry clean only it probably will.

  6. LindaG | | #10


    Wool jersey that's been dry cleaned did not shrink as well as never cleaned fabric. I washed and dried an old wool jersey top/skirt outfit and a length of the same material that never got made up into the coordinating cardigan. The ex-outfit never achieved that lovely felted look but the unsewn length was soft and fuzzy. I wondered if the dry cleaning affected it somehow.


  7. lilah | | #14

    I have knitted and felted a few things (hats, mittens).  I have accidentally felted other things, like sweaters.  Some wool is pretreated to prevent shrinkage and felting.  There are two things that help the felting process; temperature shock and agitation.  Some of the felting books suggest starting with really hot water, switching to cold water, always agitate briskly and even throw in a pair of heavy denim jeans.  Add a little detergent to cause the fibers to slip together more easily.  I have noticed that some people don't seem to get good results if their washer doesn't have an agitator.  The items I knitted started out huge and rather loosely knitted.  I put them through the washer three or more times, checking for correct fit by trying the item on between cycles.  Picture: DH wearing a dripping wet, wool hat.   What's actually happening in the process is that the individual fibers are drawing up and curling around each other and the scales that are on the surfaces of the fibers lock together.  Wool that is pretreated for shrinkage has a lot of these scales removed (chemically) or has been pre-shrunk.  There are several books about felting or fulling wool - most of them are included in the knitting books.   

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