Wondering about wool? 2 wool-applique tutorials to inspire your stitching

Wool is all the rage in sewing circles, but if you’re new to working with wool you might have some questions: how to find it, how to felt it, and how to sew with it. We’ve got the answers to all of your fuzzy-wuzzy wool questions today!

Debbie Busby’s book Sew Many Notions is all about celebrating wool and celebrating sewing. In the following excerpt from Debbie’s book, she explains the three kinds of wool to seek out, and also shares how she felts wool to create a dense, textured fabric that promises to never unravel. We’ve also got a video of Debbie sewing with wool—sew easy, and so pretty too!

(And by the way, if you’ve ever referred to appliqué as the “A” word, you’ve got to give these wool-appliqué tutorials a try—it’s the easiest way to embrace appliqué!)

Wool Appliqué
Excerpted from Sew Many Notions by Debbie Busby

If there’s anything you should know about wool appliqué, it’s this: it’s fun, easy, quick, and addicting! There are no edges to turn, no right or wrong sides, and no worries about fabric grainline. It’s one of the simplest and most forgiving forms of appliqué.

Wool appliqué is very portable, so you can work on it almost anywhere. It’s so easy and relaxing that you can visit with a friend and not lose your place while stitching. Small wool projects are fun to work on with a group around a table, and they don’t take up much room.

Types of Wool

All of the projects in Sew Many Notions are made with 100% wool that has been felted. When choosing and purchasing wool, you have a few options.

New wool or wool off the bolt. New wool, cut off the bolt, can be found at fabric stores, woolen mills, and quilt shops. The wool comes in a variety of weights, textures, and colors. When choosing wool off the bolt, look for fabric that is at least 80% wool, or it won’t felt. My recommendation is to choose 100% wool whenever possible. Suit-weight wools tend to be too light, and coat-weight wools are too heavy. Wool cut from the bolt will need to be felted before using. (See “Felting Wool” below for directions.)

Found or repurposed wool. You can also look for wool at garage sales, estate sales, thrift shops, and in Grandma’s attic in the form of blankets, jackets, skirts, and more. It can be hard to know what percentage of wool is in a found piece if there’s no label. You can experiment to see if it felts. If the piece is a garment, take it apart before you felt it and be aware that if it has fusible interfacing, it won’t felt. The best finds are wool skirts and lightweight wool blankets. Found wool can be used as is, or you can overdye it.

Hand-dyed wool. Hand-dyed wool is my favorite. Although hand-dyed wool can be expensive, it has already been felted through the dyeing process. It’s ready to use and very convenient. Hand-dyed wools are soft and wonderful to stitch, plus they offer many different texture and color options. Look at your projects as works of art and heirlooms that you will pass down, and the cost will be worth it.

Felting Wool

Felting wool requires moisture, agitation, and heat. When these things are applied to the woven wool, it shrinks the wool fibers and makes them mat together, which eliminates raveling. Most wool shrinks about 10% to 20% depending on the fabric, the water temperature, the length of the agitation, and the dryer temperature. The longer you agitate and the hotter the setting, the thicker the wool will become. Be careful not to overdo it or your wool will become too thick and stiff to use for appliqué.

When felting, sort your wool pieces by color or by lights and darks. I felt wool using a small amount of laundry soap and a normal wash cycle, using hot water followed by a cold rinse. If you have loosely woven wool, you may want to run it through twice or on a longer cycle. Dry the wool in a hot dryer and remove it promptly, as over-drying can cause set-in wrinkles. Felting wool can produce a lot of lint, so be sure to clean out the lint trap.

As with any creative endeavor, having the right tools can make the job easier and more fun. You can find my tool recommendations in Sew Many Notions.

Now that you know all you need to know about wool types and how to felt wool, the only other thing you need to know is how to sew wool! It couldn’t be easier—visit this post for a step-by-step tutorial on appliquéing wool. (No turning under edges, no fancy stitches, no unraveling. No sweat!)

You can also watch Debbie Busby’s how-to video for using a blanket stitch to appliqué on wool here—easy as can be.

Reading this post in email? Click here to view the video.

Here’s what Stitch This! readers say about sewing with wool:

“I like that you don’t have to use bondable web and you don’t have to turn the edges under the appliqués. I love the primitive look.”  —Barbara

 “Wool appliqué has a rich feeling. It is very forgiving when stitching it to another fabric. The colors are so wonderful.”  —Patricia

 “I have absolutely fallen in love with wool appliqué. Rather than do a buttonhole stitch around every edge, I use a whipstitch on big pieces and decorative embroidery stitches to hold smaller pieces in place. It is faster, takes less thread, and doesn’t distract from the design.”  —Janet

Browse more books full of wool-appliqué projects here.

Are you ready to give wool appliqué a try—or are you already head over heels in love with wool? Tell us in the comments!

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