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!

31 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I but 100% wool clothing at thrift stores and felt it myself then use it to applique. I love to applique especially with wool.

    —Joanne O'Neal on May 7, 2018
  • I love using wool in projects for its softness, ease of use, and beauty.

    —Diana DeWitt on May 7, 2018
  • Just gotten into wool. I have bought used clothing and ran it thru the washer & dryer to felt it up. Have found that cashmere does not work! Thanx for the article.

    You are very welcome, Geri, glad you enjoyed it! –Jenny

    —Geri on May 7, 2018
  • I love working with wool!

    —Kaye Walker on May 7, 2018
  • I got burned out on quilting last year, picked up surface embroidery again, and that led me to wool applique. I have probably done about 50 pieces over the last 10 months! It is easy and so addictive! I use reclaimed wool almost exclusively and even enjoy the deconstruction of wool garments. Anyone can do wool applique with just a little practice.

    —Marcia Gilbreath on May 7, 2018
  • Love wool appliqué! I have been thrifting, felting and appliquéing wool for years and love how easy it is to do, and how rich and lovely the projects turn out.

    —Susan on May 7, 2018
  • I bought a book using hand-dyed wool applique and I am excited to get started.

    —Marsha Nelson on May 7, 2018
  • I love working with wool – it’s one of my favorite hand-work projects.

    —Terri on May 7, 2018
  • I love working with wool. I have only done a few projects in wool, but it is so soft and feels so good to hold and sew with. It is also very forgiving. Just yummy!

    —Melissa Gerber on May 7, 2018
  • I haven’t done any work with wool yet, but I am searching for a small project to try. Everyone I talk to seems to love it!

    —Teri Gailey on May 7, 2018
  • Love, love, love wool.

    —Judy Purcell on May 7, 2018
  • I love wool applique it looks so rich and complicated it adds class to your project.

    lynne mulcahey on May 7, 2018
  • I have loved wool forever. You can never have too much wool. It’s just the best!

    —Jan C. on May 7, 2018
  • Love wool applique. I have too much quilting fabric and really have no room for another craft, but wool applique patterns can also be used for quilting!

    —Linda Ahn on May 8, 2018
  • I am head over heals in love with wool. Working with hand dyed wool brightens the whole day.

    Kristie on May 8, 2018
  • My name is Terri and I’m addicted to wool applique. Just ask my friends! Seriously, I love it because I can take it with me almost anywhere, haven’t taken it with me in the kayak yet, but maybe…

    —Terri Karasch on May 8, 2018
  • I enjoy looking at wool appliqué, however I am allergic to wool so unable to make projects using wool.

    —Connie on May 9, 2018
  • I love working with wool and am always looking for new inspiration. This looks like it is a lovely book full of inspiration.

    Tracey Roberts on May 9, 2018
  • I like the sound of wool applique but I haven’t tried it yet. Would love to give it a go.

    —Jeannette Holland on May 9, 2018
  • Love doing handwork and wool applique is great to take along anywhere. So far, I’ve used kits for my projects.

    —Mary Lindberg on May 11, 2018
  • I’ve collected some wool clothing to re-purpose, but I haven’t made anything with them yet… time to move on that!

    —bookboxer on May 11, 2018
  • Love wool applique. I too burned out on quilting about a year ago. I love Debby’s book. So easy and so addictive.

    —Liz Dyer on May 11, 2018
  • I have been wanting to try wool this just makes me want to try it more. Time to buy a lot to try.

    —Vicki Allen on May 11, 2018
  • I am already head over heals in love with wool. I want to learn how to dye wool. I have some items I picked up at the 2nd hand store that I feel would look good overdyed. This book looks great.

    —Carol Gouveia on May 11, 2018
  • Love wool applique, need to collect some more wool

    —Susan MacLeod on May 11, 2018
  • I’ve been gathering wool garments and deconstructing them when I watch TV. It’s a handwork project too! This book has wonderful pictures and would be a great addition to my book shelf.

    —debby on May 11, 2018
  • I am already head over heels in love with wool!

    Susan E Lester on May 11, 2018
  • I have never worked with wool but I love to do handwork projects. Thanks for the inspiration.

    —Renea on May 11, 2018
  • I do some wool appliqué along a few ready to work on. Happy Creating.

    —Donna on May 13, 2018
  • I love working with wool and use it in various applique patterns on table runners and larger quilts

    —irene on May 14, 2018
  • I already love working with wool. So much fun. This book looks fabulous!

    Pamela D Miller on May 27, 2018

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