Before you start saying, “How to felt cashmere?! Geesh, Cassie, you must be making big bucks these days (I’m not) if you’re using cashmere as a craft supply!” let me preface this by saying this was a cashmere sweater from Kohl’s. So if you’re at all familiar with the store, you know it wasn’t particularly expensive, was majorly on sale, and also that likely explains why it got holes in it.
Anyway, so Aa had this cashmere sweater that he wore to work. It is seriously the softest thing ever. And then at the beginning of the winter he pulled it out of his closet to wear again, only to discover it was full of holes. I mean, can someone explain to me how that happens? I assume that’s what mothballs are for right, to keep moths from eating holes in your clothes? But then wouldn’t we see some moths in the house? I’ve never seen a single bug except for the rare spider or housefly. Did the dry cleaner do it and we just didn’t notice? Did the fabric just disintegrate? I have no idea. Anyway, the holey cashmere sweater went into my fabric scrap bin and sat there. I know a lot of times you can find nice cashmere sweaters like this at the thrift store too, so keep that in mind.
Well, I kind of forgot about it and then found it again when I was looking for something else and decided that I wanted to to try felting cashmere and then cut up the sweater and use it to make other things. I’m assuming if you’re reading this post, you know what felting is? But just in case you don’t, it’s the process of heating, washing and agitating knit natural fiber fabric (wool, cashmere, alpaca etc.) so that the material shrinks and the stitches become locked together forming a denser material that you can cut and will not unravel. If you just cut up a regular knit sweater, the edges would unravel and it would be a mess.
So then, in preparation for the next project, I googled, “how to felt cashmere” because I had read about felting wool but wanted to know what to do with this material. Well, turns out there really weren’t any good articles about it! I found myself reading random fiber and knitting message boards and cobbling together information. So here, for your felting pleasure is everything I learned in one place!
How to Felt Cashmere, Tips, Tricks & Instructions
Tip #1: Make sure your cashmere (or wool) isn’t washable. If it’s been treated to be washable, it won’t felt properly. If the label says, “dry clean only” or “hand wash cold, lay flat to dry” then you’re ok.
Here’s my holey sweater
Put the sweater and the dryer balls inside the pillowcase and then use the hair tie to close the open end. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Cassie, you’re crazy! What is with all these random supplies?! All I wanted to know was how to felt cashmere!”
Well, the keys to felting natural fibers are heat, water and agitation. So the dryer balls are there to bounce against and agitate the sweater. That aids in felting the fabric. If, by chance, you don’t have dryer balls (but you should, because they’re awesome) some people recommended throwing a pair of shoes in the washer. Or maybe you could toss something else in the pillowcase that’s similar. Duplos (those big Legos)? Tennis balls? If you try something else, let me know!
And what’s with the pillowcase, you ask?
Tip #2, the pillowcase: On one of the message boards I happened to read a similar suggestion and boy am I glad that I did. If you run a sweater like this through your washing machine it will shed so. much. lint. The pillowcase is to protect your washing machine and the washing machine motor. Trust me, you’ll see in a second.
Once your pillowcase is stuffed and closed with the hair tie, put the entire thing in your washing machine. Some people recommend putting other laundry in with it. I threw it in with our kitchen towels. This helps with agitation also and prevents an unbalanced load.
I was a little concerned the color of the sweater could run so I did not put it in with other clothing that I cared about. Then run it through a cycle with a little soap (you don’t need as much as a full load, I did about half) and use the HOTTEST cycle you possibly can. Our machine has a “sanitary” cycle so that’s what I used. When it’s done, toss the whole thing (still inside the pillowcase) into the dryer and run until dry.
And here’s where you see why you need the pillowcase…Aren’t you so glad all that fuzz is not gumming up your washing machine?! Now, I did read that for many people, felting cashmere was more difficult than felting wool. One trip through the washer/dryer was enough for me, probably because of the super hot “sanitary” setting, but if your sweater didn’t shrink and felt enough (you shouldn’t be able to see the individual knit stitches anymore) run it through again.
(This is the point where I realized I really wished I had used a pillowcase that I didn’t need ever again because it took 20 minutes with a sticky lint roller to clean all that out. If you have one you can sacrifice to felting, trust me, you’ll be much happier…)