How to Felt Cashmere

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Learn how to felt cashmere sweaters with these simple techniques! How to Felt Cashmere, turn that old sweater into new material! |

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

How to Felt Cashmere, turn that old sweater into new material! | littleredwindow.comGather your felted cashmere supplies, besides the sweater, you’ll need:

Put the sweater and the dryer balls inside the pillowcase and then use the hair tie to close the open end. How to Felt Cashmere, turn that old sweater into new material! | littleredwindow.comAt 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…How to Felt Cashmere, turn that old sweater into new material! | littleredwindow.comAren’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…)

And that’s it! Now your fabric is felted and you will be able to cut it without it unraveling! Now go make something soft and cozy! How to Felt Cashmere, turn that old sweater into new material! | littleredwindow.comIf you liked this, you may also like some of my other posts…

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10 thoughts on “How to Felt Cashmere

  1. I made felted cashmere dryer balls out of goodwill finds and holey cashmere. If you wrap each ball of scraps into a cotton sock and twist it shut you can remain totally hypoallergenic! i.e no plastics or crazy bad stuff that can irritate children’s eczema. The dryer balls are super soft and very efficient and also make great toys for the children too. Now I’m hooked and can’t stop making them.

  2. The little holes in sweaters and scarves usually come from the larva from a type of beetle, not a moth! No matter which insect it is, it is the larval form of beetle or moth that are munching on your beloved garment.

    The best defense againt either insect is to keep that sweater CLEAN. Even the labels that say “dry clean only” on woven animal fibers can and should be washed by hand—baby shampoo is great (and cheap). Just make sure that whatever you use does not have enzymes in it (like regular laundry or dish soap/detergent). Part of the reason the insects are attracted to our wovens is OUR oils and grime. Depending on how many hours you wear your sweater, what activities you are engaged in, how many crumbs you may have dropped, etc., an expensive cashmere should be washed after every 16-24 hours of wear (or more if you are one of those unlucky people that sweat a lot).

    Washing by hand will make your cashmere (and wool) much softer. If you have a washer that has a hand wash cycle with cold (not warm) water, most woolens will do just fine, but you do need to lay flat to dry.

    In the Spring, when putting sweaters away for a few months, you should wash everything and then put in a clean pillowcases inside those plastic bags that you can suck all the air out of with your vacuum (there are many brands and all called something a bit different, but Targt carries “space bags”).

    If you pull out your sweaters and see those holes, you may be able to use a felting needle to repair the holes if there aren’t too many. Regardless of what you decide to do with your holey sweater, you need to immediately wash it to keep the holes from spreading! You will also need to take out and wash all the rest of your animal fiber garments to make sure that the larva do not spread in your closet/drawer.

  3. Oh man- just like you, I googled “how to felt cashmere,” and boy am I grateful that you did the hard research for me, and wrote this post- thanks a million! Off I go to find a pillow case. 😀

  4. Has anyone tried felting woven cashmere? My favourite cashmere scarf has a few smallish moth holes. I’ve snipped off bits of the fringe to weave over the holes. The mending job is a little noticeable. I’m thinking felting might smooth things over a bit, but I don’t want to ruin it.

    1. A light felting will probably help. Woven material is fulled and pressed after weaving to mesh the fibers together into fabric, and your replacement threads haven’t had that chance.

      Putting it through the wash like this is probably too harsh. If you have a machine you can stop and start, you could try checking it every 5 minutes.

      Hand weavers often full materials like this by hand (but I haven’t had much luck fulling or felting cashmere by hand!), using a tub of hot water, soap and their hands for the agitation. You could even spot full the patches.

      Good luck!

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