How to Make a Fulled Wool Quilt

Make your own plush fabric and turn it into a warm, sturdy quilt.

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By controlling the shrinkage process, old woolen clothing or new woolen fabric can be made into fulled wool, a plush fabric that doesn't fray or stretch. The process entails pouring boiling water over the fabric in a washing machine, agitating it and drying it in a dryer. The boiling water will release a significant amount of dye from the wool, so it's recommended that you full wool in small batches one color at a time. Most washing machines can handle only about two yards of wool at a time, so cut pieces accordingly. And bear in mind if the wool you're fulling is very thin, it will take longer to shrink and you'll lose more length and width in the fulling process.

Here's how to full wool, make a quilt out of it and put the lint and scraps to use:

Materials and Tools:

medium-weight 100-percent new yardage wool or old woolen clothing
large canner kettle for boiling water
long-handled tongs and gloved pot holders
plastic bin for transferring wet wool
Orvus or Ivory Flakes laundry soap
small handheld strainer
pressing cloth (such as muslin)
washer and dryer
lightweight iron-on interfacing
sewing machine
kitchen timer
blender
plate
10-ounce custard cup
square of muslin
rubber band

Steps:

Fulling Wool

1. For woolen yardage, cut off the selvages. For recycled woolen clothing, remove all buttons, cut open all seams and darts, remove all hem tape and cut around all buttonholes. Try to remove all interfacing. If some of it won't come off, it may loosen or come off in boiling water in step 5. The wool will ripple around any stabilization point.

2. Fill a sink with warm water and add one tablespoon of Orvus or Ivory Flakes. Soak the woolen yardage or clothing pieces in the water for about 30 minutes. You won't need to rinse out the wool before putting it in the washing machine.

3. Bring a large canner full of water to a boil.

4. Transfer the wet wool to the washing machine. Carefully pour enough boiling water over the wool to cover it, plus a few inches. You want the wool to agitate in as little water as possible.

5. Set the machine to agitate for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, check the wool. Don't be surprised if you have some soap-sudsing.

6. Using long-handled tongs, pull an edge of the wool out to check it. If you can pull a thread from the edge, the fabric isn't fulled yet. Set the timer for five more minutes and start the agitation again.

7. Continue checking the wool at five-minute intervals until you can no longer pull a thread from the edge. When the fabric is properly processed, the edges of the wool won't fray and you'll no longer see the woven structure of the wool.

8. Using the tongs, transfer the wool to a plastic bin. Using the small strainer, scoop as much wool lint out of the soapy water as you can. This lint shouldn't go through water pipes or a septic system, and it can be used later to make woolen pincushions. Rinse the soap out of it and set it aside.

9. Return the wet wool to the washing machine and set the machine for a cold-water rinse. You may need to rinse the wool twice. There will be a little more shrinkage during the cold rinse cycle. Check for and remove wool lint after the rinse cycle and reserve.

10. Examine the wool. At this point, it should be about ¼-inch thick. If you want it to be thicker, go through the process again. Bear in mind that thicker wool is less flexible.

11. Dry the wet wool in the dryer. Check after 30 minutes.

12. When the wool is dry, spritz a pressing cloth with water and iron it dry on top of the wool.

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