Tools and Materials
Adult vintage wool sweater
Sweater template: size extra-small (newborn to 1 year)
Sweater template: size small (1 year)
Sweater template: size medium (2 to 3 years)
Sweater template: size large (4 to 5 years)
Sweater template: size extra-large (6 years)
Acid dye powder, optional
Citric acid, optional
Boiling water, optional
4-inch thick foam pad
Felting needle (36 to 38 gauge)
Needle-Felted Sweaters How-To
1. Felt an adult vintage wool sweater (can't be too lightweight) by washing it in the washing machine with hot, soapy water.
2. Download the appropriate sweater template from above. Cut pattern pieces from felted sweater.
3. Sew children's sweater using a straight stitch with an 1/8-inch allowance (Use the finished bottom of the sweater and the cuffs of the sleeves to cut down on finishing time.) Use a zigzag stitch along the raw edges to finish them.
4. Sew shoulders on both sides.
5. Open up the wool piece and sew on both arms.
6. Line up edges and sew from cuffs of sleeves to waist.
7. You can purchase roving (wool before it's been spun into yarn) in a variety of colors, or you can dye your own. To dye your own, soak roving in hot water for 30 minutes. Combine together 1 teaspoon acid dye powder (marked for protein fibers), 1 teaspoon citric acid, and 1 cup boiling water to create the "stock" solution. To make a darker color, take 1/3 of stock solution and add a pinch of the opposite color your stock is (e.g., green if your stock is red, red if your stock is green). To make a lighter color, take 1/3 of stock solution and add to 1/3 cup water.
8. Pour desired dye solution over roving laid on a sheet of plastic wrap. To set color, wrap in plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes or steam for 30 minutes. To rinse, swish around in a sink filled with cool, soapy water. Then, fill the sink with clear, cool water. Spin in washing machine to remove excess water, then air dry.
9. To start needle felting, work on a 4-inch-thick foam pad. Pull off a long strip of roving, and lay it down on wool sweater.
10. Use a felting needle to poke it and tack it down. Coarser needles are faster and for deeper felting. (Sarah recommends using a medium to coarse needle, 36 to 38 gauge.)
11. Begin to shape the roving by stabbing it down into the sweater in the shape you want it to be (choose from the templates listed above).
12. Once positioned, poke the entire surface repeatedly until roving fibers and sweater fibers mesh together (the barbs of the needle grab onto the roving and interlock it to the fibers of the wool sweater).
13. Repeat process with different colors to create details like eyes, antennae, and grass.
14. For circles, such as the ladybug's wings, take a little piece of roving, place it on the wool, and stab it a few times in the center of where you want to tack it down. Then, use your felting needle to swirl the fluffy part around, as you do with spaghetti, and then stab it down in place. Tape together two needles to work quicker.
15. Finish inside edges of front sides with grosgrain ribbon and needle-felt a border along the collar.
16. Create buttonholes using a sewing machine, or create a "buttonhole" loop by taking a fabric-covered hair elastic and sandwich a loop between ribbon facing and sweater.
Felting needles and wool roving are available at halcyonyarn.com. Foam pad is available at most fabric, craft, or upholstery stores.
Sarah Rosensweet. For more information about Sarah and her sweaters, visit sweetthingdesigns.com.