Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recycling and Tests for Real Wool

Every once in a while wool comes my way without me seeking it. In other words I'm not buying it from my "dealer"
This unknown "wool" sometimes needs to be tested before I try it out. Pictured below are some NOT WOOL samples and one with partial wool, the tiny pieces on top are the bleach tested remains.

Many of you like to go good wool hunting and I hope these tips will help.

Reasons for recycled wool:
beautiful tweeds and textures

Reasons against recycled wool:
dry cleaning fluids
not much “life” left in the wool

Rip Test- there will be a soft tearing if wool is 100% or close.The addition of synthetics creates a harsh ripping noise.

Burn Test- fabric with a high wool content will become soft ash and be difficult to ignite when held to a match. It will smell like burnt hair.
Fabric of a more synthetic base will ignite immediately burn quickly and dangerously ( do this over a sink). It will make a hard plastic ridge where burnt and stink like burning plastic.

Bleach Test- place a sample of questionable fabric in a container with pure bleach. Leave overnight. If it disappears completely it was 100% wool. If there are remains in the container they are the synthetic component.

When you are searching out wool to recycle at thrift stores or from family and friends there are four things to look for:

Weight of the wool- thick or thin ?
Width it will cut-weave loose or tight ?
Wool Content- look for label
Waste- how much wool will you end up with?

The bigger stash of wool you have the greater variety and creativity you bring to your rug and its design.
Tabby weave is best. It looks like this:

Less than 80% wool will not dye completely and is damaging to cutter wheels. Though it can be terrific in our work if it is glorious to look at.

Ugly colours are good, you can dye them.

Shiny wool is never good!

Thin wool can be thickened by agitation and soap in the washer.

Avoid Superwash or Teflon coated wool.

Coats can be cut on a narrow cutting head if they are thick.

Blankets if thin enough and cut wide make good hooking wool.

Thick blankets and coats may be used for binding and penny rugs but do not make good prodding.

You can hook open weave wool cut wide #6 or #8 easily with the proper tools and backing.

New , natural coloured wool woven just for hooking if purchased in 5 yd. lots is approx.$25 a yd. Keep this in mind when searching for new wool in fabric stores.

100% wool is usually very soft to the touch.

Worsted wool will unravel at cut edges while being hooked.

Wash all garments immediately or freeze or store outside of your home because of moths.

Place mothball odoured or musty smelling wool outside in the sun to remove odours.


  1. Thanks for these tips about wool Wanda! You read my mind about my next blog post, you said it all so much better than I could! I've checked into your website and your rug gallery is amazing! I wish I lived in Ontario, I'd be at a class! Penny rugs are my thing. I hope you don't mind if I share your link on my blog?

  2. No problem Colleen. I love making anything with wool, have you ever tried using felted sweater to make penny rugs ?


  3. ooooh yes, I've done pennies with wool sweaters too, nothing like a cashmere penny! Being from the sunny west(wet)coast of BC I had't done much with wool over the years, but now I can't "get" enough! Wool is so forgiving. My wool stash is growing and growing, soon I must learn how to hook. I am mesmerized by your portrait rugs! Fabulous!