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Make a Felted Wool Stuffed Owl From an Old Sweater
Old sweaters that no longer fit or are damaged can be used to create a variety of easy craft projects. For this simple project, I felted three old sweaters and made several stuffed owls. To add a touch of nature and a unique twist, I used balsam needles as a stuffing so the felted owls can double as a sachet.
I love the scent of balsam and the dried needles retain a pleasant aroma for years. Dried herbs work well too. As you can see from the photograph, each owl is slightly different than the rest. But the process is essentially the same. You can make them in many sizes and colors depending on what wool you have at hand.
How to Felt a Wool Sweater
Felting creates a material that will not unravel so is easy to work with. Use only 100% wool. As with many crafts you will have to practice and may have to attempt several different materials. Some sweaters contain various yarns or colors that will not shrink uniformly and can come out a bit lumpy. If this happens, you can dampen and block dry the felted piece, snip off floating fuzzies, or press with a warm (not hot) iron.
- Wash sweaters in hot water with a small amount of soap - not detergent. One teaspoon of Ivory Soap will help the fibers to absorb water. If you are going to felt a lot of wool sweaters, you may want to launder them inside a pillowcase to avoid wool lint from clogging hoses or drainage pipes.
- Top loading washing machines work best as they agitate the fabric more than a front loader.
- Remove sweater before the final spin. Gently squeeze out water and toll in a towel.
- Run the sweater through the dryer on hot setting.
- You may have to do this several times. If you can see individual threads of yearn, the felting process is not complete.
- Flatten or press the sweaters as they may be a bit bunchy. I st a chunk of granite on mine and let it sit overnight.
Now you will have a tough, durable fabric that will not unravel along cut edges.
How to Make a Felted Wool Owl
I used three sweaters for this project - a brown checked design, a dusty rose floral, and a plain tan colored sweater. Some fine details of a pattern may be lost in the felting. Since the owls are quite small, I can make a lot of owls. Of course you can make them any size that you want.
It may be helpful to look at pictures of owls, real owl photographs as well as artistic images for inspiration. Of course, this is all in fun, so you can go crazy and make pink, striped or plaid owls. The shape of the bird can vary too - a head with ear tufts, or a rounded head and owl in profile or face front. You can make a heart shaped face or a squared off mask - whatever suits your fancy.
Unlike many sewing projects you don't have to hem the edges or worry about turning things inside out.
This owl is very simple, a good idea for a first attempt. You can create a template or just cut free hand.
- Cut the owl shape, front and back. If the wool has an inside and outside pattern, cut appropriately so that the pattern faces out on both sides.
- Cut the mask of a plain or contrasting color. Make sure you leave enough room between the edge of the mask and the edge of the owl for when you sew the owl together. (I did not cut a separate mask or face for all the owls)
- Cut 2 circles for eyes.
- Cut wings - you don't have to double the fabric for the wings, but I did. If you used 2 pieces of the felted wool for each wing, make sure the outside pattern faces out.
- Embroider, hand sew, or machine stitch the eyes onto the mask.
- Embroider, hand stitch, or machine stitch the mask onto the front of the owl. Apply any decorative features such as button eyes, eye lashes, or lines now.
- Cut out and sew on a beak. Or, you can embroider a beak.
- If you cut 2 pieces of felt for each wing (4 in all) sew them together. You can sew along the outside of the felt. Since it won't unravel, you don't have to turn it inside out like you would with most fabrics.
- I made some of the wings a bit curvy by stretching the felted wool as I machine sewed.
- Pin the front and back pieces together, right sides facing out, wings pinned where you want them.
- Sew the owl, leaving an opening in the bottom for stuffing.
The sleepy owl below was cut in profile with an embroidered beak, eyes and face design sewn onto a heart shaped mask.
Felted Sweater Owl
The owl below does not have a separate mask, but an embroidered face and button eyes. The sweater buttons were so pretty, I thought they would make nice eyes. If you are giving the owl to a young child, you may not want to use button eyes.
Felted Sweater Owl
Stuff the Owl
Stuff the owl using any stuffing material that you like. For the sachet style owls, stuff with dried balsam needles. Dried herbs are nice too. I stuffed one with dried rosemary, another with dried lavender from my garden.
Sew the opening closed.
You can add a loop at the top to hand the owl. It would make a nice ornament for a Christmas tree, or for a rustic style room.
A first owl make look a bit off but with practice, you will improve. As you work, you may come up with some fun new ideas for embellishments.