Learn all about sewing wool! Wool is a real gift from nature. It has been around for centuries and is warm, long-lasting, and flame resistant. Wool fabric is fantastic as it is naturally moisture-repellent and hypoallergenic making it great for coats and winter clothing. This tutorial will show you how to sew wool fabric with the right needles, threads, and techniques.
Sewing Wool Fabric Tutorial
You can be the maker of some great woolen articles using a few helpful tips on sewing wool to get you started.
Uses of Wool Fabric
- Lightweight wool fabrics such as wool crepe and challis are suitable for skirts and pants.
- Mediumweight wool fabrics such as gabardine, tweed and flannel can also be used for skirts pants and dresses.
- Heavyweight wool sewing fabric makes lovely jackets and capes.
- Wool felt is great for felt crafts, applique, and dolls. Good quality wool felt doesn’t pull like acrylic felts. Learn more about sewing felt.
Preparation for Sewing Wool Fabric
Always prepare your fabric before you start by pre-washing, pre-shrinking, and pressing. Wool is very prone to shrinking if your water is too hot so read the washing and care instructions carefully.
Here are some tips for pre-washing your wool sewing fabric:
- Check for the wool label and see if you should dry clean instead of washing.
- Wash a scrap before you try anything on the main piece of fabric.
- Look for special laundry detergent that is suitable for wool.
- Air drying is generally best, but if you must use a dryer, ensure it is on a cool heat setting and you remove the fabric while still slightly damp. A dryer may result in a higher shrinkage rate.
- Moths love wool so be aware that some moth repellent will preserve your fabric.
- Press after washing with a cool iron on a wool iron setting. Always use a pressing cloth.
10 Tips for Sewing Wool
1. Pattern Selection
Select a pattern that is suited to the wool fabric you have chosen as there are different types of wool and wool blends. Wool fabric tends to be thicker so is not suitable for all sewing patterns.
2. Fabric Selection and Bulk Reduction
Wool is a natural fiber that comes in different weights and blends. For pure sewing wool fibers always look for the ‘Woolmark’ label. This is a textile symbol that can be used by items made from 100% new wool. It is internationally recognized as a quality product. Wool blends can be great to sew and can reduce the price considerably for home sewers.
Combine fabrics to reduce bulk. Wool and silk or softer fabrics go well together. Be creative with your scraps and make a scarf or shawl combining the two for a delightful contrast of texture and color.
Best Interfacing for Wool Fabric
In addition to the wool fabric, your pattern may need interfacing in areas such as the collar or cuffs. Sew-in interfacing is often better for wool as fusible adhesives may not stick with the lower temperatures wool requires and can cause wrinkling. Choose interfacing of a suitable thickness.
3. Use Sharp Scissors
Nice sharp scissors will make all the difference when cutting. For straight edges, use a rotary cutter and cutting mat if you have one. (Read about how to use a rotary cutter.)
4. Cut Pieces One at a Time
Before cutting, double-check whether your wool fabric has a nap. If it does, ensure all pieces are cut in the same direction. (Read about how to sew napped fabric)
If you choose a plaid design, like tartan, cut pieces individually to ensure your design runs the same way. Folded fabric with a specific design can slip and then the plaid is out of line.
When cutting individually, ensure you flip the pattern pieces to get a mirror image when necessary.
Any pattern markings should always be transferred on the wrong side of the fabric. Tailor's chalk in a contrasting color usually works best. Do a test to make sure the markings can be removed.
Tailors tacks can be a good way to mark wool fabric without worrying about any residual being left.
5. Use the Right Sewing Needles, Thread & Feet
Best Needles for Sewing Wool
Use a heavy needle for the bulky wool items and test on a scrap first. Ball point needles with rounded tips will not cut fibers and are best for woolen fabrics. In some cases, you can use a universal needle instead.
Here are some suggested sewing machine needle sizes:
- Lightweight wools - 80/12
- Medium weight wools - 90/14
- Heavyweight wools - 1000/16
Best Thread for Sewing Wool
Usually, you will match your thread to the fabric fibers. Since you can't buy wool threads, substitute a silk thread or polyester/cotton thread.
Best Presser Foot for Sewing Wool
Most wool can be used with your regular straight stitch presser foot. If you are sewing several layers, a walking foot can help to feed them through evenly.
6. Best Stitches and Seam Finishes for Wool
Stitch Settings for Wool
The heavier the wool fabric, the longer the stitch length you will need. Here are some suggested stitch lengths. Test on a scrap to see which looks best.
- Lightweight wool - 2.0
- Mediumweight wool - 2.5
- Heavyweight wool - 3.0
Sewing wool which is bulky will need graded seams where the seam allowance is cut away in layers. (Read about how to grade seams).
For seams that are too bulky to finish using a serger, it is common to use bias bound edges, a Hong Kong finish, or even enclosed French seams.
Pinked seams can be used if there is not too much fraying. Make sure your pinking shears are sharp as it will be hard to cut wool fabric otherwise.
7. Always Use Pressing Cloths
Press every step of the way with a pressing cloth and if you are steaming, be sure you have tested steam on the fabric as part of the preparation process. (Read about pressing fabric.) Some wool shrinks so it is important to regulate the use of steam and heat.
A wooden clapper can be used to get flatter seams on thick wool fabric.
8. Use Silk or Polyester Linings
A fine lining like silk or polyester fabric can give a nice finish and reduce the overall bulk of the sewing wool fabric. (Read how to sew silk) Some people feel itchy if wool fabric is next to their skin so take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to line your garment.
9. Choosing Hems
Due to the thickness of many wool fabrics, a single fold hem is often best for reducing bulk. Other options include a catch stitch or bias hems.
10. Save Scrap Wool Felt for Crafting
Wool felt is the answer for applique and craft items. You can cut, make and trim with this type of wool fabric. Definitely, save all your scraps if you are a crafter. (Read how to sew felt) Learn some simple stitches to embellish finished wool articles. Blanket stitch and whip stitch is a great wooly stitch.
Now you are Ready for Sewing Wool
Time to get out that beautifully prepared fabric and your specially chosen pattern. Click those newly sharpened shears, and you are well on your way to sewing wool fabric. Good preparation guarantees you’ll always be a creator of wonderful wool garments and designs.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool
- FLEECE – Sewing Fleece
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