How I Store Felted Wool Sweaters

Living in the Midwest, this time of year always feels to me like a big gift: The cold, the winter, the lure of the indoors provides a luscious lull for doing projects. (The Luscious Lull! I may coin that.)

In previous winters/early springs, in addition to working on many, many blankets, I also…

This year, a welcome burst of energy has alighted upon me and I’ve tackled household painting projects—trim, doors, bathrooms. It’s a task I actually love to do. I get to put on old clothes, turn on some funky music, and take my time at making something old into something new.

But you know what? I’m still dreaming about sewing.

What dreams, you ask? Well, first, I have two custom blanket projects I’m ruminating upon. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked before about how I enjoy this stage: looking at the sweaters, mixing and matching them, mulling over stories the client has told me. So that’s one sewing thing I’m dreaming about.

Second, for my birthday (it’s this month and it’s a milestone one), I asked for a fitting system for adjusting, designing, and sewing clothing. I caught the bug last year with Brooks Ann Camper’s Skirt Skills course and want to learn more. We’ll see what dream-worthy sewing projects I can fit into this season along with the household painting.

But all of that to say—

And if in your lull you are working with wool sweaters, you might be wondering about storage.

First of all, you need to know: I will never win an award for being either terribly organized or fastidious. The ranking motivators for my storage choices are:

functionality and efficiency
with an margin for laziness.

Thus, my outlook on wool storage may not be the one with which you’d align yourself. There are certainly other great resources and opinions online. (Google “felted wool storage.”) However, if you’d like to know what my own experience has taught me, keep reading.

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My 5 recommendations for wool storage:

Start with clean wool. Wash and felt your sweaters before storing. Any food or other organic residue left behind on a pre-worn sweater will invite pest damage or stains. (For neat stacking in storage areas, I also cut my sweaters apart prior to felting.)

Allow wool access to air. I don’t store my wool in anything air-tight. There are opposing views about this online. Some believe air-tight plastic is the best protection; others have found moisture inside of plastic bags with their wool. I choose to provide some air. A lidded plastic bin likely still allows the wool to “breathe” as long as the bin isn’t air-tight. But even in bins, I recommend nestling a paper-wrapped bar of lovely-scented soap inside with the wool. I don’t like how felted sweaters smell if they are closed up.

Keep wool away from insects and critters. A garage or a dark, quiet basement may allow unwanted creatures to get to your wool. Store the felted sweaters in a clean area where there is some human activity.

Don’t expose wool to direct sunlight. Over time, the whites/creams will yellow and the bright colors will slowly fade. I learned this from experience.

Don’t use mothballs for storage. At least, I don’t recommend it. First of all, there’s their toxicity. Second, it can be very difficult to get rid of their odor.

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How I apply the 5 recommendations in my own studio:

Because I love to have both easy access to and inspiration from the wools I’m working with, I store most of my working sweaters where I can see them. My studio is a loft space in our home: a large open area above our living/dining room. I have a west-facing window and, nearby, shelving that was once an enclosed closet. Years ago, prompted by a daughter headed toward interior design school, we removed the closet doors and had lovely wood shelves built and installed by a friend. It’s been occupied by wool ever since. The shelves are inset and protected from the sun, and the wool has done very well here.

This shelving alone is not enough space for all  the sweaters I have. Let me just say, I have a very patient spouse who tolerates The Green Sheep business spilling over into other storage areas, all in neat stacks and easily accessible to me.

I store most finished product in clean, fresh cardboard boxes also in the loft area, where the wool can breathe, be kept clean, and be protected from sunlight. I include a bar of soap in each of these (just as I recommended above with plastic bins).

I store scraps worth keeping in plastic bins, stacked without lids in an unused closet, also where the wool can breathe, be kept clean and protected from sunlight. I occasionally organize the scraps into neat piles according to color shade within their bins, but it all quickly becomes disorderly again when I go searching for the perfect match for a project.

Pretty much, that’s it! That’s the system I’ve decided upon through my years of working with wool. It has worked very well for me and my situation.

Did I forget anything?
Do you have any questions?
Especially, how do you guys store your wool and what have you learned through trial and error?

8 thoughts on “How I Store Felted Wool Sweaters

  1. Joan,

    First let me say your work is beautiful and inspiring. I do have a couple questions. You mention you cut the sweaters prior to fulling/ felting them. Do they unravel? Second how do you cut them? Up the side seams and then along the sleeve seam? Or do you cut the sleeves from the body?

    Thank you for your time and answers,

    • Thank you for writing, Susan. I do cut up the sweaters before felting, because I feel they store more neatly. They won’t unravel, either before or after felting, unless they have very little wool in them—but it’s not likely you’ll be using sweaters like that. I cut them apart at side, shoulder and all sleeve seams. Enjoy your project(s)! Are you making a blanket?

  2. Good morning Joan
    Thank you so much for writing about storage. My stash of sweaters are kept in plastic milk crates, by hues inside a thrift store find, a muted yellow country style entertainment center. Although, sweaters have maxed out that space and crates are in closets now too. I would prefer less bulk and everything together to see what I’m working with easier.
    How do you cut?
    Cut at Seams?
    Cut Arms off?
    I’ve been reluctant to cut for fear of regretting it later.

    I’m currently working on my first blanket. Using my own intuition and winging it. A basic black and grey mixed size block style.

    I am interested in your class and gleaning new ways of making a blanket. Timing has been an issue.
    Do you offer access to previous classes to go at our own pace or time of year?

    Thank you for blogging, sharing and inspiring!
    Kristin – SW Florida

    • Hi, Kristin—I love the visual aspect of your storage system! Very cool. Yep, I cut my sweaters apart in order to stack them more easily and cleanly. I cut them apart prior to felting and, you’re right, I cut off the sleeves and at main seams. Try it with a load of sweaters; I don’t think you’ll regret it later.

      I imagine you are having fun with your blanket and I’m sure it will turn out beautifully. Sounds like you’ve made some gorgeous choices already. It would be a pleasure to have you in the class at some point too! I have planned to open to class just once this year, in the fall, but if I hear of more interest I could consider doing things differently. The class can definitely be done at one’s own pace (because timing is tricky for so many of us!). But I like to open it at a particular point in time and run it alongside a private Facebook for class members because there is a TON of encouragement in seeing others work on blankets at the same time. Hmmm. But you’ve got me thinking…!

      • Thank you bunches, Joan!
        Looking fwd to fixin’ & straightening my sweater stash.

        Can I share pics of end result of my blanket & the organized woolies waiting in the wings?

      • You may certainly share pics! I’d love it! (You might need to do it directly to me via the “Contact” link in the top menu bar of this blog.)

  3. Do you sew a backing onto your blankets? Also, what do you do with wool that has maybe felted too much and has become quite thick?
    Thanks in advance!

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