Lexi Boeger’s newest book Hand Spun (Quarry Books, 2012) offers a unique collection of innovative spinning techniques and inventive yarn projects. Get inspired to make art-yarn with Boeger’s step-by-step instructions on several DIY projects including tips on how to felt and how to wash fleece. In this excerpt from “Projects: Keeping it Simple,” learn how to make a fleece rug that rivals a real sheepskin rug, but you don’t have to kill the animal to do it.
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Hand Spun.
Do you love the look of sheepskin rugs? Here is a simple method for turning a beautiful shorn fleece into a rug or throw without having to kill the animal to do it. The final material you get from this looks great as is, but consider using it to cover throw pillows, line baskets, or trim a coat collar—you name it!
One whole unwashed wool fleece
Large stockpot of boiling water
Liquid dish soap
Heavy rubber cleaning gloves
Darning or sharp hand needle
Strong darning yarn
Depends on the size of the fleece
Any fleece from a breed that readily felts will work for this project. Make sure it is unwashed and as intact as possible. If the wool is washed it has likely lost its fleece shape. Avoid using a fleece that has already been pulled apart; it will be difficult to piece back together. Furthermore, it’s the fibers that are naturally connected that make felting easy.
Set the water to boil. Meanwhile, lay the raw fleece outside on a clean cement surface and skirt it, removing all unsightly wool, dung, or overly dirty parts. Turn the fleece over so the shorn side is facing up and the tips of the locks are against the cement. Drizzle dish soap lightly over the entire surface of the fleece. Don’t go overboard with the soap; you need just enough to produce a little lather.
Once the water has boiled, bring the pot to where the fleece is. Using a cup, bowl, or ladle, scoop the hot water over a square foot (0.1 sq. m) area of the fleece, starting at an edge. Wearing the gloves, vigorously work the hot water and soap across the fleece surface. The wool should readily begin to felt under your touch. Once you’ve established the beginnings of felt with your hand, you can then use a bristle brush. Be very careful to concentrate the friction across the surface of the fleece rather than digging down into it. The idea is to felt the backside of the fleece while preserving the integrity of the nice locks on the other side. Note: A fleece with longer locks tends to survive the felting process better.
Work your way through the entire fleece, one square foot (0.1 sq. m) at a time. Don’t worry if there are a few thin spots or holes. These will be fixed in the following steps. Once the whole fleece is felted, let it sit to dry.
Prepare to stitch together the weak spots of the dried fleece. Select a long darning needle with a large eye and sharp point. For thread, use a traditional darning material such as thin, strong, coarse two-ply wool. Thread the needle and even up the ends so you’re sewing with a doubled thread.
With the felted side faceup, look for thin spots, gaps, or separations in the fleece. Stitch these back together using an overcast stitch, or any stitch you are comfortable with.
Once all the weak spots are stitched together, fill a large basin or tub with hot water, and gently submerge the fleece to begin the washing process.
Wash the fleece as if you were going to spin it; gently soak and rinse it until the water runs clear. Put the rug into a toploading washing machine and spin to get rid of excess water; lay out to dry.
Reprinted with permission from Hand Spun by Lexi Boeger and published by Quarry Books, 2012. Buy this book from our store: Hand Spun.
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