Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Where there’s a wool, there’s a way
Restore old sweaters with almost no skill
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

Sweaters are like lifelong friends. You cherish their presence and warmth, even when they don’t look as good as they once did.

Until recently I had a drawer full of beat-up sweaters that I couldn’t part with. Old favourites, worn and pilly, reduced to meal tickets for opportunistic moths. Sometimes I’d open the drawer and gaze at the woolly mess with love and regret.

Well, I now have every single one of those sweaters back in service, and you'd never know they'd once been strafed with moth holes.

The solution is easy, fun and costs about as much as going to the movies.

A wool to win

I discovered the world’s best sweater repair product on a blog about being inventively frugal, which referenced a German website: is well-designed and easy to navigate. Start by choosing five hues of wool fibres that match the colours in your holey woollens. Woolfiller packages up your kit with the tools you'll need, and sends it off to you. Total cost is about $23.

I got my kit via airmail about 10 days after I placed my online order. I could not contain my glee.

The envelope was made of that charming thick, brown European paper that makes you feel like it's 1935 and everything will last forever.

Inside the sturdy envelope, the Woolfiller kit contained my five clumps of “roving” (the official term for unspun wool fibers) and a tool I'd never seen before: a sharp felting needle with a barbed shaft. They even put in an extra needle in case I lose one – what, are they psychic?

Clammy-handed with anticipation, I went straight to my sweater drawer and set to work on my relics.

It was so fun and easy, I’m now begging friends to bring me their hacked-up woolly stuff.

Wool intended

Here are the steps to felt your way to un-holey triumph. (Or watch the great video on their site.)

1. Turn sweater inside out and place the damaged part of the garment over the sponge.

2. Choose a few strands of roving that match the colour of the sweater (or choose a contrasting colour if you want a funky look).

3. Place the clump of wool fibres over the hole.

4. Use the felting needle to punch through the roving all around the hole in the sweater.

5. After pushing most of the strands through, pull the sweater gently off the sponge.

6. Turn the sweater right side out and repeat the process, pushing loose fibres back through the sweater with the felting needle.

7. You'll probably need to flip the sweater a couple more times to smooth out the patch, jabbing away until it's flat and tight and the hole has completely disappeared.

The nature of wool (it's scaly when you look at it under a microscope) allows the fibres to lock against each other, forming a tough, permanent patch.

TIP: It’s easy to be too generous with your clump of roving, which then creates a mole-shaped lump that’s possibly more disturbing than the original hole.

If you have difficulty finding rovings that match your knitted item, try wool producers like Fleece Artist in Mineville, Nova Scotia, or specialty yarn shops that supply fibres for spinning and weaving.

You can also get a SweaterStone (about $10) – a superb tool that removes “pills” and loose fibres from sweaters. Comb your sweater with the rough Sweater Stone and collect a small clump of fibres to use in the felting repair.

Once you get the hang of felting, you can create freeform designs on knitted surfaces, repair old wool carpets or make felted balls for the cat to play with. Or go wild and become a full-time fibre artist and sell your stuff on eBay to finance your retirement. That’s my plan.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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