Handmade Jane

handmadejane.co.uk · Jan 16, 2015

Tips for working with boiled wool

I'm getting there with my boiled wool coat. Despite a slight hiccup, my fabric has arrived and is now prepped and ready for cutting, wahay! The slight hiccup is that the beautiful light grey/blue colour I spent about a month deciding on is no longer in stock. Noooooooo! Dragonfly Fabrics checked with their wool supplier and did their best to get their hands on some for me, but there's none to be had. Once I'd finished crying I went back to my vast selection of samples and had another ponder. I was tempted to go for a one-off bright green or turquoise, but I know I just won't wear a coat that colour. The obvious choice was blue, which is what I went for in the end. Yes, it's predictable, but a blue coat will work with my entire wardrobe and I know I'll get a lot of wear out of it.

Again, the colour's not very accurate, it's more of a petrol blue in real life
In a rare and unorthodox move, I also made a second muslin. I hate making them, and sewing a second one almost killed me, but I'm glad I did as the fit is so much better. I'm sorry I haven't got photos to show you, but my muslin fabric is large scale gingham and I do look exactly like a clown wearing it! All I did for the second one was to scale down to a size 38 everywhere apart from the bust, and shape the waist in slightly.
In order to see what other bloggers had done re the button situation (I've decided to use discreet snaps by the way), I researched the Burda pattern and found two gorgeous versions which have really inspired me. One was from Honig Design who made a very chic, two toned version here. The second was from Sandesh at Bedlam and Bird whose beautifully fitted, Italian wool version is lined with Liberty silk. She also emailed me lots of great advice on construction and supplies, for which I'm eternally grateful - thanks Sandesh!

I've also picked up lots of great tips for working with boiled wool, some of which were from comments on my last post, so thanks for pitching in everyone! I thought I'd share them here in case anybody else is thinking of working with it.
PREPARATION As mentioned before, if you're using boiled wool for outerwear, you don't need to pre-wash it. However, my fabric arrived from Dragonfly Fabrics with instructions on pre-treating the wool before cutting. They advised me to steam iron the wool all over from the right side, without touching the fabric with the iron, then lay out flat to cool. I did as directed, and even though I was sceptical (and nearly died of boredom) it worked! The fibres recovered nicely from being folded and there's not a crease in sight.
Some of you also advised me to use the iron sparingly as heat tends to stretch the wool. Flossie Teacakes has written an excellent post about boiled wool here and recommends that you avoid pressing as much as possible. If you must use the iron (e.g. for pressing open seams), then use a low heat.
It's advisable to stabilise the shoulders, neckline and armholes beforehand with twill tape, stay tape or armhole reinforcement tape. This will prevent stretching.

SEWING Use a ballpoint needle and a longer stitch length. Do check first on a scrap though, as all machines are different.
If you have a walking foot, now's the time to use it! It will deal with thick layers admirably and stop them shifting about, especially useful on longer seams.
Boiled wool doesn't fray, so seams don't need to be finished. However, to cut down on bulk, it may be helpful to topstitch seams down. This is done by sewing the seams as normal, then lightly press them open (see above!) or finger press if you can. Topstitch both sides of the seam, very close to your original seam line. Or you can topstitch ¼" from the seam line for a more obvious topstitching feature.

CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES The boiled wool I'm using is a beautiful quality, 100% wool, which I'm aware is not a cheap option. Here are a couple of alternative fabric suggestions recommended by readers:
Washed Wool: this is a 50% wool, 50% viscose mix. It's a medium weight, densely knitted fabric, similar in appearance to boiled wool. Stocked by Ditto Fabrics in ivory or burgundy.
Italian Melton: 70% wool, 30% polyester. This fabric is thick (520gsm), but with lovely drape. Stocked by Fabricuk.com in a variety of colours.

The following fabric hasn't been recommended by readers, but it's another cheap option.
Loden Boiled Wool: Roughly 70% wool, 30% polyester. Quite lightweight and stocked by Myfabric.co.uk in lots of colours here.

I hope you find these tips useful and as always, if you have any to add, please let me know in the comments section. Have a wonderful weekend! x

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