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How do I use real wool batts (from a drum carder) for quilting?

 
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Can I use wool that I have carded on a drum carder into batts as stuffing in a quilt?

a.  I'm toying with the idea of making a patchwork quilt.  But the whole point is to be frugal.
b.  I have quite a bit of wool that is good for carding, but not good enough quality to spin
c.  I have a lovely new drum carder that makes happy big batts.  

a+b+c=?

I have a question, so why not start a thread asking about this idea?  Has anyone done it?  What are the obstacles to overcome?  

My first thought is that the filling would shift around with use.  Maybe I could "quilt" with lines of running stitch?  Is that how it's done?  

Washing?  hmmm... well, depends on how it is washed.  If it's a quilt, then it's going to be on top of the bedding or folded at the foot of the bed and not getting dirty much.  handwashing might be possible, but I expect spot cleaning would be more the thing.  

If I do make a quilt, I figure I'll be mostly hand sewing with English Paper Piecing.  Failing that I could do a pocket quilt but that really doesn't inspire me.  A pocket quilt, with lots of joined-up little pockets half full of wool, would solve a lot of the problems, but maybe put that on the back burner for now.  
 
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Here's a conversation by quilters on the topic.  Not sure I understand it all.
https://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1/wool-batting-quilting-t235406.html

some quotes from that thread:

One of the problems historically with wool for batting is that it tends to "beard". It used to be that quilters needed to encase a wool batt in cheesecloth before layering. Wool batts also used to shrink a lot. Modern wool batts from Hobbs and Quilter's Dream are treated to prevent bearding and to minimize shrinkage (they shrink only about 3% now, perfect for quilts).



note to self: look up "beard".  cheesecloth might help keep the batts stable while they are quilted... something to think about.

Does fresh wool contain lots of lanolin? I would think that would eventually stain the quilt but honestly I have no idea about wool ready to card. I grow a few cotton plants to use for stuffing for small projects!



most definitely need to scour the wool first (already done)

I have two vintage quilts that were made with wool. They're from the 50's and were originally store-bought, covered in a solid green fabric, front and back, stitched in a box pattern much like a down comforter except wool. They were recovered in the 80's but have never been actually quilted. The wool is quite thick, maybe 2", and the quilts have always been dry cleaned, not washed. They are quite heavy, still soft, and wonderful to sleep under if you like the heat way down at night as I do.



exciting!!!

Bearding = migration of fibres from the batting that pass through the quilt top or backing to form a fuzz on the surface of the quilt



ahaha!  I didn't have to look it up.  sweet!

Regarding the cheesecloth, I think it is an interaction process. Wool fibers, unlike cotton, have tiny barbs on them. This is what causes wool to "felt" -- the barbs interlock tightly with each other, so tightly that felted wool does not ravel when cut. With the old style wool battings, I think the cheesecloth provided a type of scrim. The barbs on the wool fibers could grab onto the cheesecloth, providing a surface for other barbs to grab onto. The cheesecloth wasn't so much providing a barrier as it was providing a scaffold for the wool fibers to lock onto. My theory, anyway......



This makes a lot of sense and I can see that happening.  
 
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Some more good stuff https://www.accidentalsmallholder.net/forum/crafts/homemade-wool-duvet/
 
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I can't begin to imagine needle felting something big enough for a blanket, even on a machine... I seriously can't wrap my head around it. And, the only way I can think of, for wet felting something of this size would be outside, on a tarp. I'd lay out a few layers, alternating the directions, spray it with soapy water (as hot as you can stand it), and gingerly walk around on the whole thing, a bit, until it holds together enough to be able to pick it up and work with it, as a sort of blanket. You'd then need to rinse out all the soap. I'd think the easiest way to dry it would be to just let it dry in the sun?
I haven't had a chance yet, to watch the video, but think most of those traditional needle felted ones were probably community projects, where they'd gather and do one or two for each family? I'll try to watch the video, this afternoon.
 
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I don't know if I want to felt the wool.  

I'm not going to be washing this quilt more than once every few years, focusing on care and spot-cleaning instead.  

I can see doing some sort of running stitch over the finished quilt every inch or two and that could 'pocket' the wool so it doesn't shift so much.  

At least that's how it works in my head.  I need to make some samples to see.  
 
Carla Burke
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I'm really curious to see your process, and the result. In the meantime, I'm going to think about trying something on a small scale - maybe a lap or crib size blanket, to start with. I have a possible seasonal source for whole Shetland fleeces, now, so it's feasible. That makes my next decision, in this vein, to be whether I want to use the resulting felt as a batting, or simply as a blanket, on its own. But, it's a 'down the road' thing, for me, I think - late summer, at the earliest.
 
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another thought.  We could piece together the filling.  Make the filling table-size, then sew it together.  If we were felting it.  
 
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I have a wool duvet and I love it. It was given to me, but appears to be wool stuffing between two layers of fabric sewn on an industrial-sized sewing machine. I sewed it a cover. That has the downside that duvet can slide down inside the cover despite having ties at the neck edge and I have to beat it into submission periodically.

What that suggests to me is that if you use extra layers on the top and bottom - for example a high-thread-count sheet as backing  for the fabric piecing and then quilt all the way through to two layers on the bottom, some of the issues like "bearding" would be reduced. I suspect the greatest risk areas for "escape" would be the seams between the patches.

This sounds like a great project - keep us posted and inspired!
 
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I think quilting as you go would be a good way to use wool batts from carding. I've also toyed the idea myself. I only have hand carders though.

Here's a link to a YouTube video showing how you quilt as you go an entire quilt.



You make each block of your quilt top separately then quilt it, then sew all of those together.
 
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I made wool bed coverings for my family (7 children) years back from wool from our sheep. After cleaning the wool, and carding into batts on my drum carder, I laid the batts between two layers
of very light muslin type cloth sold for this purpose. Then with yarn needle and yarn, I hand sewed the batts with long running stitches, between the fabric in a grid of sorts...kind of like making a large flat pillow. Now I sewed together 2 flat sheets on three sides, making a giant pillow case for the batt to slide into. The cover was easily removed and washed...and the batts lasted for over 20 years.
 
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Testing my theory
Carded wool in cheesecloth sandwich
16265705167204177502123969453783.jpg
carded wool as quilt batting
 
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So it makes a thick and comfortable quilt layer.  I tried some quilting by hand and I suck.  So I tried on my machine and it needs a lot of settings changed so I'm not doing that today.

It's heavier than a regular quilt, but this might be because I'm using a heavy wool: Cotswold.  

I like heavier quilts.  It's the main problem I have with store-bought quilts, they are too thin and lightweight.  

Although, it does feel like it would be quite warm.  Not sure if we get enough cold in the winter for this... then again, winters are getting colder.  

But tacking everything together and wrapping the wool in fine cheesecloth, it wouldn't be too bad.  
 
Carla Burke
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At the fiber conference today and last night, I saw quilts made with an alpaca/ cotton blend batting. The batting was needle felted, but by machine. I know that's not what you're looking to do, but the batting was very thin, and the quilt felt very nice, so I'm thinking your efforts will leave you with a very lovely quilt!
 
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Your wool batting looks fantastic! Do you feel it's much warmer than the cotton one from store? Is there big flat sheet of wool felt available for quilting? All I see is poly and cotton batts.

I made two quilts before but sadly they didn't get much use being not warm enough. Yet my sewing machine can't handle more thickness. My family prefer duvets so I sew another layer of sheet to one quilt and put a zipper on the side, turning it into a duvet cover.
 
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Zoe Ward wrote:

Here's a link to a YouTube video showing how you quilt as you go an entire quilt.



I like this video. Simple and easy to implement, I'll try it soon.
 
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This YouTube video shows how hand-carded wool batts were turned into quilts in the village of San Juan de Plan in the Pyrenees. I'm sure thin drum-carded batts would work just as well, and be faster to make. (You'll need subtitles turned on if you don't speak Spanish.)



This is pure quilting, no patchwork involved. So I'm not sure if the exact same technique would be as easy with a pieced top. I think it could be done, but it might be harder to get the needle through the layers due to the extra seams.

They don't spend any time on how the quilts were cared for, sadly.
 
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Phoenix Blackdove wrote:This is pure quilting, no patchwork involved. So I'm not sure if the exact same technique would be as easy with a pieced top. I think it could be done, but it might be harder to get the needle through the layers due to the extra seams.

This is really an amazingly simple process they are demonstrating which can be done with simple tools if you buy the fabric. The quilting on most of the pieced tops I've seen, does not go through the seams, but is designed to go inside of or around the seams, so I don't see a problem with using patchwork with a similar process.

However, they've got a lot of loft, which translates to a lot of warmth, and I wonder how long that loft is preserved?

That said, with a relatively simple system like this, if the outside fabric was still in good shape, I expect it could be dismantled and refilled with fresh wool?

I could see using a similar system of smaller squares and then joining them together, although be aware that when doing so, there's a tendency to "cold spots" where there's no stuffing! I suspect many of the homes that used these quilts were pretty cool at night?

And wrote:

They don't spend any time on how the quilts were cared for, sadly.

I suspect everyone in the community learned from a young age how to care for standard household bedding like these. One more area of knowledge that's been lost.

OT - the video carried on to show the ladies knitting. They had an interesting holder that they put the right hand needle in, so that the right hand only had to do the yarn moving. Does anyone know anything more about this? Maybe we could open this discussion in a knitting thread later. I can crochet, but I never mastered knitting, and I'm thinking that if I used a system such as was shown, it would make a big difference.
Staff note (Jay Angler) :

Phoenix Blackdove started a lovely thread on this topic here:
https://permies.com/t/214347/permaculture-fiber-arts-tools/knitting-sticks-sheaths
Thank you Phoenix!

 
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My best guess on the cleaning would be spot cleaning, as needed, and at least a semi-annual airing, in the sun.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:My best guess on the cleaning would be spot cleaning, as needed, and at least a semi-annual airing, in the sun.

Yes, but what if the cat pees on the bed? My friend used to have that issue, although the cat in question has now passed on...
 
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Jay Angler wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:My best guess on the cleaning would be spot cleaning, as needed, and at least a semi-annual airing, in the sun.

Yes, but what if the cat pees on the bed? My friend used to have that issue, although the cat in question has now passed on...



Spot cleaning with distilled white vinegar works. You'd saturate the area, then put it out in the sun for a couple days, leaving it out, overnight, if at all possible. It might take a couple tries, depending on how old the urine is, & how much. The longer it's been on/in the quilt, the more effort, of course.

Don't ask me how I know. πŸ™„πŸ˜¬
 
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I used to help my mother make wool bats and then make quilts. We started with raw wool and washed it 3 times in a wringer washer in cool water, air drying it on a rack. We would then hand card it to fluff it up and clean out all vegetation, burs, etc. We then fed it into a hand crank machine carder to make bats. Once we had the bats made, we set up a quilting frame to the size we wanted and covered it with a muslin cloth. On this we would lay the wool bats and then cover them with another muslin cloth. The two layers of cloth would be pulled snug and thumb tacked to the frame. We would take a darning needle and yarn and go through fro the top and back up from the bottom. We would cut the yarn and tie the 2 ends. This was repeated on a 6 inch grid pattern over the whole quilt. Next was to sew the edges on a sewing machine. After this, you make a slip cover. We always used a flannel bottom and a decorative patchwork top. That is where the artistic part comes in. The slipcover can be removed for washing but too wash the quilt, it must be totally disassembled and the whole washing to batting and assembly repeated. I hope this helps.
 
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