Washing Wool to Avoid Fraying Strips

Top strip washed in a machine with an agitator.   Bottom strip washed in front loader
Top strip washed in a machine with an agitator. Bottom strip washed in front loader

I have been cursing a wool that I am currently hooking in a rug.  It was fraying terribly and I was about to give up on it.  As a last resort I decided to try and wash another piece and to my delight it came out beautifully “fulled”.  No more fraying.  What did I do differently from the first piece?  At yesterday’s hook in, the subject about washing machines came up….top loaders versus front loaders and the old stand by, top loaders with agitators.  It suddenly dawned on me that I used my old top loader with the agitator to wash this load of wool.  I haven’t used it in about 6 months because it needed repairs and was just recently fixed.  The fraying wool was washed in my front load washing machine!   It wasn’t getting enough agitation therefore the wool fibers weren’t tightening.  That’s good news for clothing but not so good for rug hooking wool.   Many of you may have replaced old agitator washing machines with new ones which are much more gentle on your laundry and this is likely the reason your wool isn’t getting “fulled” enough for hooking.  Its not really feasible to go searching for somebody’s old washing machine so what do you do?  Here are some tips on washing your loosely woven wools.

  1.  Don’t wash your wool in small loads.  If you have only a couple of pieces of wool, throw them in with your next load of jeans or towels.  The volume creates the agitation your wool needs to become “fulled”.
  2. Wash your wool in hot/warm setting, not cold water.  Wool needs the warm water to thoroughly soak the wool.
  3. Do add detergent.  In my experience all detergents work well but avoid those with bleach additives.
  4. Dry your wool in the dryer on a hot/warm setting with a full load.  A full load will create the agitation you need to tighten the fibers.

Not all wool is created equally….tighter weaves will full easier than a loose weave.  As fellow rug hookers, I’m certain that many of you can relate to the appalling thought of throwing away a piece of wool! A piece of wool that is “so awful to hook with but the colour is just so fabulous I cant bring myself to toss it.”  Sound familiar?  If it does, then try washing it again using the tips above and just maybe it will become your new favourite…..to horde.  Now, that’s a problem I can’t help you with 🙂

Hug your wool,


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