How to Keep Wool Fabric From Fraying
If you are planning your first sewing project with wool and are worried about it fraying, you really don’t have much to worry about. Fraying happens most when fibers are smooth. Their smoothness makes them slide apart easily. Wool fibers are textured.
While not completely fray-free, wool is very much fray resistant. The fibers of 100 percent wool are less likely to fray than wool blends, because the blended fibers make the wool smoother.
Felted wool doesn’t fray at all. If you have made wool dryer balls from leftover wool scraps or yarns, you know the finishing process is to wash the wool in hot water until it no longer unravels. This is a felting process at its simplest. But keeping your wool fray-free is not as simple as washing and drying it in a hot cycle. If you want to work with felted wool, buy it felted for consistency in the fabric.
There is a difference between felted wool and craft felt. You can certainly buy felted wool squares at most craft stores, but they are usually smaller than craft felt and more expensive. Craft felt is made of polyester. Some eco-friendly craft felt is made from recycled plastics. Craft felt also does not fray, but don’t confuse craft felt with wool felt. Their weights are different because their fiber content is different. A craft felt might be too heavy for a project that calls for felted wool.
Related: How To Prepare Wool Before Sewing (Should You Wash It?)
Fray-Free Measures For Wool Fabric
If you really want to double-down on your fray-free edges of wool fabric, there are three simple methods you can use.
Fold the edge of the fabric under either 1/8 or 1/4 inch, then fold again the same width. Stitch in place using a running stitch. Hemming the wool will keep fraying down considerably. If there is any fraying, it will be under the hem where you can easily trim any loose strings that appear.
Zigzag or Serge
You can serge the edges of your wool fabric to eliminate fraying. If you don’t have a serger, a simple zigzag stitch will give you the same results. Be sure to set the zigzag wide so that you don’t end up making a satin stitch around the edge. A satin stitch is heavier, since the stitches are stacked side by side, and that can create unwanted bulk around the edges of the wool.
Nothing beats Dritz Fray Check for finishing unruly edges of fabrics that have a tendency to unravel. It is as simple as running a thin bead of the liquid around the cut edges of the wool.
Allow it time to dry thoroughly. After it has dried, you can launder the item as usual. The solution dries clear and may seem a little stiff, so apply it lightly to maintain the most fluidity of your fabric. Before using this product or others like it, you should test the solution on a scrap piece of fabric or on an inconspicuous area of the wool.
Avoid using products like clear nail polish on wool. Over time, it will crack and peel, just like it does on your nails. That can leave your wool edges with a crackly mess which, in my opinion, is worse than fraying.
Related: Which Is Warmer Fleece or Cotton?
Hints for Applique with Wool
If you are using wool in an applique project, you may need nothing more than the double-sided fusible webbing that you are probably already using to adhere the cut-out in place. I use HeatnBond Lite iron-on adhesive for most of my appliques. Wonder Under and similar products work just as well. No matter which you buy, make sure you buy one that is sewable if you plan to finish the edges with stitching.
The adhesive from the bonding agent is enough to hold the wool fibers in place, so you really do not have to finish the edges any other way. I like to add a zigzag stitch just for the sake of appearance. When you use a product like this, you could also use a simple running stitch inset in the design without the worry of your edges unraveling. If you use a strong adhesive product, the glue can gum up your sewing needle and can even lead to needle breakage. Most light bonds, however, don’t pose those problems.
If you still worry about the edges of your wool appliques, just dot some Dritz Fray Check around those edges after the applique has been heat bonded and stitched.
Other Ideas for Large Pieces of Wool
These solutions are good for finishing edges on large simple projects like shawls, ponchos, or scarves:
- Use one-sided iron-on fusible tape around the edges of the wool that you want to protect instead of hemming.
- Sew matching or contrasting bias tape around the edges of your wool to keep the edges covered.
- Cut the edges with pinking shears. For an added protection, bead the edges with Dritz Fray Check (or your favorite anti-fray product).
- Sew a straight stitch around the borders of the fabric, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch inside from the border (pick a measurement and keep it consistent). The straight stitch will keep the fabric from fraying beyond that line.
Tweed is a popular wool fabric for such outer pieces of apparel because the wool they are made from makes them warm and the tight weave makes them water resistant. Lightweight tweeds are great for flowing outerwear pieces like shawls, ponchos, or scarves. Heavier weight tweeds are often used for blazers and coats.
Once dodged because it seemed too scratchy against the skin, today’s wools made in mills tend to be much smoother and less itchy. Hand woven tweed is coarse, which is what makes it uncomfortable when it rubs against the skin. That is why many heavyweight tweed blazers and coats are lined. Even lightweight tweed is fray resistant because of its wool fiber content, so even if you opt for comfort, you still do not have to worry too much about fraying edges.