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Wool as Pillow Stuffing - How to keep its Loft?

 
Dustin Rhodes
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Hello all,

I'm considering using wool as a stuffing for a seat cushion I'm planning on making for a wooden chair - should I be worried about the wool losing its loft over time and becoming too flat or hard?

if so, is there some sort of treatment process that will keep the wool springy and lofted over time?


I know common cotton or polyester may be more viable in this use, but just want to avoid these for environmental reasons.
 
Kc Simmons
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I would think it would become compressed/compacted after a while (though I have no personal experience with it).
The reason I I could see it going flat is:
Consider an ounce of wool in a pile, compared to an ounce of wool spun into yarn. The spinning process really does a good job of compressing the fibers and removing the air space from between the strands. With unspun wool, that empty space is still going to be between the strands, at least until something compacts it (like a person's rear end). Then, as the fibers lose the elasticity with age, they don't spring back as much after the pressure is relieved, resulting in less empty space in the fiber, resulting in a flat pillow. Wool is definitely a tough fiber, but I think it has it's limits in regards to time & pressure. And I don't think it would be any worse than cotton or other fibers.
As for treatment, I honestly have no idea. My only thought is to stuff the cushion as densely as possible so the amount of empty space available for compaction is as small as possible.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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As you can make felt, I guess it will compact.
As an environment friendly alternative, I suggest horse tail/mane hairs! They are used in mattresses and will stay springy.
 
r ranson
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choosing a fibre with a high crimp is a good place to start.

Treating it with vinegar or another mild acid when washing it will help prevent it from going brittle over time.

And carding it before stuffing it will help it be lofty and soft.

The key I've found is to card well and then stuff lots more than needed.  if it's packed in firmly, then it generally keeps its shape and loft.  But if it has room to move around, then it gets compact and lumpy quickly.  
 
Louis Fish
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I should think that a gentle washing then fluffing would help restore loft when it starts to go flat? Spun yarn holds it's twist, but yarn always fluffs a little after a wash, and will get a halo over time as individual fibers loosen.  I know sheep wool is used for batting in duvets, and they're supposed to last forever, but I haven't tried one myself.  I would look for a breed with a curse wool, something rated for carpets and rugs rather than sweaters and socks.
 
Matthew Nistico
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Louis Fish wrote:I should think that a gentle washing then fluffing would help restore loft when it starts to go flat? Spun yarn holds it's twist, but yarn always fluffs a little after a wash, and will get a halo over time as individual fibers loosen.  I know sheep wool is used for batting in duvets, and they're supposed to last forever, but I haven't tried one myself.  I would look for a breed with a curse wool, something rated for carpets and rugs rather than sweaters and socks.


I don't know, but might you fear that washing it more than absolutely necessary might hasten the stuffing's transformation into one big, compact, felt mass?  I mean, that is how felt is made.
 
Matthew Nistico
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Oh, and I found a related thread in this same forum.  If you are using wool as stuffing, it appears that traditionally some breeds of wool are preferred over others:

https://permies.com/t/136149/fiber-arts/Sheep-fibre-breeds-knitting-felting
 
Louis Fish
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You do need to hand wash and hang dry wool to prevent felting, no turns in the dryer!  But I shouldn't think it will felt all that quickly.  How often does it get messy enough to need washing?  I have pets and kids so I'd probably be washing something like that a lot more often, and that's a lot of hand washing and hang drying for me.  I don't see regular use being such an issue though; I'd guess a spring and fall cleaning with occasional touch ups if it gets soiled in between the annual washing.  I found a website with care instructions for their wool stuffed duvets, that might help since it would likely be a similar process.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Knit sweaters don't really seem to compact over time. Or so it seems to me. I wonder if stuffing a cushion with old knit sweaters might be more effective than loose wool?

Cotton, oh yes, it does compact. Cotton stuffing in mattresses and quilts is common in India, and oh boy, they are rock hard. I think I prefer the wood floor. We had some cotton stuffed pillows. My ear would turn red and painful. Nuh-uh!
 
Matthew Nistico
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Rebecca Norman wrote:Knit sweaters don't really seem to compact over time. Or so it seems to me. I wonder if stuffing a cushion with old knit sweaters might be more effective than loose wool?


Oh, now that is an interesting idea.  Something to keep in mind when cruising the thrift stores!
 
kadence blevins
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Sew the cushion so that one end can be unbuttoned/zipped etc and if it's become flat you just pull it out and fluff it up, restuff it. If you're using loose fiber you can set up with a sheet on the floor and spread out the wool a bit, then take two thin canes and smack and fluff the wool. You could use two thin dowel rods. Then restuff and close the cushion.

If using wool batting you can card the wool and restuff it. If you buy from zeilingers (zwool.com) they have where you can send in for recarding.
 
Katie Green
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The short answer is that it'll lose its loft eventually. As already mentioned, try to find a long staple, crimpy wool and really, really stuff it full. Aim for your stuffing to be roughly 4x higher than what you want the finished cushion to be.

I've done a lot of research into the topic except I was looking at mattresses, which could be considered giant pillows or cushions. Traditionally mattresses were opened (sewn seam removed) every summer and all stuffing was removed. If the stuffing was plant material, like straw, it would be replaced with fresh straw. For wool stuffing, it was run through a picker like this to fluff it up into a cloud. Fiber can also be fluffed into a cloud by hand. Carding is an option, but even with a drum carder I'm not inclined to make all the batting I would need for a mattress! The amount for a seat cushion would be much more reasonable.

Some fun old reading on the topic of mattresses:

An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy (1845)

How to Make A Home and Feed A Family (1778)
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