Here’s another Frequently Asked Question that I see over and over. What is felting? Or How do I felt my project? Or even Why would I need to felt? So let’s just start at the very beginning with the “what” then go on to the “how”. We will even cover the “why”.
What is felting?
Felting is a method of shrinking the fibers in the yarn after a project is finished so that the stitches sort of melt together and make a nice solid, thick, dense fabric. Ever had a helpful spouse or child put a wool or, heaven forbid!, a cashmere sweater in the washer by accident and have it come out 3 sizes too small? They successfully (if unintentionally) felted your sweater. And probably felted your wrath as well…
You may see some people refer to this process as fulling or being fulled. It is the same thing. At one time, fulling was the process that produced the felted material. But these days, the words have merged, and felting has become the dominate term.
Why would I want to felt a project?
Felting makes sturdy bags, warm hats, wonderful mittens, and comfy slippers. Also felted diaper covers have a wonderful waterproof, yet still breathable, property that mothers using cloth diapers prefer.
What fibers can I felt?
Animal fibers are the only fibers that will felt. No cotton, silk, linen, acrylic, etc. And there are a variety of animal fibers to choose from. But please note that if the label says it is superwash, then it will not felt. Superwash wool has been treated so it can be machine washed. Therefore it will not felt.
Wool from sheep is the most commonly used animal fiber for felting. Other animals fibers that felt well are cashmere, alpaca, llama, camel, mohair, yak, bison, and angora. I will say that angora will shed something fierce due to the guard hairs. The different fibers will felt a little differently so you may want to test the fiber by felting a swatch first before using it in a project.
The preferable percentage of animal fiber is 100% . While some will say you can felt 80% or above, any other addition that is not animal fiber, like acrylic or nylon, will keep the wool from felting as well as needed. And any blend of the animal fibers I mentioned will felt as long as they are not mixed with non-animal fibers like acrylic or silk.
What causes animal fiber to felt?
The fiber has microscopic scales on the surface. Ever seen a picture of hair under a microscope? It looks like is has cracks in it. That is scaling. Different animals or breeds will have different size scales. The combination of temperature change and friction will cause the scales to stand up and interlock with neighboring scales causing the shrinking and thickening of the fabric.
How much does felting cause a project to shrink?
The percentage of shrinkage will depend on the fiber and how long you leave it in the washer. The longer you run it, the more it will felt.
Can I felt any finished project?
No. You will need to make sure you have used the right fiber for felting, have made it larger than you want the finished item to be, and have worked the stitches loose enough. Always plan for felting before working your project. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Can I use my washing machine to felt or do I have to felt by hand?
While you can felt by hand, it is very hot and tedious work. I prefer using my washing machine. On that note, when using a washing machine, it is much easier to use a top loading washer since you will be stopping and checking the item on a regular basis. It can be done in a front loading washer, but you would need to drain the tub each and every time you check. So if you have a front load washing machine, you might want to find a friend with a top loading washer who is kind of enough to let you use his or hers or go to a nearby Laundromat.
Why does the white wool not felt as well?
White, cream, and other shades of white may not felt as well as darker colors. This is because the chemicals used to bleach out any color has damaged the fiber. It will still felt. Just not as much.
How do I felt my project?
First you need to gather the items you will need.
You will need something to put the item in like a zippered pillowcase or lingerie bag. This will protect your project from catching on anything.
You will also need a helper for the agitation. You need that extra friction. Old jeans that are no longer worn work great. You will need 2 pair. You can always buy a couple of pairs from a thrift shop. I would not suggest towels due to the fuzz they leave on the item.
You will also need wool wash or baby shampoo. This will help open up the scales and aid in the felting. Also helps with the wet animal smell. You will only use 1 – 2 tablespoons.
Rubber gloves are nice to have as well since you will be dealing with very hot water.
A top loading washing machine is preferable as previously mentioned.
And last but not least, the project to be felted.
Set your washer to small load and hot water. Start your washer. If your washer is by a sink, I would suggest running the hot water in your sink to get it flowing so less cold water will go into the tub when filling.
Put your item in the zipper bag and place in washer with the 2 pair jeans. Add 1-2 tablespoons of wool wash or baby shampoo.
Run the wash cycle for about 5 minutes. Stop the machine. Wait for it to stop then get the bag out. You will want to wear your rubber gloves for this since the water is hot. Unzip the bag and take the item out. If you can still see the stitches or it’s still too big then it’s not ready. Put it back in the bag, zip it, and put back in the washer. Run for another 3 minutes and check again. Repeat until you get the size you need or until the stitches seem to disappear.
Be very careful when felting hats, mittens, slippers, or anything where size matters. You do not want to over felt the items and make them too small. I have done that before with a hat. Now my daughter has it…
DO NOT run the spin cycle. This will cause your work to have creases and be misshapen.
When you take the bag out after you have it fully felted, you can then run the rest of the wash, rinse, and spin cycle for the jeans.
Take the item out of the bag. Rinse the item if you used baby shampoo and squeeze all the excess water out without wringing it. You will not need to rinse it if you use wool wash. You can then put the item between 2 towels, roll it up, and squeeze as much water out as you can. I like to put it item between the towels on the floor and stand on it. Nothing like gravity and my weight to finish squeezing out the excess water…
Now you will want to shape you item. Use a plastic covered box the right size or just stuff the item full of plastic grocery bags. Pull it into shape. You do not want it to dry until it is in the correct shape. Once you have it in the shape needed, let it dry for about 2 days out of direct sunlight.
DO NOT put it in the dryer to dry. This will cause your item to dry out shape and felt it further than you need.
Here is a bag I recently made and felted.
This is before I felted the bag…
You can see the difference in the size. I used KnitPicks Wool of the Andes for this bag. Wonderful wool for felting and lovely to work with as well.
Well I hope this has answered your frequently asked questions regarding felting. Good luck with all your felted projects. Happy loom knitting!
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I see a lot of questions about gauge. What is gauge? Why is gauge important? Mostly I see How many pegs do I cast on? Followed with the size for a specific item. I have been personally asked a number of times to calculate a peg count. So maybe it’s time to discuss gauge, making swatches, and calculating peg counts.
What is gauge?
The term is used for 2 different things: loom gauge and swatch gauge. Let’s start with loom gauge.
What is loom gauge?
In needle knitting and crochet, the gauge of the needles and hooks is the diameter measured in millimeters. Sometimes letter or numbers are then used to represent the gauge. In loom knitting, looms are measured and sized differently. When people talk about the single knit gauge of the loom it is either described as extra large, large, regular, small, fine, and extra fine. Those sizes are determined from the center to center peg spacing. Some will abbreviate it to c2c peg spacing. Why is it center to center of the peg? Gauge is actually determined how far the yarn travels for a stitch. So we need an easy way to measure that. The easiest way to determine that is by measuring from the center of the peg to the center of the next peg.
Peg size can also affect gauge. The bigger the peg, the further the yarn must travel to make the stitch. So that is something to keep in mind as well since some looms have the same center to center peg spacing but have different size pegs.
But for simplicity sake, we will talk about the peg spacing only.
Here is the center to center peg spacing in relationship to gauge size for knitting looms:
Extra Large: 13/16” and larger
Large: 5/8”, 11/16”, 3/4″
Regular: 7/16”, 1/2”, 9/16”
Fine: 1/4”, 5/16”
Extra Fine: 3/16”
How do I measure my pegs to know the gauge?
You will take a ruler or tape measure that has the inch divided in 16ths and measure from the center of the peg to the center the peg next to it.
Double knit gauge is determined not only by how far apart the pegs are but also by how far apart the rails are on the rake. The farther apart the rails, the larger the gauge.
What is swatch gauge?
When you are making something where size is important, you will need to make a swatch to determine your gauge. This is also referred to as your tension which is how tight or how loose you work your stitches.
You will need to know your tension for almost everything you make. More than just sweaters need gauge achieved. Socks, hats, headbands, mittens, even blankets will need to be a certain size. Therefore you need to know if your tension will match that of the pattern in order for the item to fit. The stitch used and also the yarn used will affect your gauge. Different fibers work up differently. And so do different stitches. So if you use a different yarn with a different fiber content than the one recommended for the pattern, it may not turn out the same. Same if you substitute different stitches than the ones called for in the pattern.
How do I swatch?
Different people will swatch differently. This is the way I make a swatch.
Patterns will call for gauge using either a 4” or 2” square.
For large gauge, I will measure how many pegs are in 5”. For small gauge, I will measure how many pegs are in 3”. Then I work my swatch in the required stitch over that many pegs. Then I work the number of rows to get 4-5” on large gauge or 2-3” on small gauge.
Then I measure my work with a ruler. You will count the number of stitches in the 2” or 4” across a row
and how many rows are in 2” or 4” depending on your gauge loom.
If your swatch matches the gauge on the pattern, then you are ready to get started.
If you have more stitches and rows than is listed for the gauge, your tension is too tight, and you will need to work with a looser tension.
If you have less stitches and rows than is listed, your tension is too loose, and you will need to work with a tighter tension.
Both of those can be achieved by how much you pull on the yarn while working your stitches. So do not pull as much to make it looser or pull a little bit more to make it tighter. When you pull on the yarn, it stretches. And stitches worked while the yarn is stretched will be tighter once the tension is released and the yarn returns to it’s original shape.
How do I know how many pegs to cast on?
Now comes the “fun” part of knitting. Math. Unlike most people, I LOVE math. Numbers never lie… But I do realize that most people have a hard time with math and would rather avoid it. So let’s discuss how to calculate peg count.
Here is the cheat sheet to what is written in the equations.
- When you see a lower case x in the equation, it means to multiply.
- When you see a forward slash /, it means to divide.
- When you see part of it in parenthesis ( ), you will work the part in the parenthesis first then calculate the rest equation.
- Just get a piece of paper and write your numbers down. Then substitute the numbers for the letters in the equation. Grab a calculator and solve!
- I realize I have lost about 90% of you right here…
You are wanting to make a blanket of a certain size using e-wrap. How do you know how many pegs to cast on? Well first you will need to make a swatch and count how many stitches and rows you have in an inch. Make your swatch following the directions above and measure.
Say you have 4 stitches in an inch, and you want your blanket to be 5 feet wide. You will need to change your unit of measurement first to the smallest unit. Therefore you will need to change the feet into inches. So you will multiple 5 feet by 12 inches per foot or
5 x 12 = 60 inches
Now, for the stitch count, you will multiple 60 inches by 4 stitches per inch or
60 x 4 = 240 stitches
So you will cast on 240 pegs.
You will do the same for the number of rows when calculating how many rows to work. Just replace how many rows in an inch for the number of stitches. But you can always just measure your work if you are going by inches instead of counting rows.
Here is the equation to plug your numbers into once you have all of your measurements:
- Number of inches desired to work: A
- Number of stitches or rows in an inch from your swatch: B
- Number of pegs to cast on or number of rows to work (the answer): C
A x B = C
What if I want to use a different gauge loom than the one required in the pattern?
If you are wanting to use a loom with a different gauge than the one used in the pattern but want the same size, first thing you need to realize is that a different gauge will change the size even when the measurement of the pegs is the same. But here is how you will calculate the peg number. Just remember it may not turn out the same size.
I warn you. There is a lot more math involved here…
Say you want to make a hat on the All-n-One loom that is written for the 41 peg round Knifty Knitter loom because you only want to use 1 strand of worsted weight yarn and get smaller stitches instead of using 2 strands of worsted or 1 strand of bulky or super bulky.
From now on when I refer to peg spacing, I am referring to the center to center peg spacing.
First you will need to know the gauge of the looms. In this case, the 41 peg round Knifty Knitter loom has a peg spacing of 13/16”, and the All-n-One loom has a peg spacing of 3/8”. Then you will need to calculate the circumference of the center of the pegs on the 41 peg loom. To do that you will multiple the number of pegs by the peg spacing. For this loom, you will multiple 41 pegs by 13, then divide by 16.
41 x 13 / 16 = 33.3”
So you will want a peg circumference of 33.3” on the All-n-One loom, and you know that the peg spacing on this loom is 3/8”. So you will multiply 33.3 by 8, then divide by 3.
33.3 x 8 / 3 = 88.8 pegs
Now you can either use 88 pegs or 89 pegs. On the AIO loom, it can be tricky to use an odd number so you may want to use either 88 or 90 pegs.
Here are the equations to plug in your numbers.
- Number of pegs on original loom: A
- Top number of fraction of peg spacing on original loom: B
- Bottom number of fraction of peg spacing on original loom: C
- Circumference of original loom: D
- Top number of fraction of peg spacing on new loom: E
- Bottom number of fraction of peg spacing on new loom: F
- Number of pegs on new loom: P
Equation for calculating the circumference on the original loom:
A x B / C = D
Now calculating the new loom peg count:
D x F / E = P
Now there is a way to calculate that all together. Here is the equation that you will plug your numbers in to get your answer.
(A x B x F) / (C x E) = P
Whew! If you made it this far, you deserve a gold star! That was deep. Should have warned you to wear hip boots… Now go calculate your peg count for some stylish boot cuffs for those hip boots you need to wear to wade through all that math!
I hope this helps answer some of those questions that are frequently asked in regards to gauge.