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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According to Chinese Astrology, 2015 is the year of the goat. Knit a whimsical little goat to keep you company throughout the year.
Knitting Loom: KB Sock Loom 2
Yarn: Patons Divine was used for the goat’s body. Red Heart Super Saver was used for the horns, hooves, and nose.
Notions: Knitting tool, scissors, yarn needle, fiberfill for stuffing, needle and thread, 6 mm buttons for eyes.
Finished Size: Approximately 3” in length.
Gauge: Not essential for this project.
Drawstring Cast-On: Step 1: Pass the working yarn in front of peg 1. Pass the working yarn behind peg 2. Pass the working yarn in front of peg 3. Pass the working yarn behind peg 4. Continue weaving the working yarn in front of and behind the pegs until the working yarn reaches peg 1 again.
Step 2: Lay the working yarn against peg 1, above the wrap from step 1. Knit the lower wrap over the top wrap. Pass the working yarn in front of peg 2. Lay the working yarn against peg 3, above the wrap from step 1. Knit the lower wrap over the top wrap. Pass the working yarn in front of peg 4. Continue working in this manner until the working yarn reaches peg 1 again. Cast on is now complete. Continue on as directed in the pattern.
Adding a Gathering Thread: Cut a 12” length of yarn and thread it on to the yarn needle. Push the yarn needle up under the stitch on peg 1. Pull the length of yarn out through the stitch, stopping when an inch or two remains at the bottom of the stitch. Move to the next peg and pull the yarn needle up under the stitch. Pull the length of yarn until all of the slack is gone between the two pegs. Continue working in this manner until the gathering line has been pulled up under the last stitch in the round. Remove the yarn needle. Leave the gathering line in place. It will be used later to shape the goat’s neck. Continue on as directed in the pattern.
3 Stitch I-Cord: Using the double E-wrap cast-on method, cast on 3 stitches. *Working yarn will be at peg 3. Take the working yarn behind peg 2 and peg 1. Bring the working yarn around the front of peg 1 and lay it across pegs 1, 2, and 3. Knit peg 2, then peg 1, then peg 3. Repeat from * as directed in pattern, or until I-cord reaches the desired length. Gently pull on the cord every few inches to help set the stitches.
Bind the I-cord off by moving the stitch on the second peg over to the first peg, placing it above the stitch on the peg. Knit the bottom stich over the top stitch. Move the stitch from peg 3 over to peg 1, placing it above the stitch on the peg. Knit the bottom stitch over the top stitch. With the working yarn, wrap peg 1 and knit it. Cut the working yarn, leaving a yarn tail measuring about 4”. Draw the working yarn out through the last stitch remaining on peg 1, then remove the cord from the loom. Gently pull on the yarn tail to secure the bind off. Weave in all yarn ends.
Head and Body:
Prepare the loom to work over 16 pegs, in the round. Work the head and body in Patons Divine. (If Patons Divine is not available, use a fluffy, bulky yarn with the same wpi = approximately 7 wpi) Using the drawstring cast-on method, cast on 16 stitches. Work 10 rows using the u-wrap knit stitch.
Add a gathering thread. (See special techniques)
Work 15 more rows using the u-wrap knit stitch. Remove from the loom using the gathered bind off method, but do not gather yet. Set aside.
Legs (Make 4):
Using the Red Heart Super Saver, cast on 3 pegs. Work a 3 stitch I-cord for 2 rows. Switch to the Patons Divine. Work the 3 stitch I-cord for 8 more rows. Bind off and set aside. Repeat this process for the remaining legs.
Ears/Tail (Make 3):
Using the Patons Divine, cast on 3 pegs.
Rows 1-6: Sl 1, K2.
Row 7: Sl 1, K2tog.
Row 8: K2tog.
Fasten off and set aside.
Horns (Make 2):
Using the Red Heart Super Saver, cast on 3 pegs. Work a 3 stitch I-cord for 4 rows. Bind off and set aside.
Work with the head and body piece first. Turn the knitted tube inside out so that the purl bumps are on the outside. Gather the top of the head closed by pulling on the yarn tail from the drawstring cast-on. Use the yarn needle to weave the tail in.
Stuff the head section with fiberfill. Reach inside the tube to find the yarn tails of the gathering thread. Gather the neck area by pulling on the yarn tails to draw the neck area in. Secure the neck shaping by tying a knot in the gathering thread. The yarn tails from the gathering thread should be inside the knitted tube and don’t need to be woven in. They can be left as is.
Stuff the body section with fiberfill. Gather the body closed by pulling on the yarn tail from the gathered bind off. Use the yarn needle to weave the tail in. (Note: the Patons Divine is a bulky textured yarn and is a bit trickier to gather than other yarns. It is possible, it just takes a bit more work and patience.)
Use the yarn needle to sew the tail to the back of the body, near the gathered bind off. Attach two legs to each side of the body, near what will become the underside of the goat.
Use the needle and thread to sew the button eyes onto the face, near the gathered cast on. With the Red Heart Super Saver, embroider a little nose near the bottom of the face. Sew the ears to the side of the goat’s head and attach the horns to the top of the head. Weave in any remaining yarn tails.
Wishing each of you happiness, health, and prosperity in 2015!