If there is one thing that I have been able to do when it comes to doing laundry through the years is shrink clothes so that’s why felting is fun because you shrink items on purpose. Natural wool fibers become felt when they are exposed to heat, moisture and pressure. Can you imagine what would happen to our domestic sheep if we didn’t shear them? Eventually their wool would felt over time so lucky for them that we shear them on a regular basis. Felting has been around for many years; in fact archaeological digs have produced garments, tent and even shoes in Europe that have survived showing the durability of felted fabrics.
Here are a few tips if you are going to try felting for the first time.
- When you are initially knitting your project make sure that you use knitting needles that are at least two sizes bigger than what the pattern calls for because felting it will definitely shrink the original size. The best way to make sure your end up with the correct size is to do a small sample and see how much it will shrink first so you don’t end up spending a lot of time on a project where the size doesn’t work out.
- After you have your item knitted be sure to finish all the ends securely including any seams that you might have before you start the felting process. You could end up with a mess if you don’t take the time to finish your project correctly.
- If you have one available a zippered pillow case will work great for putting your items in to be washed. If you don’t have a zippered one just securely tie the opening closed before you put it in the machine.
- Adding a pair of jeans to the load to help with the agitation or even an old towel will aid in helping the felting process. You can do it without adding anything but you may have to do it more than once to achieve the look and size that you are aiming for.
- You will only need to add a small amount of wool wash for detergent so usually a teaspoon full will be adequate.
- Just run a short cycle with your machine of hot water and a cold water rinse and if your machine doesn’t let you stop and drain the water before the spin cycle be sure and use the gentle spin cycle
- Gently roll the item in a towel to remove as much moisture as possible and then lay it out in the shape you desire on a dry towel to let it dry. Once you reach this step and you find that your item is not felted enough you can just run it through again but be careful because once it is too small you will not be able to unfelt it. Rewetting the item and stretching it will increase the size some but maybe not enough for what you need.
- If you use wool that has been bleached for a light dye it will sometimes affect the way that the wool reacts to felting. Always make a small sample swatch and try felting that first so you will know how the fabric will react.
Hopefully these tips will help make your felting process more enjoyable. Felting is a fun way to take an item that may look huge and out of shape and come out a completely different fabric after running it through the wash. To save some frustration start you may want to start out with some simple squares and make a set of coasters first.
Lanette Herrmann is co-founder of Something and More Hand Crafted Gifts, http://www.somethingandmore.com, and has enjoyed woodcrafting and other types of crafts for many years. She started out learning how to braid rugs with her grandmother. She got her love of hand stitching and weaving rugs from her mother. She also enjoys quilting, using the scroll saw and many other woodworking tools. When she isn’t working at her full time job, Lynn’s favorite pastime is spending time with her family.
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Photo: Olga Zielinska