Felting allows you to take knit and crochet pieces and turn them into thick, sturdy cloth suitable for purses, hats, slippers and more just by throwing your wool items into the washing machine and dryer. This month, Jackie Smyth, our technical editor, gives some tips on felting.
What is felting, Jackie?
Felting is the process by which wool fibers are agitated and lock together to form a dense fabric. Wool yarn can be felted, but synthetics can’t, but you can change the look of a felted design by working a row or two with a non-felting yarn. If you've never felted before, it's a good idea to read our FAQ about it: click here.
What are some of the benefits of felting?
Felt doesn't ravel – so you can experiment with cutting shapes or fringes on a felted item. If your felted project doesn’t work out as well as you’d hoped -- no worries -- you can cut shapes from the felt – like flower petals or dots – and use these as embellishments on other projects.
Wow, you could probably make pins and hair barrettes out of those shapes too. So what are your recommended patterns today?
I've chosen these three clutches because they are small, making them an ideal beginner felting project, and because they really emphasize how much we love to embellish simple patterns with things techniques like color-work and embroidery.
So what are some things we should remember when felting, Jackie?
First, we strongly suggest felting your gauge swatch--to most accurately predict the finished size of your felted project. Measure your swatch before felting and make a note of the washing machine settings used and measure your swatch again after felting. But don’t worry too much about the evenness of your knit or crochet stitches if you plan to felt the finished item--the felting process will smooth the fabric.
Second, when felting in a washer and dryer, placing your knit or crochet item into a zippered pillow protector before felting will contain the fuzz created during the process. Also, you should remember that soap is necessary for the felting process--but don’t use too much! A tablespoon or so is plenty.
What about after the items come out of the dryer?
Remember that the felting process often provides unexpected results--just pull or smooth your projects to shape--and remember that felting isn't an exact science. Also, wet wool items are easy to shape. Hats can be smoothed over a bowl, use empty boxes wrapped in plastic to shape a purse. Another useful tip is that a disposable razor can be used to shave off unwanted fuzz after felting.
Do you always have to felt in a washer and dryer?
For smaller pieces, felting can always be done by hand, rubbing the knit or crochet piece until the fibers lock together in hot, soapy water. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water. A clean plunger can speed the felting process.
Any last thoughts, Jackie?
My final tip is to remember that felting is meant to be fun and somewhat experimental--a great way to create a one of a kind design!
A version of this article first ran in The Weekly Stitch newsletter. Click here to sign up for the newsletter and get articles, free patterns, and exclusive offers in your inbox each week.