Tips and Techniques: Fabulous felt
Felting is a fun, easy technique with phenomenal results! Just knit or
crochet your pattern, then let your washing machine do all the hard work.
Felting is a fabulous, funky way to transform a knit or crochet piece into
something completely different. It makes a fabric that is dense, warm and strong
– perfect for bags or cold-weather items.
Yarns made of wool (non-superwash) and other animal fibers are perfect for
felting. When the little fibers of wool are exposed to moisture, heat, and
agitation, they cling and tangle together and - voilà – felt! But the felting
process is a one-way street – once felted, you can never go back! Consider
yarns like Fishermen's Wool,
Lion Wool, Alpine Wool, LB 1878, LB Collection
Organic Wool, and LB
Collection Pure Wool.
The Felt Formula Felting is not always a precise science. That is because it
is achieved by exposing wool to water, heat, and agitation, but the amount
of each of these elements plays a part in the way the piece felts.
Felting can be done in the sink, but washing machines can work great too, and
they do the job much quicker. However, each washing machine is different, and
the amount your machine felts a piece after one cycle may be different than your
neighbors’. So, while it’s not hard, be sure to follow the specific felting
instructions of the piece you are making, and check your piece a few times
during your felting process to make sure you are getting the desired results.
Felting Facts Felting a knit or crochet piece makes it SHRINK. Therefore,
the piece you knit or crochet will be much bigger than your felted piece
will ultimately be. How much does it shrink? It depends since there are so many
factors that go into it – how hot your water is, how hard your water is, how
much it is agitated, the amount and kind of soap you use, what color the yarn is
(really, it's a fact!), and so on. You can felt your piece more or less. If you
felt it just a little (maybe by taking it out of your machine after half a
cycle), you will still have stitch definition. If you felt it more, you won't. Basically,
here are the steps:
- Wash in warm water with soap.
- Why soap? It actually speeds up the felting process!
- Felting can often be improved by adding baking soda or washing soda to
- What about the rest of the laundry? Throw it in! Though it may not be
recommended in the directions for all felting projects, washing felted
things with other laundry can speed up the process! Why? Agitation is
another important element for the felting, and the rest of your laundry
does just that (be sure to check out the TIPS below)!
- Rinse in cool water
- Rinsing in cool water "locks" the fibers in place. Most
people have a warm wash/cool rinse setting on their machines (easy,
- Air dry
- If you are making a piece that needs to conform to a particular shape
(say, a rectangle piece for a bag), it will likely be lopsided when it
comes out of the dryer. Adjust it to the right shape BEFORE you let it
dry (remember: once felted, felted for life) or pin it into shape on a
blocking board and let it dry there – yup, blocking is important in
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT FELTING WITH LANDSCAPES Landscapes is composed of
two fibers, a wool one that will felt and an acrylic one, which does not felt.
Projects made with Landscapes that are to be felted should be
processed as follows:
Wash by machine on a long setting with hot water/cold rinse
with detergent with several pieces of clothing to agitate.
If your water is hard, add baking soda or washing soda to
the water to improve felting. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the
soda box. Washing soda is stronger than baking soda and only requires about
half as much.
Wash item several times if necessary with hot water
depending on how quickly the project felts.
To felt additionally, dry by machine on a regular setting
until almost dry. Remove from dryer and lie flat to shape.
- WASHING: When washing your felted piece with other clothing, try
putting it in a mesh lingerie bag – it will still get the benefit of
agitation from the other clothes, but won’t get stuck!
- MORE WASHING: be sure the clothing you put it with won’t run
(like colors), and they don’t pill (or the fibers that come off could wind
up in your felt!
- RELAX! Mistakes in your handwork won’t show up after felted, so
- ONE OF A KIND: Don’t worry if you piece looks slightly different
than the picture! So many factors go into felting that it is inevitable it
WILL look a little different. But that’s the beauty of it – your piece
is completely unique!
- GAUGE GRATIFICATION: Because felting is indeed pretty different
every time you do it, gauge is extremely important. Sometimes, to help
control the process, patterns will have you make a gauge swatch, then felt
it and take measurements before AND after. That way, you know to work with
your machine. If you need it to felt LESS, remove it from the machine
earlier. If MORE, leave it in for longer – maybe you need to run it again!
- CHECK IT: Check your piece a number of times if felting in the
washing machine to make sure it’s just right – not too much, not too
- FELTING FACTOR: It is a good idea to knit a swatch to see how your
machine felts. Make a square swatch, then throw it in your machine. Check it
a number of times before the end of the cycle to get a sense of your
particular machine’s “felting factor.”
- CUT IT OUT! Since felting “fuses” the fibers together, you can
do something with it you cannot do with knit or crochet pieces – you can
CUT IT! Believe it or not, if your piece is truly felted, it won’t
unravel. That means you can cut into the bottom to make a cute fringe, you
can cut strips of felted fabric and weave them back together, sky’s the
- MIX IT UP: Mixing yarns is really fun with felting. Try making a
swatch with one strand of fun fur and Lion Wool at the bottom, then switch
entirely to Lion Wool. Now felt it. The results are amazing, because the FUN
FUR won’t felt,. Talk about FURRY EFFECTS. Try other yarn combos to see
what looks coolest – remember, only the wool will felt, so you can create
great textural differences with mixing.
- HAVE FUN: There’s no limit to this cool craft, so play around and
let your imagination be your guide!