It’s National Cleavage day and I couldn’t resist the title! Spring is right around the corner, this seems to be the PERFECT season to felt. We have eggs, flowers, purses, bowls, etc., the list goes on and is cute. Felting is one of those yarn projects that both knitting and crochet can do, so why not share a post for this month? There are different types of felting, felting sheets, rove felting and wet felting. We’re going to focus on wet wool felting (because that’s how it works for knitting and crocheting, we’ll talk other animal fibers later) and will refer to it from now on as “felting” – I hear by decree.
Through hours of trial and error, and following the scientific method (in the yarn world), I have come to the conclusion that four things, in order of importance, are necessary for proper felting: wool content, agitation, soap and hot water. You might think it interesting that hot water is at the end of the list. Let’s go through some of my felting projects to further explain:
Mocassins for Him: I made these slippers for my dad last year, and they were the first thing I ever felted. I used Patons Classic Wool in deep olive and I can tell you, putting something I knit into the wash for the first time was so nerve racking! I used my top loading washer, some detergent, a couple pairs of dark colored pants, and went through two small loaded washes to get them to the size I wanted. When they came out, I was afraid they were too small and was worried about maintaining the shape. I had shoe forms to put into the slippers but they were too big and wouldn’t fit into my felted slipper. I decided to put them on the outside of my boots to get them to a bigger man size and it worked! My dad likes them and wears them to this day. Making sure to shape your felted item while it dries is important to remember, don’t go through all that trouble just to let it shrink dry.
Felted Fortune Cookies: I don’t yet have a picture for these because I still have to sew them into cookies. I didn’t get around to it before this post because I’ve been so annoyed with this project! I used the same wool as the slippers and tried the stove top method because I had two cookies and didn’t want to put them into the washer (I was trying to be eco). Let me tell you just stick to the washing machine method, it IS more eco.
Let’s begin this sage, I brought a large pot to a rolling boil and stuck my wool into it, then stood there and stirred it for twenty minutes and not much happened. The water got darker and the wool kind of got a little fuzzy. By fuzzy, I mean the look wool gets when it’s splashed with cold water. I decided to see if the rolling boil would help the wool, maybe my spoon was getting in the way. After 45 minutes, several gallons of water and maybe a millimeter of felting later, I decided to ramp this puppy up. I added some dish soap (the water was “pure” up until this point) got out my potato masher and went to town (as much as you can in boiling water) and I started to see some results!
After another 30 minutes the cookies had gotten smaller – by about .25 inches… I quickly realized, it was the agitation but I couldn’t produce enough to make it go faster without burning myself. Stirring isn’t enough agitation – mashing was the trick – I had to physically beat up the wool in hot water which isn’t really good for the skin, you know? I finally put my cookies into the washing machine and saw that it does more than stir, it is a hurricane of water movement. THAT is why you get such fantastic results in the washing machine – some times too good if you’re not careful. By the time I got to this point, I was tired of even looking at those cookies, just like you are of reading about this drama.
Fine Feather Cap: Yes, THE hat! This story begins with using the Lion Brand Yarn Wool-Ease, a wonderful acrylic and wool blend, but NOT made for felting. I knew there was a chance it wouldn’t work and I read the care instructions. But it has wool in it, I thought it might be possible. I did some research online and read how other people were told it doesn’t felt either, but it did for them. This is what I discovered – it doesn’t work for brand new, non-beat up wool. When I went back to these LIARS (it’s what it felt like after five failed felted loads, but I did get my too big jeans down to a wearable size!) I realized these ladies wore their favorite items almost daily by the time it went into the wash and felted. This causes me to believe if you beat the CRAP out of a low wool blend, you might have a shot of getting it to felt eons later. There’s more to this story in the last post, but to save time I will skip to the end.
I finally got wonderful results using Patons Classic Wool in Aran; Red Heart’s Stitch Nation Full O’ Sheep in Passion Fruit, Mediterranean and Thyme; and this mystery yellow wool I got from a fellow yarn maker. I stuck to my tried and true method and as you can see, it was well worth all the hard work. I was so in love with the end result, I let the cap felt dry on my head! When I had to take it off for bed, I let it further dry on a plastic playground ball.
Even though some of my stories might seem daunting and appear to make felting not worth the effort, I’ve taken some of the tears out of it for you. If you haven’t ever tried it, think of this as a tutorial in what to avoid, and what to pay attention to, with your projects. I found a great tutorial by Lion Brand Yarn in the basics of this method (that reaffirms some of my follies too!). Also, for sticking with this post, I’m doing a giveaway! One luck reader will get a skein of Lion Brand Yarn Fisherman’s Wool in Natural Brown, with over 450 yds you’re sure to get a good project (or two!) out of it. To enter this great contest, leave a comment – for an extra entry, follow me on twitter (leave an additional comment to alert me that is why you followed me.) Entries must be received by Friday, April 20, 2012 and I will randomly select and announce the winner on Saturday, April 21, 2012.
Yes, I’m buying friends, but you’re ok with that because you might get more yarn, :-p