Felting, or to be more technical, fulling, is currently hot in the knitting world. As you probably know, it involves knitting something extra large, then shrinking it in the washer to the proper size. This past holiday season, I participated in several local craft fairs, and making and selling many pairs of felted bags and mittens. Here’s a small sample:
Generic Felting tips:
- Agitation is the key to felting. To help increase the agitation, you may wish to add an old pair of jeans to the wash. Be careful not to add anything like towels, as lint may get caught up in your felt.
- Hot water is used to soften the wool and speed the felting process, but extremely hot or boiling water is not needed. It will make little difference in the felting time and makes it difficult to handle your knitted item during the process.
- Detergent or soap works with the hot water to soften the wool and speed felting.
- To protect your washer from excess lint, place the knitted item in a zippered pillow protector, or at the very least, a fine mesh bag.
- The most important step in felting is to check on the progress regularly. That is the only way that you will be able to stop when the size is right.
- Some people do not use your washer’s spin and rinse cycle as it may set permanent creases in your felt. I have not experienced this as a problem.
To begin felting, set washer for hot wash, low water level, and maximum agitation. Add a small amount of a mild detergent. Place the bag with the knitted item in the washer.
After about 5 minutes, check on the progress. Check again every 3 to 5 minutes. Every time you check on the progress, remove the knitted item(s) from the bag and change the way they are folded before returning to the washer. Reset the washer to continue agitating if necessary. Do not let it drain and spin. Just keep agitating and checking on them, until they are down to size and firm enough to hold their shape. Smaller items may take quite awhile to felt. When the items appear to be the right size, remove and rinse by hand in cool water. Use a towel to remove some water and check the fit.
If they are still too large, return to the washer and continue agitating. When you are happy with the size, remove and rinse by hand. Machine rinsing is not recommended, as it is impossible to control the amount of additional shrinkage that may occur (I don’t have a problem when I machine-rinse.)