Fiber Folklore: The Little Spinner and the Spider

This delightful folktale from the Shetland Islands was posted a few years back on Retold by Daryl Brower and illustrated by Eloise Narrigan, it tells how the tradition of knitting Shetland lace began. This enchanting tale can be read and enjoyed here.


Before and After Felting -When Size Does Matter


I’ve been doing different kinds of felting for several years now, and people sometimes ask how I know how big to knit something when I want it to be a specific size after it’s felted. The simple answer: it depends. You have to know your wool. Some yarns, like Paton’s merino, shrinks for me by about 1/3, so I always knit things made with that yarn about 1/3 larger. Other yarns, like those specially designed for felting, I’ve found shrink far more, at least by half and sometimes more. The only way to relative certainty is to knit a swatch, measure it, felt it, then measure it again and calculate the difference. I know this is heresy in the eyes of some felters, but I’ve been known to spin wet knits in the dryer set on medium, let it tumble for about 2 minutes, take it out and check the size, and repeat as necessary. Works for me.

This bag was knitted with Lion Brand Monet yarn, which unfortunately has been discontinued.

Historic Knitting: Our Boys Need Socks

Red Cross poster circa 1918. Reproduced and available for purchase at The Library of Congress online shop.

As during the War Between the States, knitting played an important role on the home front, providing those left behind with a purpose, and those fighting with a few comforts. The American Red Cross played a vital role in organizing knitting drives across the US.

Below is a link to the socks pattern distributed to volunteer knitters by the Red Cross. This page features a clip of one of the newspapers in which the pattern was originally made available to the public. There are numerous other vintage patterns available on the net.


Knitting News: Amsterdam’s Lace Garden

photo by Jeroen Musch

Anouk Vogel is an award winning Swiss landscape architect who is based in Amsterdam. Among her many avant garde projects is the Lace Garden, located in the courtyard of a city housing block and completed in 2011.    Already nicknamed the Bride’s Garden, the enclosed garden is planted with a collection of white-flowering shrubs, perennials and bulbs that together form a lace knitting its way in-between the existing and new trees. From one side, the garden can be viewed through a standard wire mesh fence with a lavish and poetic lacy twist in it.  One of the most beautiful and surprising things I’ve seen in a long time, and one day soon, I hope to see it in person. While the lace design itself is made from fencing mesh, it’s derived from actual lace patterns. Inspirational!

Basic Felting Instructions

I’ve felted many knitted items and this is my basic procedure:

Felting tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Detergent or soap works with the hot water to soften the wool and speed felting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Felting Instructions

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.)