Felting: it's a word that inspires delight and fear,
excitement and apprehension. I've washed my fair share of completed
wool sweaters and even once was given a vest that, amazingly, fit me perfectly
despite the fact that it had been washed and felted and no longer fit its
original owner. But I have also experienced the wonderment of creating a
project, carefully placing it in the washer and checking it, perhaps too often,
to witness its transformation into a dense, slightly fuzzy fabric. If you have
never felted before, there are a few things to remember, and I'll share some
beginner-friendly felting projects.
Your first step will be to choose a pattern. The swatches I
used are from the Bubble Bag pattern found in the Winter 2009 issue. Felting
makes wonderful fabric for bags, so I would also recommend the Overlay Felted
Tote for the intermediate crocheter or, for something a little different, the
Waffle Lattice Shawl for the beginning crocheters.
Next you have to choose a yarn. Synthetic yarns with bases
such as cotton, linen, or nylon do not felt. Yarns with an animal fiber base such as wool,
alpaca, or mohair make wonderful felting yarns. The yarn should not be superwash, because it is treated so that it does not shrink in the wash.
The most important thing is to swatch. Create a few swatches
and play with the felting until you get the desired finished fabric.
The hook size generally called for in a
felting pattern creates a very loose stitch. If you are creating your own
pattern, a good rule is to go up several hook sizes from the recommended hook
size. Notice the looseness of the stitches in the first, unfelted swatch above.
Felting requires supplies you will generally find at home. You can felt in your
kitchen sink, but a washing machine will make the work much faster and easier.
Place the crocheted fabric in a zippered pillowcase or lingerie bag. This
keeps fibers loosened from your fabric out of the plumbing and plumber's bills
out of your mailbox. Toss the bag in the washing machine along with a couple of
towels or old blue jeans to help with agitation. Set the washing machine to the
lowest water level and the hottest water setting. Remember that with hot water, colors may run so don't add towels or jeans that may stain your crochet
or towels or jeans you don't mind being stained by the yarn. Add a
small amount of mild detergent or soap. Consult your pattern for an idea of how
long to felt the project. The longer the crochet is agitated in the washer, the more
felting occurs and the denser it will become. The second and third swatches above were felted for differing
lengths of time. You can see that the third swatch is much denser and the
stitch definition is almost completely obscured. If you are unsure, it is a
good idea to check it after the first 10 minutes and then again every few
minutes after the crochet begins to visibly felt. Rinse the fabric in cold water
to stop the felting process.
Once you know the best length of time for felting your selected yarn, you can begin your project. When it is done, follow the felting instructions above. While the fabric is still wet you can block the project to any shape.
Use towels, bowls, or anything else the proper size to form the felting around. In the case of the Bubble Bag, you may want to stuff it with plastic bags until it is the shape you like. Then let it air dry.
Have fun! You can share pictures your finished felted projects in the Gallery.