If you've ever mistakenly added a wooly jumper in the washing machine on a hot wash, and felt devastated when you pull out a tiny version of said jumper - you have witnessed felting!
Felting is a process that causes wool fibers to bind together, creating a dense and thick fabric. Felting works best when using 100% wool, other animal fibers like mohair and alpaca can also be great to felt. Try a swatch first before embarking on a big project. Some fibers are too slippery to felt easily. Others have been treated to resist felting or colour absorption. Watch out for "superwash," "washable," or white yarns (bleached).
How to felt
The ingredients: agitation, moisture, heat. The more of these ingredients you use, the more the wool will be felted. Adding a detergent in the wash is always recommended, to help fibers combine together more easily.
Felting works best for smaller knitted pieces, like hats, socks or slippers.
Anything you felt will shrink, so unless you're following a pattern for felting, knit big! A looser knit tend to be more successful. It will also be felted more vertically than horizontally. Therefore, it is best to use patterns specifically designed for felting.
The Felting Process
Put the knitted item to be felted in a laundry bag or pillow case. This makes it easier to find and also protects your washer from excess fibers going into the rinse, and thus into your washer's filter.
Wash the item in the washing machine with an enzyme-free detergent without optical bleach. Wash warm on 40C/104F, normal spin, without pre-wash. Never felt a garment on a short cycle. Adding a small towel in the same wash will increase the friction and speed up the felting process.
If you wish, you can check on the item during wash. (Some washing machines have the pause function where you can open the door during a cycle.)
When the washing program is finished, block the garment in the desired shape while it is still wet - the more wet the garment is, the easier it is to shape it. Some machines allow you to change the spin cycle to a lower setting.
If the the knitted item is still too big, wash it again and block into the desired shape afterwards. If it's too small, soak it thoroughly with water and stretch to the right size.
Don't be afraid to put in some elbow grease to pull it, block it, push it to the shape you desire. Then allowed to dry completely. The way you let it dry is the shape it will keep!
Felting is a great way to create a warm, strong, and durable fabric that can be used for a wide variety of crafts and garments.
Have a felting story to share? We'd love to hear it!