We take great care of our knitted garments- hand washing with gentle detergent, laying out to dry, etc. We want to maintain the integrity of our carefully stitched garment so that it will last for years to come. However, if you are looking to transform your knitted piece into a fabulous, fabric-like garment, you will love felting. Seeing each carefully composed stitch in a garment is lovely- but sometimes you want a sweater with thick, soft, fuzzy fibers that looks like a continuous fabric.
There are several types of felt, but creating fabric from felting is thought to have originated more than 5000 years ago in Asia. Tents, rugs, and a variety of clothing is still made today using the felting process.
Felting compresses animal fiber using heat, moisture, and agitation to create a dense fabric. Some mammal fibers, like sheep wool, has a solid core and a scaly surface. The scales are microscopic and are directed away from the root of the fiber. The rough surface area of the fibers make it easier to felt and dye the fiber. During the felting process, the scales latch on to each other to create a permanent bond.
For small felting projects, it is easier to felt by hand. If you want to create a felted garment, your yarn must be 100% animal fiber and untreated. Do not select a yarn that has been "superwashed" or treated to make it washable These yarns will resist felting.
Once your knitted project is complete, here are the steps to felt:
Hot water and some agitation is all you need to get started. For small projects, fill a clean sink with some hot water. Add a few drops of dishwasher soap and place your garment in the sink. Using your hands, swish the piece around in the water until it is completely saturated. Next, work the piece with your hands in a kneading motion for several minutes.
After a couple of minutes, check your piece. Remove it from the water and press out the excess water. Depending on how felted you want the garment to be, either move to the next step or continue agitating. If you want your piece to felt more, run it under cold water and then place back into the hot water for additional agitation.
Once you agitate until the garment is exactly how you want it, it is time to block. Blocking is the process of setting the piece into the desired shape. If you are blocking a sweater, you will pin down one side and gently stretch the garment into the shape you want to achieve. Then, pin down the other side and repeat the stretching process. If you are felting a rounded object, like a beanie hat, you may stuff it with tissue paper to hold the shape while it dries.
If you want to felt a blanket or any other large garment, you may opt for machine felting.
Set your top loading washing machine on the smallest load setting and the hottest water temperature. Allow the machine to fill with hot water and add a very small amount of wool wash. Once the machine stops adding water and begins to agitate, drop your garment into the machine.
Decide how felted you would like your garment to be and set a timer. We recommend checking the garment every 5-6 minutes. Pull the garment out of the water, squeeze the excess water out and lay it down on a towel. Decide whether it needs more agitation to achieve the desired felting. Once the felting is complete, let the washing machine drain.
Shape your garment the same way you would if you hand felted and allow it to dry.