Technically, it’s called ‘fulling’ but most people know it as felting. Felting is what happens to pure wool when you add heat, soap and agitation. The wool starts to contract and the stitches get tighter, and can blend together depending how long you apply the process.
I think felting is a little bit of magic. It can completely transform a knit item. Take this clutch for instance. I knit it up in virgin natural wool, on large needles. I also doubled the wool to get a thicker final product and something that’s quite sturdy.
You can see it’s really large, and the flap sits a few inches below the bottom of the clutch. While felting is a bit magic and a lot science- it is not exact. You should always knit up a swatch (even though gauge is not terribly important for felted items) to know how your wool will react. Since I have felted with this wool before, I knew it would shrink by approximately 55%.
If you’ve never felted with your particular brand of wool, here’s what I recommend:
-Knit up a small swatch and take your measurements; I usually knit up one that’s 5x5”, I wouldn’t go much smaller than that
-Felt it in hot (Hot! you can even boil a kettle full and add it in) water, with soap and agitation. You can do this in your washing machine or by hand, but I have a little bucket washer that I use for the clutches. I throw tennis balls in there for agitation, you can throw in a towel or some people recommend an old pair of jeans (It has been recommended to place your item in a pillow case to save your washer from all the little pieces of wool fibres that will come off the item, and so it doesn’t plug up your machine)
-Check your swatch every few minutes; at first the item stretches and gets bigger. Don’t worry, it’ll shrink down, I promise!
- You can stop the felting process at any time, you may want to keep some stitch definition, or may want it to felt completely. You can keep going in the machine or do it by hand.
-Keep track of how long it’s been in the washer/water, so that you can write it down
-Once you get it felted to your liking, rinse in cold water, reshape it into a square and let it dry
-Once dry, you can measure it and see how much your wool shrank
Once you know how your wool will react, you can make your item to size to account for the felting. Once you start felting your item, each time you check it you can shape it to what you want.
Just in case you’re not prepared…felting wool smells like you’ve got a wet dog in the house. It’s not that bad, and it makes me laugh every time.
Here’s the clutch after felting:
I kept a little bit of stitch definition, but not much. I kept the flap to just below the bottom of the clutch so that when the clutch is full, the flap will be aligned with the bottom quite nicely. After felting, I play ‘barber’ and use scissors to trim all the loose fibres to make the item much more appealing. This can get a bit messy, just fyi.
The clutch above was a custom order, but here are the other felted clutches available at Knitley Road. You can see the subtle differences in the final results, they were all made using different wool.
Now the question is…what do I felt next?
If you felt, show me a picture! post it here or on the Knitley Road Facebook page!