Felt and How it is made

I have realized that alot of people do not know what felt is or how it is made. So, I have decided to create a little bio/description of the process and all the wonderful things about this fabric.

First and formost I would like to say that felt is the most durable material that you can create. I love the way this stuff holds up. If you purchase anything felted or made of felt you can pretty much plan on keeping it for as long as you live.

Definition of felt:
mat together and make felt-like; "felt the wool"
cover with felt; "felt a cap"
a fabric made of compressed matted animal fibers
change texture so as to become matted and felt-like; "The fabric felted up after several washes"

Felting is the process of Nonwoven fabric made from wool, fur or hair matted together by heat, moisture and pressure.

Felt can be created in more than one way. I will explain the way I felt since this is the way that works for me. However there are lots of ways to felt. You will have to test your pieces with different techniques to see what works best for you.

First before you can felt, you have to have a piece of wool. I use 100% peruvian wool when felting. I buy this at yarn stores and on the internet. Just google it. There are lots of different wool types out there. Merino, Alpaca, suffolk, shetland just to name a few. I have tested many of these types and found that peruvian is the best by far for felting. Ill explain why later one. But, of course this all a personal preference.

I buy yarn that is worsted weight or bulky weight. These are the best thicknesses for felting. You want a yarn that is stiff and fairly thick. This will allow the item to hold its shape better when you are doing the felting process. Plus, you dont have to knit or crochet as big.

If you take a look at my shop on Etsy you will see that I make felted bowls and card holders. I also have been experimenting with felted beads for jewelry making.

Items that are needed for felting:
1. 100% wool yarn of you choice
2. Hot water ( the hottest that is tolerable to you )
3. Dish washing liquid ( I use the cheap stuff, Ajax)
4. Some sort of agitator i.e a pair of jeans, mesh bag, frickion using your hands )
5. ice cold water bath ( I use a dish pan and put ice cubs in it to make the water as cold as possible)

First I start out by crocheting my item using my 100% peruvian wool yarn. Now, here is where it gets tricky, most people use a pattern when they are knitting or crocheting. You cannot use a regular pattern and expect to felt it. When you felt, the item is reduced in size by 25% depending on the type of wool that you are using. You have to be able to make up for this size difference. If you want to make a hat and use a regular pattern, then felt the hat, you will have a hat to fit an infant, not you. I use my own patterns for all my work, so I dont have to guess how to alter the pattern. There are lots of books out there for knitters to learn how to felt there knitted items. Unfortunatly there is only one book on felted crochet that I have found do far, thats in english at least. So that leaves me to designing my own patterns.

Before you get into creating a huge project and felting it, you must check you gauge. Not all wool shrinks and felts the same way. For instance, Merino wool takes much longer to felt than Peruvian. Merino wool also shrinks more. This is why I love Peruvian. I dont have to create such a large crocheted piece which saves me time. Peruvian wool also comes out super soft and plushy when felted.

Alfter you have created your piece to be felted wether its knitted or crocheted, its time to felt.

There are two ways to felt. By hand and by washing machine. Some say that using your washing machine is bad for the machine and will cause the motor to blow. I have not found this to be the case. I have been felting in my machine for 4 years now without a problem.

To felt by hand.....

felting by hand takes alot longer than felting in the machine. Felting by hand however is more gratifying to me. You can see first hand how the felting process works and see your item transform right before your eyes.

Fill your sink up with the hottest water that you can tolerate. Mix with a few drops of dish washing liquid. Drop your knitted/crochet item in the sink. Start to sqeeze the item to make sure that all the fibers are completely saturated with soap and water. Start to adgitate the wool by rubbing it in your hands. You will have to do this for awhile. You will be able to tell when the item is felted when all your stitches dissapear and you have one stiff piece of fabric. Continue to sqeeze the item in the bath of soapy water and rubbing it in your hands until the item is felted to your desire. There is no "specific" way an item should look after felting. Its all in what you like. I personally like all my stitches to be invisible. Some like to see there stitches.

Once you feel that your item is felted to your liking, its time to shock it with the ice water. This process makes the wool fibers shrink together and maintain there shape. To do this, turn on the facet and run the item under the coldest water that you can get. This is to get as much soap off the item as possible. After you have done that you can put the item in the ice bath and continue to ring out the bubbles. After that you will need to reshape the item. Since you have been rubbing and pulling and poking at it for the last half hour or so, you cant expect it to still look like what it did before. This step is very important. Once the felted piece has dried you CAN NOT re felt it. It will not shrink anymore or change its shape. So please take the time to reshape your item and let it dry in a cool dry room. Some times I like to use my oven. I just place the item on a cookie sheet and let it sit in there to dry. That way, its out of my hair and i know that its dry and cool. The drying process usually takes 24 hours.

To felting by Washing Machine...

This is the easiest way to felt, but not nessesarly the fastest. When I first started felting, I used Merino wool. It takes me about 4 wash cycles to get the item to look like I want it. When I switched to Peruvian I saw a big difference. I only have to run peruvian twice through the washer. Although I still use Merino sometimes because there may be a color I want that I cant find in Peruvian wool.

All you have to do for machine felting is grab a pair of jeans or mesh bag. This is used to adgitate the fibers to make them felt. I use a pair of jeans. Dont use a pair that have fraying on them becuse this will get caught in the felt and be very hard to get out. I put my washer settings on hot/cold water and small load. I run the machine through the longest setting. After the first time through the wash, I Check the item and do alittle reshaping. If the item is felted to your desire then there is no need to run it through again. At this point you can reshape and let set to dry. Otherwise repeat the steps above and keep running you machine until its what you like.

Well, thats it! All about felting. Not that easy, but definatly the best craft I've come across so far.
Please visit my shop at www.funkybytara.etsy.com to see some samples of my felted items.

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