Items knitted or crocheted with woollen yarn can be felted to make a sturdy felt fabric. When woollen fibres are agitated in hot water they shrink and lock together to form felt. This is an interesting technique to learn and can be used in many ways.
Types of Yarns for Felting
One of the key things to remember when felting knitting or crochet items is that they will shrink. The amount of shrinkage depends on the yarn that they are knitted with. Pure new wool is likely to shrink to less than half its original size. Yarns that are a wool mix, for instance a wool and silk blend, will shrink a lot less. Knitters and crocheters should watch out for easy-wash yarn or any yarn that is sold as machine washable as this will have been processed to stop it from shrinking, which means it will not felt. Before proceeding to knit or crochet a large item for felting, it is strongly suggested that a sample is made and felted. The measurements before and after felting should be taken so the precise amount of shrinkage can be measured.
Stitches for Felting Knitting and Crochet
While almost any stitch can be used when knitting or crocheting items to felt, they can alter the finished effect. Lace stitches will give a felted fabric with a holey effect and this can make an interesting fabric. Textured patterns such as cables may well get lost in the felting process, giving a gentle textured effect rather than being obvious cables. Good stitches for textures in both knitting and crochet projects are bobble stitches. The bobbles get emphasised as part of the felting process. Knitting and crochet does not felt the same in both directions. A square of knitting or crochet, for instance will not necessarily end up as a square when it is felted. This is another reason why working samples is such an important part of the planning process.
How to Felt Knitting and Crochet
Felting knitting and crochet is very simple. It is also, however, very nerve racking. Felt making is not always a precise art, therefore having spent weeks or months knitting or crocheting a large item, the final finishing is one where the knitter or crocheter has very little control. While it may not matter if a bag or purse shrinks more or less than planned, it can ruin a garment or something where precise measurements are required. This is why working a sample is so important. To felt a knitted item it is simply a case of putting the item into a washing machine on a very hot washing cycle. The washing process will felt and shrink the woollen fibres. Other items should be included as these will agitate the knitting or crochet and this will help the felting process. Once an item has been felted the process cannot be reversed.
Finishing Felted Knitting and Crochet
When the felted item is removed from the washing machine it is likely to look a misshapen lump. This is when many knitters and crocheters vow never to felt anything ever again. However, there is no need to panic as the finished item can now be pulled into shape. Just as knitting and crochet benefits from being blocked as part of the finishing process, so felted knitting and crochet benefits from shaping. The finished felt fabric is likely to be sturdy and robust and can take quite a lot of shaping. Three dimensional items such as bags or footwear can be packed with plastic bags when they are drying to keep them in shape. Hats could be placed on a head-sized ball to dry, if a head form is not available. Flat items should be pulled into shape and laid flat to dry.
Felting knitting and crochet can be very exciting and is a great technique to learn. It is the ideal way to make felt for people who don’t like the idea of wet felting and is also good for making three dimensional items.