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How To Felt


Only fibers from animals, such as sheep, goats, alpacas or rabbits can be used for felting. Natural fibers such as cotton or linen will not felt nor will man-made fibers such as acrylics.


Some animal fibers—such as super wash yarns—may have been treated to prevent them from felting. In addition, white yarns that have been bleached and off-white yarns may not felt well.


Felting occurs because the animal fiber is really the animal’s hair. Just as in human hair, each strand is covered by scales. If the individual hairs are rubbed together, the scales will grab each other, and the whole material shrinks.


To make the scales catch, some form of abrasion is necessary. The quickest and easiest process is to use the washing machine where the agitation will provide the necessary abrasion.


Felting by Machine

Because you will be starting and stopping the machine during the felting process, it is important that you do your felting in a top loading machine.


Set the water setting to the lowest setting for the smallest load, choose the most powerful form of agitation, and elect the hottest water. It is a good idea to place your project in a zippered pillowcase or a mesh lingerie bag. This will keep any loose fuzz from clogging your machine.  Add about a tablespoon of soap to the water; soap is preferable to detergent. To provide more agitation, add some clean jeans or tennis sneakers.


After about five minutes, stop the washer and check the project. It may actually have become larger as it relaxes in the warm water. Put the project back in the water and continue the operation. Keep checking the process every 5 to 10 minutes until you feel that your felting is satisfactory. Do not allow your project to go through the entire rinse and spin cycles as this could leave creases. Just rerun the wash cycle.


Finishing

Rinse your project by hand in warm water and roll it in a large towel to remove the excess water. Take the time to block and shape your project while it is still wet as the wet wool will be extremely malleable.  Allow the project to dry in a warm spot away from any direct heat or sunlight for as much time as necessary. It could take several days depending upon the weather. After the project is completely dry, finish with a simple brushing to remove any excess fuzz.


All felting projects will shrink more in the length (the number of rows) than in the width (the number of stitches). Most felted projects will be about 85% of the width and about 75% of the length of the project before felting.


Felting by Hand

You can felt by hand. Work in your kitchen sink, the bathtub or in a large bowl. Just a few inches of water is all that is necessary. Use the hottest tap water, add a little soap (about one teaspoon) and start to knead (as if you were making bread) and rub, constantly changing direction.


Continue kneading and rubbing the project until it is the desired shape. If the process seems to be taking too long, plunge the project into a bowl of cold water, which will shock the fibers.  When you feel the felted project is the correct size, remove it from the water and follow the finishing instructions above.