Felting, or boiled wool, is the process of converting your knitted wool into something solid. Sometimes we want to felt our knitting. Other times, well… then it’s a tragedy. When done intentionally it is a great affect. When unintended, it becomes a doll sweater.
Wool felts so well because when wetted and agitated, the scales on the wool swell, rub against each other and bind together. This results in a denser, smaller fabric. Remember to check the label carefully since you do not want to use superwash wool. Superwash wool is treated either by a soak in an acid bath that removes its scales or it is coated with a polymer or resin and thus coated to prevent felting. Additionally, yarn with less than 60% wool will not easily felt.
Of course, as with all things knitting, there are multiple ways to accomplish your goals. An upright washing machine with an agitator and hot water is probably the easiest method, though it is possible to hand-felt certain items with lukewarm water. Some people add boiled water to assure that the water in the machine is good and hot. A zippered pillowcase will protect the item (and your washing machine) add jeans, tennis balls, towels or other bulky items to help with agitation. Check on it about 10 minutes into the washing process.
Since part of the felting process is shrinkage, it is important to consider how large you should knit your item. A good rule of thumb is 50% shrinkage in height and 30% in width, and swatching is recommended for garments. If you swatch, you won’t be surprised. Often, a felted project doesn’t have to be an exact fit. If the final dimensions are important, you should knit and felt a swatch.
24.5 inches before felting
21.5 after felting
Stop in and see some examples of felted knitting.
And now… finished objects.
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