For our first post, we decided to go a bit out of the box and discuss our experiences with felting. I know, most first blog posts are about how to physically crochet, how to perform different stitches, or something similar. But we’re going to write about whatever we’re doing at the time. And at the moment, we’re both felting!
There are three ways to felt a crochet project. By hand, in the wash, or in the dryer. I did it by hand for a few reasons. First, I’m a bit of a control freak, and you have the most control when felting by hand, cause you can see how far it’s progressed and stop whenever you feel you’re done and it’s even. Second, in the wash, they say to throw in a pair of jeans with it, to add to agitation. Well, my washing machine is brand new, so big I’d have to throw in a whole load of jeans to make a difference, and it’s so gentle, even on the “heavy wash” setting, that I highly doubted it would work well. So I decided to skip it. Next time I felt something I’ll try dry felting, cause throwing it in the dryer and checking it often seems like a nice compromise. But for my purposes here I worked up two small purses, and just felted by hand.
So to felt by hand, you fill a bowl or a bucket with super-hot water and dishwashing soap, toss in your work, and “agitate”. So I worked it around the bottom of the bowl, I scrunched it, I rubbed it against itself, I used my fist like a mortar and pestle and really ground it up. After 5 min of that in hot water, I ran it under cold cold water (apparently that helps the fibers fuse? Idk, I read it, so I did it), and I went back to the hot water and repeated the process. After about 25 min for each item, I was done!
So, the first thing I learned about felting is that you want pure wool (see Fall’s entry below for the explanation). I’d read that before, and wasn’t sure how true it was. So I looked at what wool I had in my stash, and came up with two kinds of yarn that were leftover from other projects. One was a superfine baby alpaca, and the other was part superwash and part merino wool.
The alpaca clutch came out great. Completely felted, nice and even, just a hint of the stitch used (it was all back loop single crochets, so there was a very slight pattern of lines, which were the unworked front loops.) I definitely would use this wool again, it felted up nice and quick! Tho I’ll probably go up a hook size for my next felt work. When the fibers fuse in felting, the holes of stitches basically close up, so they can be a little larger to start with. I wasn’t sure how well felting would work with alpaca, but I shouldn’t have worried; it was great.
The second little project was a simple round long-handled purse with the superwash mix. I felted it for the same amount of time as the first one, so I could make a good comparison. I thought that it would felt partially, leaving more of the stitchwork visible. But alas, it was not a proportionate degree. I think it was because as a partial superwash, the regular wool fibers couldn’t fuse properly to the superwash wool or to itself, so it just became a bit fuzzy. The little spaces between the stitches did not close up, and in fact, they seemed to become larger in the process, possibly a factor of the superwash or the blocking afterward, I don’t know. So that yarn didn’t quite felt. I’ll probably line the purse with some matching fabric and call it a day.
Lessons from (unsuccessfully) felting by Fall
Like Spring said, we were both working on felting projects. I followed a bit of a different path, here’s my experience…
I believe every crafter has been there, staring at a pile of supplies leftover from projects past and wondering how to use all the ‘extra’ materials. Being in this position, I copied Spring and bought an incredibly useful book called ‘One Skein Wonders’. I made several projects for friends before deciding to make a lovely felted clutch. The yarn I have the most of happened to be 100% acrylic, but common wisdom that it needs to be wool be damned, I was going to try to felt it anyway. Needless to say, I have a lovely clutch, but it did not felt in the slightest.
As a curious person, I wanted to know why. Why should two fabrics act so differently? Turns out that as a man-made textile, acrylic is smooth on the outside and does not have any of the scales that human hair or wool possess. Due to this lack of scales, introducing the fabric to hot water had no effect. When wool is heated, the scales open up and you can rub them together to adhere one strand to another. To anthropomorphize for a moment, the acrylic clutch was probably just pissed off that I had dunked it into extremely hot, soapy water for apparently no reason. But a good lesson learned and some interesting reading about fibers and textiles. In the end, I still have an incredibly cute clutch! I lined it with some fun fabric and called it a day (blue clutch below). I plan to try again, with wool this time, I promise!