I love the process of felting because your work is literally transformed in the washer. After felting, your piece is smaller in size, thicker and has a tighter weave. Do you ever wonder what is actually taking place in the washer?
Felting works on animal fibers that have tiny scales. Wool is the classic fiber used for felting. When you get the piece wet, the scales open up slightly. Then, when you apply heat and agitation, the scales irreversibly bind the fibers together. Superwash wool has been treated to prevent the felting process. Therefore, if your goal is felting, you want to avoid superwash products.
So how exactly do you felt?
I place my finished object in a lingerie bag. I put it in the washer with a pair of old jeans. The jeans add additional agitation to help the felting process. You can also use a tennis ball for this purpose. Then I run my washer with hot water and high agitation, checking the item frequently until it has felted adequately. I then roll up my item in a towel to collect most of the moisture, then set it out to dry. For tote bags, I place polyester fiberfill in a plastic grocery bag and place the filled plastic grocery bag inside the tote bag. Then I set the tote bag out to dry overnight. I add or remove fiberfill as needed until my tote bag assumes the shape I want. And Voila! I have a beautiful, sturdy felted piece.
When planning to make a felted piece, you need to think about shrinkage. A felted gauge swatch is critical. Most felted pieces will shrink more in height than width. Also, the looser the texture of your piece, the more mobile the fibers are, and the more felting that will take place. If you are making a flat piece, you can always knit bigger, and the cut out the final shape after felting.
Once you start felting, you may not be able to stop. It is such a thrill to see your piece transformed in the felting process. If you havent’ tried felting, go ahead, give it a try!