Learning to Felt Crochet – Tips for Making a Practice Swatch
Felting crochet, a new adventure for me! Would you like to come along and try it too?
What is felting?
Felting is when you take an animal fiber like wool and put it through a process that will mat the fibers together. Washing wool in hot water and agitating it makes the fibers rub up against each other and tangle producing a fabric that is now solid, softer, fuzzier and smaller. Tangled yarn is usually a disaster, but felting will change the size, look and feel or your fiber and project in a good way – hopefully.
To felt you need:
- fiber that can be felted – animal fiber like 100% or mostly wool. Avoid superwash as this yarn is treated specifically so it won’t felt
- hot water
- agitation (from the washing machine or by hand)
How to get started felting crochet or knit work
Because I’m new to the world of felting, the first thing I decided to do was make a swatch. I wanted to get a feel for how my washing machine will felt, how long it will take and how it will felt specifically for the project I have in mind, a bath mat.
Felting can’t be undone, so practicing on a swatch seems to be a good idea. It would be disastrous to shrink the whole project way too small.
Here are the felting tips I gathered up before attempting my swatch:
- Put your crocheted or knitted piece in a pillowcase or a zippered mesh bag. Lint will come off the swatch and you can do damage to your machine letting it build up. I prefer a zippered bag, more on that below.
- Some said be frugal and throw your project to be felted in with other laundry, but never towels. Towels will throw off lint that will gather on your project if using a mesh bag.
- Most people recommend putting the felting project in with the washing machine with only a couple of pairs of jeans on the small load setting.
- Use HOT water and 1 Tablespoon of detergent. The detergent will speed the felting process along.
- You can use washing soda or baking soda also.
- Check you project at 5 minute intervals.
- Don’t let your project go through the spin cycle or it might have a crease in it.
Here’s how the adventure went for me
I started with a 6.5”x6” square. I used Patons Classic Wool Yarn (where to buy) and a K hook (6.5mm). Thinking the stitches had to be big, I went up a hook from the recommended size for the yarn. I found with larger hooks, even if I started with a certain sized foundation chain, the wool fabric would grow wider. I’m still getting used to working with wool, so maybe this is a characteristic of wool I need to adjust for, not sure.
I decided to go with the frugal advice and tie up the swatch in a pillowcase and put it in with other laundry. I’m not trying this again with a full load! It was really annoying to put my hands in hot water and sift through the half-washed laundry to find the pillowcase. It’s also a little difficult to open up a wet knotted pillowcase. I did notice lint on the inside of the pillowcase.
After 15 minutes, my swatch had shrunk an inch all around and was still a bit loose. So I tried running through another load, this time with just 2 pairs of jeans and with a mesh zippered bag. After 5 minutes, it had shrunk another inch and was tight and fuzzy. I used a dark pair of jeans and the rinse water was VERY blue. Since this will be going on hot, next time I will use old jeans I was saving to upcycle to avoid ruining someone’s good clothes.
After trying it both ways, I prefer just using jeans and running the wash cycle as a small load. A small load made it much easier to deal with checking the swatch and the jeans provided good agitation. I would probably try a zippered pillowcase next time to make sure no lint was escaping into the washing machine. Cold water locks the fibers in place, so next I took it out and put in it for the cold rinse, avoiding the spin cycle.
After the cold rinse, I rolled the swatch in a towel to squeeze out excess water. Then the swatch is ready for the last step, which is to stretch it into shape, block and allow to air dry.
In the end, it was really exciting to have a new *thing*, something different than what I started with. I can’t wait to try this on a bigger project.
What works for me probably won’t work out exactly the same for you. If you’re ready to try out felting, make a swatch and test it out for yourself.
Do you think you will try out felting? Or do you already enjoy felting and have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments.
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