01 of 08
What is Felting
Felting is actually an ancient craft that has become increasingly popular lately. Felting is the process of transforming wool into a dense cloth by bonding and shrinking the fibers together. Technically, there are three types of felting: wet felting, needle felting, and commercial felting.
Commercial felting is the process used to create sheets of felt sold at craft and fabric stores. While these are different than the felting projects you can make at home, if you look closely at these sheets,... you can see all the fibers used to form the fabric.
Needle felting is accomplished by using special needles to help create and embellish fabric. We won't dig into this method of felting in this article, but if you would like to learn more about it, you can check out some of these resources.
Wet felting is what this tutorial will focus on. With wet felting, you can create a soft, dense cloth using wool. The process uses heat, agitation, and moisture to shrink and bond the fibers of the wool together. Don't let this description scare you away from trying wet felting, all you need is some yarn and a washing machine really!
Let's get started.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Choosing the Yarn for Felting
Actually, this step is quite simple. With the popularity of wet felting these days, the yarn manufacturers have started labeling their yarn that is suitable for felting. If the yarn package is not labeled as 'feltable', look for yarns that 100% wool or other animal fibers.
If you are following a specific pattern, use that as a guide as to what brand/kind of yarn to buy. Different brands and types will felt differently - I learned this the hard way. Also, when making a project, use only one brand... of yarn even if you are using different colors. One interesting thing I read was the fact that supposedly dark colors felt more quickly than light colors so you might want to keep this in mind.
Another alternative, rather than creating your own item using yarn and then felting it, is to use an old wool sweater. It can be sewn into a hat, purse, or other item.
Next, you have to decide what to make.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Choosing a Felting Pattern
I decided to make a bag for my first felting project. I originally found a pattern I like online, but then changed it up a little bit. More about this later...
The pattern I found is here: Easy Knit & Crochet Felted Bags.
While I think knitting a project to felt is a more popular choice, I decided to crochet mine simply because I have more experience with crocheting than I do knitting. Choose whatever technique you enjoy doing the most. Here are some resources for knitting and crocheting that... might be helpful:
Once you decide what to make, we can get started.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Making Your Felt Project
If the project you find comes with felting directions, follow them closely. One of the nice things about working directly from a felting pattern is that all the steps should be tested so your finished project will turn out how it is supposed to.
I found a pattern I liked (here) but then decided to modify it. This was a big mistake! I was aiming to make more of a tote style bag, but when it shrunk during the felting process it did not turn out that way at all.
I adjusted the pattern as follows... using a size K10.5 (US) crochet hook:
- I chained 110 using brown yarn.
- I then made 10 rows of brown - 2 single crochets in each loop of the chain. Each set of single crochets were separated by one chain stitch.
- Next came 12 rows of green made in the same fashion, then 10 rows of brown, 12 rows of green, and 10 more rows of brown.
- For the strap, I chained 8 followed by 9 rows of brown, about 80 rows of green, and 9 more rows of brown.
- The sides of the bag and strap were sewn using yarn. The finished size was approximately 20" x 32".
If you find a pattern you like that was not created especially for felting, you can try to adjust it to work for felting. During the felting process, you can expect to lose around 25% of the size of the finished pattern. There is also usually a difference between how much height and width you will lose.
The best way to prevent 'surprises' is to test the yarn for shrinkage first. You can do this by creating a swatch to felt first. Simply knit or crochet a square, about 4" x 4". Run that square through the felting process to see what kind of results you get. Using those results, you can adjust your pattern as desired.
If you prefer not to knit or crochet your project you can construct it out of a wool sweater. Just make sure the sweater has not been shrunk already. I have a simple purse pattern here you can try.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Preparing for Felting
While if you search the web you will find a variety of ways to wet felt your item, the basics are all the same. You need to have hot water and agitation for your item to felt properly. Of course, you can try felting by hand, but the process is easier, quicker, and even safer if you use a washing machine.
I set my washing machine on the smallest setting and on hot water. You also want it set it on whatever wash setting will provide the most agitation. I used a small amount of soap, although I have... read other tutorials that recommend not to. Soap supposedly helps to speed up the felting process. I have also read that you can use a little baking soda, which is supposed to 'improve felting', especially in hard water. I did not use baking soda with my project, but I doubt it would hurt anything to try it.
You may want to consider putting your item in a pillow case or even a tightly-meshed bag to contain any shedding that may happen. This is an especially good idea for smaller items. Also, make sure any loose yarn ends are woven in or tied off. I did not put my bag in anything, but I did leave it inside out just because it sounded good.
Now we are ready to felt.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Start the Felting Process
Get your washing machine filling with hot water and add a few drops of detergent and even baking soda if you like (explained in step 5). Add the item you want to felt, either as it is or in a pillow case or mesh bag. Some claim that putting a pair of jeans in the wash helps the item felt faster because it provides more agitation. I left my bag alone in the wash, but you could start out with your item alone but then add a pair of jeans if the process is going too slow. Whatever you do, do not add... a towel into the wash with your item that is being felted. You could end up with a mess of lint and pills on your project.
Set your washing machine to agitate for 10 minutes, then check it to see it's progress. If you want it to felt more, place it back in the hot water and reset the wash cycle so it continues to agitate - you do not want it to drain yet. Continue to check it about every 5 - 10 minutes until it is the desired size. It could take several checks before your item is done.
Once you determine it is done, simply let the washing machine finish running it through the rinse and spin cycles. Some sources suggest you should not let your project run through the spin cycle as it might get damaged, but I did without any problems. If you prefer, you can remove your piece and hand rinse it in cold water and gently ring it out and pat it with a towel.
Now you can dry your felting project.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Drying Your Felting Project
To dry your felting project, lay a clean, dry towel down on a hard surface, I used my washing machine. Lay your project down flat on top of the towel. Make sure it is away from bright sunlight and any direct heat, and you definitely DO NOT want to put it in the dryer.
While your piece is wet, you will want to take some time to stretch and manipulate it into shape. You can try holding it in place by covering it with a second clean, dry towel and then setting heavy objects on top of it. Make sure... you check your piece often though to make sure it is drying okay. You certainly do not want it to start to rot after all your hard work!
Make sure your item does get as much air circulating around it as possible, turning it over occasionally might help speed the process. Don't be surprised, however, if your project takes a couple days to dry.
Once it is dry you can add some finishing touches.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
Finishing Your Felting Project
Technically, once your felting project is dry, it is done, but you might want to add some finishing touches. You might also need to clean it up a little bit by trimming off any pilling or longer fibers that were caused by the felting process. Simply use a sharp scissors to trim off any blemishes.
If you want to add any embellishments, such as the button and velcro I added to my purse, simply use a needle and thread. For a less durable finish, you could use craft or fabric glue.
Now remember back... to the beginning of this tutorial when I said I wanted to make a bag large enough to serve as more of a tote bag than a purse and then look at my finished project above... and learn from my mistake. I should have started out by making a swatch and testing how this yarn shrank, I would have then known I needed to adjust the pattern much more than I did. I also would have made the strap narrower. Live and Learn!