Felting is the technique used to turn yarn into a thick fabric known as felt. Only some types of material will felt – wool, alpaca and other animal fibres mostly – and even then they will only felt only under certain conditions.
Washing your finished knitted pieces in your household washing machine at a high temperature is an easy way to do it – below is a simple guide to how to felt.
One clever way to make felt is by knitting a larger-than-intended piece of fabric before intentionally shrinking it. If done correctly, this finished piece of felt will be sturdy and won’t unravel when cut up into shapes. We’ve put together our top tips for felting your knitted pieces…
How To: Get it right
Always knit a test piece. Experiment with felting a sample in the machine before going ahead with the final finished item. Start with a normal machine wash cycle at a lower temperature (say 45-50 degrees centigrade) and measure your sample before and after the wash is finished to judge how much shrinkage has occurred. If it’s not enough, you can try again at the same temperature, or at a higher temperature.
How To: Keep your felt safe
Pop small pieces in a laundry bag. If your knitted pieces are very small, use a laundry bag to stop them disappearing in your washing machine. It would be frustrating to lose your gorgeous knits – and you don’t want them to clog up the pump.
How To: Get the best results
Step away from the fabric conditioner! Don’t be tempted to add fabric softener to your wash – harsher detergents tend to increase the shrinkage as they add friction. A small dash of washing-up liquid in the drawer of your machine will help things along just the right amount.
How To: Get a smooth finish
Don’t expect symmetrical shrinkage. If you are working without a pattern, it’s worth remembering that fabrics will shrink more in length (rows) than width (stitches) and that any knitted texture will be lost as the fabric shrinks. Stick with stocking stitch for a smooth surface.
How to: Make your felt look professional
Use the same yarn to embroider. Add embroidery in the same yarn used in the knitting before you shrink the project to add some effective embellishments. These will flatten to the fabric surface as it shrinks and looks beautiful when finished. Give it a try.