As a long time weaver and spinner, I was surprised when felting became popular with sewers and knitters. It had always been a craft associated with fleece, and the supplies were only available at weaving shows and spinning specialty stores.
Over many years I took several workshops to learn the process, using agitation by hand or a sharp needle with barbs. I made my share of hats, slippers, cat toys and pin cushions from unspun wool in the form of fleece or batts. Two years ago, I took my life-long dream trip to the west coast of Ireland, studying with a woman who felts for a living.
Now, it seems like knitters have discovered the joy of oversize knitting and then throwing the item in their washing machine to shrink it.
Sewers became involved when one sewing machine manufacturer discovered that they could sell new machines that did what the barbed needles do; repeatedly push wool into a backing fabric. Sewing and knitting shows on cable TV created projects that were easy to do, fast, and fun.
Whether you knit wool, use a needle or a new specialty sewing machine, or agitate unspun wool by hand, the process is the same. The structure of the wool fibers is fuzzy – little fibers catch hold of each other and bond, creating a solid fabric that will never go back to it's original size.
You are shrinking the wool into felt by continuous agitation and temperature change. That’s why when your loved one throws a wool sweater in the washing machine by accident (you wouldn’t do that, would you?) the combination of warm to cold water, agitation, and soap creates a sweater that would fit a baby.
Knitting for Felting
There are oodles of websites and books containing projects for knitting and then felting wool. It’s a remarkable process to watch a huge triple size hand knit tote turn into a fuzzy purse. A tote is a perfect first project when you are hand knitting, because size and gauge are not too important. You’ll be proud of that purse no matter what size it turns out.
Knitting hats and using your washing machine to shrink it is a little trickier, I’ve found. The process needs to be carefully monitored so the hat will fit your head. Not too loose, and not too snug. Sometimes, a knitted object just won’t shrink any more, no matter how much agitation it gets. You’ll end up with a hat that doesn’t fit (I’ve got a red floppy one of those. Wonder what I’ll do with it? A cat bed, perhaps.)
A good friend sent me these pictures just to show that knitted hats agitated in a washing machine can be well done by a beginner. These were her very first hats and they turned out beautifully!
Yes, You can Felt Without Knitting!
I made this orange hat using one of our hat kits.
I was surprised at how easy it was, compared to knitting a huge oversized hat.
I crocheted the flowers for embellishment.
Wool Fleece Hat Kits
The hands-on process is preferred by many because it is easier to control the amount of shrinkage - and how the finished product will look. You simply use lots of soap and warm water, and rub the wool until it shrinks and solidifies. The process is relaxing, and a great way to spend an afternoon.
Your reward is an accessory that fits and looks just the way you want.
To try making a hat by hand you'll need to find all the hard-to-find supplies.
One of our felted hat kits will have you making stupendous hats in no time!
There’s enough 100% wool fleece in the kit to make two hats – one for you, and one as a gift.
You'll use the inflatable ball from the kit to agitate the wool. (And who doesn't like bouncing a ball)? Then, to finalize the fit and shape, you can use your head or a bowl the size that you want for the crown.
You'll be so pleased with the outcome, I wouldn’t blame you for keeping both hats for yourself!
Return from Felting to see the supplies you'll need