People get a bit over wrought about Felting. If you wish to make a Felt bra, that is understandable as fit will be crucial. Felted hats need to fit, but Felt does allow you to wrestle with it a bit, so ‘care’ rather than anxiety is required. If you want to felt to the precise mm., stop reading now!!
First knit a sample
Never were tension squares more required – especially as they won’t be square after felting. I like maths, but I also like to keep things simple so I do 20st x 20row samples. The needle guage needs to be much larger than the ball band says, unless you want a really stiff and solid fabric – which does make fabulous coasters BTW.
Big and Baggy does it!
Once you have done the maths, WRITE EVERYTHING down – yarn, needle size and measurements, and then later, the temperature and timing.
Test the timings and temperature in your washing machine
My machine shows the time it will take at the start of the cycle, so I can either deduct finish time from start time to note the actual time it took, or just note clearly that I let it go ‘until the timer said’ xxxxx. I tend to use the 60degree cycle which takes 2hr.10mins, and run it for 1hr. 5mins so the timer reads 1.5 anyway.
You will need to add a small amount of your usual soap. I have used powder and liquid – no difference. I have added jeans and tennis balls, but have found that they make no more difference than an old flannel! What is important to note as part of the timing is that modern machines will use less water with a smaller load. Less water means that whatever the timer predicts, it will actually take less time. Therefore, if you do test a sample with a pair of jeans, then do the finished piece (unless it is huge) with a pair of jeans otherwise the timings will be all to pot.
Basically you need to recreate the test conditions when you Felt the finished articles.
You cannot Felt Superwash Wool, and synthetics/synthetic mixes. Use pure wool. The fastness of the dye will vary a test will tell…… Of course, every yarn is different. When you find a dream yarn like Cascade 220, why make life hard. I love Cascade and use it often. Pure Wool Colinette yarns are good too and the highly textural yarns like Point 5 give interesting results. Go huge needle guage though, or the result will be very stiff. I have used Noro, but there is colour loss, and as Noro is all about colour…….
Variegated yarns such as Kauni effect are interesting….. as you can see in the clutch bag below.
I have incorporated non-felting yarns for interesting texture, as you can see in the purse above, but do do test samples as, with the larger needle guage, non-felters can be too loose to do more than a couple of rows without becoming gappy. A couple of rows is best anyway – think accent rather than fabric. You could, of course experiment with the felter on a large guage needle and the non-felter on a smaller one.
After the test time, move your machine’s cycle to the drain and spin. Once that’s done, you can take the sample out and rinse it manually.
Remeasure and work out the finished tension.
Cascade 220 on 8mm needles
20 sts measure 6 inches 20 rows measure 5 inches
60degrees cycle for 1hr 5mins
20sts measure 4.75 inches 20 rows measure 3.25 inches
So then I have to decide what I want the finished piece to measure and do the maths!
Here for your delectation are some images from my workbook
and a finished Felted and embellished handbag:
Note added after a comment
I came to knitted Felt after traditional Felting with rovings whereby you have to keep ‘layers’ separate with calico. When I first felted knitted items I carefully basted calico in, but I have not found that the layers adhere at all. I think it is because the heat is more of a catalyst than friction in machine/knitted felt whereas the opposite applies to traditional Felting. Also, a bit like using Shrink Plastic, curls will straighten out.