I just finished up my felted leaves table runner and napkin rings for my Thanksgiving table. As I did the somewhat boring task hand felting, I thought about all the things I’ve learned about felting over the years and thought I’d share them here. If anyone has any wool felting tips to add, please share them your comments!
- Machine felting is perfect for objects that won’t get distorted by all the agitation in the washing machine. (Loosely knit or crocheted objects and things with long straps, like some purses, are most likely to distort in the wash.) I hand felted my table runner pieces before stitching them together. Here are a few machine felting tips:
- If your washing machine water doesn’t get hot enough on the hot cycle, add a kettleful of near-boiling water. If you can comfortably leave your hand in the stream of water that fills up your washer, it’s not hot enough.
- Put your wool pieces in a pillowcase and tie it shut to keep the inside of your washing machine free of wool fibers and to minimize distortion.
- Toss a towel (I’ve heard old jeans work, too, but I still wear my old jeans and care if they fit!) in alongside the pillowcase and set the washer to the smallest hot setting available.
- Check the pieces often, especially if there is a risk of distortion. Don’t let them go through the rinse or spin cycles. The cold rinse halts the felting process and spinning can distort and cause deep creases in your pieces
- When hand felting in the sink, wear rubber gloves for more friction during the felting process. I’ve found that wool felts faster when rubbed against rubber gloves than when rubbed against itself or other wool pieces. Also, rubber gloves help your hands tolerate hotter water.
- Add near-boiling water to hot water from the tap for faster felting.
- Pre-soak your objects in really hot water before starting to felt them. This helps the wool fibers relax and open so objects felt faster when you start agitating them. You can do this on the stovetop for the hottest near-boiling water possible; fish out your pieces with a pair of tongs.
- This is my favorite tip yet, something I did for the first time with my napkin rings: For small objects that aren’t too loosely knit or crocheted, machine felt them first in a pillowcase, and THEN hand felt them to lose stitch definition.
In the washing machine, my napkin rings shrunk and tightened up very nicely, but didn’t lose any stitch definition. At all. So I sighed, broke out my rubber gloves and put on the kettle. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they lost stitch definition – and I didn’t have to wait for them to shrink and tighten up! It was awesome, and quite the revelation. Before putting these bad boys in the washing machine I presoaked them in a pot of near-boiling water on the stovetop, which I think helped with the shrinkage, but clearly not the loss of stitch definition. The problem was they were too small to feel any of the agitation going on in the washing machine.
I hope you find these tips useful for your next felting project.
Enjoy the weekend!