Friday, May 9, 2008

Felting Crochet - how to do it!

Whenever I work in public on a crochet project that I am going to felt, inevitably someone will ask me what I am making. When I answer, and add that I will felt it when I'm done crocheting, the next comment is, "I didn't know you could felt crochet." Well, yes you can. It may not felt just like a knitted piece does, but crochet does felt!

What you need to felt something is yarn that felts, hot water, and something that will provide agitation.

To felt something by machine – put the piece into a zippered pillowcase (this will prevent the felt lint from getting into the washing machine and gumming up the works). Use a small amount of hot water – you don't need much. Add something like an old towel, old jeans, or rubber flip flops. Something that the piece can bump around with. Add just a touch of laundry detergent, and start the machine. You might want to add some boiling water, too.
You should check your project every few minutes. Then, when it's felted enough, take it out. DON'T let it go through the rinse and spin cycles – this could put creases in the felted piece. If it doesn't felt enough in one wash cycle, drain the machine and start again. When the piece is felted enough, take it out, rinse it in cold water. Do not wring the water out of it (see above about rinse and spin cycles.) Roll it up in a towel to squeeze water out of it. Lay it flat to dry, and if it needs shaping, pull it into shape. If it needs stuffing, stuff the inside with a towel or some newspaper to wick the water away.

Now – how do you know how much your piece will shrink? You don't. :-)
You can make a swatch, measure it before and after felting, and get some idea. But it won't always be accurate. Small pieces felt differently than large ones do. Different yarns felt differently. Different colors of the SAME yarn felt differently. If the water is not as hot, if the agitation is not as strong or as long, your piece will felt differently. There are so many variables! And, crochet pieces felt differently than knit pieces. Crochet felts more in the width of the piece than in the height. Knit felts more in the height then in the width.

Look at the above example. Two bags, the red one is knit, the violet one crocheted. Both are worked in Berroco Vibe. Both were worked to the same initial size. Both were felted in the same machine, but not at the same time. See how the knit bag is not the same size as the crochet bag! It's shorter than the crochet bag, and the crochet bag is a little narrower than the knit one. If you look close, you can see the different width in the handles too.

I like to tell my students that felting is not an exact science. But it's fun to do, and you do get "hooked" on it!


Ben and Charity said...

Is it nessary to Felt? I'm going to crochet an afgan out of wool, and I want to know if its nessary to felt it. What is the advantage to it? Sorry I'm just beginning at this adventure! :)

Marty Miller said...

I like to felt purses and totes - the felting process makes a solid and somewhat stiffer fabric so that I don't have to line the bag. I wouldn't felt an afghan - it doesn't need to be solid or stiff - in fact, it should be the opposite - drapey.
If you're not sure what felting does - did you ever wash a wool sweater or scarf in the machine, and it shrunk up and the material got stiffer? What you did was felt (it's really called fulling) the sweater.
So - to answer your question - no, it's not necessary in an afghan.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much! That really helps! Can I ask you one more question? I want to make a afghan out of a double crochet. Its all one solid color. How many oz. of wool yarn do you think I'm going to need?

Charity Lewis

Marty Miller said...

That would depend upon the size of your afghan, the weight of your yarn, the size hook you want to use. What you can do, is crochet a swatch - measure it, and then rip out your stitches so you can figure out how much yarn you used. When you know that, if you know how big you want to make your afghan, you can figure out how much yarn you'll need for it. Divide the total area of the afghan by the area of the swatch, and multiply the number you get by the amount of yarn (in yards, if possible) of the swatch. And that will be an approximation of how much yarn you'll need.

Anonymous said...

I want to try my hand at felting but I have a frount load washer. Can it be done in this type of washer. Do I need to do something different to get the same results?

Marty Miller said...

I think that the only difference is that you can't open the washer to check on the felting progress or to stop it from going through the spin cycle. Otherwise, if you can put something in the washer to create more agitation (an old towel or two, an old pair of jeans, rubber flip flops, etc.) and control the length of the wash cycle, I think you can do it. You'll have to let the washer spin to let the water out - you can't stop it before the spin cycle - so if there are any wrinkles in what you have felted, you'll have to stretch them out. The best way to figure out if you can do it or not is to try it! :-)
Hope this helps.

Charlie said...

do all yarns felt? if not how can you tell/ find out if one will?

Marty Miller said...

A yarn has to be mostly wool to felt. "Mostly" means about 80% - although I think I have felted yarn that was less than 80% wool. It can't be "super wash" wool, because that wool has been treated to be able to be washed in the washing machine, and dried.
If you have a yarn that you want to try to felt - work up a large enough swatch, measure it - length and width - then throw it in the machine and see what happens. Remember - put in something for it to agitate with. And HOT water. A little liquid detergent. And don't let it go through the spin cycle. Take it out, measure it, and see if it shrunk.

JeReh said...

My front loader will stop before the spin cycle. U just hit cancel and the water drains before unlocking the door, but no spin!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have crocheted since I was a little girl and have gained new interest upon finding I can felt wool yarn! I would love to have seen a before and after pic of your lovely purses. So excited! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

can you mix regular wool with felting wool? Want to make an afghan and use up all my colored wood.

Marty Miller said...

If you're not going to be felting the afghan, (and see one of my replies above about why you wouldn't want to do that), you can mix "felting" wool with super wash wool, or with any compatible yarn and fiber that you wish. I have made many "scrap" afghans and other things with all sorts of fibers. Just remember, if you use wool that felts, you won't want to wash the afghan in hot water. If you would need to wash the afghan, you would want to use cold water, and wash it with very little agitation - preferably by hand.