What I Felt

So everyone here went a little crazy for felting this summer. We had the Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket, we saw several Noni designs, notably including a lovely Bedouin, and then the independent projects began. I wanted to get a better feeling for how felting changes knitted fabric, so I made a simple rectangular sack. I use it inside my gigantic tote for my tablet and its accessories, but with a closure and handle it'd be a great little purse on its own, I think. Anyway, I documented the process and thought I'd share it with you in four steps.

1. Fulling, not felting.
Technically, what all us knitters are doing is not actually felting. Felting describes the process at the level of individual fibers, yes, but refers specifically to the making of felt from unspun wool batts. Wool that has been spun and knitted , crocheted, woven or otherwise and then doused in hot, soapy water is fulled.

2. Love's labors lost (about 20-30%).
So I cast on 64 stitches on size 11 circular needles with some Cascade 220 held double. I worked approximately 70 rows in garter stitch, then cast off and closed the bottom at the same time with a 3-needle bind-off. It measured nearly 15 inches from top to bottom and about 12 across. Here's how it looked:

Outside. Maybe if your eyes are keen you can already see the trouble brewing here. That's the tablet that will eventually be stored in the sack!

Outside. Maybe if your eyes are keen you can already see the trouble brewing here. That's the tablet that will eventually be stored in the sack!

Inside. I just tied off and left the ends out instead of weaving in.

Inside. I just tied off and left the ends out instead of weaving in.

(If I do more of these, I will almost certainly work flat and just sew a seam or 3-needle all the way around. Maybe you like doing garter stitch in the round, but I am not a fan.)

3. Fulling of surprises.
I knew that I could lose about 30% from the top-to-bottom measurement and around 20-25% across. I also knew that fulling in the washing machine, with no bag or pillowcase, would give me the fluffy, furry problem pictured below, but I did it anyway as an object lesson in Taking Precautions. HOWEVER. I did not know that my gauge on the red section was SIGNIFICANTLY different from that of the rest of the sack. I left it in the machine a cycle or two more than I thought I needed, trying to see if I could get the top to shrink down a bit more. Here's how the tablet sack looked at stage 3, the semi-disappointed stage:

The washing machine's unbridled enthusiasm made all the fluffies, which are immune to all the shop's horses, men, and de-pillers. I turned it inside out before I tossed it in the washer, knowing this would probably happen. I took off the towel lint with the de-piller, turned it right-side-out, and trimmed some of the more obvious fluffs near the top before continuing.

The washing machine's unbridled enthusiasm made all the fluffies, which are immune to all the shop's horses, men, and de-pillers. I turned it inside out before I tossed it in the washer, knowing this would probably happen. I took off the towel lint with the de-piller, turned it right-side-out, and trimmed some of the more obvious fluffs near the top before continuing.

4. The shape of things.
You can see in the above photo that I lost about 4 inches top-to-bottom, and about 2 across. Not quite the percentages I was expecting, but given my vastly differing gauges, I may have thrown a wrench in the numbers myself. I did manage to even out the top and bottom a bit, stretching and manipulating the bottom to pull it out a little wider while the piece was freshly wet. I then wrapped a book in a large zippered freezer bag and stuck that inside as a form while it all dried.

Much more even here. This is the outside of the sack, which was on the inside for the fulling process. Much neater than the fuzzy inside, which was turned out in the washer! Eventually I brushed/de-pilled all the flotsam visible.

Much more even here. This is the outside of the sack, which was on the inside for the fulling process. Much neater than the fuzzy inside, which was turned out in the washer! Eventually I brushed/de-pilled all the flotsam visible.

It took a couple of days to dry, partly because the weather was cool and rainy those days and partly because the thick wool was quite wet when I hauled it out of the wash cycle. Nobody can see the gently fluted shape that still kind of bothers me, but I'm not sure I believe them.

The sack is still large enough to hold the tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard, charging cable for it and my phone, and my phone. And some knitting stuff, because everything I own is a knitting bag. I'm pretty sure there are knitting markers in some of my shoes.

The takeaway? Felting/fulling is fun! Do it!