How to Practice Wet Felting

wet feltingWet felting is the art of transforming wool yarn into a dense, firm fabric by using hot water and agitation, usually from a washing machine, to bond and shrink the fibers together. This practice creates a cloth that is soft and dense, and useful for a variety of things. There is no limit to what you can felt in your washing machine, as long as you use fibers that are labeled as 100% or other natural animal fiber. Felt created this way is highly absorbent, firm, and can handle wear and tear without fraying or tearing. Most quality felt can last for decades without showing signs of aging, which is why it has grown in popularity with knitters over the last few years.

Materials Needed for Wet Felting

While it’s possible to felt your wool without a washing machine, it’s easier and faster to just toss it in and let the machine do the work. First, you’ll need a few essentials before you get started.

• A zip-top pillowcase or tight mesh bag, to hold your item and keep fuzz out of your machine.
• A pair of kitchen tongs, because the water will be hot.
• Soap or laundry detergent to aid in the felting, although it’s not essential.
• A thick, dry towel to dry your finished piece on.
• Safety pins for blocking.
• A timer to remind you to check the progress.

Some knitters claim that using a small amount of soap, baking soda, or laundry detergent makes a big difference in the wet felting process, but others say that this just makes the process messier and can be eliminated with no bad results. Another tip that has been tossed around is to put a pair of jeans into the washing machine with your project to be felted. They are supposed to offer more agitation, but again, this is not necessary. You can always add them later if you feel they aren’t felting fast enough. Whatever you do, do not put a towel in with your work, or you’ll end up with a fuzzy mess off pills in the end.wet felting process

How to Felt Wool in Your Washing Machine

Once you have finished knitting your piece to be felted, you can set your washing machine settings to the lowest water setting possible, with the highest temperature, and longest agitation. You can then put your project either directly into the water, or use the pillowcase or mesh bag to hold your project. Some people prefer not to use a bag, but by containing your work, you can keep the fuzz created by the wet felting process out of your washing machine, which makes for easier clean up later.

Once your piece is in the water and it is agitating, set your timer for 5 minutes, so that you’ll remember to check. It most likely will not be done after 5 minutes, but it’s a good idea to check on your work pretty often so that you can see how it is progressing and make sure you don’t leave it in for too long.

durable fabric

The piece is done when the measurements match those on your pattern. If you’re not using a pattern, than it is really up to you when it is done. The piece should be smooth with very little to no stitch definition, and it should be thick and slightly firm when it is done. Once you feel that the project is done you can rinse it in cool water and gently wring it out before placing it on a towel to dry. Under no circumstances should you attempt to dry your felt in the dryer, even if you feel it is taking too long to dry. Some pieces can take up to a few days to dry completely. Use this time to block your piece by gently stretching it into the proper shape and pinning it to the towel with safety pins. Once it’s complete, you’ll have a completely new item that is perfect for daily wear and tear, exposure to the elements, or for cutting and turning into something new.

Wool felt is a highly durable and useful fabric that can be made by individuals everywhere. As more and more people discover the benefits of wet felting, the art form is becoming more and more popular. This process is great for creating bags, purses, hats, slippers, and many more durable pieces. If you’d like to try your hand at wet felting, just get some felting wool, follow a pattern, and try it for yourself!

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