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Felting Tips

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Felted swatches

Felted swatches.

Sarah White

The basics of felting are not that difficult to grasp, but there are some things you can do to make the felting process a little easier and more effective.

  1. Use big needles. Most felting projects call for using needles at least two sizes larger than the yarn band indicates. Big stitches make for more friction within the knitting, helping the piece to felt more easily.
  2. Finish firmly. Make sure all your ends are woven in firmly before you start felting. If there are any pieces that need to be stitched together before felting, make sure the seams are sewn securely. If your pieces come undone while felting, you could be left with a mess.
  3. Beware of cords. Many felted purses have i-cord or similar long, skinny straps. These can easily get twisted by the agitation of the machine, so make sure you check on these often and untwist the strap if necessary. A twisted strap won't felt evenly.
  4. Invest in a pillow cover. A zippered pillowcase cover makes felting easier, or at least cleaner. Keeping your pieces in a bag keeps them from getting stuck or lost in your machine, which is important when you're felting small pieces. It also helps keep your machine clean.
  5. Try keeping your machine open. If you have trouble remembering to check your felting before the spin cycle starts, setting a timer should help. Other people keep the lid of the machine open while felting, since most machines will turn off if the lid is open during the spin cycle.
  6. Add jeans. If the felting isn't going as quickly as you would like, add a pair of jeans to the wash, which will add friction and speed things along. Some people use a towel for this process, but towels can shed fiber, so jeans are the best choice. You might want to keep an unwearable pair on hand just for this purpose.
  7. Be patient. Different yarns felt at different rates. Even different colors of the same yarn can felt at different rates. Don't try to rush it. Just know that most yarns (animal fibers, anyway) will felt eventually.
  8. Beware of lights. One exception to the most yarns will felt eventually rule is really light or white yarns. These fibers are often bleached so that the light dye will take, which messes with the yarn's ability to felt. Some of them will still felt eventually, others will never really felt satisfactorily. Always swatch before you plan to make a project with a light-colored yarn.
  9. Do-overs are allowed. If you don't like the finished texture or size of a felted object, you can always felt it more. You can't unshrink a felted object, but you can usually make something felt more. And if you block something and it comes out the wrong size, it is usually possible to reblock by getting the fabric damp again and aggressively stretching it over a form of the right size.
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