Felting is a great way to get a different look from your knitting, but often it leaves you with a rather plain, neutral backdrop that's not all that interesting (though it is plenty warm, firm and useful for all sorts of projects).
There are many different ways to add another layer of embellishment to felted knits, such as sewing on beads, needle felting on the surface or stitching on embroidery or decorative buttons after the piece has been felted.
You can also embellish felts using techniques adapted from the Japanese are of shibori, which is the subject of Alison Crowther-Smith's Shibori Knitted Felt.
What the Heck is Shibori?
If you've never heard of shibori before, these techniques can seem a little foreign. As Crowther-Smith explains it, shibori is derived from a Japanese technique in which fabric is manipulated prior to dyeing to produce interesting effects (think tie-dye).
The same idea used in knitting produces sections of the work that are felted and other sections that are unfelted, giving really interesting texture to the finished product. You can sew pleats into a piece before felting (or use binder clips), tie marbles into the fabric, or even use some non-felting fiber in the project so you'll get a contrast of felted and unfelted.
Other techniques used in the book include adding a knit edging to an already felted piece, embroidering before or after felting (or both), adding beads, using bobbles, cutting out felted shapes and adding them to another piece, and more.
Even if you've seen this sort of felting before (as in Nicky Epstein's Knitting Never Felt Better, for instance) there's probably still a technique in this book that you haven't seen before.
The book includes basic felting instructions (using a front-loading washing machine) and explains how to knit and felt a swatch so readers can successfully design their own projects.
Crowther-Smith has worked as a design consultant for Rowan, so it makes sense that all of the 20 patterns in her book use their yarns. The patterns focus on pillows and cushions, scarves, bags and blankets, all things that don't have to felt to a perfect size in order to be useful.
As mentioned earlier, the patterns use a wide variety of techniques to change the texture and look of the finished product. For example the Sheer Scarf uses a feltable yarn and Rowan Kidsilk Haze together, so there are felted stripes along with sheer unfelted parts. The felted parts are also embellished with beads.
Some of my favorite projects include the "Bump" Striped Bag, which uses marbles to make unfelted bumps as well as a bit of chain embroidery that melts into the piece when felted; the Twist Scarf, which uses short row shaping and beads for embellishment; and the Spiral Cushion Cover, a plain cover decorated with swirls of embroidery before felting and again after felting, as well as beaded embellishments.
None of these projects are very complex, and they all give you plenty of range to do as much or as little decorating as you like.
What's great about this book is how encouraging it is about readers trying their own thing. You might try a project or two from the book and then venture out on your own, using the same techniques to make just the project you want.
This book is a must for anyone who likes felting or who enjoys adding that little something extra to every knitting project.
Publication date: April 2008