How Not to Felt

I felted my first project last night.

By hand.

Okay.  Thought that some of you (who have tried that before) might need a second to laugh and then collect yourselves.

I was going to take pictures of the process, but it was entirely too undignified to want real documentation of.  Suffice it to say, it involved my bathtub, a bucket, a dish basin, woolite, two tennis balls, a toilet plunger and my Teva-clad feet.  It was really not one of my finer moments.

It started because I was worried about felting in the front loaders in my building.  Firstly, I don’t really understand how they work and I was worried about not being able to get the cycle to stop in time, the water not being hot enough, and generally screwing up an otherwise perfectly good (secret) project.  (Also, I didn’t knit a swatch and so I had no idea how it would felt.)  I started poking around online and found several articles about how hand felting was a perfectly good substitute.  That it wasn’t that bad, even.  The article in Knitty that compared felting by hand to Laura Ingalls Wilder at her butter churn sold me.  I’m a sucker for the Little House books, and for doing things “the way they’ve always been done.”

The entire process took probably 40 minutes.  I followed the instructions from Knitty–starting with some no-rinse wool wash, and for awhile, was pretty disappointed.  The project got bigger.  (I had read that was supposed to happen.)  Then, the fabric started getting a little bit matted, but it still wasn’t really felting.  I kept at it, taking on the mindset that was I was trying to do was really just piss the fibers off.  I mashed.  I swirled.  I discovered that the plunger suctioned to the bottom of the bucket and almost flipped it over, and that I needed to add more hot water frequently.  After awhile, I could see the felting process start to happen.  After an even longer while, I had trouble telling the inside from the outside.  And then…nothing.

I rinsed the project with cold water and refilled the bucket, using Woolite this time.  I have no idea why I thought that the suds would help the felting, but the wool wash wasn’t sudsed really at all, and it seemed like I should try something else for the sake of science.  I don’t know whether the soap actually made any difference, but watching the soap bubbles fly all over the place was pretty satisfying.  So was splashing water all over the bathroom.

Progress was definitely being made, but slowly, and my hands were starting to feel blistered from the plunger.  I remembered a comment I had read on Ravelry, and went and put on my Teva’s.  They’re waterproof, and have nice, thick treads.  I transferred the project and fresh hot water into the basin, and went at it with my feet.

I thought that part was pretty awesome.  As a generally mild-mannered person, I find things that are safely, appropriately destructive and violent.  I like throwing bags of trash out of a truck at the dump as hard as I can, or tearing paper for a collage, and find things like that to be sort of cathartic.  Stomping on a piece of knit fabric in a tub of water, splashing all of the bathroom, scuffing your feet around and stamping them like a three year old having a tantrum tops the list.  (I called my husband in to help at that point, but I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as I did.)

After a few more shock cold-fresh hot water-plunge until the burn factor goes away-stomp with feet cycles, the project was a little more than half its size, and had lost probably 95% of its stitch definition.  I called it done.  It might have felted slightly more in the washer, but you can only see the vertical lines between stitches in a few places if you know to look for them, its a good size, and its plenty sturdy.

This morning, I have a nice tender red spot, accompanied by a blister, in the center of my right palm from the plunger handle, and my shoulders are a little sore, but I don’t think I regret doing it.  The project greeted me on the kitchen counter, still damp, stuffed with bags to hold its shape while it dries, and I’m still happy with it.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: FO: Birthday Bag « Ripped & Frogged

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September 2008
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