Felting is simply the process of washing an item that has been crocheted or knitted (using 100% wool for felting) in very hot water until the item shrinks and becomes soft and fuzzy looking. Technically, this process is called fulling but felting seems to be an accepted term and for the purposes of this post we will be using the term felting. Felting differs from fulling in that with fulling you are working with a fabric whereas with felting you are working with fibres.
Remember when you accidentally threw your favorite sweater in the
wash and shrunk it...you called it ruined but now we call it felting.
Wool fiber is covered with tiny scales. Moisture and heat will cause the scales to soften and rise, and friction will cause the scales to fuse or to bind together creating a thick dense fabric. As long as your item is completely felted you can even cut it without fear of it unravelling. Once the fabric has been felted the process cannot be reversed. However, the item could be felted more so it is important that finished items are washed carefully.
|Before Felting After Felting|
Crocheted and knitted patterns that are meant to be felted have been designed to take into consideration the shrinkage involved in the felting process. The crocheted or knitted item will be fairly large and awkward looking when finished but once it is felted it will shrink down considerably and the stitches will not be as prominent. Depending on the wool and techniques used the stitches may even completely disappear.
You can choose to felt an item either by hand or in the washing machine, but you may want to try a combination of both methods as it usually takes a few washing to get the item to felt. After the item has been felted the wet fabric should be shaped as desired and allowed to dry. It is important to spend a little time stretching and forming the fabric while it is wet because ultimately this is how your item will look when it is dry.
Felting is a fun way to transform your crocheted or knitted project into something completely different and it will add a whole new dimension to an already favorite hobby.