Saturday, January 21, 2012

knotsewcute myth busters - can you felt wool by boiling it?

Sometimes we get questions about boiling wool to get it to felt. Since it is a combination of moisture, heat and friction that causes an item to felt I'm a little sceptical about the boiling method, but I'm still hopeful. Anything that would make my life easier is worth a try.

Using Patons Classic Wool I crocheted a 7x7" test swatch.

I placed the test swatch in a pot of water and set it on the stove to boil. Since I was a bit nervous about a kitchen fire I kept a close eye on it and using tongs I swished it around once in awhile.

So, how did I make out? Well, after an hour of boiling...


From what I understand soap makes water more soluble and the felting process occurs more readily when the pH level of the water is higher so I thought that I would try again, but this time I would add soap. I opted for a bit of laundry soap so that I wouldn't   have bubbles boiling all over my kitchen.

...still nothing. So, unless I am missing some crucial step, "boiling your wool project in a pot of water on the stove does not work"! The only thing that I accomplished was that my entire house was scented with the "knot sew" delightful smell of wet sheep :)

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "Boiled wool is a special type of fabric primarily used in berets, scarves, vests, cardigans, coats and jackets. It is created using a mechanical knitting process which involves a set pattern that is then shrunk. It can also be a woven fabric which is shrunk, compressing the fibres together." Sounds an awful lot like fulling or felting to me.

I think that the misunderstanding arises from the term itself and it is perfectly understandable. If someone told us to boil some eggs...we would never throw them into the washing machine on the hot cycle :)

You may also be interested in our other felting posts:

What is felting
Felting tutorial



  1. When I dye my own wool I do it in a pot of boiling water on a stove and it doesn't felt then either. Kind of surprised me, but I ended up with some lovely custom dyed wool - oh and the smell of wet sheep :)

    1. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one that had that experience! Thanks for sharing :)