When Cat talks, knitters listen.
After my last post, Cat Bordhi chimed into the comments with a suggestion to try felting in the washing machine. Apparently, my 12% / 25% shrinkage rate is less than one should expect from machine felting. Since this is my first felting project, the perspective of experienced people counts for a lot. So I took a break from slipper-making to run a few tests.
But here's the rub: I have a front-loader, which is not great for felting. Still, I wanted to see what I'd get with the tools that were readily available.
(edit) Results from my little n=3 experiment supported what I thought I'd find: front-loaders are not great tools for making felt. Ok, what now? For the time being, my knitting activities are restricted to my daughter's naptime, so that doesn't lend itself well to finding a top-loader outside the home. That's ok. I'm still curious to see where felting by hand will take me. (/edit)
I made 4 identical swatches on size 8 needles (Cascade 220), and tried different ways of felting. Just for curiosity's sake, let’s take a look at the fabrics.
View from the front:
Top row: felted in warm wash; felted by hand in hot water.
Bottom row: felted in hot wash; not felted (control subject).
Shrinkage rates were (in width/length):
Warm: 8% / 25%
Hot: 5% / 19%
Hand: 11% / 28%
This one turned out really uneven. Admittedly, this may be because it went in with a full load of laundry.
This one turned out pretty even (this time I put it in with just a pair of jeans), but it really didn’t shrink all that much.
Notice how, in comparison to the other 2 felted swatches, this is the only one that really looks like felt. You don’t see the stitches like you do in the others. It feels a lot stiffer, too. The edges on this one are not as even as the machine-felted pieces, but a) I quite like the irregularities, and b) I bet you could even out the edges with a little fussing (stretching, blocking, whatever).
Also, this is the only swatch that turned out completely flat. This is a big selling point with me.
View from back:
(edit) I’ve come away from this little experiment feeling a greater appreciation for hand-felting. Granted, this is within the context of not having easy access to a top-loader, but still, I feel like there’s something really satisfying about being able to experience this amazing transformation right in my hands. (/edit)
I’ll continue with iterations 3 and 4 in the next post. (Sneak peek: I’ve actually already completed 3 and am working on 4, and I suspect the next post will conclude this series.)