Six reasons I hope you'll give hand-felting a try

I'm really learning from the conversations I’ve been having with knitters at all the signings and events I've been going to. One of the things that is becoming clear to me is that many knitters need to know more about hand-felting. It’s one of my very favorite techniques, yet some people don’t like it, don’t want to try it, or are intimidated by it. 

This blog post will break down some of the reasons why I prefer hand felting over washing-machine felting, and will hopefully give you some encouragement to try hand-felting your knits. Please do leave comments if you have questions or thoughts about felting your knits. 

For more about how I hand-felt my knits, see The Knitted Slipper Book, pages 13-17 and this short video I made to supplement the directions in the book. 

Reasons I prefer hand-felting my knits: 

1. More Control

Because I can see what is happening minute-by-minute, I can control how my finished piece turns out. The knitting shrinks more quickly in the direction you work it, so changing the position of the knitting in my hands allows me to felt the piece exactly as I like. 

2. Less water consumption

I felt in a dishpan of hot, soapy water and often only change out the water once. Sometimes I also boil a kettle of water and add hot water in small bits to keep the working water nice and warm. This method uses way less water than if I were felting in the washing machine. 

Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

3. More understanding

Because I am a witness to the transformation of the knitted work to a solid piece of felted knitting, I know more about how wool will behave and felt. I understand how lines of shaping can create holes, (and I can fix them while I work) how “openings” need more attention when felting or additional decreases in the knitting so they don’t flare, and many other critical pieces of information that have allowed me to design patterns that do what I want them to do after they are felted. 

4. Nicer finished product

I’m convinced that knitting that is felted by hand is more aesthetically pleasing. While small projects can and do felt in the washing machine, I find that they are less dense somehow, more fluffy and certainly more misshapen. Of course, I can correct some of those issues with careful finishing techniques and blocking, but knitting that is hand-felted takes less work to finish and it is somehow denser, smoother and sturdier- I like it better. 


Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

Image from The Knitted Slipper Book

5. Less risk

I’ve heard many times that people are uncertain about felting because they are worried about wasting their knitting. The control, understanding and pace of hand-felting allows me to identify and correct issues that may arise. Knitting is way less-likely to be wasted when hand-felting. 

6. Possibility for social felting

Just as I enjoy knitting with friends, felting by hand allows me to work with someone else. It’s great to have another pair of hands when felting several pairs of slippers, Laura has helped me felt many of the slipper samples in the book. When I'm tired or bored when felting and tempted to be done, Laura says, “It’s not done yet, keep going.” She’s usually right, and I end up with a superior finished project because of the extra five minutes she encouraged me to spend felting. 

Those are just a few reasons why I prefer hand-felting my knits- do you have anything to add? I’d just love to hear your thoughts

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