How I Felt: Hand Felting

::Techniques, patterns and inspiration about hand-felting your knits from a felt-centric designer.

Quick note before we get to felting- I'm happy to say that Food in Jars is running a giveaway of the Cozy Family knitting pattern AND some finished cozies knitted by yours truly. So head on over there and check it out! 

OK, so today I'm going to tell you how I hand-felt things quickly and thoroughly. I am sharing the hand-felting directions that are included in my knitting patterns, but am annotating them with my additional thoughts so you know a bit more about the process. 

How I felt

So you've finishing knitting and you're ready to felt. You can weave in ends if you like, but I generally prefer to knot the ends and trim the ends to 1” long.

To begin, add a squirt of dish soap to a dishpan or large bowl and fill it with really hot water. I usually place the container in my kitchen sink. My hot-water heater is turned down for energy efficiency, so I add some boiling water from the tea kettle. Put the piece in the water and let it soak for a few minutes. Now roll and squeeze it in your hands, swish it around or knead it like bread dough. At first the piece will grow and get larger, but soon the stitches start coming together and shrinking.

I spend a lot of time rolling and rubbing the piece together OUT of the water, then I dip it back in the soapy, hot water to keep things moving. Most of the time I am firmly pressing the piece in my hand, and it looks like I'm trying to roll the piece into a ball. I stop and change the position of the piece in my hands so it felts evenly.

It's nice to turn the work inside out now and then, I think this helps make the outside surface smooth. Continue felting until the stitches begin to disappear, and then keep going! This is a big issue for me, especially because my designs depend on you felting the smithereens out of something for it to fit well or become the correct shape. When the piece is about 75% felted, trim any yarn ends close to the fabric.

Keep felting until the piece is firm and feel noticeably thicker and feels like a different material entirely. You can add more hot water and a squidge of soap if you like. If you feel like you're having to work too much, here's some epic felt-making inspiration. But seriously, if you have to take a break, it's fine, you can return to the piece later, just refresh the hot water and keep on truckin'.

Rinse in cold water to remove any soap and then roll in a towel to remove excess water. Shape to your liking and let it dry. When the piece is totally dry it will maintain that shape, so if you are making a cozy or another type of vessel, place it on the bottle to dry. For slippers or toys, you can stuff them with newsprint to shape them. You can remove excess fuzz by “shaving” the piece with a disposable razor.

And that's it! Easy, right? Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or additional felting tips. 

Next week I'll share some of my favorite knit and felt patterns that would be good for beginner felters to try. 

And after that, I'm beginning a new chapter of this Hot I Felt series: Embellishing your Felted Knits. The section will begin with a free pattern that I'll share and then I'll show you all the ways you could embellish this design. I'm super psyched about diving into the possibilities- needle felting, sequins, embroidery, beads and paint, oh my! 

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