ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Knitting, felting and fulling

Updated on February 14, 2014
Slippers commonly referred to as "felted"
Slippers commonly referred to as "felted"

Is it felting?

Felted slippers. A common item at craft shows, comfy and cosy to wear, a great gift. But are they really "felted"?

The slippers shown here are actually made through a process known as "fulling." They are knitted very large, in a loose stitch, then washed in hot soapy water until they shrink and the loose stitches turn into a dense fiber. We've probably all accidentally done it to a wool sweater - washed it in the washing machine and had it come out tiny and so stiff you couldn't get it over the smallest head! Hot water and agitation, such as in the washing machine, is all it takes to turn wool knitting into heavy cloth. In heavily fulled fabrics both the weave and the yarn are obscured, thus giving the appearance of felt.

Unless you're going for something very tiny, knitted items that you want to full need to be made big. Really big. Like the hat below, which really did fit after a couple of hot cycle runs through the washing machine! Or the slippers shown below the hat. The CD case next to them is a clear demonstration of the size difference. Giant to start with, the slippers ended up about a women's size 7.

Hat before fulling - it really will fit eventually!
Hat before fulling - it really will fit eventually!
Slippers before fulling
Slippers before fulling
Slippers after fulling.
Slippers after fulling.

Why does it work?

Wool has scales. When washing in hot soapy water with some agitation the scales open up and lock together. You must use non-washable wool, the kind that says "hand wash in cool water only." The wool yarn that says "Superwash" will not felt. You can mix non-felting yarns or fibers with wool for a variety in look and texture, but the best results will be had with at least 80% wool.

As you know if you have ever accidentally fulled a garment, you can't undo the process! Even items that have already been fulled can continue to shrink if washed in hot water, so be careful with your wool!

Once an object is tightly fulled light will barely show through it, and there will be very little evidence of knitted stitches or rows.

Wool for wet felting starts out like this, in a bat or in roving.  This is part of a bat.
Wool for wet felting starts out like this, in a bat or in roving. This is part of a bat.
Roving, used for wet felting.
Roving, used for wet felting.
Once the batting or roving is felted it looks like this, a sheet of matted material whose fibers cannot be separated.
Once the batting or roving is felted it looks like this, a sheet of matted material whose fibers cannot be separated.

So if this is "fulling," what is "felting"?

Felting is done with fibers, not woven or knitted "cloth."

As Bette Hochberg explains in Fibre Facts, felting “is the traditional method of making non-woven fabric” using unspun sheep wool (e.g., from batts or rovings).

Felting is a very old process, much older than spinning or weaving. The oldest archaeological finds containing evidence of the use of felt are in Turkey, dating back to as much as 3000 BC. Llamapaedia describes felting as "An ancient technique that produces a non woven sheet of matted material which is most frequently made from wool, hair or fur created by the entanglement of a mass of fibers that takes place when heat, moisture and pressure are combined."

I started felting because the yarn store I frequented had some gorgeous twists of "roving," which is unspun wool. It can be found in natural colors that come straight off the animal, or dyed into varied and beautiful hues. I was fascinated by the colors and textures of the roving, although I didn't have the slightest idea what one would do with it. Then I found a book, and through trial and error figured out how to do basic felting.

I say basic - I have seen both works of art and garments that are incredibly complex and beautiful. I think I need some help and instruction before I can get that good, but in the meantime I experiment and have fun. This is also a very basic description of how to felt fibers. It's a lot of fun, but it's a little complicated to get started on.

Wool can be purchased in bats, like the reddish pile shown here, or roving, like the purple tuft below. Bats are already laid out in kind of a sheet. Roving must be laid out by hand. Small tufts of wool are pulled off and laid out in layers on a flat textured surface. I use bubble wrap on a table. A large surface is needed because the object you are making is going to shrink, so it needs to be laid out much larger than you intend it to end up. I use a six-foot table, and it's not long enough or wide enough for many things I want to make.

After laying out the roving or batting the pile is covered with a thin piece of netting, and the work begins. Hot water and a gentle soap are applied carefully to the wool and gently rubbed through the netting, without mussing up the layers. This process is MESSY! It's very clean (soap and hot water!) but it's messy. After a bit of rubbing the layers begin to stick together and felting has begun. When the layers are fairly tightly stuck, but not yet starting to shrink, the item is "felted." The yellow square shown is felted, but far from complete.

Felted, THEN fulled

Once the item has been felted it is rolled up around something like a pool noodle, with the bubble wrap and the netting, and rolled and rolled until it begins to shrink. It helps to roll it for awhile, then unroll it and turn it over or around, so that you are rolling it in all directions. Eventually you have to take the netting off, or it will get felted into the project.

How much rolling? Well, this is where the elbow grease really comes in. I find that it takes a good 800-1000 rolls before an object is fulled almost as much as I want. At that time the cloth has become dense and strong, and it's possible to unroll it and swish it and squish it in a sink full of hot soapy water.

The scarf shown below was made using different colors of roving. It started out nearly hanging off the ends of my six-foot table, but ended up only about four feet long. I need a longer table, because in my opinion that's not a long enough scarf! This scarf is very soft. It's much more pliable than a knitted and fulled scarf would be.

Sometimes I will spend an afternoon one day laying out my roving or batting, depending on how complicated a pattern I want, and the next day I will spend the afternoon felting and fulling. Once you start getting the roving wet it's a bit hard to stop in the middle, so you should be prepared to follow the process through once you get the soap and water out.

You can make these wet-felted objects as thick or thin as you want. I made the scarf quite thin (it's still very strong) because I wanted it to drape comfortably. When I make a purse I used heavier layers of roving or batting, so that it's a much thicker fabric.

A wet felted scarf
A wet felted scarf

The finished products compared

Below are two purses. The purse on the left was made using the wet felting technique. The purse on the right was knitted and fulled. Both are practical and durable, although the felted one took much less time to make.

It's a fun hobby, and it can go much farther than I have taken it so far. I have a real appreciation for the lovely felted hats, capes or vests that I have seen. Maybe some day I'll get that proficient at it!

A wet felted purse on the left.  A knitted and fulled purse on the right.
A wet felted purse on the left. A knitted and fulled purse on the right.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Tolovaj profile image


      4 years ago

      I guess this process started as many other great discoveries - by accident. Well, results are pretty impressive and combination of felting and fulling opens many creative possibilities.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      4 years ago from Norfolk

      Beth Balan

      I enjoyed reading about your experience of wet felting. I see the creative possibilities as being endless, with a little imagination, some hot soapy water and a lot of friction and you can create a decorative or wearable item to be proud of 0 wet felting or fulling is truly fulfilling craft.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)