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How to Felt Knitted Wool with Your Washing Machine

Updated on February 2, 2015

Felted Knit Hat and Flowers

Felted Wool Flower Pins
Felted Wool Flower Pins | Source
Felted Wool Hat - Knitted then Felted in Washing Machine, by Nimblepins
Felted Wool Hat - Knitted then Felted in Washing Machine, by Nimblepins

How to Felt Wool Quickly and Easily with Your Washing Machine

This is the simple technique that lured me into the wool felting world. It's easy (and addictive!) I'll explain how to get started and make felt with your washer, plus give tips and illustrations along the way.

Projects that you might want to felt include hats, bags, fashion or hair accessories and mittens. Felted adds a firm and fuzzy unique look to your pieces.

Wool Yarn Felts Beautifully
Wool Yarn Felts Beautifully

Before You Felt - Materials

What can be felted:

YARN

You can felt pieces made from wool yarn - knitted, crocheted,woven, knotted, etc. The type of yarn used to make them is important - some yarns will felt, some won't. Here's the what to look for....

100% pure wool yarn should felt very well. Not every yarn that has 'wool' in it's name is pure wool, so look at the the label to see if it really is a wool. It may look and feel like wool, but again, check the label. You might be surprised what is not pure wool!

Blends of wool and other man-made fibers might felt.(The higher the percentage of wool in a blend, the more likely it will felt, but there's no guarantee, so I suggest you test felt a swatch before spending too much time on an unfeltable yarn)


Superwash is great for knitting sweaters, but...

The other thing to watch for is any wool labeled "superwash". This is a washable wool .......meaning it won't shrink........meaning it won't felt!

Any feltable wool will instruct you to handwash in cold water on the label. If your label says it can be machine washed warm, it won't work for felting.

Natural fibers other than wool might felt too, but I've only used wool until now, so experiment if you like and let me/us know

Wool Sweaters:

Felt wool sweaters! That's right! You can felt old clothing - it's already knitted for you! And it's a great way to reuse and recycle sweaters that have been accidentally shrunk in the wash or just aren't wanted anymore. The same rules apply as above (for yarn) for whether they will felt. It just depends on what it's been made out of. Test felt a small piece if you're unsure.

Felting Project Idea

Try felting your (or your child's) favorite, but outgrown or shruken sweaters.

Make them into a cushion-cover, wall-hanging, tote, blanket or.........?

Use Your Washing Machine to Felt Wool

Your Magical Felting Machine
Your Magical Felting Machine

Felting the easy way

Your Magical Felting Machine Awaits!

Felting is when the fibers of the wool lock together into a stable, dense mat.

This process needs heat, agitation, a little soap, and water.

What to do? Hmmmmmm......

Enter stage left......

It's your washing machine!!

(Let it do all the work for you)

Put your item or items in the washer with a pair of jeans or some similar heavy non-shedding fabric to help agitation.

They can be placed in a closed bag (a zipped pillowcase, for example) to keep any shed wool from plugging the washer's drain.

Add a little soap and run on a hot wash cycle.

Knowing how long to wash is really a matter of trial and error - there is no set rule. It's always a good idea to felt a test piece.

By checking your piece often in the wash cycle, you can stay more in the trial end of things than the error! Always Remember ..... It's easier to underfelt and give it longer, than to overfelt and try to stretch it back out.

Some pieces will be just right after a short wash, others might need two long cycles and even a short stint in the dryer to get there.

Of course, only you can determine what "just right" means!

Knitted sample in stockinette stitch

knit wool before felting in the washer
knit wool before felting in the washer

See What Happens

Before Felting

A simple knitted rectangle

I used a bold variegated yarn to show the results better

before felting in the washing machine

Crochet hook for size reference

Partially felted

Felted wool knit afer 1 wash
Felted wool knit afer 1 wash

Felted Wool Knit After 1 Wash Cycle

Here it is after 1 short wash cycle

(Still damp)

You can still see the stitches

This piece has a tighter top (cast off edge) than the bottom (cast on edge) and you can see how this affects the felted shape - the bottom is wider than the middle or top. So how you cast on and off affects the felted shape.

Really felted

Wool knit felting after 2 washes
Wool knit felting after 2 washes

Felted Wool Knit After 2 Wash Cycles

After another cycle, the piece is smaller still, and the individual stitches are much harder to make out. It is quite dense now.

Note how this piece has shrunken more by length than than by width. The bottom is quite ruffled - an effect you may or may not want!

Next: What to do after felting.

Close Look at a Felted Piece

The individual stitches have almost disappeared and the colours, have become more blended
The individual stitches have almost disappeared and the colours, have become more blended

Take a close look

The knitted piece looks quite different after the process of felting. It's much more solid and dense. I enjoy seeing the effect when I use variegated yarns - the colours merge and blend. If you want to make distinct bands, you will have to make the bands quite wide, and use single colours. By knitting in rounds - like the hat top in the picture - you get a fabulous spiral effect.

Apres Felting

This part's fun!

Depending on your project, or the success of your felting, you may need or want to "work" your piece when it's out of the washer.

While it's still wet , it's pretty pliable - stretch it, roll it, fold it, mold it, whatever you want.

When it's the size and shape of perfection, let it dry thoroughly.

Oh yes, add embellishments for the finishing touch!

THE GOOD NEWS

This process is forgiving.

Many "errors" can be sorted out with reworking while wet.

Even if a project has dried, you can try carefully steaming (with an iron) for small fixes, or soak in hot water and reshape.

I did this with my first hat which sat for two years as an example of a piece felted waaaay too much (it was tiny). I managed to reshape it into a respectably sized ladies hat

Patons Classic Wool Felts Well

If it felts, it shrinks!


How much, and in which direction is variable. There are so many factors involved - the gauge of the knitting, the type of wool or fiber (or brand), the water temperature in your washer.... and so on.

This means, your prefelted piece has to be bigger than the finished size you want. The more dense you want the end result to be, the larger you must knit the piece. (Even several times the size of the felted result)

I take notes of each piece, including label details, measurements before and after washing, wash cycle length, brand of soap, brand of yarn, needle size, number of stitches and rows, etc.

In this way, I can adjust patterns to get the correct finished size (next time!)

Watch the process - Part1

Part 2

I'd love to know.....

Have you ever shrunk something woolen by mistake in the washing machine?

See results

© 2010 Nimblepins

Thank You For Visiting - Can I provide you with more information on this topic?

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    • Nimblepins profile image
      Author

      Nimblepins 2 years ago

      Especially if you dyed it too. Thanks for viewing, peachpurple.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i think felt should be handwash to reduce the fading colors

    • MizzMary profile image

      MizzMary 4 years ago

      You are certainly a felting pro! I 'like' this lens.

    • profile image

      sheezie77 4 years ago

      Fantastic lens, well done! Thumbs up

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Felting is so much fun!!! Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thank you for this information. i think i'll try making a felted hat. i hope i get more than a felted potholder.

    • Pixelhound profile image

      Wayne 5 years ago from west vancouver BC Canada

      Hey "B" so this is why our washing machine is full of " multicolored wool fluff"

    • Pixelhound profile image

      Wayne 5 years ago from west vancouver BC Canada

      @anonymous: Hey Arlee I didn`t know you were a squidooer?

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • jvsper63 profile image

      jvsper63 6 years ago

      Nice item's..Great lens:)

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      nice lens, love this information and craft.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      I have made felted hats and purses. Great lens.

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      That knitting would make a cool hat.

    • mistyblue75605 lm profile image

      mistyblue75605 lm 6 years ago

      This is a great craft! lost art

    • asiliveandbreathe profile image

      asiliveandbreathe 6 years ago

      Felting can used to make attractive knitted toys.

    • profile image

      jonsjewelry 6 years ago

      Interesting lens!

    • Nimblepins profile image
      Author

      Nimblepins 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hey Arlee - Thanks for coming!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hey B, good start! Will follow along your adventures :)

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