Felting in a Washing Machine

Felting is a great technique and produces a really beautiful textured fabric for your work.

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Felted fabric looks really great with decorative embroidery added to it!

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Felting is a great technique and traditional felt makers are very skilled and produce wonderful items that are almost works of art in themselves. Felt is a fantastic material to work with and the texture and colours lend themselves to creating imaginative pieces. Felt makers will always hand felt their wool so they have more control over the finished piece but for the amateur ‘felter’ using a washing machine is an acceptable method of creating that fabulous fabric that you can do so much with.

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When to use a washing machine:
Most of the patterns you come across will specify whether to felt by hand or machine. Hand-washing will give you more control over the development of the felted piece as you can repeat the process until the item has reached the right size and degree of felting. However, felting in a washing machine is easier. You can use this method if you are felting an item, such as a bag or basket, that remains as one piece, or if you want to produce a piece of felted fabric that you are then going to cut up and make into something else.

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How to felt in the washing machine:
Felting in a washing machine is an excellent way of recycling worn out garments or turning charity shop purchases into stunning home items. You can even find a new use for a favourite jumper that you have ruined in the wash!
Before you begin, check that the knitted item you have in mind is suitable for felting. Yarn that is 100% pure wool felts the best although mixed fibres, such as cashmere, mohair or angora will also felt. Once you are sure that it will felt successfully you need to measure the item or garment to work out approximately the finished felted size. The amount of shrinkage varies greatly but the initial item should be at least 50% larger than the felted fabric you wish to end up with. Do not trim or cut the initial item as it may fray in the felting process.
Wash the knitted item on a hot wash (60˚C), cold rinse programme with two tablespoons of liquid detergent. You can also add acouple of tennis balls to the wash as this increases the friction. When the cycle is completed the piece. should be 50-70% of its original size but washing machines and yarns vary so the results may vary, too. If you are happy with the degree of shrinkage and the appearance of the fabric, then dry it at this stage. If it has not felted enough you can repeat the hot wash or tumble dry the piece.
Pull the felted fabric into shape while it is still damp and then leave until completely dry.

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Once it is dry, your felted item is ready to use or you can cut the fabric into pieces and use to make cushions, decorative pot covers, hot water bottle covers and much more. You can sew the pieces together invisibly or use blanket stitch or decorative running stitch to make a feature of the edges. Felting merges the colours of knitted stripes and makes an interesting coloured effect as well as the soft texture you expect from felting.

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Felting makes a strong fabric that is perfect for all kinds of home items. Why not give it a try!