Felting is an ancient craft that is still popular today. The felting process transforms wool into a dense cloth by bonding and shrinking the fibers together. Although there are three types of felting—wet felting, needle felting, and commercial felting—this tutorial focuses on wet felting.
Wet felting is a great way to create a soft and dense fabric out of woolen knit, crochet, or woven projects, such as slippers, bags, mittens, and more. The process uses heat, agitation, and moisture to shrink and bond the wool fibers together.
Equipment / Tools
- Felting pattern
- Tools required by your pattern
- Pillowcases or pillow protectors
- Top-loading washing machine
- 100% animal fiber yarn
- Any other materials listed in your pattern
- Small amount of mild detergent
Choosing Yarn for Felting
If you are following a specific pattern, use it as a guide as to what brand, type, and weight of yarn to buy. Fibers will felt differently, depending on these characteristics. Make sure the yarn is made with 100% animal fibers such as wool or mohair. Check the laundry care symbols or instructions indicate hand-wash only, as washable wools, such as those labeled "superwash," will not felt.
Use the same brand of yarn for the entire project, even if you are using different colors.
Rather than creating your wooly item from scratch and then felting it, you can also use an old store-bought wool pullover or hat. Many people are accidentally exposed to felting when a favorite sweater gets mixed in with the other washing!
Choosing a Pattern for Felting
Choose whatever craft you enjoy doing the most as you search for a felting pattern. If the project you find comes with felting directions, follow them carefully. A well-written pattern has been tested by its designer to ensure the finished project will turn out correctly. The slipper you see here was knit from the Felted Clogs Made Easy pattern.
If you find a pattern you like that was not created especially for felting, you may be able to adjust it for felting. During the felting process, you can expect the piece to shrink about 15 percent to 20 percent in width and 25 percent to 40 percent in height.
To prevent surprises during felt, make a test piece. To do this, create a swatch, knitting, or crocheting a square measuring about 4 to 6 inches square. Run that square through the felting process, and then using those results, adjust your pattern as desired.
Prep the Project for Felting
Following your pattern, make your wool project. Place your item in an old pillowcase and tie or zip it shut. If you're creating more than one felted piece, place each one in its own pillowcase. When those items need to match, such as with a pair of slippers, you should felt both at the same time, so they felt equally.
The pillowcase can end up covered with stray bits of wool on the inside, so you may not want to use the ones you sleep on.
Add a few drops of mild detergent to your washing machine. Set it to run on a short cycle with hot water, at a low water level.
Check on the Project Regularly
During agitation, check on the felting progress every 5 minutes. If you want it to felt more, place it back in the hot water and reset the wash cycle so it continues to agitate. Continue to check it about every 5 to 10 minutes until it is the desired size and texture. It can take several cycles to lose the stitch definition and for the fibers to blend together.
Rinse the Project
Once you determine it is done, let the washing machine finish running it through the rinse cycle. If you prefer, you can remove your piece and hand rinse it in cold water and gently ring it out and pat it with a towel.
Do not let it run through the spin cycle, or your piece may get permanent creases.
Shape and Dry the Project
While your piece is wet, take some time to stretch and manipulate it into shape. Do not put it in the dryer, or you may end up with just a clump of wool fibers.
Lay a clean, dry towel down on a hard surface, away from bright sunlight and direct heat. Lay your project down flat on top of the towel. Depending on the item, you may want to hold it in place by covering it with a second clean, dry towel and then setting heavy objects on top. If it's a hat, stretch it over an appropriately sized bowl or ball.
Check your piece often to make sure it is drying into the shape you desire. Turn it over occasionally to let air at parts of the project, speeding up the drying process, which typically takes a couple days.
Finishing the Project
Once your felting project is dry, it is done—but you may need to tidy it up a bit. Trim off any pilling or longer fibers that were caused by the felting process with sharp scissors. If you felted an old wool sweater, you can cut through the felted material and sew with the newly made felt.