I’ve been caught up recently in using the washing machine to felt wool. It started with felting my thrift store wool sweaters with the intention of upcycling them, moved on to my new slippers, and continued on to felting the knitted bias squares I finished back in May. I’m learning a lot but there are occasional messes along the way.
I wasn’t happy with the hand of the knitted bias squares and thought some gentle felting would help. Into the washing machine it went. I remembered trying to felt my slippers and how wash/rinse cycles of warm/cold, hot/cold and hot/cold didn’t have all that much impact. Oops! The needlepoint yarn used for the knitted bias squares felted quite tightly with a single hot/cold wash/rinse cycle. The slippers were stockinette stitch and felted with the right side on the inside and the wrong side on the outside. The bias squares are 100% garter stitch.
I started with this….
And got this out of the washing machine…
I didn’t bother with the dryer — it would have only made the situation worse.
Time for some “what if?” I cut the squares apart along the joining lines. Most of the pieces are quite small and none are big enough to turn into a coaster, for example. I have some ideas but I need to set this one aside for a bit.
I wondered what would have happened if I had separated the squares before putting it into the washing machine? I had some rejected squares I could use for a test. I put these into the washing machine on a warm/warm wash/rinse cycle. I decided to pass on using hot water this time!
Here’s how they came out of the wash:
I had made felted dryer balls the day after felting the knit bias squares piece. I wondered if these could be put in the dryer with the squares and if they would help with felting?
I put 3 dryer balls into the dryer on medium heat for 15 minutes with the washed squares. Then I added 3 more dryer balls and another 10 minutes of drying. Here’s the result: individual square on the left and felted square cut from the knitted bias squares on the right.
Thanks to not doing a hot water wash, the individual squares didn’t shrink all that much but they did get fulled. The dryer balls pounded the cloth and caused it to fluff up. The squares are not that much smaller but they are thicker. I should have done this to the knitted bias squares piece, after disconnecting the squares, instead of felting.
Here’s a view that shows how much thicker the felted piece (on the right) is compared to the fulled piece (on the left):
I think it’s worth doing these types of experiments. I’ve ended up with a couple more techniques in my arsenal for finishing knits as well as raw materials for another project.