It's 49 balls (difficult to call something that large a ball) of Chinook wool. It's kind of bulky and not twisted at all. It's "floofy"and has a funky 1970s label and was made for export to Canada.. Looks like it should felt well.
I like the blue and green colours but am not so fussed on the brown ones but reckon they will dye pretty well.You do, of course, realise, that I have never felted (intentionally) or dyed (intentionally), but I've read the theory and muttered the famous last words "How hard could it be?"
So I trawl the internet and my books and mags for knit then felt patterns. I'm thinking totes, I'm thinking slippers, I'm thinking I may never knit with another yarn again.
The "ball" label says the yarn should be knitted at a tension of 10 stitches and 16 rows to 10cm. It fails nominate a needle size on which one should expect to get this gauge. Never mind, research suggests that a 9mm needle might be the one.
I knit a tension square on 9mm needles. Nice, 'ey?
My tension is 11 stitches and 16 rows to 10cm but it looks nice, so this will be the basis for calculations. I race over to my LYS after work Friday to pick up a set of 9mm dpns to do slippers and stuff. I also come home with a set of 1.25mm dpns because I don't like to discriminate on the basis of size.
Today, with several very large piles of washing to do and rain threatening, the square (in a lingerie bag) and a load of sheets goes in a hot wash and we wait for the miracle of fulling to occur.
The "fullness of time" does not happen in the first load. In fact, the fibres have barely begun to mix but I am not dismayed. I have read that it may take more than one go. In with the cotton blanket and the doona cover it goes and at the end of this cycle, there has been some minor shrinkage.
I am, at this stage, experiencing the first stirrings of concern. I was awake in enough science classes to know that this experiment could use a control.
As it happens, I'd knitted up a odd ball of Lincraft Big Wool into a rectangle (dimensions not taken) a few weeks ago in a fit of therapeutic stocking stitch on big needles. It is quickly sewed into an envelope shape. Both the square and the envelope, in separate bags, go into a small hot wash with some terry toweling tea towels for agitation. Result! The Lincraft wool felted really well, some small change is evident in the tension square. I notice at this point that the square is felting more on the edges than in the centre - kind of like how a microwave heats a bowl of soup from the outside in.
The Lincraft envelope is doing well but could probably do with another cycle and I decide that the lingerie bag is probably too smooth for maximum abrasion so the tension square goes into the rice bag with the Lincraft envelope.
This time the envelope looks just right. Here it is drying. You'll have to trust that it was 1/3 larger before I felted it.
Maybe the tension was too loose in the square to promote adequate felting so I knit another on 8mm needles. Tension is now 11.5 stitches and 16 rows to 10cm. Not a huge difference, but maybe it's enough. Into another rice bag goes this square and both go into the machine again, and again, and again.
On a side note. 10k rice bags with zippers make excellent small project bags as well as machine-felting bags. I do suggest overlocking or zig-zagging the raw seams and washing them before use, though.
I'm getting a bit desperate by now and it's getting quite late in the day. I sit down with a cup of tea and ponder over a few rounds of the second Voodoo Wristwarmer (it's on the list to be finished this weekend). A light bulb appears above my head when I notice the ball band for the Lincraft Big Wool. Let's see, what tension was that knitted that at? Hmm, 12sts and 18 rows on 7mm needles. I find 7mm needles and knit yet another tension square. Waddaya know, 12 sts and 18 rows to 10cm! Maybe this is it, the magical tension at which the swatch will felt like the Lincraft Big Wool.
Back to the washing machine. This time, 3 swatches are doing the rounds with the pot holders and the last of the tea towels. I've also started pegging the damn things folded in half to promote even felting. It seems that thy fold in on themselves in he machine and protect the centres from agitation.
Here's my first swatch after a whole day of hot water and half an hour in the spin dryer. Well you would be able to see the swatch if blogger would let me.
I have now lost count of the number of times the tension squares have been washed and how much water has gone onto my front garden (I pump out the grey water) on a day when it hasn't stopped raining. The other two swatches are still going round and I'm very tired.
Anyone got bright ideas for improving my fulling?