Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Fulling Monty

This stuff followed me home from the op-shop the other day. I patted it and it followed me home, I swear ...

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?

9 comments:

Dood said...

49 balls of wool followed you home from the op-shop?

*hmmmm*

Funny really, on one hand, you've been rewarded for all of your trawling with a major find,

BUT, on the hand, it's just encouraged you to keep on trawling in search of another bounty!

But you don't need me to tell you that!

Happy felting :)

Sometimes Unwilling Guru said...

Food morning ,
Reading your felting exercise,it looks like you have had a really interesting day!!!!
I started a felting project too!Some home spun,around 10 ply on 6mm circs for a big sock,which I am going to try to kill in the W.machine and make some booties or slippers.
I am doing extra around the ankle,as I want to be warm.
Now I was worried they will come too small(too big and I will just add elastic) but reasoned that my Mum has very small feet so she wil be the lucky recipient....
This should be fun and I need some motivation after a difficult week at work!

the stripey tiger said...

Hmmm - Hopefully your 49 balls haven't been machine-wash treated so they wont felt properly. I read someone somewhere say they added tennis balls to the rice bag to help felting...goodluck!! :-)

Sheep Rustler said...

I've done a bit of felting. I usually knit at a looser tension than usually recommended for the yarn, as that gives the stitches space to wriggle around and mat together ('wriggle' being a technical term, you understand!!) Untwisted wool often felts well (think Lopi) but it preferably needs to be 100% wool and untreated in any way. Some people say that you can felt stuff that has some non-wool in it but I have not personally had any success with it. Check the ball label carefully - look at the yarn composition and any washing instructions - if it is 100% wool and says Hand Wash only it should felt. Felting, however, is not an exact science and sometimes things that ought to felt, don't. HTH.

happyspider said...

well, as i havent done all that much felting myself its hard to say.. but all the patterns i read called for quite loose guage. could be you need to try on whoppas!

Jejune said...

Yeah. they followed you home. Sure. See Item 2 on your 'Thing I cannot do' list... well, I guess we're just jealous. Whenever *I* check out the local op shop they have abandoned tapestries and curtain hooks! :)

As for felting? You know my track record - one well-felted and completely over-shrunk useless and very attractive French Market Bag. All I can say is - do test swatches - something I neglected, and you're not, so you should do better than me! Are you using really hot water in the machine? That worked for me, too well if anything.

Kate said...

I suspect that you dealing with treated wool or some ack additions to the wool. After, what, 8 rounds of the wash cycle, something out to have given by now. My felted laptop bag was victim of machine washable wool. It was 100% wool (Paton's Fireside) and did not felt at all while all the Lincraft Cosy did. In fact, the stress the Cosy put on the Fireside resulted in the stitches breaking and now I have whacking great holes in the 'fabric' of the bag.

Incidentally, I've since found out that this season's Lincraft Cosy has now been treated to be machine washable so this doesn't felt up any more either. Hmph!

Good luck with the tennis balls and looser stitches. I have some felting needles if you want to give this a go, althought it's meant more for cloth and slub than ply-ed yarn.

Kate said...

I suspect that you dealing with treated wool or some ack additions to the wool. After, what, 8 rounds of the wash cycle, something out to have given by now. My felted laptop bag was victim of machine washable wool. It was 100% wool (Paton's Fireside) and did not felt at all while all the Lincraft Cosy did. In fact, the stress the Cosy put on the Fireside resulted in the stitches breaking and now I have whacking great holes in the 'fabric' of the bag.

Incidentally, I've since found out that this season's Lincraft Cosy has now been treated to be machine washable so this doesn't felt up any more either. Hmph!

Good luck with the tennis balls and looser stitches. I have some felting needles if you want to give this a go, althought it's meant more for cloth and slub than ply-ed yarn.

Bells said...

ok, I'm local - which op shops are yielding such treasures??? You must tell me!!!