In today’s #TipsTuesday post, I’m going to show you how to make your own felted balls from wool yarn. Felted balls can be used instead of dryer sheets or for craft projects. (Spoiler alert: I’ll be sharing a project using felted balls later this week, so you may want to get started on making a set.)
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First, you’ll wrap the yarn around your fingers several times.
Then, slide the yarn off your fingers and begin wrapping yarn around the center.
Fold over the yarn and continue to wrap until it forms an irregular sphere.
Once you have a sphere, continue wrapping in different directions until you have normalized the shape.
For dryer balls, you’ll want to make the balls several inches large in diameter. I recommend using undyed yarn for best results. For craft projects, you’ll want smaller balls that are less than an inch in diameter.
Prepare your yarn balls for felting.
Once you have as many balls as you’d like (or you’ve run out of yarn), begin stuffing them into the stocking towards the foot. Tie a knot after each ball.
Felt your yarn balls.
You’ll want to wash your tied yarn balls on hot in a lightly filled load of laundry for maximum agitation. I washed them with denims and sheets, but not with towels or other yarn projects that would generate a lot of lint. After washing, you’ll want to tumble dry these on high. I actually put these in the washer and dryer a few times to make sure they felted completely. Once your balls are felted, little fuzzies will stick out of the stockings.
At that point, you can release your felted balls by cutting off the knot and sliding out the next felted ball and continuing until they are all released from the stocking.
You now have your very own collection of felted balls! What will you use yours for?
Wool fibers have small scales. When the project you knit with wool yarn is wet and then agitated and exposed to heat, the scales become interlocked. This creates the appearance of shrinking as the project pulls together. Knitfelted fabric can become very dense and doesn’t unravel. It can even be cut and rearranged. Although the process is called knitfelting, you can use it on both crocheted and knit projects.
Knitfelted fabric is great way to make projects like bags and cozies more sturdy without sewing in a lining. This dense fabric also makes cozy winter wearables, like the cowl shown in this tutorial. Because it can be cut, knitfelted fabrics are also great for creating appliques and other decorations to sew onto other projects. You may also choose to knitfelt wools that are “itchy” to soften them for direct-to-skin wear.
Getting started with your knitfelted project
Start by choosing a wool yarn that is not marked “superwash” or “washable.” (Those wools have been chemically treated to prevent fulling). Some other natural animal fibers, such as alpaca, can also be knitfelted.
Since your project will shrink in size as it felts, you will need to crochet or knit it to be larger than the finished size. Knitfelting is more of an art that a science, and there are many factors that impact how much the final project will felt. For your first knitfelting experiments, choose projects like bags where exact size isn’t critical. As you gain confidence in your knitfelting abilities, you may choose patterns like hats that need to be felted to specific dimensions.
Because much of the texture of the finished project will be flattened, choose simple stitch patterns like single crochet or stockinette, or highly textured patterns like cables, for the best results.
To prepare your finished project for the washer, weave in any yarn ends. If you want the seams to be felted, join them now. If you’d prefer to have an embroidered or overlock stitch appearance, knitfelt each piece separately and join any seams afterwards.
How to knitfelt (or full) in the washer and dryer
Gather your materials
You’ll need your project, a lingerie bag, and several pairs of jeans. (If you don’t have any jeans that need washing, choose other items that will not shed or pill, such as a cotton quilt, t-shirt, cotton undies, etc. Unless you want to spend the rest of your weekend removing fuzz from your project, do not include other knit fabrics.)
Place your project in a lingerie bag
Before you get started, remember that you can always felt more, but you can’t felt less! So take your time as you knitfelt your project. Both agitation and heat can help a project felt, so start with agitation alone.
Place your project in the washer
To increase the amount of agitation without damaging your project, wash it in a half-full load. Choose a delicate spin cycle with cold water (often called the “woolens”). Using a small amount of detergent will stimulate the felting process, but remember to adjust your detergent since you aren’t washing a full load.
If your machine has an option for extra spin cycles, use it. (On my machine, this is called “super cycle.”)
Check your project
After the project comes out of the washer, examine it to see if it has knitfelted enough for your preference. It will probably be all crumpled up, like this, so smooth it out to examine it.
In the case of this cowl, the washing process had tightened up the surface but hadn’t shrunk it much, so I decided to continue knitfelting in the dryer.
Place your project in the dryer
Don’t forget to return the project to the lingerie bag before placing it in the dryer.
Choose the low heat or delicate setting.
Take out your project every 10-15 minutes, checking it until it reaches the desired size and density.
I wanted this project to be a bit snugger, so I kept it in the dryer for about 30 minutes.
The finished project shrunk about 3″ (7.5 cm) in length…
…but the width was virtually unchanged.
Block to shape
After you have felted the project to your desired size and density (either through the washer alone or with the aid of a dryer), be sure to block the final project to shape. If it is still wet, simply pin it to a blocking board or foam mats.
If your project is completely dry, spritz it with water before pinning. Knitfelted projects can also be ironed on the wool setting if there is persistent wrinkling.
With these simple steps, you can felt, or full, any project you crochet or knit with wool yarn.
At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm. Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth. It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City). I ran into her again at 2014’s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.
You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page. You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.
Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?
UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.
Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester. I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.
UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?
Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.
UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?
Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”
UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.
Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.
My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!
By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013. It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!
I’m really excited to share an interview with Nicky Epstein today. Nicky is a knit and crochet designer, bestselling author, and teacher. A few months ago, I received a review copy of one of her books (which I won’t name… yet) and thought it was “just a knitting book.” After reading it, I found that it was a book that would be equally beneficial to crocheters and knitters since it dives so completely into the world of felting. The book is Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, and I highly recommend it if you’ve always wanted to explore felting – but more about that later.
After the interview, I’ll be sharing my review of Knitting Never Felt Better, as well as a giveaway, courtesy of Sixth & Spring Books.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and crocheting?
Nicky: My mother and grandmother taught me at an early age.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Nicky: I entered a contest for McCall’s Needlecraft magazine and won first prize with my “Unicorn In The Garden” sweater. They asked me for more designs, which they published, and I began to get calls from other needlecraft publications, because I was doing intricate colorwork.
UC: Your book, Knitting Never Felt Better, is an in-depth exploration of felting, which could be used by crocheters as well. I was particularly intrigued by the dimensional felting. How were you introduced to these techniques, and what was it like exploring them for the book?
Nicky: I saw cloth shibori scarves at the American Folk Art Museum in New York and thought “Hey, I can do that with knitting.” It was so much fun, I couldn’t stop. And it expanded into the book. I used nuts, marbles, ping pong balls, shells, and more to create the dimensional designs and by the time I finished I had felted all the wool in my apartment and more!!!
UC: What was the design process like for Knitting Never Felt Better?
Nicky: I wanted to make the book a complete guide to felting, so I designed a wide range of pieces using various knitting techniques that lent themselves to felting, including techniques we thought couldn’t be done, like textured stitches and colorwork.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Nicky: From everything I see, from nature to gift wrap designs to vintage fashions. I try to expand the boundaries of knitting in my designs.
UC: What is your favorite “go to” craft for your personal crafting?
Nicky: Redesigning furniture using fun techniques like decoupage, painting, etc. I also like designing jewelry and buttons, and have designed 4 lines of buttons for JHB Buttons.
Nicky Epstein Alpaca Button. (Image courtesy of JHB International.)
Although the patterns inside are geared towards knitters, this book provides a really thorough examination of felting, so I would even recommend it for crocheters. The book opens with Go Felt Yourself, an overview of felting, which includes general felting instructions, FAQs, a list of ten great yarns to use for felting (as recommended by 60 yarn shop owners), and before and after photos of a 23 stitch stockinette swatch in 19 different yarns. The chapter closes with two patterns for knitting projects along with felting instructions.
The next chapter, Dimensional Felting, is by far my favorite. In this chapter, Nicky explores different techniques for creating dimensional projects by attaching marbles, balls, nuts, pebbles, shells, buttons, dowels, and other objects to your finished yarn creation while felting. She also shows some great examples of textures created by drying felted yarn with binder clips attached. This section is filled with swatch pictures that include details about how the effect was created, as well as 6 project patterns and 12 stitch patterns.
In A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns, Nicky explores stitch patterns that “still maintain their visual interest” after felting. This section includes 6 cable stitch patterns, 6 mosaic patterns, 39 color stitch patterns, 2 one-color slip stitch patterns, and 10 lace patterns, as well as one project made from a pattern stitch.
The next chapter, A Variety of Techniques, explores intarsia, stranded colorwork, color blocking, duplicate stitch, surface embroidery, entrelac, drop stitch, beading, and combining natural fibers with synethics. As in the previous chapter, each stitch is shown before and after, and there are many suggestions for felting with these techniques. (My favorite tip is to avoid weaving in ends with your intarsia project, and then to cut them off after felting.) This chapter includes 21 stitch patterns and 3 project patterns.
Appliques, Cords and Bag Handles includes tips for adding “unique adornments” to your projects. This section includes 8 applique patterns, 6 cord patterns, and 8 designs for bag handles along with two project patterns.
The next chapter, Cut It Out, focuses on cutting up felted fabric (from your own knitting or crocheting, or from upcycled garments) to make a variety of fun projects. Most of these projects require sewing. I love the 5-in-1 sweater projects, which shows how to create two hats, a decorative flower, a dog sweater, and a purse from one old sweater, and there are some great bags and toys in this chapter as well.
The next chapter, Sculptural Felting, includes patterns for 13 fruits and vegetables, a fruit bowl, and a covered bowl/gift box.
At the end of the book, there is a techniques section that reviews the pattern abbreviation terms and includes written instructions for some stitches, increases, and decreases. There are also illustrated instructions for a provisional cast on, three-needle bind off, kitchener stitch, duplicate stitch, and 9 embroidery stitches used in the patterns. Nicky includes 13 pages of pattern templates for the cut felted patterns.
The book is filled with great suggestions from Nicky’s readers, as well as tips for making and using your felted creations. Each stitch pattern includes before and after felting pictures, and all of the projects include directions for felting and assembly. Most patterns use U.S. pattern abbreviations, but many of the colorwork patterns include charts instead. The layout and photography is attractive, so the book makes great “eye candy.” As you might expect from Nicky, most of the patterns are women’s accessories, bags, and garments, but there are some items for men, children, and home. The book includes so many stitch patterns that a knitter can also create their own projects using the stitch patterns and felting techniques included inside. The introduction to each section also includes details about the type of yarn and needles used for the swatches in that section.
While this book is clearly aimed at knitters, as I’ve mentioned, there is a lot that crocheters can glean from it. For example, an intermediate crocheter could “translate” the types of color and textured patterns likely to felt well by comparing A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns to a crochet stitch guide. Similarly, most projects in Cut It Out could easily be made with a crocheted fabric.
To keep the review balanced, I’ll mention a few things that could be improved or that might turn off some readers. While I think much could be adapted by an intrepid crocheter, I would have loved to see some crochet stitch patterns included in the book. Some readers will wish that more of the patterns were charted. Like most paperback books, it doesn’t lay completely flat when you are reading, but there are flaps on both covers that can be used as page markers. The book is aimed at an intermediate knitter, so there isn’t much review of the “basics.”
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any intermediate knitter who enjoys working with natural fibers. This book presents a lot of wonderful information about felting in an easily digestible and beautiful form, and there are some wonderful knitting patterns included. I would also recommend this book to an adventurous intermediate or advanced crocheter who already has the basics of felting down and is interested in exploring dimensional and colorwork options.
Full disclosure: Two free review/giveaway copies of this book were provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.