The steps are the same for felting any project, whether it is a hat for Blythe or a bag for your computer. What you will need is: your project knitted and ready to felt, a basin to felt in with very hot water and a tea kettle nearby for more hot water, an ice bath, a small amount of laundry soap, and a large pair of housework gloves.
|Large, heavy weight gloves|
The first step is to knit a hat. There are several free patterns available online. Here are a few:
It is important that you use a fiber that will felt. Typically, this means wool but any natural hair based fiber will felt so that means alpaca and angora too. Please make sure that the wool is not treated to be washable.
“Most animal fibers that are not treated to be machine washable will felt. Although wool, mohair and alpaca will all felt, the end results will be different in each. When wool felts it becomes thick and durable, alpaca retains some of it’s softness and does not get as stiff as wool, and mohair tends to be very fuzzy.
The process that the fibers go through to become felted, is the same for all of these fibers. By applying heat and agitation, the scales that make up each tiny strand in the yarn open up and catch upon one another. The more that these fibers rub up against each other, the more tangled they become. Once cooled and dried, the fibers are forever locked together to form a matted form of wool known as felt.”-- from http://www.classiceliteyarns.com/WebLetter/Yarns/Felt.php
|A cat ear hat with chin strap, and 2 roll up sun hats|
Here are a few examples of projects ready to be felted. They are hilariously big with a very loose knit, because the felting will tighten it up. Inspect your project for stray hairs or threads, because they will get felted into the project and you won’t be able to remove them later.
|Hats in the basin with a dash of soap and about an inch of very hot water|
To start, you need a kettle of boiling water and an ice bath close by. I start with very little water in the ice bath. The shocking change in temperature plays a big role in the felting, along with the agitation. I wear very large housework gloves. The super large baggy size insulates your hands from the heat.
Start with very little hot tap water in your basin and a dash of laundry soap. You should wash the hats of similar colors only, because the heat and multiple washings may cause the dye to leach off a bit, particularly reds, blues and the dreaded black.
|Back to the basin and add more hot water|
Put your hats in and get them good and wet. Pour the hot water from the kettle right on the hats and start scrubbing. After about five minutes or so you can switch to the cold water. Give them a good swish and scrub squeeze out the excess and them get them cold again several times. Then squeeze the excess and back to the hot they go. Don’t be afraid to pour hot water right on the hats that shocking change of temperature is what we are looking for. Also, you will probably use all of your first kettle and have to put on a second kettle of boiling water to finish the process. I let the fibers get a good soak and them squeeze them out in my fist without twisting or wringing to disturb the shaping process. Then I let them soak up the water again. I also scrub my two hands together to agitate the fibers. I repeat this process over and over about 5 to 10 minutes in the hot water and slightly less in the cold. After a half hour you will begin to see the felting happening. Now you can start shaping and checking for size, while you keep up all of your previous techniques to keep the felting continuing. This ability to shape it while felting is the big motivator to hand felting. Also, you don’t get any creases or fold lines by hand felting.
|You can see how much tighter the weave is now.|
|Another ice bath and almost done!|
When you have reached your desired size, rinse your project well in cool water. Now shape carefully before allowing it to dry thoroughly. This is your chance to really tweak the piece into your desired shape. Hint: notice that the hat fits the top of a pint glass almost perfectly for the size of Blythe’s head. It’s great to use as a drying rack.
|Adjusting the curve of the brim|
Well, obviously, hand felting is a labor of love and uses a lot of elbow grease. If you don’t want to work so hard, you can do it in a machine. You can set your machine to a small load and add just a dash of laundry soap. Put your hat in a zipper pillow case-- this protects the hat from being too twisted out of shape and, importantly, protects your washer from all the fuzz that will leach off the hat and then gumming up the mechanism in the washer. I’ve heard horror stories of washers destroyed by felting. Also, add an old pair of stiff jeans to the load to help the agitation. You will have to check it frequently. It will take a similar amount of time but with less scrubbing on your part. Once your hat is the right size, rinse it out gently in the sink and shape it carefully by hand. You can often work out any folds by pulling and pushing into shape.
|Classic roll up drying|
|Cat ear hat drying|
Now your hat is ready to embellish! Have fun felting!