Choosing The Right Yarn: Felting

Sometimes all it takes to get us knitters to plunk down a chunk o' change for a ball of yarn is a blend of pretty colors and a yarn that feels good against our cheek. Sometimes, however, you need a yarn with certain qualities: you're sensitive to wool, you want to make a felted project, you want something washable. How do you know if the yarn you are holding in your hand is the RIGHT yarn for your project?

Rubber Duckie says, "C'mon in, the felting is fine!"

Ah, now. This is something I learned about from my spinning classes, folks. So all you out there who were wondering why the heck I was going on and on about spinning last week on Knitting Daily, well. There is a method to my madness. Over the next few months, I'll have some posts about choosing yarn, the RIGHT yarn, for your knitting—and I will share some of the knowledge about yarn I learned whilst learning to spin.

In today's post, we'll talk about choosing yarn for a felting project—one you knit first, then toss into the washer with the intention of shrinking it and matting it up into a solid-ish, fuzzy-ish fabric.

How do you know which yarn will felt?

If you are making a felted project, the first thing you need to ask is: did the fiber come from an animal? If it did, then it might felt. (Notice: I said "might.") Next, look at the label and ask: Is it ALL from an animal? Any non-animal fibers in your yarn will either cause it to not felt at all, or cause the felting to be a bit less consistent and "felt-y" than you probably want it to be.

Why does yarn-from-an-animal felt?

Sheep and other animal fibers are scaly—picture a fish's scales covering each fiber. When you dunk wool into hot water and swish it around, these scales open up, sort of like lots of little umbrellas opening up all along the length of the fiber. When they open up, the scales catch onto nearby scales and grab on. The more fibers you have, and the more you rub the fibers around, the more scales there are to catch onto each other. The fibers get all tangled up, and more scales grab tight, until you have felt.

Do all animal fibers felt?

I would have to say "to varying degrees" and "eventually." A disclaimer is in order: I am by no means a felting expert, and I haven't read every single book on the subject. So if you know more than I do, please chime in here!

So cute! The Felted Daypack

Some wools have smaller scales, some have larger scales. Some have "smoother" scales, some coarser. All of those little details will affect the degree to which the wool felts. Also: The way in which a particular fiber is processed and dyed affects felting. Did you know that a white yarn may felt differently than a colored yarn of the same type and brand? This is because the dyes can smooth down, or raise up, the little scales on the colored yarns. White yarns may be bleached, which affects the yarn differently. Naturally colored yarns may not be dyed or bleached at all.

Some yarns are specially treated with a substance that smooths down the scales. These yarns are called "superwash" or "machine washable" wools, meaning you can wash them in a washing machine and they won't felt. However, over time, with wear and a lot of machine agitation, the special fiber treatment may rub off, and your socks may start felting.

So: No scales, no felt. Sheep's wool is not the only fiber with scales, so it is not the only animal fiber that felts. Alpaca will felt. Llama will felt. Each animal's fiber is slightly different, however, so (you're going to hate me for this….here it comes….) swatch carefully, including felting your swatch, before deciding whether the yarn you want to use is the RIGHT yarn.

Really? ALL animal fibers?

The ONE exception to the Animal Fibers Are Candidates For Felting rule is silk. Silk comes from silkworms, and I would argue that worms are not animals, they are worms, thus: bugs. Silk is not worm hair. Silk is extruded from the worm; silk starts out as a liquid. (Ahem. Use your brains, here, folks: "extruded" plus "liquid" equals…oh yes. That's what silk is. Hardened Bug Extrusion. Very pretty and wonderful hardened bug extrusion, it is, too.)

Bug extrusion hath no scales, therefore, silk won't felt.

Have you learned something about what will and what won't felt? Leave a comment and help the rest of us learn from your experiences.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Laceweight alpaca/silk, and on another set of needles, lovely tan worsted wool-from-sheep, and on another set, silk/merino DK.

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Knitting Daily Blog, Needle Felting

127 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Yarn: Felting

  1. I spent last week on my couch with my foot propped on a pillow, recuperating from an injury. I knitted and felted a pair of pink ballet slippers made from Nashua Handknits Julia yarn (alpaca, mohair and wool) and it felted beautifully! The slippers are pillow soft and have a wonderful cushy quality to them. Julia will be my #1 pick for felting now!

  2. Doggie and kittie hair is smooth and doesn’t felt either — which they’re glad for because it makes us love to pet our pets and we all end up happy. That’s also why wool is often combined with dog and cat hair before it is spun into yarn… Unless you have super long dog or cat hair, that is.

  3. I have trouble felting since I have a front-loading machine. Short of going to the laundromat does anyone have tips for felting in a front loader. I have done it but the number of times I have to run ti thru a cycle makes me feel guilty about wasting water.

  4. I tell my knitting/felting friends/students to think of sheep (etc.) as fingerprints. No two wools will felt alike. So important to swatch! Luckily, on one swatch I found that the lambswool I ordered from England was mismarked and did not felt.

  5. Alas, blue-faced leicester and wensleydale wool will felt.

    After I designed and knit a fair isle pullover for my 14 year old daughter, she wore it once. Then, because she spilled a little lemonade on it, she decided to… (If you have a sensitive stomach, please don’t read any further!)
    wash it in the washing machine, and dry it in the dryer.
    My husband rescued it, still damp, but definitely shrunk and slightly felted. We are saving it, in the hope that there will one day be a 9 year old grandchild who will wear it.

  6. I made a scarf with are yarn from knit picks called elegance. 70% baby alpaca,30% silk. It felted.I didn’t think it would with the silk in it.But now I have a new/old scarf.

  7. It has been my experience that the lighter the color of the yarn the less dense the felting is. In other words, you will see the ridges. So far anyone I’ve talked to has been unable to tell me why–just that it is.

  8. Well, the Peruvian alpaca my friend brought back for me, (which had been dyed) did not felt after three machine washes and sitting in a bowl of boiling water, so I dumped the lovely colored over-sized knit hat. My guess is they sold her a blend, but is it possible I got too impatient? I’ve decided to stick to merino.

  9. Hot water alone will not cause felting (fulling.) Agitation is required to make those opened up scales start clinging to each other. If your yarn is more than half (50%) feltable, then you will likely get at least partial felting. Therefore, 30% silk, or any other non-feltable, mixed with 70% feltable, will allow felting to occur.

    Fibers that have been bleached, possibly in preparation for dyeing, not so likely to felt.

  10. I have to say that through … umm… experimentation…. that alpaca tends to felt very tightly, though it may seem at first like it is going to be stubborn and not felt. Once it gets felting, watch really really closely or it may felt tighter than you expected!

  11. The wool from Down-type sheep does not felt easily. According to the authors of “In Sheep’s Clothing” (chart on page 90) some of those wools do not felt at all.

  12. I haven’t tried felting yet, but your surely made it seem doable. Thanks much for your comments in layperson’s language. I am ready to try it now. Jere

  13. I must comment that silk worms are indeed animals. They may not be warm-blooded vertebrates, i.e., mammals, such as humans, sheep, llamas, dogs, etc., but they are (invertebrate) animals nevertheless. By the way, bugs are yet another category of animals, not vegetables.

    Helene Young
    New York

  14. I was oooh so happy to see that your new article was on felting! I just by chance, found the prettiest wool for felting but now I can’t seem to find a pattern for socks!! Imagine. I found plenty of slippers but no sock patterns for felting. Could you PLEASE include one in your column??? I have never felted before, so I don’t have a clue how big to make them before felting. I kknow this wasn’t the question, or comment you wanted but I’m desperate! Thanks for listenening, Lynn

  15. Scientifically speaking, all insects, including silkworms, are indeed animals. It’s true, they’re (kinda) just like you and me. In fact, silkworms aren’t even worms, they’re baby moths.

    Also, silkworm fibers aren’t poo.The thread is secreted from the mouth (specifically the salivary glands), and is spun only to make their cocoon.

    For more info, and an interesting read, check out:

    Back to the knittery!

  16. The fun comes when you take a feltable fiber and add a “novelty yarn” like an eyelash or even just a fuzzier yarn. When you felt the finished project, the feltable fiber shinks but the novelty yarn doesn’t, increasing (enhancing?) the effect of the novelty yarn. There’s some really neat patterns out there which take advantage of this fact. Fiber Trend’s Huggable Hedgehogs come to mind!


  17. OK, last week is was spinning, ending in a not-to-subtle plug for Interweave’s spinning magazine. Now it’s felting, which no doubt will end in a plug for Interweave’s Felt magazine. Will we go through all the subjects of the different Interweave magazines?

  18. When an item is felted does it always shrink from its original size and if so how do you gauge the amount of shrinkage and size the work accordingly?

  19. One thing I learned the hard way is that even if yarns have the same apparent gauge PREfelting, they may NOT felt to the same degree. I made a bag base out of a handspun, and knitted the sides with a commercial yarn. Both felted great, but the base ended up tightening up much less than the sides did. The result was a pretty unappealing shape, with the base curling upward at the edges. Yuck!

  20. I know that all animal fibers will felt eventually, but alpaca, llama, mohair, angora, all of them are generally inferior to wool for felting unless it’s a blend with mostly wool. even then mohair is best.

  21. So what will happen to my 25% wool, 75% acrylic when I try to/accidentily felt it?

    Can it go wrong? Do I end up with stuff that is felted in patches and looks horrible?

    Also, doesn’t felting come with shrinking? Would the yarn shrink partially and give me acrylic bumps?

    (Something tells me you’re going to tell me to felt a swatch. :P)

  22. For Ellie of the Front Loading Washer:

    I’ve only felted with a front loader. And I’ve never filled the washer more than once. True, it does seem to take a few more agitation cycles – I think it’s because there’s so much less actual agitation than with a regular washer. But, it does work very well. You just have to catch the machine before it heads for the spin cycle. I always use Lion Wool, it’s a very dependable felting yarn.

  23. As an avid felter, I’m looking forward to this series…I really appreciate the insight on silk! I knew such, but never really thought about it in those terms. It kind of takes the novelty out of my husband wearing silk boxers to bed now…ah well.

  24. I was told by an LYS that if 55% of the yarn felts, the yarn will felt, and regardless of content, some yarns need more agitation to cooperate.

    And bigger needles are better for making felts because the yarn than has more room to rub together.

    Swatches are very useful for felting & the best way to know the gauge difference before and after felting is making 2 swatches per yarn. One to felt; the other to leave alone & compare. 🙂

  25. Dearest
    so glad NOW you tell me-6 bags later of many different yarns and I was so surprised by the results–only one felted well.Must be those little scales
    On the others, in my attempt to be creative, I mixed wool with some other than wool yarns–the washables-oh oh
    I really love felting and now am happy to know with the right yarn I will have better results.The bags were from your cheerful little bag you featured last year

  26. Learned about felting:47 years ago, I knit my daughter a coat. When it was particulary dirty, I threw it in the washer w/other dirty items. When it was clean, it was also SMALL! Too small for my daughter!

  27. I thoroughly love felting! I have learned exactly what Sandy has shared with us in this post. I learned when I want the most control over my felting to use a wool blended with at least 30% Mohair. I still have stitch definition, I get a lovley sheen and a bit of fuzziness that I can shave off, if I want. I found I’m never happy with a thick-thin yarn to felt with and needle size does matter! I love the blending of colors for stripes and geometric shapes and you can knit up and felt large pieces to cut and sew into a garment or purse etc. I’ve made bowls and cup holders, purses, project bags, needle cases and my first project was a 4ft x 5.5ft throw rug. A wonderful way to use up small bits of yarn. Another way to use wonderful fiber!
    Debora in California

  28. In answer to a question up a few levels, I believe the reason light colors do not felt as well is the amount of bleaching the wool must go through so it can take the lighter colored dye.

  29. This is so perfect timing for me. I’m starting on a project (cape with hood) that I want to felt for beauty, warmth, and feel. Couple of questions: Is there any particular wool (or combination) that felts the softest? And if I felt and felt and felt it, until it just won’t felt anymore, is it then safe from that point on to just throw it in the wash with the regular laundry? … and have to give great big THANKS to all who not only stuck up for us insects but gave great information as well 🙂 (osmia – short for osmia lignaria, the prettiest, friendlest, most beautiful, metallic blue coloured, little, friendly, solitary bee you’ll ever lay eyes on)

  30. Funny! When I first read the title I thought it said “Choosing the Right Yarn: Feeling”… after a splendid and stormy knitting weekend at a beautiful beach house in North Carolina with incredible natural light, several knitting friends, a stop at Knitting Addiction, where there is every yarn you would ever want to TOUCH (let alone see, imagine, etc.), you can see how I might easily have misread the article’s title 🙂

    I almost always include “feel” as a criterion when I am buying yarn. I want to always look forward to working with whatever yarn(s) I have chosen. And I’m pleasantly surprised in many cases (soy or bamboo for example).

    The “feel” of the yarn only gets better with increased contact 🙂

    Maybe you’ll do a sequel to this article: “Choosing the Right Yarn: Feeling”?

    just a thought 🙂
    Love the newsletters!
    Elaine Dawson, Norfolk, VA

  31. a great and affordable yarn for felting is Mauch Chunky by Kraemer. Cascade has not been a good felting experience for me… it tends to pill up and has an unappealing feel to it. Berroco alpaca is nice for felting and when mixed with the Mauch it has a wonderful effect. try them out next time you get a chance!

  32. hi, i sell a wide variety of wool and some does not felt or is very hard to felt. One cannot rely on the books of sheep breeds as each flock has its own variations. Down type wools are the least likely to felt, but some do, and it is as i said above, not always predictable. I like to have people think of the sweaters of old that men wore for fishing or working on the docks ect. not exactly delicate, and obviously did not felt. Those sheep still exist and those wools are naturally superwash without chemicals and processing. kathy mccann

  33. Talk to me about felting cashmere blends and cashmere(old, worn, ugly sweaters to salvage). Also, does changing the ph of the washwater help to “rough Up” those little scales-it seems like it should….maybe baking or washing soda?

  34. I recently finished knitting a pair of sock using Lorna’s Laces supposedly superwash sock yarn. The very first time I washed them they shrank! Didn’t felt, just shrank. It was a very complicated pattern and the first pair of socks I was going to keep for myself. Very disappointed. Beware Lorna’s Laces sock yarn!

  35. For felting outside of the washer. I too have a washer similiar to a front load that doesn’t use water swashing around, it sprays water, at any rate, I did use if for one project and had to run it through twice. But as a back up plan I had read to use a bucket and a new plunger. You need to the plunger to do the agitating. For sure it would use less water, but your arm may get tired.

  36. Hi Sandy

    In February I knit a purse and then felted it. I used it once and then decided to felt it again. Second time it was much stiffer and I really like it now. Not suee what this means–just wanted you to know. I’m sure I’ll knit more purses and I’ll keep trying different yarns.


  37. I thought the superwash yarn process involved REMOVING the scales, but it’s really smoothing them?? How interesting. So my superwash socks could someday shrink? Yipes.

  38. I have done a bit of felting but only with the fibre not knitted yarn. The fibre I use is Alpaca because we breed them. Sometimes I have found a difference between the fleece of different animals but it all felts EXCEPT the very course fibres.
    Sue B – Australia.

  39. I made 11 handbags from different yarns last Christmas, and felted all the ones that were made from “feltable” yarns. I found that yarns with as little as 65% wool would still felt, if washed in hot water in the washer TWICE and dried in a hot dryer TWICE. I also found that I got a beautiful felted fabric from the wool/soy fiber blend yarns. The soy fiber seemed to cooperate with what the wool fibers were doing, so to speak, instead of resisting the process as so many plant fibers do. I also found it helpful to hot wash the item, then if it seemed fully felted, it was better to use my hands to pull and push it back into shape and allow it to air dry. Dryer provided a final “oomph” to the felting process, but sometimes compromised the shaping of the item. Small or delicate parts (flowers, motifs to be appliqued to the item, for example) can be felted separately, by placing in a cotton sock with the top tied shut. Or they can be attached, and then felted along with the main item, which makes the applique blend in like it “grew” there instead of being added on afterwards… just depends what effect you want.

  40. I forgot to mention that the difference between Alpaca and Sheep wool is that the scales on Alpaca is a lot further apart,so therefore takes a little longer to felt. Also this is why some people are alergic to Sheep wool but can wear Alpaca.

  41. It doesn’t take long to swatch, and what I usually try for is a square, roughly 4 1/2 inches wide and long. It gets blocked, usually on a length of slippery yarn, and I set it aside until it’s time to add a pocket to what I’m making. If you hate swatching, this not only makes it not seem virtuous, but actually useful.

  42. I have been spinning, knitting, and felting for years, so when I found a felted bag pattern I liked in one of the major knitting magazines, I decided to use some Noro Silk Garden that was given to me in a color that I had already made a sweater out of. I love the way Noro Kureyon felts, so I thought Silk Garden would do just as well – NOT! After I read the label (should have done that first!), I realized that there is very little feltable wool in Silk Garden, so my mitered bag is slightly fulled but way too soft,not densely felted and a really odd shape after five times in the washer and dryer. The socks I knitted in the same yarn, on the other hand, worked great because they didn’t felt when washed and dried.

    I also have been very successful with Lamb’s Pride yarn for felting. Just an FYI.

  43. another tip is to CHECK your knitting every 5 minutes at least. i sometime run 3 cycles of agitation (turn back to beginning before drain/rinse cycle starts.) better to run it longer than ruin $$$ and time and a whole project. also, a HOT DRYER SINGES WOOL, like hair, i’ve made that mistake just in a low heat dry setting. if you want it to “set” better, block it and set near a heat vent or register and it usually sets well. i can’t prove that it “sets”, like a dryer, but it helps make it stiffer as opposed to letting it dry in a cold area of the room. spritz with some cool water helps reshape any odd spots after it’s dry.

  44. There was a yarn and fiber guide published in the ‘handwoven’ magazine which has a column on suitability on fulling. Can’t remeber which issue but have the chart on my notice board.

  45. Another affectionate name for silk: “worm spit” still marginal, but slightly more poetic than “hardened bug extrusion” well…maybe not. Maybe I’ve hung around with “twisted” spinners too much! This from a “warped” weaver, who knits when she can’t drag her looms around with her, I’ll stop now!

    maryalice ray

  46. Regarding “bugs,” silk “worms,” etc.: In the strictly biological sense, the creatures from which we get silk are animals, as are all “bugs” (i.e. insects) and true worms, life on earth being divided into plants, animals, and protozoans (single-celled organisms). More importantly, it seems that all the animals mentioned whose fiber does felt are mammals: warm-blooded, fur-bearing (of course) animals that bear live young. This begs the question “Does “people fur” felt?” If dreadlocks are felted hair, then I suppose it does, but I’m not sure.

    Meanwhile, one day I crocheted a hair scrunchie for myself from a little bit of a yarn called “Bunny Blend” from Acker’s Farm (in Maine maybe?) made of 60% merino wool and 40% angora rabbit (or it might have been the other way around). Anyway, I did not wash or felt it, but just from continued use in my hair over many months it seems to have felted! It’s still very nice.

  47. In general, Down breeds do not felt. Notice the caveat! I had one student who, contrary to my fervently held opinion, managed to felt her fiber, by mistake! A Suffolk! Truly astounding, she says.
    As for worm spit or larva spit & heaven forfend! moths! Fie on them! I have 2 species of wool moth living in the spaces behind my wall board. The *M* word is foul & unlovely & I’d nuke ’em if I could survive it. Can’t manage chemicals, at all. boo hoo.
    The lady who made the ballet slippers, WOW I want some!

  48. I have a keeshond dog whose woolly undercoat felts beautifully. I made big felt balls of her combed-out fur for a 3-D design project. Unfortunately, everyone but me finds them disgusting. However, if you are in the set “not disgusted” and have a northern dog breed, you might be able to felt their fur and/or spin it into feltable yarn.

  49. I believe that if you look at alpaca fiber under a microscope you will find there aren’t the same barbs that are on wool fiber. This is why alpaca is a little more difficult to felt.

  50. If you want to felt something with white yarn be sure and get yarn that is naturally white and not processed like the yarn manufacturers do. Some of the “organic” yarns are naturally white or off white. Try a local spinner who might have some white from her flock.

  51. Having made 12 felted purses for Christmas gifts a few years ago, I really enjoyed this post immensely. Your description of why yarns felt was fascinating. I have used Reynolds Lopi, made some clutches from either Cascade 220 or Lambs Pride using a coordinating Noro Kuryeon stripe ( fun !!!!) Manos del Uruguay ( great colors and texture), etc. I liked all the yarns for various reasons. Lambs Pride is soft with a lovely fuzzy texture. For those who have never tried felting, make sure you CHECK your project often. I was preoccupied when I felted my first purse and left it in the machine too long. What was supposed to be a medium sized purse for me, ended up as the perfect size for a 5 year old. !!!! Am now starting some slippers which are fun.

  52. My little half lhasa apso/silky terrier mix’s fur felts beautifully–at least on his body! But I believe this is a thicker undercoat. My other dog, an English shepherd, is not a felt-y dog.

    BTW: I love felting as a PART of the knitting I do–I have a gorgeous Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride (part merino) yarn bag that knit up quickly and felted beautifully–also using that novelty yarn trick mentioned earlier for a little of the trim. Felting, spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving–let’s face it people–we’re all fiber artists, and we might as well learn about the entire spectrum of possibility! Thanks Sandi!

  53. Hi, I am bit of a stickler for details on subjects concerning spinning knitting and weaving and such and it irritates me when people are using the wrong terminology especially if they are publishing a book or an article, therefore I would like to comment about the difference between felting and fulling. To felt one is using fibre only to make non woven or non knitted fabric and to shrink down knitted or woven article is to full the weaving or knitting. Thank you Monike

  54. I know someone with a large female Newfoundland. Where can I get Newfoundland(dog) yarn. I saw someone spin and make a sweater from female dog yarn. I have never felt anything softer and more delightful. A Newfoundland with its coat fully grown out would have extralong staple yarn. About 6 inches but I cannot find it anywhere. It is too warm in South Texas for Newfoundlands to fully grow out their coats anytime. They have to be trimmed all year long. So there is no local source. My aquaintance says he has heard of the yarn being sold for dog charity.

  55. If at first it doesn’t felt, try, try again. Some fibers take longer in the agitation to felt. Others may look better after only a short time agitating. I have learned to lift the project from the scalding water (gloves are handy at this point!!), take it out of the pillowcase (or whatever you have it in) and LOOK AT IT. This is where your own liking or styling comes into play. Just don’t be shy about it …. dive in and have fun. If after you’re done with the process you literally hate the finished product, you can always cut it apart and reassemble it to your liking.

  56. In general the colors that will not felt or full well are white, bright lemon yellow, some very pale pinks and blues and some beige – this is due to the bleaching before dyeing. Single ply yarns and more loosely spun yarns tend to felt best, as the fibers have more space to shrink. Generally for a felted project you should bank on it shrinking around 30%, so if you want it to be a certain size , add half that measurement again to get the size you want. Of course, as Sandi says – you must swatch so you won’t be disappointed. I swatched then tried a large project which ended up shrinking more than my swatch did, so bear that in mind too. Some yarns I’ve had great success with: Cascade 220, Lamb’s Pride, Moda Dea Cache, New Zealand Naturally, Lion Wool, Patons Merino. I’ve discovered finer yarns don’t tend to full so well – probably due to greater twist, so I’d say worsted and thicker are best. Hope this helps…

  57. An easy way to test yarn for feltability (I made that up) is to take a few inches of yarn and squoosh it into a ball. Wet it with warm water and soap and kind of squish and rub for about five minutes. If it’s feltable, it will become stuck together like a small felty ball. It won’t be completely felted but you can see if it has the ability to felt. Keep adding hottish water and soap as needed. This also works with roving and if you keep working it, you actually can make a large felted ball that can be used as toy. Another similar item is to felt around a bar of soap which you can then use in the bath. It makes the bar of soap less slippery and acts like a washcloth/soap combo. Its a good way to use up bits of roving and yarn and even odd bits of soap that are too small to use.

  58. If there are any Aussie knitters reading this, I knitted the Green String Bag from a recent Yarn Magazine, using Harvest Pure Wool from Spotlight, and it felted beautifully.

  59. Another thing about felting.. it doesn’t have to be done in a machine. You can do it with an old fashioned washboard or some other similar device where you can get a scrubbing action. Again, warm close to hot water and soap not detergent is necessary and aggitation. It might take longer to do it by hand but it works. I’ve heard of using Murphy’s Oil Soap but haven’t tried it. You can add felted embellishments to a felted item needle felting it. That is using a special felting needle to poke it through the item a zillion times or more. If you don’t like to hand sew, this is a lifesaver. And it’s the most forgiving way to create a garment. If it doesn’t fit quite right, you can wet and stretch until it fits. And to think I used to think of felting as a mistake I made when I accidently put a wool sweater in the wash.

  60. Thanks for the great info! I will certainly use it! I just wanted to remark that silkworms are not worms at all. They are caterpillars. Hence, actually, butterflies. Butterflies are animals. Therefore: silk felts, QED.
    Or not. 8)

  61. OT. Well, I’m up late once again, w/ sciatica. Bleck. So, I began looking for a flirty little camisole to make. Tell me that there are some made for ladies over a 38″ bust!!!! I read one pattern [diff mag] where XL = 38″! Pulease! HELP
    I need a camisole pattern for 54″ to 58″ bust.

  62. Well…I suggest you try Shropshire wool…..that doesn’t felt, and are also used to make homemade covers!:-) You can even wash the wool in the washing machine, with agitation….!:-)

  63. I’m not planning to felt but that has to be one of the most interesting articles I’ve read. I had no idea about the little scales and larger ones and hooking up – all fascinating.
    Love the bit about the origin of silk at the end (unintentional pun) Fabulous vision of everyone with their lovingly crafted silk scarves suddenly going eeeuuw! Fliss

  64. some dog hair felts really well,from dogs with undercoats.For instance St Bernards and it doesnt matter if some of the longer hairs get in as they help hold it together

  65. ”Some yarns are specially treated with a substance that smooths down the scales. These yarns are called “superwash” or “machine washable” wools, meaning you can wash them in a washing machine and they won’t felt. However, over time, with wear and a lot of machine agitation, the special fiber treatment may rub off, and your socks may start felting. ”

    and that explains what happened to my favorite 100% wool sweater after washing it in the washing machine’s wool cycle for 2 years!!!!

    I was sooo angry when I pulled it out of the machine and it was fit for a … 4 year old!!!!!

  66. Thought you might like to knoe, on the subject of felting, a friend of mine has saved all the hair from when she brushes her Maltese Terrier, and has turned it into a felted hat (without first knitting)!! When it’s completely finished I’ll make a photo!!

    Best wishes

    The Netherlands

  67. What a brilliant explanation! Do you mind if I use parts of it for my next Knit and Felt workshop or snippets in our local Guild newsletter – referencing it to Knitting Daily of course. I’m in the middle of kntting a duffle bag with some lovely yarn from Ashford in New Zealand. It’s almost ready to go into the washing maching……

  68. Having seen explanations in recent years about the scaly shaft of mammal hair, I now know why my and my daughter’s human hair felts when it’s wet and handled roughly. I assume that dreadlocks are formed by the felting action of human hair.

  69. I have found that some of my early hand spun did not felt. I was told I did not get all the lanolin out while cleaning the fleece. Lanolin I was told inhibites the felting process. Also that some of the yarn was to tightly spun,thus it did not felt. What are your thoughts on those two facts?I made felted slipper socks with this early handspun, and they really did not felt even after many washings, and wearing. I still love them, but was curious about why they didn’t felt. Any thoughts? Anne

  70. I’m a big time felter and I’ve noticed that Paton’s SWS (soy wool stripes) felts like crazy. With the same treatment, it will felt to a smaller size and create a much thicker fabric than will wool. Paton’s may only be available in Canada, so I offer this for the Canadian readers who have a need for a super sturdy fabric. – GC

  71. OH! There is nothing as stress inducing, however, very exciting as felting! I remember one of my early projects…..a felted vest for a friend. I wanted it to be perfect, of course. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to perfection. After completing the project, well, almost, I had to pick up some hundreds of stitches around the neck, front and bottom of the vest for the other color boarder. It would have required a 60 inch needle. After finding that purchasing a 60 inch needle was quite prohibitive for me financially, I came up with a brilliant idea (if I may say so myself). I purchased a dowel from the local hardware store, got it home, cut it into two 8 inch pieces. I then took the two pieces, put them into the man’s vise (in the workshop) and drilled a hole in the ends of each that would accept some weed eater string! I then cut a 60 inch piece of weed eater string and slipped that into the wholes with a little super glue. I then put the other ends of the dowels into a pencil sharpener to get sharp ends, and sanded them to perfection. Also, the point where the weed eater string went into the other end, I also sanded, to have a smooth transition. Since I would be felting the project, I didnt worry about any possible roughness that would pick the yarn… I then was able to pick up and knit the border of the vest on long enough needles. Felting required a little toddy…..but I got it done and the vest is loved and adored by my friend!

  72. I have a comment and a question about animal fibers that felt. Angora rabbit fiber makes really beautiful felt, too, although I prefer it blended with wool. In my limited experience with angora felt (I prefer to make angora into yarn for knitting and use it that way), it seems to my hands that a wool/angora blend made into felt has a little more resilience and body.
    Question: I’ve seen some stunning fabrics made with wool/mohair blends. It appears in those blends that the wool felts, but the mohair fibers don’t, although they do “draw in” as the wool felts, and the mohair “bubbles up,” making a fabric that has a gorgeous, nubbly appearance. Does anyone out there routinely felt wool/mohair blends? Do you find it always does this?

  73. Toss in a tennis ball or a sneaker when you are felting something in the washing machine. It adds extra agitation and helps the garment to felt quicker. Check your garment often about every 5 minutes.
    JK from NYS

  74. TERMinology quibble here- the process hand knitters are calling felting is really FULLING. This is on behalf of my friend Nina who is a fantastic needle felting artist, whose hair stands up every ime someone uses the ‘wrong’ term. Felt on, sisters! DS, from SF

  75. Sorry but I have to correct the comment about silk coming from bugs. Silkworms are animals but not bugs. The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of Bombyx mori , the domesticated silkmoth. It is in the class Insect, order Lepidoptera (think butterflies and moths). A bug is in the class Insect, order Hemiplera. All of the above are in the animal kingdom. Yes, they are right in there with humans, sheep, llama, and yes, even worms.

  76. I just have to say it. I suspect that Sandi was well aware that worms/caterpillars/bugs are, in fact, animals, and that she was being facetious, and making a JOKE. Not that I don’t just love reading all about how worms are animals over and over, but really guys, it was a joke.

    Now, about fulling your knitted things. I have a front loader and I like to put things in with some towels and/or jeans to help agitate. It does better than a ball or sneaker for rubbing against your knitted item.

  77. I made an afgan with chenille and mohair yarns – will the afghan felt? We seldom use it because it sheds. Just wondering if the shedding would stop after felting.

  78. Hello,
    Thank you very much for the information on felting. Wish that you had put it on last week though. Was given some yarn and there was no labels on it and was not too keen on the colour ,so decided to knit a bag and felt it .Never done this before and was quite disappointed that it would not felt ,so now I know that it did not come from an animal.
    Thank you once again.
    Kind regards

  79. Thank you very much for that lesson. No, I’ve never felted but will definitely refer to silk as “Hardened Worm Extrusion” from now on. Sorry I’m unable to say “bug”, it’s being British wot does it!
    Sue Williams, Oswestry, England.

  80. I love you knitters, but as I constantly have to remind people, bugs are animals, the word you are looking for here is mammals, as in all mammal hair will felt………peaceful felting from an entomologist

  81. I second Jo Anne & Melvin! All the silk in our lives comes from fabulous little caterpillars, the precursor to silkmoths. Many people in the world do not like insects, but I do expect better of knitters, since most do celebrate the animals that give us lovely fibers to knit!

  82. Sandi, you make me laugh! The post on felting is so entertaining! So, silkworm poop doesn’t felt, huh? I think your series on choosing the right yarn is going to be great! I so look forward to it. THANKS FOR DOING IT!

  83. I’ve felt (no pun intended) very left out of the whole fulling/felting craze because I am disabled with severe chronic pain and do not think that I can do the labor involved in the process. Sad. But I don’t think my arms can lift heavy wet fabric repeatedly and agitate it and dry it, etc.

    Interesting how so many of us who love to touch yarn fibers also have pet dogs with supersoft fur. I have an English Cocker spaniel with the softest black and white fur I’ve ever felt (again, no pun intended) on a dog. I’ve often wished for someone to spin it for me, but I worried that there would be no way to remove the allergenic dander.

  84. Felted swatches make great coasters when they felt proportionally. I’ve felted several swatches of my project leftover yarns. Sometimes square swatches turn into wide rectangles. Does anyone have a rule of thumb for what size needles to use when felting worsted weight yarn? Celia O

  85. I made the Vintage Bubble Bag in the Pursenalities book, using Paton’s Merino, and found it felts/fulls nicely, with a pair of old jeans thrown in with it to improve agitation. She also says using a no-rinse wool wash like Eucalan helps the process, but I didn’t have any and my purse came out fine. One caution, keep checking your project. About halfway through, I pulled the purse out and found that the two sides of the purse were felting to each other! I was able to pull them apart, and it didn’t happen for the rest of the project.
    From my reading about the process, items shrink in width about 15%-20%, and in height about 25%-40%.

  86. Another thing, I ran my purse through several cycles and decided it must have felted all it was going to. I stuffed and dried it and decided I’d like it a little stiffer, so I ran it through another cycle or two and it came out perfect. This may answer another commenters question asking if a felted item is non-shrink: I’m not sure how you’d know that you’d reached the limit.
    All in all, I’m not sure how much more felting I’ll do. I found that I didn’t really enjoy the knitting part of felting. Knitting loosey-goosey stitches with large-sized needles isn’t satisfying knitting to me. But the actual felting is a little like magic. I suspect I might do it some more.

  87. Swatch, swatch, swatch!!!

    I try to do two swatches, one pre-felting, one post-felting so I know what I should be looking at as I’m knitting and what my knitting should turn out like after the felting is completed.

    Note the ‘try’. I don’t always follow my own advice and, well, I made two ‘helmet’ hats that I shaped on mixing bowls of different sizes because I forgot about the shrinkage part of the felting. My middle-school niece liked it, but my college-age son had to pick himself up off the floor twice after trying the larger one on. I think he was proving his theory that it was a truly a helmet…or maybe it was just brain damage from the first fall…he was still laughing though. Hmmm….

    Swatch, swatch, swatch!!!

  88. Wonderful topic! I have never Fulled of felted, but intend to try someday. Thinking about the fact that if some people have hair that felts , and some don’t, that the same can hold for sheep and probably alpacas and other breeds.So it would be important to know your breed characteristics. We don’t always get that info on our skeins however!MaryL


  90. I LOVE felting. It is just one of those wonderful things where even your errors are done. When you do your swatch and felt it you should mark what is the top and what are the sides. It will help to determine the shrinkage from top to bottom and side to side . . . which is different. I have tried hand felting but was never satisfied (and besides it is tons of work). Top loaded washing machine works for me. Great article.

  91. Also just remember that felting also means shrinkage. I have done some projects and then not taken into account the amount of shrinkage and ooops….fit my dolls, but not me. I recommend a test swatch for felted projects to see how much shrinkage there is likely to be.

  92. I recently tried my hand at felting and read many methods before I got the idea set in my head. The yarn I used was ultra alpaca [half wool, half alpaca] and it felted very well. Note: this was left over from a sweater I made, so it was a sort of freebie. I made some felted booties “felties” and a cowboy hat. The hat was really interesting because I used some pure alpaca and the ultra alpaca. It came out just like it was supposed to, pattern and all.

  93. Felting for me is mitts. Felted pair for the outer and non-felted for a liner. My daughters and granddaughter won’t wear any other mitts. For me Patons merino is the easiest followed by Briggs and Little wool.

  94. Um, different “from”, not different “than” (unless you’re from the UK, where it’s different “to”). If you take the time to think about it, “than” is used for comparatives, and different is not a comparative.

  95. I have had problems felting lately – my pieces (handbags) have felted together and when I have tried to pull them apart, they have ended up with tiny holes – any suggestions?

  96. I’d like to add another plug for felting (or fulling, if you insist) by hand. It gives you greater control over what you’re doing – you can stop exactly when you reach the size/texture you want. The downside is that it takes longer and is much more labor intensive.

    For the knitter who expressed concern about dealing with heavy wet fabrics: it sounds like machine felting would be the way for you to go. There really is not a lot of extra manipulation involved. If you can do laundry, you can machine felt. (If you don’t have a machine, you can ask a friend for assistance. Maybe you’ll make a new knitter in the process!)

    Patons Classic Merino wool felts beautifully and is generally a better deal than Lion Wool (better yardage), if you want to give felting a try on a budget. I like to rinse it with touch of lavender-scented fabric softener–it comes out softer *and* smelling nice.

  97. i hope i’m not giving info that someone already has covered,but i read the first third and ran out of patience. anyway, you can felt wool blends, i don’t know about something with 75% scrylic, it would take a long time. to speed up your felting, put your fabric in the washer and the dryer with a load of towels and use hot water. you may have to wash and dry your fabric several times, and your fabric will felt.

  98. Thanks for your article, Sandi. As usual you cleared up quite a few things for me. I really like your articles and have starred most of them.
    Now, I am going to have to follow the examples set above, point out the difference between fulling and felting, the fact that worms are not insects (who cares? They’re all creepy crawlies) and what else – oh pick on a couple of grammar mistakes in people’s posts…. now I’m happy and can look forward to a weekend of looking for things to criticise somewhere else…. ahem.

  99. Excellemt. I do like to felt I wish I had this aeticle back in January when I was helping some friends to felt purses that they wanted to learn to make. Joyce

  100. Hi Sandy
    Have enjoyed each and every post…. first time I’ve ever bothered to read the whole caboodle…
    Will take all hints, explanations and helpful advice and give it a try.