Felting 100% virgin wool

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nully101 Tongue Tied [:S] wrote
on Jun 20, 2014 5:11 AM

Hi, I'm making a project using 100% virgin wool (ice yarns). I've made a few swatches to test & they only felt by hand. I've tried temperatures of 40, 60 & 90 degrees centigrade in my machine but it just widens the pieces out. Does it matter what detergent you use? In the sink I used just my dish washing liquid & was adding liquid laundry detergent to my machine (front loader). Any advice appreciated.

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OrchidFire81 wrote
on Jun 20, 2014 4:58 PM

Hi Nully,

Felting is essentially raising all the microscopic scales on the wool and making then stick to each other in a way that can never be undone.  I don't know about Ice Yarns, but I'm assuming they are not superwash.  Superwash will never felt because the scales are removed chemically. 

While heat is a big component of felting, it's not the only component.  Agitation and soap are biggies too.  I don't like detergent, because it keeps the scales down.  Soap raises the scales.  Think about what happens to your hair if you wash it with soap instead of shampoo (a detergent).  That roughness, while terrible for your hair, is just what you want with felting.

It's also possible that your machine is just not "rough enough" on your knitting to make it felt.  Felting requires a good beating.  I've had good luck with a big bucket and a clean toilet plunger.  Fill the bucket halfway with hot water and lots of soap, throw in the knitting, and plunge away.  It's best to do outside or in a tub, because it will slop all over.  The best part of this way, is that all that fuzz that gets generated during felting won't get stuck in your washer and break it.

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nully101 wrote
on Jun 21, 2014 4:17 AM

Hi, thanks for the tips - I'm buying a plunger today! I quite liked hand felting my trial pieces -there was a certain satisfaction in doing it, but was apprehensive about larger items. I've read that when you hand felt with hot water you should also transfer the item into cold water a few times during the process, to shock the wool, is this correct?

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on Jun 22, 2014 1:32 AM

It also depends on weither your washing machine is a front load or a top load. Front loads don't have the correct motions for felting but top loads do. Also in the top load ,you want the least amount of hot water you can put it in and the longest cycle and soap, not detergent. I grate sunlight soap into boiling water and it forms kind of a jell. You can put it into cold water after hot as that shocks it too and throwing on the floor from arm height makes the fibres migrate closer together. I felt with roving from fleece 100% wool preferably merino. I am not doing it from knitted fibre.

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nully101 wrote
on Jun 23, 2014 8:53 AM

Thanks for your help. This is my first project so it's good to get ideas from experienced folk. Looking forward to trying it.

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