Monday, November 26, 2007

Felting, part 1

Have you ever gone to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer only to discover that you accidentally included your favorite wool sweater? And then, were you horrified to discover that it had shrunk to a size more appropriate for a three-year-old?

If so, you have done felting. When animal fibers (that have not been treated to resist felting) are subjected to agitation while washing and sudden changes in temperature, microscopic hooks on the shaft of the fur expand, hook themselves to other hooks, and contract. The result is that the fiber creates a dense mesh that is thicker and smaller than the original fabric. Many needle workers like to take advantage of this process to make highly durable and insulated textiles, such as hats, rugs, and purses.

The trouble with felting is that it is unpredictable. Much of the process is difficult, if not impossible to control. The degree to which a wool has been processed changes how much or how easily it will felt. For example, unprocessed wool can be difficult to felt until all the lanolin has been washed from it. At the same time, brightly colored, light, or bright white wools are often difficult because they have to go through harsh chemical processes to achieve such unnatural colors. Of course, every individual animal will produce slightly different wool that will behave differently (kind of how different people's hair reacts differently to high humidity).

If you want to try felting something, by extra yarn in the same brand, color, and dye lot. Make a large gauge swatch in the same needle and stitch called for by your pattern, and trace it on a piece of paper. Make a note of your gauge (both stitches and rows per inch), needle size, pattern stitch, and number of rows and stitches. Then wash the swatch several times, noting each time how much it shrinks by tracing it again. I find that sometimes, a piece will shrink a little in the wash and a lot in the dryer, so noting how many times the swatch was dried can also be useful.

I will have more on this topic another time. Currently, I am working on a felted watch cap, and have photos of the various stages of the process. I will post those next time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Spot Purse

The purse started out as a simple octagon --

The points don't show well, but there are 8 of them.

I kept going in a coil, working 1 round with increases and 1 round plain -- that way the piece would lay flat. And it got bigger:

At this point, it measures almost 20 inches from side to side.

The next step is to fold and sew the center inside seam, so it would be a tube like this:

The next step is to fold the bottom part up and make the gussets/handles.

To stitch the gusset, single crochet along the fold on the right side edge from the top to the bottom. At the bottom of the fold, chain 60 or so stitches (about 20 inches) for a handle, and then single crochet along the fold on the left side edge from the bottom to the top. Then chain the same number of stitches for the other handle. That finishes one round.

Do 3 more rounds along this base, working in (sc1, dc1) along the gusset and single crochet along the handles.

Then fold the piece up and stitch the gussets closed and slip stitch along the handles to make them into tubes.

I also slip stitched both layers together where the center seam is -- this made small interior pockets.

The next step is to rejoin the yarn at one top edge and double crochet a long flap in just plain rows back and forth.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I like floor cushions. I like to make floor cushion. My favorite (in other words, most brainless) way to make them is to crochet eight solid granny squares, each half the width of the cushion, sew them together with four per side, weave fringe through the increase points, and stuff it. I think it turns out rather nicely, as does the cat.

However, stuffing material can be difficult to work with in knitting or crocheting, especially if you don't want to spend money (or effort on making) a pillow form. Unless you use a smaller gauge, and probably avoid crochet all together, the stuffing or batting can eventually squish out the sides. And, even if that isn't a problem, either material will eventually shift and bunch in strange areas. Well, here is a solution that solves all these problems, and is washable!

I've been keeping an eye out in the local thrift stores for large bath towels that I could fold and use in place of batting. I still think that would work well, except nobody gets rid of large bath towels, apparently. But a little while back, I found one of those big comforters that they use in hotels--looks like a quilt on one side, but is completely unfinished on the other. It was huge, and it was $1.50. Anywhere else in the country, and it probably would have been even cheaper. After I took it home and washed it, it looked like this:

I cut off a strip of the stuff that was as wide as my cushion and about four times as long, folded it with the unfinished side facing out, stuffed it into the cushion, and sewed the cushion shut. The cushion is wonderful, and it's more comfortable (not to mention cheaper) than the other one I made that is stuffed with quilt batting!