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January 14th, 2010 at 00:21 am

Fulling or Felting Missing The Step

I started this draft a week or 10 days ago, but since the question came up again today, here is “What Wheat Wrote”

It still needs polishing and pictures to be finished, but you may find it helpful even lacking that.

Every once in awhile (okay more often than not) some little detail of fiber work gets into my head and I don’t know why.

First, just to get my personal obsession with technique name correctness out of the way.

While it is popular to call this felting, technically it is not. It
is more correctly a fulling process – it has to with the what
material you start with, loose fibers (like the rovings and such you see for needle felting) or a fabric woven, knit or crochet.

Fulling can be done to any fabric made from pretty much any natural (plant or protein) although some fibers work better than others with various wools at the top of the list, but ask any weaver, no fabric, handwoven, knit or crochet is finished until it is wet finished

The most common fulling mistake made by those who knit or crochet with the plan to felt the final fabric, is to NOT use a large enough hook or needle to allow the yarns the room they need to first expand, interact, and finally to contract into felt.

For knitting, at least 2 or 3 mm larger is a minimum over the suggested gauge found on the label.

If your yarn label does not give a suggested hook size for crochet, go up 3-5mm over the recommend Knit Needle size

A few months ago, I happened to read a message in one of the crochet groups about fulling which is different than felting, the process of making fabric from wisps of fiber.

That which modifies the fabric into something resembling felt is simply fulling more aggressively.

As I was reading the question in several crochet groups, it just seems that there was a step missing. So I started this insane bit of research, reading and borrowing about 100 books and another 50 or so on line tutorials about the process.

After establishing there was a step missing from “what works for wheat”, the next step was to try to determine why I do it this way.

The question that often is asked had to do with the fulling not getting the fabric hard enough to be a Purse or Tote, or, if it can be done in a front loader (yes it can but you have less control)

But what is the missing step?

It has been my experience the best method is to “soak” the item first in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes so that the fibers are thoroughly wetted thru.

The above “step” is not usually found in any directions for either
fulling or felting. in any of the several hundred web how-tos or the 100+ books borrowed from the library. It is a tip from one of my weaving books on “finishing fabric” – that for some reason I applied (quite successfully) to microwave dying with Kool Aid)

Next wash in the hottest water possible, even if that means boiling up a pot of water and pouring it in.
For top loading machines, you may be able to add hot water if your machine has one of those compartments to hold your fabric softener or liquid detergent after closing the door.

Use the Longest possible Agitation cycle

Cold water rinse to shock the fibers into contracting,

Spin at least once, maybe even twice – wool can hold up to about 3x times it own weight in water.

In between cycles (this is where those with front loaders loose some control since they cannot stop the machine while it is still full of water)

You may choose (or not) to take a few minutes to pull the fabric into shape (sometimes the stitch pattern or tension of the work may cause uneven felting) This is really important for those with a front loader, because you could not do it during the fulling process.

Machine Dry on the Hottest cycle – stopping occasionally to shape the project as needed.

If you are not satisfied with the hardness of the fabric, you may want to repeat the process use some of the felting techniques that have tutorials “all over the web” – I use a potato master. It is also sometimes handy to keep some fiber back in case you have some thin spots to build up – for small areas you can do this with Felting Needles, then the whole thing gets another trip thru the machine next time I have denims in needs of a good wash.




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