3 Ways to Felt Your Crochet (and Knit) Projects

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The drying phase of the felting process.

In the grip of felter madness!

In 2007, for a period of six months, I was swept up in a condition I can only describe as Felter Madness. I felted crocheted and knitted purses, pouches, and cozies galore. And I accomplished all of this felting in an old but dependable, top loading washing machine.

The fever finally left me after Christmas of that year, and I went on to crochet like a normal person.

My Return to Felting Without the Madness

Felting came back on the scene recently when I acquired my first smart phone (yes, I know, I’m way behind the times but quickly catching up). I like the idea of my electronic devices safe and secure in a sturdy, felted bag or cozy, but wasn’t sure felting would work in the front loading washing machine I now have.

I’ve also felted by hand in the sink, and while it’s way too much work for me, it’s definitely an option if you’re looking for a certain felted look.

As I was searching for information on front loading machine felting, I came across a blog post that offered “dryer felting” as a third option. Now you’re talking my language. It sounded easy and quick, so of course, I had to give it a try.

Here are some tips to get you started, using all three methods if you’ve never felted before.

Basic Felting Ingredients

cascade 220

My favorite felting yarn, Cascade 220

To do any kind of felting, you’ll need these ingredients:

  • Your project, crocheted or knitted in some kind of 100% animal fiber. I’ve only felted with wool, so I don’t know how other animal fibers (e.g., alpaca, angora) felt. If you’re knitting, use two strands of worsted weight wool for purses, as knitted stitches have less volume than crochet stitches. Use a single strand of yarn with the single crochet stitch. With taller stitches like half double crochet and taller, two strands of yarn might work better. My “go to” yarn for felting is Cascade 220Plymouth Galway, the yarn I used for the knitted pouch and camera case below, is also good for felting.
  • Hot water, as hot as you can get it.
  • A teaspoon of mild detergent like Euculan or Woolite.
  • A pillowcase to put your project in. You’ll lose some fibers in the felting process, and you don’t want them to clog your drain or dryer lint screen.
  • Some towels or old jeans to increase agitation against the fabric.
  • A sink (and extra bowl), washing machine (and tea kettle), or dryer, depending on which method you’ve chosen.

A Word About Shrinkage

Your piece is going to shrink when you felt it. So it’s a good idea to crochet a large swatch, at least 4” by 4”. Measure the length and width; then felt it, using one of the methods below.

Measure it again after it has dried to determine how much shrinkage occurred. Then you’ll know how much wider and longer your piece needs to be before you felt it. Be aware that knitted items shrink a lot more than crocheted items.

Now let’s take a look at how to felt, using each method.

Hand Felting

My hand felted pouch when I first felted it and after about 5 years of intermittent use.

My hand felted pouch (it’s knitted) when I first felted it and after about 5 years of intermittent use.

If you want a lightly felted look, and your project is a small one, try felting by hand in the sink. By lightly felted, I mean you can still see the individual stitches in your fabric after the piece has been felted.

  • Fill the sink with water as hot as your hands can stand. I wore rubber dish washing gloves to minimize the heat; they helped a little.
  • Add a teaspoon of mild detergent.
  • Put your piece in the water and start swishing it around. You want to agitate the fiber as much as possible so they start locking together. When the water got too hot to the touch, I used wooden spoons to swirl the cozy around in the water.
  • Have a bowl of cold water on hand to occasionally dip you piece into. Then put it back in the hot water (you made need to add more) and start agitating again. Cold water is supposed to speed up the felting process.
  • Keep swishing in hot water for several minutes and dipping in cold every so often until the piece has the felted look you want.
  • After the last cold water dip, gently squeeze out excess water; then wrap in a towel and press lightly to remove as much water as possible.
  • Finger block your piece into shape. You can also stuff it with towels or stretch it over a bowl or other object so it will dry in that shape.
  • Put the piece on a flat surface, out of direct sunlight, to dry. It will take several days to dry completely.

Felting by hand can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you want the fabric to felt.

Washing-Machine Felting

You can still see some of the stitch definition in this washing-machine-felted camera cozy.

You can still see some of the stitch definition in this washing-machine-felted camera cozy. It has served me well over the last 5 years.

Top Loader

Felting in a top loading washing machine is pretty straight forward, and you don’t need a lot of water to work with.

  • Fill the machine with hot water, on the lowest water setting, and add a teaspoon of detergent.
  • Put your piece in a pillow case and then in the machine , along with some old jeans or towels, and start the wash cycle. Put it on the longest cycle to make sure you give your piece enough time to felt.
  • Check every 10 minutes or so to see how much the piece has felted. Add more hot water if it starts to cool from opening and closing the lid; I had a tea kettle full of hot water handy so I could add some after checking the progress of the felting.
  • Once your piece has felted sufficiently, remove it BEFORE the spin cycle and dip it in some cold water.
  • Gently squeeze out excess water, enfold in a towel to remove more water.
  • Follow the directions above to dry.

Felting in a top loader is a lot faster than hand felting, not to mention you don’t scald your hands in the process. Total felting time for me is typically around 18 to 20 minutes to get the look I want (i.e., as little stitch definition as possible).

Front Loader

Our energy efficient front-loading washing machine.

Our energy efficient front-loading washing machine.

Honestly, I’ve never felted in a front loading washing machine, although several people have assured me it can be done. From what I’ve read, the process is the same as felting in a top loader.

One drawback to using a front loader is when you can’t stop it in mid cycle to check on felting progress or to remove it before the spin cycle.

If you have to let your piece go through the spin cycle and it has felted to your liking, try re-soaking it and gently squeezing and toweling out the excess water. Then finger block any creases out and into the desired shape for drying Finally, there’s also no agitator in the tub, so adding towels and/or old jeans is a must.

If you try or have used this method, let me know in the comments below how it worked for you.

Dryer Felting

The stitch definition is almost gone in this dryer-felted pouch.

The stitch definition is almost gone in this dryer-felted pouch.

What can I say? I am in love with dryer felting!! It is so easy to do and pretty quick, although it took me longer than it should have because I didn’t know how hot the dryer should be (it should be on the hottest setting). It’s a great alternative to felting in a washing machine.

After you’ve finished crocheting your piece:

  • Submerge it in cold water to thoroughly soak the fabric. You don’t want to submerge it for too long because the dye will start to run, and you don’t want a faded out looking piece after it felts.
  • Remove your piece from the water and gently squeeze to remove excess water. No need to wrap it in a towel to remove more water because it’s going to dry out in the dryer.
  • Put your piece in a pillow case and add it to the dryer along with a wet towel or two.
  • Run your dryer at the hottest setting, checking every 10 minutes or so on the progress of the felting.
  • If the fabric dries out before it has sufficiently felted, re-soak it and put it back in the dryer.
  • Remove the piece from the dryer when it has felted to your satisfaction.

With this process, there’s no drying after felting because you used the dryer to felt it! But I re-soaked my purse after it finished felting and removed the excess water. I wanted to finger block it into shape, and it has to be wet to do that. It took about three days to dry completely.

Dryer felting is WAY easier than felting in a washing machine in my humble opinion, whether it’s a top or front loader. You don’t have to go digging through the tub of water to find your piece to check on felting progress. And if you’re uncomfortable felting in a front loader like I was, then dryer felting is definitely a viable option.

For more information on felting in a front loading washing machine, check out this blog post.

Which felting method do you prefer?

In a Crochet Slump

Image via Wkikimedia Commons by Dwight Sipler

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Dwight Sipler

It’s been almost three months since I last wrote a blog post. I am officially in a crochet slump. Not only haven’t I been writing about crochet, I haven’t been doing much crocheting either.

Typically, I crochet just about every evening and have multiple projects in the works, and thus a lot to blog about. And even though I have more than my fair share of WIPs that I could be working on, I simply haven’t felt like crocheting. The only thing I can think of is that I’m recuperating from the year-end, Christmas gift-making frenzy; I just didn’t expect it to take this long to recover.

I do have a couple of interesting projects that I plan to turn into crochet patterns. I’m also working (very slowly) on an online course to go along with my crochet photo pattern business. So stay tuned. I haven’t given up writing or crocheting, and I hope to have something for you soon.

Have you ever NOT felt like crocheting? Let me know in the comment section below and how you pulled yourself out of it.

5 Crochet Patterns That Served Me Well This Christmas

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Unlike last year, I got an early start crocheting Christmas gifts this year. But I still ended up hooking gifts on Christmas Eve. This wasn’t such a big deal because I had great patterns to work with, four of which I could crochet in one evening. Fortunately, I got them all finished and wrapped by Christmas Eve.

Here are the finished gifts with links to the patterns I used.

Wine (or Alcohol) Bottle Cozy

AJJackHolder_crpd

This gift was for my daughter (yes, she’s old enough!) who is a HUGE scull fan. I was inspired by wine bottle cozy patterns I saw on Rhelena’s Crochet ‘N Crafts blog and free-handed this one, alternating rows of single crochet with half double crochet so it wouldn’t take forever to work up. I used worsted weight acrylic yarn and an H/5 mm hook.

I also added an edging of reverse single crochet at the bottom and top of the cozy, working the last round of the cozy base in one loop only, so I could add the reverse single crochet stitches in the skipped loops once the body was done. The tie consists of three long chains tied together in knots at each end.

I wasn’t too thrilled with how the skull turned out. I worked it separately and then completed the unfinished rounds by attaching the ends to the skull with slip stitches. The skull is worked on a chain of 12 stitches and comes from this skull hat pattern  I found on Ravelry. If I make this again, I’m going to create a skull appliqué and sew it on the cozy instead of trying to incorporate it into the body of the piece.

My daughter loved the cozy, as well as what was inside it!

Easiest Ever Infinity Scarf

Cowls_crpd

As soon as I saw this Infinity scarf pattern, I knew I would be making several. I recently started crocheting scarves when a friend reminded me that, even though it’s hot just about year round in Hawaii, many people work in cold, air-conditioned offices and would appreciate a scarf like this. So I made four of them.

The pattern uses Lion Brand Homespun, a soft, bulky-weight yarn and a Q/15.75 mm hook. I only had a P/15 mm hook, so the “holes” in my scarf are a little smaller than they should be, but they still came out nicely. And one scarf only took about 90 minutes to make. The lacy effect comes from using the big hook. No fancy stitching – it’s all single crochet!

Brain Wave Beanie

BrainWaveHats_crpd

This beanie pattern has become a favorite; I love the wave-like pattern which is achieved by varying the height of the stitches (i.e., sc, hdc, dc, hdc, sc). I hadn’t been crocheting many hats, for the same reason as the scarves, but I figured a beanie wouldn’t be too warm. Plus, it got down into the upper 50s last night, and a hat like this would keep a head warm.

I used worsted weight acrylic yarn I had in my stash for these, but I think cotton yarn would work as well. And if I started early enough, I could make one beanie per day.

Berry Harvest Bandana Cowl

Moogly Shawl

Here’s another pattern that, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d be making some to give away at Christmas. It’s Moogly’s Berry Harvest Bandana Cowl. I could finish one of these over two evenings of crocheting in front of the tv.

I used Caron Simply Soft for a turquoise cowl and Red Heart Super Saver for this light blue one. The downside of using acrylic yarn for this pattern is that the piece needs to be blocked after it’s finished to open up the lace pattern. And as you may know, acrylic yarn is tough to block. It’s not impossible but you have to be careful not to “melt” the fabric.

I threw my two cowls in the washer and dryer which loosened up the fibers a bit. But I would recommend using the pattern yarn, a DK-weight wool or a similar substitute yarn that can be wet blocked.

Kitty Pillow

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This was the only gift I had to start in September because I knew it would take me a couple of months to complete. I worked it from a crochet photo pattern that I created from a photo I took of our housemate’s cat, General Meow. Her eyes are so expressive!

After finishing the pattern, I made a piece for the back, crocheting the same amount of rows and stitches as the front piece. Then I single crocheted up the three sides of both pieces, inserted a pillow form purchased at our big box craft store, and crocheted the final side closed.

This is the gift I was finishing up on Christmas Eve. Too bad I didn’t look at it after I finished the two main pieces in November because the pillow form was a size too small. Thank goodness I had some poly-fiber fill that I could use to stuff where the pillow form left gaps. Next time, I’ll purchase one that is an inch or two wider and longer than the crocheted pieces.

I hope your Christmas gift making was as easy as mine was. These patterns make perfect gifts no matter what time of the year it is.

Craftsy Crochet Classes – A Smart Investment

This post contains affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy  for more information. Thanks for your support!

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Whether you’re a seasoned crocheter or just beginning, Craftsy offers a wide variety of crochet and fiber arts classes that will help you become an even better crocheter.

Classes are reasonably priced, ranging from $14.99 to $24.99. For budget conscious crocheters, Craftsy is always having sales and offers several free “mini-classes.”

Best of all, Craftsy has one of, if not the, best training platforms for craft classes on the Internet. Classes –

  • Are taught by highly respected designers and artists like Kim Werker, Edie Eckman, Drew Embrosky, and Myra Wood.
  • Are expertly formatted to include detailed information, videos, handouts, and practice exercises
  • Can be viewed at your convenience, over and over, forever.

You can  also interact with and share photos of your work with your classmates, as well as contact the instructor to get your questions answered and the help you need. Here is a small sampling of Craftsy classes crocheters can benefit from.

Free “Mini-Classes”

know your wool

Amazing Crochet Textures  – By the end of this course, you’ll have created a beautiful, 12-block afghan using ribbing, cables, and beads.

Know Your Wool  – Even though this class focuses on knitting, I learned a great deal about the different types of animal fibers and the best ways to use them.

2014 Block of the Month: Craftsy Color Theory  – If you’re as confused about color theory as I am, this is free quilting class is an excellent way to learn how to select the best colors for your crochet projects.

Crochet Classes

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Crochet Basics and Beyond  – This is a great class for the beginning crocheter who wants to expand his or her knowledge base by learning to work in the round, read patterns, change colors, measure gauge, and much more.

Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches  – Not only do crochet foundation stitches avoid the frustration of starting a project with a long chain, they solve a number of other problems, including crocheting with tricky-to-stitch yarns and adding stitches at the end of a row. They are also easy to use in complex stitch patterns.

Freeform Crochet  – I can’t recommend learning freeform crochet highly enough. It’s liberating, builds confidence, and fosters experimentation and risk-taking. If you’re ready to explore the endless possibilities freeform crochet offers for creating beautifully textured fabric, this class is for you.

Crocheting in the Round – Mix and Match Hats  – By the end of this course, you’ll be designing and crocheting beanies, berets, and cloche hats that incorporate intricate color work. Best of all, you’ll learn how to crochet hats that actually fit.

See It, Crochet It – Reading Diagrams  – Knowing how to read crochet symbol diagrams opens up a whole new world of crochet projects. All of the chart reading techniques you’ll learn in this class result in the creation of a beautifully textured cowl.

My First Crochet Cardigan  – Take your crochet to the next level by learning to crochet a simple cardigan. The skills you learn in this course will boost your confidence and have you tackling more complex garment projects.

Professional Finishing for Perfect Crochet  – This class will teach you over 30 professional finishing techniques for blocking, seaming, creating button holes and button bands, and altering garments for a perfect fit. Use these techniques to create projects with that “store bought” look.

Fiber Arts Classes of Interest to Crocheters

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Spindling – From Fluff to Stuff  – This is a comprehensive class that will teach you just about everything you ever wanted to know about using a drop spindle to create a variety of yarn textures.

Shuttle Tatting  – Tatting, once a lost Victorian art, is experiencing a modern-day resurgence. Learn the basics of tatting, including how to tat knots, chains, and picots to create delicate jewelry and embellishments for quilts and paper crafts.

Classes for Your Crochet Business

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How to Teach It  – For those of you who want to teach crochet, this class is a “must.” You’ll learn about the business of teaching, the fundamentals of course design and development, as well as how to market your class, manage your classroom, and teach at the national level.

Shoot It! A Product Photograph Primer  – If you’re selling your crochet projects online, you know how important it is to have professional-looking product photos. This class will teach you how to take those pro shots with any camera. You’ll learn how to plan and execute a photo shoot, as well as basic digital photo editing techniques.

A Great Time to Learn

As of this writing, all Craftsy classes are on sale for $19.99 or less. So it’s a great time to become a member if you aren’t already. If you’d rather do a little “tire-kicking” first, take one or two of the free mini-classes to get a feel for how the Craftsy training platform works.

Sign up today to become a member and start mastering new crochet skills.

Changing a Crochet Pattern to Suit Your Personal Preferences

Beginning of what will be a nice granny-style poncho

Beginning of what will be a lovely child’s granny-style poncho

I’m working with my eight year-old crochet student on a granny-style poncho which we are both making, hers for herself and mine for her little sister. The poncho is crocheted in the round, and it’s like making a granny square, except there are only two corners instead of four.

What I love about the pattern (pattern link at the end of the post) is that the designer includes a symbol chart along with the written instructions. I’ve been trying to think of ways to start my young student reading simple patterns, but I think symbol charts might be the way to go for now. They seem to be a lot easier than written patterns for her to understand.

On the other hand, there are a couple of things I don’t like about the pattern; so I decided to make some changes to suit my personal preferences. It’s also a way to teach my student you CAN make adjustments to a pattern if there’s something you’d prefer to do differently.

Adjusting How Rounds End and Begin

One of the things I want to change in this pattern is the way the rounds end and begin. The designeruses the “half-corner” method I wrote about in a blog post that describes 3 ways to begin and end a granny square round.

Remember, this poncho is essentially a granny square with two corners instead of four. So these methods will work with this poncho.

Half-Corner Method

The "Half-Corner" Method

The “Half-Corner” Method

As the name suggests, the round begins with haft a corner (a full corner is “3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc).

To begin the half corner after you’ve ended the previous round with a slip stitch to join, you chain 3 and then do 2 double crochets to create the half corner in the chain space. At the end of the round, you finish that half corner with “3 dc, ch 1, sl st to the top of the dc of the first half of the corner.” So in the “half corner” method, all of the rounds begin and end at this corner.

The problem is that the two double crochets of the first half of the corner are actually worked BEHIND the beginning ch 3, even though they look like they come after the chain 3. That’s the only way you can get them in the chain-1 space that separates the two halves of the corner.

My student had some difficulty making those two double crochets, so we decided to use the third method described in my blog post. I call it “It Depends How the Round Ends” method because how you begin the round depends on how you completed the previous round. (I describe this method fully in the blog post referenced above).

But using this method brought something else to my attention that I decided to change, namely, getting rid of the dreaded “chain 3” double crochet.

Getting Rid of The Dreaded “Chain 3” Double Crochet

The “It Depends” Method

"It Depends Method" - Start round with a Ch 4

The “It Depends Method” – Start round with a Ch 4

One of the two ways the rounds begin in the “It Depends” method is to start with a chain 4, which counts as 1 double crochet (chain 3) and a chain 1.

As most crocheters will tell you, the chain 3, which substitutes for the double crochet at the beginning of a round or row, is a lot thinner than an actual double crochet and leaves an ugly gap between it and the next double crochet. So we’re always searching for ways to make it look more like a REAL double crochet.

I came across one such ch-3 alternative at the Shibaguyz Designs blog that involves substituting a “single crochet, chain 2” for the chain 3 at the beginning of a row (or round).

It’s a lot better than a chain 3, but I thought, why not a “half-double crochet,  chain 1″ instead?

Substituting "1 hdc, ch 2" for the beginning ch 4

Substituting “1 hdc, ch 2″ for the beginning ch 4

I like that this “fake double crochet” is almost the height of a real double crochet. The extra chain in the ch 2 represents the chain 1 between each group of 3 double crochets of the granny pattern repeat.

So we have adjusted the pattern to include a “1 hdc, ch 2” at the beginning of the round that requires a chain 4. When you’re at the end of the round, you’ll complete the corner with “3 dc, ch 1, 2 dc, sl st to 1st ch after the hdc.”

Note: When using the “It Depends” method, the beginning of the round will move one 3-dc group to the left (to the right if you’re left handed like my student) of the “3 dc, ch 1, 3 dc”corner as you work succeeding rounds. The orange stitch marker in the photo above is where the round originally began and ended on round 2 of the poncho pattern.

The "It Depends" Method - Start  the round with “ch 3, 2 dc in the ch-1 space.”

The “It Depends” Method – Start the round with “ch 3, 2 dc in the ch-1 space.”

When the end of the previous round calls for you to start the new round with a “ch 3, 2 dc in the ch-1 space,” we’ll replace that chain 3 with a “1 hdc, ch 1.” At the end of the round, “ch 1, sl st to the top of the beginning ch 3.” Then begin the next round with a chain 4 and alternate between these two ways to end and begin succeeding rounds.

Two Changes Made to the Poncho Pattern

To sum  up, I made two changes to this pattern. I –

  • Changed the way the rounds end and begin.
  • Substituted a “fake double crochet” for the ch-3 double crochet.

These adjustments won’t affect how the finished piece looks. In fact, I think they’re going to improve the end result.

Here’s a link to the poncho pattern in case you’re interested in trying it for yourself. (Note: The pattern uses European crochet terms).

What adjustments to crochet patterns have you made to suit your personal preferences?