click here to learn the difference between felting and fulling
click here if you would like to know how to select a garment for felting
I don't know why the smell continues to bother me. I should know to expect it by now... but it manages to take my breath away every time. That hot, wet wool smell... ugh!
Anyway, enough complaining. It's time to share some useful information about how I felt my jumpers. Remember the three elements required for successful felting... HEAT, MOISTURE and AGITATION... well, I like to add a fourth... SOAP
So essentially I am going to wash the garment in hot soapy water, and be as rough with it as I possibly can. Felting can be done by hand in a basin, but is very hard work for an item as large as a jumper. Using the washing machine is definitely the way to go.
First of all. Put your garment in a bag. It might fit into a lingerie wash bag. Or you could put it into an old pillowcase, fold the end over and use safety pins to close it securely. The idea is to protect your washing machine. There is usually a great deal of debris which comes from the jumper during the 'matting' process. You need to confine this matter in the bag... or you will clog the filters of your machine and destroy it!
Top loading washing machines are ideal for felting. They agitate well, and can be opened at regular intervals to check progress. But I don't have one of them!
I use a front loader. They are designed to be gentle on your clothes, but I don't want gentle. Gentle DOES NOT felt! So I add a pair of old gumboots and some old jeans to the cycle. These beat against the jumper, helping the fibres to matt together. Even if you are using a top loader, you should try adding items to 'bang around' inside. Some people use old towels or tennis balls. Whatever you put into the cycle will probably never be the same again... so choose wisely.
Add your detergent. Any soap is fine. Again, we are not looking for gentle or soft treatment.
Make the water HOT. I set my machine to 95C... which is the hottest setting. It works like a charm. But be warned. The colours often run, so I would avoid felting a light and a dark jumper in the same cycle. If I was felting a black and white patterned jumper, I would probably try setting the temperature lower so that the colours didn't bleed too much.
So. I have HEAT, MOISTURE, AGITATION and SOAP. I set my machine on a towel setting, which is the harshest option I have. One important thing to remember. DO NOT ALLOW THE GARMENT TO SPIN. The spinning process can stretch it into some crazy shapes, which cannot be recovered from. Make sure you remove the jumper before this happens. If you are using a top loader, and therefore have some control over the length of time spent spinning, you could probably allow it to spin for a minute.
Be prepared that when you remove the garment from the washing machine it will probably be dripping wet. Remember, it has not been spun dry. I wring it out in the sink and then roll it up in some old towels, put it on the laundry floor and stand on it to help absorb as much moisture as possible. Then I smooth it out as flat as possible, and leave it on some more old towels to dry. This may take a couple of days if it is a heavy knit. I've always wondered it I could use the tumble dryer at this stage, but never been quite game enough to try it.
Some garments will shed more than others... this is an example of what you DON'T WANT clogging your filter
EDITED TO ADD... I've since tried using the tumble dryer... with excellent results
click here to see before and after photos