A few Christmases ago, my parents got me this book as a gift. I had been knitting for a while and moving to felting seemed like the next, logical step.
My folks also got me some absolutely beautiful wool yarn to go with the book. I should have been ready to go. The only problem is, right in the introduction to the book, it says “felting is unpredictable”.
Now, the irony of my being thrown off by something being “unpredictable” when I refuse to follow instructions and inevitably do alterations to any pattern I use is not lost on me. That being said, when something I’ve never tried before comes with instructions that basically say “uh, you can follow our instructions perfectly and it still might get all pennied up”, I get a little nervous. Especially if I’m working with super pretty supplies I don’t want to waste.
So, the book sat on my shelf. It glared down at me accusingly for a couple years and I tried to ignore it. Finally I’d had enough. I was going to learn to felt and damn the unpredictability! I drove to Jo Ann Fabrics and picked out the two least expensive wool yarns I could find in colors I liked (I still wasn’t about to ruin the gorgeous ones my parents had bought me on a first attempt) and started knitting.
I knitted my swatches (about the only time I’ve actually done gauge on a knitting project…), felted them and decided on the hat in the picture above. (I’d love to give you guys the pattern, but I’m pretty sure that’s considered “copyright infringement”) I knit and knit and knit and when I was done, I had a giant sack of a hat. I followed their shape instructions, but I didn’t follow the color pattern for the hat in the book (of course I didn’t). I didn’t have 3 colors of yarn, and I had an idea in my head anyhow.
I tossed the whole thing in a lingerie bag and threw it in the wash. …and nothing happened. For whatever reason, the swatches felted WAY faster than the hat did. So the hat went in for a second wash…and felted all at once. Whoops.
Now I had a too small hat. Luckily, wet felt stretches…a lot. I started by stretching the hat over my own head. Wet wool on your head on a cold day is just about the most horrible feeling there is, but I wanted to make sure I had the shape right before letting it dry. Once it was shaped I put it on a mannequin head and left it there for several days. A hat shaper is the “correct” way to give your hat its final shape, but it being my first try, I didn’t want to splash out for one. If I do this again, I definitely will.
Because I used olive green yarn for my hat, the final product wound up looking a touch like a WWII bunker helmet. Adding a grosgrain ribbon and bow around it helped immensely to make it look more feminine.
Another benefit to using a hat form in the future is a more even edge. You’ll notice the finished cloche in the book’s picture has a perfect, straight edge while mine is wavy and petaled. Turns out, most felted hats have their brims trimmed after they are stretched. I kind of like the imperfect edge on this hat, but it’s nice to know how to get that effect if I want it next time!
Have you tried felting? How did it go? Do you have any other tricks for next time I do it?
This post is linked to Sunday’s Best’s Link Party.