first foray into felting!

i have been so excited to finish this project and write about it! felting seems to contradict everything your mother ever taught you about laundry and what evil may befall you if you accidentally put that wool sweater in the washer... but i've been totally intrigued by felting [technically called fulling] for a nice long while now. the only thing is, it seems sad to "ruin" something you've spent the time knitting or crocheting by essentially scrubbing and shrinking it, and i've never found any 100% wool sweaters at goodwill or someplace cheap that were pretty enough to bring home, much less take the time to purposefully shrink, cut apart, and make into something else like a handbag.

enter a random middle-of-the-magazine card from an issue of crochet today, usually an annoyance when they fall out when you're flipping through, featuring an adorable little round ornament felted enough to make a solid surface that you could embroider a snowflake on- perfect! and oh the things you could embroider onto them! i couldn't find anything like it on their website [they're a little stingy with their patterns, anyway] and couldn't get my scanner to work, so i did the old photo-of-a-photo trick [i want to try making those baskets below it too!]
so on a yarn buying spree a few cold days ago, i started with this:
a yarn proclaiming to be "ideal for knit, crochet, and felted projects." a promise of success right on the label, how can you beat that?

a few things my google searches uncovered about felting your yarn items or a thrifted sweater:
  • the yarn has to be as close to 100% wool as possible to work
  • felting happens from agitation [like inside your washer] and very hot water
  • felting will shrink the item slightly smaller or quite a bit smaller than your original item [the closer to 100% wool it is, the more it will probably shrink]
i'd been stalking this pattern for crocheted mini-hearts, trying to figure out what i would use them for [when has that ever stopped me]. i figured they were a painless little project i could test out my felting process upon with little to no tragic loss of effort put into crocheting the little things in the first place. so i crocheted one, which turned out even more mini than i remembered:
the next obstacle... how to felt them. a search for tutorials turned up somewhat disappointing, except for maybe this one more related to felting with wool roving. i remembered some diy tv show i'd seen somewhere where the girl knit a hat, tossed it in a plain old ziplock bag with a little squirt of dish soap, scrubbed the life out of it, and out popped a completely solid wool felt hat!

well, i could do that.

so i took my tiny red heart and i put it in my tiny ziplock bag with my few tiny dots of joy dish soap, and gently squeezed it until it was saturated with the the hottest water i could stand to touch like this:
then i rubbed it between my palms like i was trying to start a fire with it until it looked like this:
and it worked! i took it out, rinsed it, squeezed out the excess water, reshaped it back into its little heart shape, and let it dry.
but now what to do with them. make a ton, put them in little envelopes and mail them to people on valentine's day? surely not everybody will think a hand-crocheted and hand-felted almost-microscopically-mini one-inch heart is as cool as i do. so, note to self: file away the idea for a potential valentine's day heart garland.

but! back to the original ornament idea. i started with my flat circle, 10 rows of single crochet that [after i winged it] turned out about 5 inches in diameter:
fueled by the success of my tiny-felted-heart mission, i put the circle right in the baggie and attacked it with gusto. 10 minutes of scrubbing later, i pulled it out and went old-school on it:
20 minutes after that [trying not to think about how many clean dishes i should have to show for my 30 minutes total of maniacal scrubbing] i decided that in the future, i would crochet the circle to only about 3 inches in diameter, and try tossing it in the washer to felt it. but, the great thing is that felting is one of those no-fail crafts where you can't really hurt it or over-do it. yay! here's an extreme close-up of the felted and non-felted textures:
when it didn't shrink as much felted as i thought it would, i decided it was more coaster-sized than ornament-sized, and made a new little circle with 6 rows of crochet instead of 10 [about a 3 inch diameter circle]. i felted it in the baggie, and embroidered my little snowflake on it in white perle cotton [love!] with a big fat darning needle:
then i looped a little bit of my favorite sheer ornament ribbon in cream through for hanging and hot glued a little circle of cream eco felt on the back to hide the back of the stitches... this was actually nice because it gave it a little more heft too, and kept it flat instead of bendy.
ta da! love love love! the tree of course has long since been put away so it's hanging on my little wire eiffel tower on our mantel for these photos.
i see an army of these in my future... i also want to try crocheting a snowflake, felting it, and either stringing some together as a garland or for hanging in the windows. so many great ideas for christmas/winter next year! i may stick with the red & white snowflake theme for one more year!

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