Felting by a Dummy

Felting is a cool concept. Knit something oversized in 100% wool, dump it into the washing machine for a short time, and the moisture, heat, and agitation will shrink it. Voila! The yarn tightens into felt. The tricky part, I am now learning, is controlling the shrinkage so the item is the size you want it.

For my first attempt, I knit a huge bag which I planned to use for books and notebooks. I then put it into the washing machine. I checked in 10 minutes—still too large. I put it back in, then wandered over to my computer.

Oops. When I checked again, the bag had shrunk to something that barely holds one book, let alone several. 


So I knit another bag, this time thinking that the size specified in the pattern was wrong. So I added 50% more stitches to the width, thinking that this would help the bag felt down to the size I wanted.

Turns out that yarn seems to felt more along its length, not its width. The result? This boat of a bag:

Idiot! Our new dog could get lost in this bag.

So. Here’s the question for my fiber friends out there:

—Do I dump the bag back into the washing machine and shrink it more? 

—Do I cut the bag in half and make two bags?

—Do I start over? (Not sure I have the emotional energy for that.)

—Or do I realize I lack the felting gene, and instead buy a bag someone else has felted!?  

This last one is looking more appealing every day. 

12 thoughts on “Felting by a Dummy”

  1. If it were me, I would cut it in half and make two bags out of it.Just make sure one half is big enough for your books and notebooks.You could use the other half,mabye,as a gift bag for someone who enjoys handknit items.They would enjoy the gift and the bag.

  2. You should toss it back in the washing machine and DO NOT LEAVE IT ALONE. Keep checking to see when it gets to the size you want. Felting will shrink more from top to bottom than from side to side.

  3. Second the comment about not leaving the washing machine alone. Or maybe try hand-felting instead, to see if that gives you a little more control over the process.

    You could also (gasp) knit a swatch, measure it, felt it, and use that as a gauge for future felting.

  4. Thank you for all the suggestions. The swatch suggestion was probably the smartest, but the one I’m least likely to follow. What’s up with my hatred of swatches?

    I felted it again so it’s a better size—I’ll still have to trim it, but as Jan says, I’ll have coffee sleeves!

    Fiber people are brilliant and resourceful! (excluding me, however.) 🙂

  5. Next time you felt something try hand felting…A little more effort but you can get the exact item you want.
    Just run it under some hot water in the sink, put some soap on it and rub like crazy. Being careful that the front doesn’t felt to the back, keep pulling it apart and rubbing different directions. It may seem like it takes forever, but once it begins to felt, it will go really quickly! How fun!


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The Big Pivot

About Me

After twenty-five years on the farm, I’m adjusting to the adventures of city life. Part of that adjustment is figuring out what I want to write about now, since sheep are no longer part of my daily life. I’m challenging myself creatively by painting with pastels and playing the ukelele as I seek my new writing path.

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Minnesota State Arts Board grant

Catherine Friend is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.