Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Felted thoughts

I spent about an hour Sunday night trying to felt the slippers. (No worries! I did get 'before' pictures that will be posted someday.) This was my first attempt at felting and I must say, it was not what I was expecting.

Perhaps I was anticipating the great drama of Me vs. the Machine as I fought valiantly to keep the slippers from shrinking down to Lilliputian-sized slippers. You know, checking every five minutes as the instructions, erm, instructed. Instead, it was a 30-40 minute ordeal of great tedium interspersed with moments of quiet admiration for the process. No real drama at all. Except for the fact that I was sitting in front of my washing machine in a chair designed for toddlers/small children and my back was still hurting yesterday. (I didn't notice any problem at the time or I would not have remained in the chair.)

A few things I learned:
  1. While I took measurements as instructed, I believe that the sizes I knit were, in fact, too large for the feet of the intended recipient. I may be misled, but it seems that it was a real struggle to reduce these puppies to a size that the girls can wear. I think if I'd started with one size down for them, they would have shrunk to the correct size more quickly. HOWEVER, perhaps the point is not the time it takes to shrink to the desired size, but the time it takes to reach uniform felting as well as shrinking to the correct size. Experienced feedback on this would be appreciated. I don't know anyone who felts.
  2. The slippers are not quite the correct fit. I left them a little big for both girls, you know, so they can grow into them. The slippers are pretty wide, though, and I'm not sure what I can do about that. I could toss them back in the wash and try felting them a bit more (with a different chair!) to see if that helps, but it seems like they would have to shrink quite a bit more to make a difference in the width of the shoe.
  3. I have a front-loading machine. I read (somewhere) that it was possible to felt in a front-loader, but I wonder if it made a difference in how much time it took or how effective the felting process was over all. I put each pair of slippers in a lingerie bag and tossed them in with a few towels. Perhaps I needed something more abrasive? I just didn't want to risk shrinking anything else down in the hot water.
  4. Lastly, I noticed that the "hot" water in my washing machine did not seem to be very hot when I stuck my hand in there to pulll out the slippers to check on the progress. I ended up adding some much hotter water in the hopes of helping things along. In the past, we've had some crazy hot water, but I'm wondering if they adjusted the temperature when they put in the new hot water heater this summer. I think they did. Also, maybe since the washer uses so little water, it doesn't have enough time to get really hot before it is in the machine.

So many questions! Mostly, I think I'm just not much of a felted person. I have some seriously negative associations with scratchy wool and felted things from my childhood. I have dealt with most of the 'scratchy wool' issues since I became a knitter. I now know that all of those hideous scratchy sweaters I had as a child were simply the wrong wool for a sweater. In particular, the wrong wool for a sensitive-skinned child living in the desert where it never really gets all that cold anyway.

The felted issue, well, let's just say there were numerous scratchy felted incidents that left an indelible mark on my views about felt. I can appreciate the many fine qualities of felt and felted items, I just don't have any desire to own many felted object. Though, they do have their place. I'm working on it. But it may take years to fully embrace felt in all of its glory. I'll start with a pair of slippers for me. Eventually. First I've got to find a better chair for the Felting Watch.

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