How to felt (full) your project
*A TOP LOADING washing machine (front loaders give very poor felting results). You may want to visit the local laundrymat if you have a front loader.
*Laundry detergent (powdered works better)
*An old pillowcase and a rubber band (optional)
*Some non-precious clothing items to throw in with your project to provide friction and to level your load. The best thing I’ve found to use is a couple of pairs of heavy jeans.
*Something to put inside the item to block it to desired shape and size (you may not know what size you’re going to get until the item comes out of the washer, so have a couple of options handy). A plastic bag-covered box works well for felted bags.
*A disposable razor or a shaver with a new clean blade.
Make sure all loose ends are securely run into your project. This is a violent process for your project and you don’t want any dropped stitches! Keep in mind that your item will shrink significantly more in HEIGHT than it will in WIDTH and will continue to shrink in height even after it will no longer shrink in width. When your item is the right height and texture, stop felting or you may end up with a disproportionately short item.
Place your project in an old pillowcase and close up near the open end with the rubber band. This step is optional but it will protect your washer and your other garments from the (often) large amount of fuzz that will come off of your project. The item needs room to move around inside the pillowcase. Very large items should be felted directly in the washer.
Put your item in the washer with about half the detergent that you would normally use for a load. Put in your other items (don’t use anything light colored, your project may run) evenly around the washer tub.
Set your washer for the HOTTEST wash and rinse cycle available, the MOST VIGOROUS agitation and the LONGEST wash cycle. Set the water level to a setting just a bit higher than you would normally use if this was a load of laundry.
Turn the washer on and let it agitate for one cycle, checking a couple of times during the agitation to see how fast it is changing. Some yarns felt VERY fast, others take several cycles to properly felt. Do not let it drain or rinse. Pull your project out and check it to see if it has felted to our satisfaction. If not, just set your washer back to the beginning of the agitation cycle and let it wash again. You can keep doing this until the item is the size and texture that you want. A good rule of thumb is that when there is NO stitch definition visible, it is “done”. If the item is close to what you want, stand by the washer and check every few minutes.
When the project looks about the size and texture you’d like, allow the washer to finish the cycle (rinse and spin dry). DO NOT ALLOW THE ITEM TO SIT AFTER THE SPIN CYCLE! This is vital because once the project begins to dry, it will tend to keep whatever shape it is in (which at this stage is usually wadded up and warped to some extent). Take the item out and immediately block it to the shape and size you want. You will probably need to pull and tug and wrestle with it a big to get it symmetrical and unwrinkled.
As soon as possible, stuff the item with the appropriate blocking aid to force it to remain in the shape you want. A rectangular bag can be blocked on a box that has been covered with a plastic bag. Hats block well when stuffed with WalMart bags or with a dinner plate put inside them (depending on the shape you want). Be creative! I’ve used rubber balls, shampoo bottles, shoes, metal tins, you name it. Just remember to protect items which could be damaged by moisture or could rust onto your project with a plastic bag.
Place the item in a well ventilated area and let it dry naturally. This may take 1-2 days depending on size and thickness of project.
When it’s dry, take out the stuffing and assess what needs to be done next. Some items are ready for finishing or use at this point, but most items need a little more work.
Brush all surfaces of the project with a hairbrush or a clean scrub brush. Most yarns will give you a fuzzy surface and this step will “tame” the fuzz and remove lint and pills. If you like the fuzzy surface, you’re done! If you’d like a more “unfuzzy” felt surface, you’ll need to give it a shave.
Using a disposable razor or a shaver with a new blade, just shave the entire surface of the item. You may need to go over it many times and/or do a sort of “scrubbing” motion with the razor. Be careful not to slice the fabric!! Make sure you are just removing the surface fuzz and not cutting into the surface of the fabric. Keep going over it until you get a nice smooth or pebbly surface (depending on the yarn and the amount of felting you did). The razor/blade will now be useless for any other purpose, so pitch it.
Your item is now ready for finishing or use. Congratulations!