Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

Tit for Tat

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Dear Kay,
OK, from here on out, for every dishcloth entry you write, I get one entry on either the topic of A) the musician Jack White or B) dingy, dirt-colored handknits.
We’ll go with B today, seeing as how the only Jack White news I have is that my stepmother called on Saturday night to alert me that she was in a restaurant and was sitting directly across from Jack White. Now, you might think it unlikely that a grown-up lady like my stepmother would actually know what Jack White looks like, but the fact is that she (again with the italics because it’s so stunning) she sold her house to Jack White’s bandmate Brendan Benson this past summer. And Jack White was with Brendan when he toured the house.
That’s all on that topic.
As for the dingy, dirt-colored handknits. You see yet another Perfect Sweater (this one with the V neck so cleverly designed by Suzanne. I see a lovely drift of Cascade 220 The Heathers shade 9459. I see peatmossiness at its most decomposed. It just doesn’t get any more composty than this.
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I’m almost done with this. Back, front, and two sleeves almost cranked.
Usually I would make this simple little sweater and move on. But I’m going to try a little hand felting on this, because I’m feeling sort of embellishy. Has anybody out there hand felted a sweater? I certainly haven’t–not on purpose, anyway–so I’d welcome any advice. My main question is whether the sweater will shrink in the process. I’m not talking about throwing the thing in the washer; I’m curious about the tamer, less wacky sort of felting people did before Maytags were around. Something about rubbing and heat? Please say I don’t have to, like, spit on it OK?
Love,
Ann
PS Middle Tennesseans arise! Knitting at the Library is ON for this coming Monday, December 11. Downtown Nashville library, 615 Church Street, Conference Room 2. Directions here.

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Your sweater will shrink with handfelting, although not as much as with machine felting.

  2. Put down a big sheet of plastic, put bubble wrap on top (bubbles uppermost), put sweater on top of the bubble wrap, put plastic (e.g. bags etc.) inside of sweater (to stop it felting to itself).
    Then get a bowl of warm water, a bar of soap and some small plastic food bags.
    Put your hands in the food bags & just wet the sweater, then rub the bar of soap over the sweater & creat suds by moving your hands (still in their bags) over the sweater in a circular motion. After a while when it’s all coming together, throw your sweater on the floor (think of beating yoru laundry against a rock, type of throw it on the floor!)- it really helps to lock the fibres together!
    Stop before you think your sweater will only fit a size 0000!
    Your sweater will shrink – how much depends on how hard you work at the felting – if in doubt, only rub it a little & don’t throw it on the floor.
    Good luck!

  3. Lots of dishsoap, of the Dawn or Joy variety. The water doesn’t have to be scalding, just hot. Dunk the sweater til it’s sopping, then catch up a bunch of soap bubbles on the fabric and scrub two bits of the sweater against each other, back and forth, in circles, etc. Rubber gloves are useful, as I have actually gotten felting blisters on my fingers from the friction from the fabric. Ouch. I recommend the kitchen sink, because bending over the bathtub hurts your back.
    The stuff I’ve hand-felted before has only shrunk a little. Mainly the fibres just get packed together, which is what you want! :) Good luck, can’t wait to see how it turns out!
    Oh, one more thing: You don’t need to weave in the ends after seaming. Felting will lock everything together, and then you can just snip those strings right off. Woohoo!

  4. You really don’t want to do that, now, do you? Felted fabric has no give and a sweater needs to sort of ebb and flow over your body.
    That said, you’ve opened the door to the idea of knitting it larger and felting it to see what you come up with. It could always be split up the front after felting and made into a jacket if you found it too cofining. (Wait. I’m thinking of how it would fit me, not you.)
    I like the way your mind works, though . . . Everything is potentially feltable, in my world.
    Once upon a time I saw an article–and can’t find it again!–about a machine with brushes that you run loosely woven, or I suppose knitted, fabrics through and they come out all kind of soft and fluffy and a bit felty. I don’t know about shrunken, but I don’t think you could let those fibers mingle without a little shrinkage. The process was first observed by the woman when she was in Latvia or Finland, I can’t remember for sure.
    I’ve kind of decided that I dreamed it because I can’t find the article. Would love to find this woman because I kind of remember that she had one of these machines in Kansas, which is nearby and I could send her stuff to “brush”. Would make a great piece of mohair fabric.

  5. I recently felted a handknit cardigan that was a size 3 (toddler) to a size 1 more or less. i did it because I loved that cardi, but my daughter left the sleeves in dire condition after wearing it a lot. I wanted to be able to get rid of the terrible parts and do so without having similar yarn to re-knit parts. That and I wanted to experimetn of course ;). It felted perfectly, shrinking just a little bit, and tightening just enough to make it warmer without becoming impossible to wear. I did it in the sink, hot water, my hands, a little bit of woolite, a whole lot of patience.
    I would recommend trying first with a swatch so you know how fast it will felt 9it you have the luxury of having extra yarn to do it).
    Best luck with your felting endeavours!

  6. Amen on the rubber gloves! I did not get blisters, the skin just rubbed right off my knuckles. I did stockings in my bathroom sink and I used a bamboo placemat for friction. You don’t think you could find a clean washboard at that antique market with the rag balls? Or at a country music supply store, if you’re prepared to lay down cash and do it old school. That sounds dirty. Bye now.

  7. Oh, one more thing. Speaking of old school, my friend sits on her back porch with a mud bucket of hot water and a mud bucket of cold water and a specially reserved just for this purpose toilet plunger and she get fantastic results, with slightly more effort than the zippered pillowcase method.

  8. A. I think it’s kind of … excessive to fire a whole sweater at me after a couple of dishcloths. Measly dishcloths. So unlike the color of bog.
    B. When we were discussing hand felting the sweater, I didn’t mean go all the way with that throwing it on the floor stuff and the plastic bags etc. Although that would be FUN, I agree that it would make the fabric more jackety and less sweatery. I’m talking about doing what Cristina did to the dragon panel on the dragon jacket. She just kind of scruffed up the RS of the fabric until it gently fuzzed. I believe this could be done without shrinkage or loss of drape. (Ground Control to Cristina: chime in and save Ann’s sweater.) You are not fusing the fibers together except in a very superficial, beauty-is-skin-deep sort of way.
    I really want you to do this (for my infotainment) but I don’t see you being in a very good mood if it wrecks the sweater. You’ll have to get a whole bunch more of that drabass yarn. The Heathers. Whatevers. xox Kay

  9. I second the notion of a bucket of hot and a bucket of cold. Could use the plunger or just slam that thing in. Could also just use the kitchen sink. Put in enough hot water to get it wet, CLOSELY EXAMINE so you know what it looks like just plain wet. Then swish swish swish, pick it up and dunk it, pick up and dunk… Then out with the hot, slam it into the empty sink a couple of times, then with the cold water… then with the hot water… Dishsoap can help. Good, wet fun that will shrink your sweater a bit, but if you stop in time, it will just make it a bit snugger. Can’t wait to see! Be sure to take before and after fit pictures so we can all find out how wrong we were about how much it will shrink!

  10. I have felted by hand before and agree that it is the hot/cold shock that moves things along. I used a small amount of soap, kitchen sink, gloves and very hot/cold water. Since I don’t own a washboard I rubbed the item (a small Kureyon tote) against a cooling rack.
    Good luck!

  11. The idea of felting a sweater really really scares me. Please be careful!

  12. ach! so sorry about the repeat! i hate it when that happens!

  13. Oh, this sounds too scary. I thought, when you said “embellishy,” that you might find an already-felted mistake-thing somewhere and cut it into a purdy flower to sew on. That would be much less … scary.

  14. i’m confused- why mess with THE PERFECT SWEATER? wouldnt you want to wad up and felt an imperfect sweater? i see nothing good coming out of this except perhaps a sweater for Jack White’s baby! is that the plan????

  15. Wow…all those comments on shrinking the sweater. And I was thinking how cool it would be to “needle felt” (I think that’s what it’s called) some sort of embellishment. Like flowers or vines or just a simple pattern. Like this rosebud. http://www.dandelionarts.com/felt/rosebud.jpg What were you really meaning to do…felt the whole sweater? Or just felt embellishment. Kristen

  16. I have an alternative, that involves no gloves, no soap, no damage to knuckles, no calories burnt for that matter. How about a light “fulling” rather than felting? All that’s required is your clothes-dryer. First, launder your sweater as usual. Then place the wet sweater, as is, in your dryer,and proceed in 5 minute-increments (or 10 minutes if you are *that* brazen). I leave the choice of a temp setting to you! 10 or 15 minutes may well be enough. As a bonus your sweater will be almost dry, at least enough for you to try it on for size before damage is done.
    This is the kind of fulling Sally Melville describes in her books. I did it with a garter stitch jacket which felt a little too loosely knit. 15 minutes were enough to give the fabric a tiny bit more heft without losing drape, or shrinking too much (but then this was a pretty ample jacket to start with).
    Good luck!

  17. Saturday last I found myself fondling the Cascade 220, in a very you-shouldn’t-be-doing-this-in-a-yarn-store kind of way. And now you post this beautiful V-neck just to torture me. The perfect sweater will be my first sweater! (After Christmas.)

  18. Looks like you got all the hand felting experience you were looking for. I just like the color, nice and earthy.

  19. Looks like you’ve got plenty of how-to comments, so I will just answer your question: Yes, Ann, it will shrink. How much? Can’t say, but more in the length than in the width. I suggest you make a good size swatch (at least 6 inches square; 8 would be better. Block it and measure it up carefully. Then have at it following the instructions of your choice. When it is as felted as you want it to be rinse with warm (not cold) water, block, dry, and measure again. That will give you a fair to middling indication of degree of shrinkage.
    Remember: If in doubt, STOP!

  20. Umm…who is Jack White?

  21. I use olive oil soap when wet felting, it doesn’t dry out the fibres as much. It can usally be bought in bar form at any good health food store.
    You will have shrinkage though!
    Good luck.

  22. Aack – how is it I have to work AGAIN during the KatL? (cattle? is your announcement to be called a KatL Call? eeek…) There must have been a 5-wk month to mess up my schedule – I thought for sure Zoe and I could be there….sigh… Maybe I can come in January – might be the last month I can attend before I have Zoe’s little sister…

  23. I sort of slightly hand felted a grey vneck alpaca sweater I made by just washing it in the sink! I guess the water was slightly to warm and I was washing it a bit to rough. Thankfully I stopped before it became a mess as it werent meant to felt! :)
    Jenn

  24. Snorting with laughter at Kay’s idea of you doing this for her infotainment. I have only felted whole jumpers in a non-intended way (most recently my Rowan Kid Classic jacket, now belonging to a very stylish 5 year old). I can’t see that you can do this without some shrinkage, but then lots of others have said that so I don’t feel I’m adding much to collective wisdom here. My washer has a ‘wool’ programme which is meant to be like a handwash but it isn’t, you can put things in it and they will come out slightly felted, whereas for properly felted I need 2 goes through the 40 deg C ‘normal’ programme. Not that that helps much either, but if someone you know has a Euro-syle front loader washer it might be worth the infotainment. And you can always cut it up into something else if it goes wrong….

  25. All of these smart people beating me here, sheesh. I second the dryer-fulling recommendation, and would then recommend either needle felting or crewel work on the slightly shrunken, denser fabric. I would also agree that making the sweater into a cardigan (one big steek) would make it more comfortable to wear indoors, assuming there’s no ice age on the way. Fulled wool is super warm.

  26. Are you just fulling or are you adding some design? I think when I read hand-felting, I thought needle-felting. I guess these are different!

  27. ‘feeling sort of embellishy’. Hm. Careful there. It’s a short, feverish step from this to a Beadazzler…

  28. i reviewed brendan bensen’s cd in university, years and years before i ever heard of jack white. hee!

  29. i reviewed brendan bensen’s cd in university, years and years before i ever heard of jack white. hee!

  30. I think you don’t want “felting,” with its shrinkage and loss of elasticity. I think you want light “fulling,” which involves neither heat nor friction but does make the yarn bloom.
    The easy way? A top loading washer, cold or lukewarm water, a modest amount of mild detergent, no other contents but the sweater, delicate cycle of no more than 2 minutes of agitation. Pull the sweater out before the end of the rinse cycle, rinse it again in the sink until the water runs clear, roll it in a towel, and then lay it flat for blocking. Pin if necessary, and let it dry out of sunlight.
    Lacking a top-loader, do this by hand in plenty of lukewarm water, avoiding friction that will actually felt it.

  31. I think you don’t want “felting,” with its shrinkage and loss of elasticity. I think you want light “fulling,” which involves neither heat nor friction but does make the yarn bloom.
    The easy way? A top loading washer, cold or lukewarm water, a modest amount of mild detergent, no other contents but the sweater, delicate cycle of no more than 2 minutes of agitation. Pull the sweater out before the end of the rinse cycle, rinse it again in the sink until the water runs clear, roll it in a towel, and then lay it flat for blocking. Pin if necessary, and let it dry out of sunlight.
    Lacking a top-loader, do this by hand in plenty of lukewarm water, avoiding friction that will actually felt it. You have more control with handwashing, of course.

  32. I have a boiled wool zip sweater and it’s just lovely. Super warm and very modern looking. Is that the effect you are going for? A felted pullover doesn’t quite seem to have the same feel to it. Are you sure you want to get all embellishy? That’s like when Kay gets out the bleach pen. Be careful!

  33. The folks at Martha Stewart Living had an article this month on monogrammed woolens – http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jhtml?type=content&id=channel5240057&contentGroup=MSL&site=living&rsc=ns2006_m3
    They needle-felted wool roving onto pre-made wool items like hats and mittens. I haven’t tried it, so don’t know about shrinkage. I imagine it would be minimal if the embellishment were small.

  34. Wow, you are BRAVE. I love the v-neck, that is what I plan to make, but agree, that felted, cardi seems more “usable”. But I’m with Kay too, better you than me!

  35. I have an afghan that got slightly felted by accident. I think this is probably what you want. It was loosely knitted, though. Now it’s a lot tighter, and kind of fuzzy. I actually like it better now. I think it got washed and dried in the machine. Since the dog had been sleeping on it, it was really not a bad plan. Personally, I wouldn’t felt such a pretty sweater.

  36. I’ve hand felted with cascade 220 a *lot*. (Kitchen sinks, one filled with hot/warm soapy water, one with cold water. Stick your hands in and kneed it like bread.) After felting a couple things by hand out of a particular yarn, you can learn to “feel” when the yarn is going through different stages. Here’s my take on what cascade 220 does… First it is just wet, then the whole thing opens and loosens up. Next the fabric starts feeling fuzzier and starts closing up. Finally it hardens and really tightens up. I suspect you’ll want to stop before the last stage — if you don’t want a lot of shrinkage and stiff fabric. The tricky part of that is the fuzzy-ish stage is the shortest one. My take is that you can totally do this, but you should probably felt a couple smaller cascade 220 items (or even swatches) by hand first.
    good luck! Can’t wait to see how it turns out. (Bring back the handfelting! People always look at me like I have two heads when I tell them I felt my knits by hand. I never understand that though — it takes a lot more time to knit the darn thing!)

  37. I read about handfelting with a bucket of hot water & using one of those small hand plungers, like for the sink, and plunging it like mad. Then you just drop it into the sink with cold water when it’s done. ?? Sounds a little easier on the hands.

  38. Ann,
    I have a sweater I felted–made it for Dean and he said it was “too hot” to wear and I figured, what the h- I would go on a felt it. But lightly.
    Felt it however you like (I would dump it into my washer on the delicate cycle with warm water wash and rinse–none of that physical labor for me, that’s for sure!) but use a tiny amount of that no-rinse detergent from your LYS. Also, reshape your sweater before drying it. You will have to stretch it, I think. Felt is remarkably pliable when wet. You know it will shrink more in length than width and you need to take those sleeves into your calculations. You don’t want to end up with short, fat sleeves.
    Call me if you need:
    bubble wrap
    a large plastic sheet
    a felting board
    a washboard
    no-rinse detergent
    a top loader
    a sample of a felted sweater (it was Lopi, FYI)
    Tread carefully here, Miss Ann…it’s a quick step from soft and fuzzy to stiff and leathery.
    Also, it is really easy, whether in a washer or by hand, to have patches of your piece that is more felted than others. Not a fab look.

  39. Ok, this is so not about felting, but about the sweater making.
    Can I have some yarn sub advice?!
    I have rowanspun dk = 7 skeins of Dark Grey, 2 in a pumkin/orange.
    50g, 219yds, 20-21 sts, 29-30 rows. It calls for 4 – 4 1/2 mm needles.
    I was thinking orange hem, neck-line and cuffs with dark grey body.
    A) do I have enough?
    B) will this work?
    I’ve only made one sweater and . . well it sort of doesn’t fit – snif.