Hand Felting and Stash Storage

I haven't revisited my Ask Jean archive for more than a year... where does the time go? So here are a couple of useful frequently-asked questions, first one about hand felting and the second about keeping your stash safe from the dreaded clothes moth.

I'm not a big fan of felted objects as I have a thing about the billiard board handle, but I often use felt as a detail for hats, in fact my fave hat which I wear all the time sports a felted flower.
Felted flower with leaves on the right finishes off my fave hat
Having said that on our recent knitters' tour to Ireland, I fell in love with a fabulous felted shawl. I was teaching a workshop at Powerscourt in Dublin. This is no ordinary shopping mall, but a real centre of excellence for fashion, arts, crafts and interiors and also home to This is Knit, a top-class wool shop. As I was leaving after my workshop I noticed a gaggle of my students in the nearby craft collective. They were all excitedly raving about a rail of felted shawls, each one crying out to be bought with its vibrant yet subtle hues. Much trying on ensued and all I can say is that by the time we left, the designer - whose name unfortunately I can't remember - must have been very pleased!
No scratchy feel here  as this is hand-felted wool
onto a silk background

Here's the original question about felting:
I have a couple of items that are ready to be felted.  Recently, I purchased a new front-loading washing machine that does not allow me to open the door during the cycle.  I am at a loss how to felt. Is it possible to felt without the agitation of the washer?  Please help! 
Relax, Paula, you can certainly felt small pieces just as well by hand.  However, once felted, the process is irreversible, so for the sake of your sanity and your treasured FOs, I’d strongly advise swatching first. However, providing you do swatch first, I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t continue to felt in your new machine.  When you say it doesn’t allow you to open the door during the cycle, I assume that’s because you want to monitor the felting to get the desired effect.  If you swatch and experiment with the cycles, you can still do this, and be fairly certain of the outcome, always remembering felting is not a precise science and surprises can happen! 
Felting (or fulling) depends collectively on how hot your water is, how hard your water is, how much it is agitated, the amount and kind of soap you use, what color the yarn is (I’m not joking!) and more. If you felt it a little, you’ll still have stitch definition, if you felt it more, you won’t.  If you’re still determined to try hand felting, the kitchen sink will be fine for small projects, but you’ll need larger buckets or maybe even the bath for larger pieces.  Here’s how:
1    wear rubber gloves, especially the ones with textured palms as this will help the fabric along
2      fill receptacle with hot soapy water (washing-up liquid is good, as are soap-based washing powders, but no biological detergents).  Add baking soda or washing soda to the water if you wish to speed up the process
3      submerge the article and rub vigorously – if you can get hold of an old washboard, all the better!  You may have to apply drops of soap to coax areas which seem resistant to felting
4      when you’ve achieved the desired level of felting, rinse thoroughly in cool water - this locks the fibres in place
5      roll in large towel and squeeze to extract excess moisture
6      lay the FO down on towel and reshape, pinning to size if necessary
7      air dry
Find out more in Complete Feltmaking: Easy Techniques and 25 Great Projects, Gillian Harris, St
Martin’s Griffin 2007 (paperback)     

PS Just had a message from Judy Baun re front-loading machines which could be helpful:
I am not sure why she can't felt in a front loading machine. Is it because the tumbling action of the machine won't felt the wool or the door is locked when the washer is running and she is unable to open the door to check her progress?
I have had my washing machine for a few years and just stumbled upon something.
If I push the start button while the washer is running it will pause and the door unlocks.  Push it again and the door locks and the program resumes where it left off.  I don't know if all front loading machines will do this but my LG does.   
Judy Baun

Seeing moth casts in one's stash has to be every knitter's nightmare. Having had the experience of opening a sealed plastic bag and finding its contents shredded, I'm now totally neurotic about storage. It's extremely difficult to totally mothproof your stash, but you can take a few small precautions to save you from this distressing experience. As it happened it was actually more upsetting for P, as it was one of his fleeces which had been languishing in the loft since he spun his last yarn several years ago! Thankfully, except for a few balls, my precious yarn was spared.

My local yarn shop had a closing down sale and I am now the proud owner of a rather large yarn stash.  Being realistic, it's going to take a long time before I've used it all up, so what is the best way to store it?  I lost a cashmere jumper to the dreaded moths recently and don't want my stash going the same way.  Should I keep it in the plastic bags it came in, or open it up and put anti-moth paper in between the balls?
Tineola bisselliella, aka the dreaded clothes moth is the bane of all stashers!  I assume you don’t want to go down the road of the chemical overkill - traditional mothballs are toxic, causing all kinds of health problems to humans, especially children. Here’s some natural tips on saving your newfound stash:
  • store in scrupulously clean environment - moths are attracted to food stains and grease, so frequent vacuuming is goodstore
  • store in see-through, large plastic bins
  • place moth trap (cheap and widely available) in each bin
  • strong fragrances repel moths, especially cedar, camphor, eucalyptus, lavender, cloves, rosemary, thyme, mint, dried orange peel, cinnamon sticks
  • raid the larder and/or garden and make up your own moth repellent sachets from either a mixture or just one ingredient from any of the above. Store one sachet in each bin
  • consider vacuum storage bags which protect against moths and other bugs, dust, mildew and odours -  dual function too,  as the space you save means you can have a bigger stash!
I'm off now to think some more about making my Christmas cake and mince pies. I have to admit even by my tardy standards I've left it till the eleventh hour this year, certainly if it's expecting its usual doses of brandy!


  1. Hi Jean, thanks for another terrific blogpost! Felting isn't my "thing" either, but that shawl is fabulous. I recall one teacher telling us we could fill the bathtub with water and stomp around (carefully) with our feet, if necessary! Re moths: this is an issue I rarely see addressed in the yarn community...the importance of proper storage to avoid a feeding frenzy. I've found that if I store my yarn in plastic bins, I forget what I own and lose the inspiration of seeing it displayed (or easily accessed). I have small cedar blocks stuffed into the yarns cupboards - yes, that's plural - which so far has worked very well. Happy fruitcaking! Pam xx

  2. I've had requests from family for felted slippers and clogs this year, and was facing the same front-loader washer / inexperienced conundrum. How did you know? Thank you for the very timely post with great advice!

  3. I have a few meters of black mohair fabric and would like to attempt to needle felt onto it .
    Do you think it would work.
    Have done great experiments with wool and other fibres so would repeat some of the designs.
    Want to make loose jacket shape so need to cut out pieces first.
    Love your stuff.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Merchenhaft
      Sorry not able to read your comment.

  5. please, try to remember the name of the designer. I just simply love the jacket you showed.

    1. Have found the jacket (maybe)
      Jeanmosshandknits maybe.
      This looks handfelted to me.
      Hope it's the correc image.

  6. Thanks for sharing such informative and nice article with us . Hand Wraps Manufacturer


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