Did you know you can felt in the washing machine?. You may have accidently done this with your favourite knitted jumper that you put on a hot wash by mistake. So why would you want to purposely put the wool in the washing machine?. Well it can save you a lot of time if you have a project that you need to complete in a hurry.
Soap & Agitation
Felt is made by adding water, soap and lots of agitation will make wool fibres attach together and most f the time I do this by hand, I have been making some bird pods lately and these take around 2 hours to lay out and felt but half way through I can add to the washing machine and save about 40 minutes and my arm muscles.
Not all wool will however felt and each time you undertake a project the results may differ due to the type of wool and water temperature. The bird pods are ideal for the washing machine method as they are all unique in colour size and texture.
So the next time you accidently shrink a garment…tell them it was meant to be.
Although I make a lot of felt items to sell I also buy felt from Fair Trade suppliers. Over the last few years I have visited many trade shows to talk to suppliers to ensure there is traceability of the gifts I was purchasing and they are part of a Fair Trade scheme which you can read about here https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/ . The supplier I now buy from has been a Fair Trade organisation for over 20 years in Nepal so they have been able to build and sustain relationships with the surrounding families and towns.
The wool used by the wonderful artistic Nepalese crafters is New Zealand wool , brought in a raw state which is then washed, carded and dyed with a fantastic rainbow of colours. Then comes the hard work with the wet felting. with some wool, warm water, soap and a lot of elbow grease you can make some fantastic items from small keyrings an inch wide to vast blankets and clothing. If you have never tried wet felting it is very therapeutic – you can book onto one of our workshops and try it your yourself when we get beyond Covid.
So in my last post I mentioned that my husband had booked me onto a wet felted hat workshop. Last week we travelled up to Cheshire and I spent the day with Alison Rose from Rose Creations whilst my husband took my son to the Outlet Centre for a spot of retail therapy – think I got the better deal…
So thinking about the style of hat I wanted to create had me thinking about the ‘Mad Hatter’ from the Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” where the cheeky rabbit was famously featured.
However, contrary to believe the phrase “mad as a hatter,” used to describe someone who’s prone to unpredictable behaviour, didn’t originate with Carroll. So where did it originate?.
The expression is actually linked to the hat-making industry and mercury poisoning. In the 18th & 19th centuries, a toxic substance, mercury nitrate, was used as part of the process of turning the fur of small animals, such as rabbits, into felt for hats. I can confirm that I only used soap and water in my workshop and no small animals where harmed in the process either….
Workplace safety back in the day were lax and exposure to mercury caused employees to develop a variety of physical and mental ailments, including tremors (dubbed “hatter’s shakes”), speech problems, emotional instability and hallucinations, not the best working environment and glad to report that the use of mercury in hat making was banned for use in the early 1940’s.
Fitted and Felted
We spent the first hour measuring my head so we would get a good fit, preparing the template and choosing the wool which of course was my favourite colour – purple. Several hours later and after a lot of felting, fulling and shaping I had a hat to take home and dry.
Process and Practice
The process is long but enjoyable as you see the shape appearing. I shall make another hat in a different style as the more I practice the more I will learn about this great craft.