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felting and the co-dependency of fibers - when you don't know what to do...
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tashabear
tashabear
felting and the co-dependency of fibers
I'm reposting this description of the felting process here, so I can direct people at it when the need arises. Apologies to those on my friends list who have already seen this as a comment in knitting.

I think you might be a little unclear on what happens to wool when you full it. (Fulling is the correct term for purposely shrinking woolen fabric, whether knitted or woven. Most people use the word "felted," but I'm going to go whole hog here and use the correct terms as I know them.)

Wool fibers have all these microscopic hooks on them that like to grab onto each other. In part, this is why spinning works -- the fibers slide by each other, and then they're twisted and the hooks grab each other and you end up with a strong yet elastic yarn.

When you wash wool in an warm alkali solution (as you get with hot soapy water), all the little hooks stand up and take notice. If you agitate the wool (as might happen if you toss a wool sweater in a washing machine), the little hooks grab one another for dear life, clinging to one another in ever-tightening hugs. This is how the wool shrinks and thickens, and it's a one way process. Wool has memory, and all those little hooks are terribly terribly co-dependent, and will never let go again.

However, you can make the washing of wool a less traumatic process for the little hooks, by using warm soapy water (you'll need the soap to get the treatment off the yarn) and very little agitation -- just a nice swish through the water, rather than scrubbing and wringing. When the item is clean, rinse gently, using the same swish technique with clean water, until you've gotten all the soap out (which is why it behooves you to use very little in the first place), then press out all the water you can, and roll the item in a towel to get more water out. You may need to use several towels, depending on the size of the item.

Shocking is *not* something you want to do with this glove project. You shock yarn by dumping it from lovely hot soapy water to very cold, not-soapy water. Shocking freezes all the fibers in place, sort of resetting the memory of the yarn when you're fulling something. "Yes, I know you remember being not-wrapped around each other, but you are now, and this is where you stay." *SHOCK* [zombie fiber voices] "...this is where we stay..." Shocking is also used to set the twist of newly spun yarn, along with thwapping, which helps to balance the yarn... but that's another hobby and another community.

With your yarn, I'd just knit a gauge swatch with the yarn as is, and then wash it gently to see how it changes, and go from there. There may be a blooming of the fibers that affects the gauge by making the swatch bigger, rather than smaller. I wouldn't bother washing the yarn before knitting though, unless the treatment made the yarn really nasty to handknit with -- why do the same step twice? You're going to need to block the items anyway.

Hope that helps!

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2 trips or shoot the rapids
Comments
From: kightp Date: July 12th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC) (base camp)
Straight into the memories. Thanks!
mariora From: mariora Date: July 12th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC) (base camp)
Have I told you lately that I love you?? ;)
2 trips or shoot the rapids