Understanding Felting in Knitting: Tips and Techniques

Understanding Felting in Knitting: Tips and Techniques

When it comes to knitting, felting is a technique that every knitter should be familiar with. Felting is the process of deliberately shrinking a knitted item to create a dense, thick, and durable texture. It involves washing the knitted piece in hot water and agitating it to cause the fibers to bond together. This results in a fabric that is not only warm and soft but also resistant to wear and tear.

Felting can be used to create a variety of items, from cozy hats and slippers to sturdy bags and blankets. It is a great way to give new life to old, worn-out knitted pieces or to add a unique touch to handmade items. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced knitter, felting can be a fun and rewarding technique to explore.

To felt a knitted item, you will need natural animal fiber yarn, such as wool or alpaca, as synthetic fibers do not felt well. It is important to use yarn that has not been treated with superwash or any other anti-felting agents. You will also need access to hot water, soap, and a washing machine or a sink for the felting process.

The felting process involves several steps. Firstly, you need to knit the item you want to felt, making sure to leave enough room for shrinkage. Once the knitting is complete, you will need to wash the item in hot water and agitate it to encourage felting. This can be done by placing the item in a washing machine with a few towels or by hand washing it in a sink.

What is Felting in Knitting: A Complete Guide

Felting is a process in which knitted items are transformed into a denser, thicker fabric by subjecting them to heat, moisture, and agitation. This process causes the individual fibers of the knitted fabric to interlock, creating a solid piece of felted material. Felting is a popular technique in knitting, as it can be used to create unique and durable projects such as bags, hats, slippers, and even sculptures.

How does felting work?

Felting works by manipulating the natural properties of wool. Wool fibers have microscopic scales that can catch and lock together when exposed to heat, moisture, and friction. When a knitted item is subjected to these conditions, the scales on the wool fibers open up, allowing them to interlock with each other.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to felt a knitted item:

  1. Start with a knitted project made from 100% wool yarn. Other animal fibers such as alpaca or mohair can also be felted.
  2. Prepare a basin of hot water, as hot as you can stand, and add a few drops of soap or liquid detergent.
  3. Place the knitted item into the basin and use your hands to gently agitate it. You can also use a washing machine set to the hot water and gentle cycle. Agitation is key to felting, so make sure to move the item around.
  4. Continue agitating the item for about 10-15 minutes, periodically checking its progress. The fabric will start to shrink and thicken as the fibers interlock.
  5. Once you’re satisfied with the felting, rinse the item under cold water to remove any soap residue.
  6. Gently squeeze out excess water and reshape the item to its desired shape. You can use a blocking mat or towel to help shape the item.
  7. Allow the item to air dry completely, preferably laying it flat to maintain its shape and prevent stretching.

Tips for successful felting:

  • Always use animal fibers, such as wool, for felting as they have the necessary scales for interlocking.
  • Avoid using superwash or acrylic yarn, as these fibers have been treated to resist felting.
  • Experiment with different temperatures and agitation levels to achieve the desired felting effect. Hotter water and more agitation will result in a stronger felted fabric.
  • Consider using a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to contain the knitted item during felting. This can help protect your washing machine from loose fibers.
  • Remember that felting is an irreversible process, so always test a small swatch before felting your entire project.

Felting can be a fun and creative way to transform your knitted items into something unique and durable. With some experimentation and practice, you can achieve stunning felted effects in your knitting projects.

Understanding Felting and its Origins

When it comes to knitting, felting is a technique that transforms knitted fabric into a dense and thick material. This process involves washing and agitating the knit item, causing the fibers to interlock and shrink.

Felting has been used for centuries to create warm and durable textiles. The origins of felting can be traced back to ancient times, where it was discovered accidentally. Nomadic tribes would line their footwear with fleece to insulate their feet on long journeys. Over time, the constant friction and moisture from walking would cause the fibers to interlock and felt.

As the technique of felting was discovered and refined, it became a popular method for creating various items such as blankets, clothing, and accessories. In fact, felting was so widely used that it became an essential part of many traditional craft cultures around the world.

Today, felting is not only used to create functional and practical items but also to add texture and depth to artistic projects. Knitters and fiber artists use felting to create sculptures, wall hangings, and even intricate designs on garments.

Felting can be achieved using different methods, including hand felting, machine felting, and needle felting. Hand felting involves soaking the knit item in warm soapy water and agitating it by rubbing or rolling it between the hands. Machine felting is done using a washing machine, and needle felting involves using a special needle to interlock the fibers.

Understanding the process of felting and its origins can help knitters and fiber artists explore new techniques and create unique projects. Whether you want to create cozy slippers or a vibrant felted art piece, felting allows for endless possibilities in the world of knitting.

The Process of Felting

Felting is a technique used in knitting to create a dense and solid fabric. It involves manipulating the knit fabric in a particular way to cause the individual fibers to interlock and shrink, resulting in a thicker and more durable textile.

Materials Needed:

  • Knitted item (made from wool or other feltable fibers)
  • Hot water
  • Soap or detergent
  • Agitator (washing machine, sink, or bucket)
  • Old towel or bubble wrap

Step 1: Prepare the Knitted Item

  1. Begin by ensuring that your knitted item is made from a feltable fiber, such as wool. Other animal fibers like alpaca and mohair can also be felted.
  2. Check if your knitted item is suitable for felting by examining the stitch pattern. Simple stitch patterns with larger stitches will felt more easily.
  3. If necessary, sew any loose ends or make any desired modifications to the knitted item before felting.

Step 2: Prepare the Felting Environment

  1. Fill a sink, bucket, or washing machine with hot water. The water should be hot enough to be uncomfortable to the touch but not boiling.
  2. Add a small amount of soap or detergent to the water. This will aid in the felting process. Avoid using fabric softeners or any products that may hinder the felting process.

Step 3: Felting Process

  1. Submerge the knitted item in the hot soapy water. Gently agitate the item to ensure that it is fully saturated.
  2. Continue to agitate the knitted item by squeezing, rubbing, and pressing it together. This will encourage the fibers to interlock and shrink.
  3. Pay special attention to the areas that you want to shrink or shape, such as sleeves or collars. Manipulate these areas accordingly during the felting process.
  4. Regularly check the progress of felting by removing the item from the water and squeezing out any excess moisture. Check if the fibers have started to interlock and the fabric has shrunk. Felting can take anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the desired result and the fiber used.
  5. Once the desired level of felting is achieved, rinse the item in clean water to remove any soap or detergent.

Step 4: Shaping and Drying

  1. Gently shape the felted item to the desired dimensions using your hands. If you want a more structured shape, consider using a template or mold.
  2. Place the shaped item on an old towel or bubble wrap and roll it up tightly. Apply pressure to remove any excess water.
  3. Unroll the towel or bubble wrap and reshape the item once again if necessary.
  4. Lay the item flat to dry, keeping it away from direct heat or sunlight. Avoid hanging the item as it may stretch.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Felted Creation

After the item is completely dry, you can enjoy your felted creation! Felting can transform a loose and delicate knitted fabric into a sturdy and cozy material that is perfect for projects such as bags, slippers, and home decor items.

Types of Yarn Suitable for Felting

When it comes to felting, not all yarns are created equal. Some types of yarn are much more suitable for felting than others. Here are some common types of yarn that are often used in felting projects:

  • 100% Wool Yarn: This is the most common type of yarn used for felting. Wool has natural fibers that bind together when exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation, making it ideal for felting.
  • Wool Blend Yarn: Yarns that contain a blend of wool and other fibers can also be used for felting. However, keep in mind that the more wool content, the better the yarn will felt.
  • Animal Fiber Yarn: Yarns made from other animal fibers such as alpaca, mohair, or angora can also be used for felting, although they may not felt as well as pure wool.
  • Pre-Felted Yarn: Some yarns are pre-felted, meaning they have already been partially felted during the manufacturing process. These yarns can be used for felting, but they may not shrink as much as regular yarns.

When choosing yarn for felting, it’s important to check the label and look for yarns that are labeled as suitable for felting. These yarns have usually been treated to make them more likely to felt successfully.

It’s also worth noting that not all colors of yarn will felt the same way. Some colors, especially dark colors, may bleed or fade during the felting process. It’s a good idea to do a test swatch before starting your felting project to see how the colors will behave.

Tools and Techniques for Felting

Felting is the process of creating a dense, strong fabric by matting or shrinking wool fibers together. This can be done on purpose to create a specific effect, or it can happen accidentally if a knitted item is improperly washed or exposed to heat. Regardless of the method, here are some essential tools and techniques for felting:

1. Felting Needles

Felting needles are specialized needles with barbs along the shaft. These barbs catch the wool fibers and push them together as the needle is repeatedly poked into the fabric. Felting needles come in various sizes, with smaller sizes being used for detailed work and larger sizes for faster felting.

2. Felting Mat

A felting mat is a cushioned surface that provides a backing for the fabric while felting. It helps protect the needle and keeps it from breaking. A foam felting mat is commonly used, as it allows for easy penetration of the needle and the fabric.

3. Warm Water and Soap

3. Warm Water and Soap

Felting requires the use of warm water and soap. The warmth helps to relax and agitate the wool fibers, while the soap reduces surface tension. This combination assists in the matting process and helps the fibers adhere together more easily.

4. Agitation Techniques

Agitation is a crucial step in felting. It involves manipulating the fabric by hand or using tools to help encourage the wool fibers to shrink and mat together. Techniques such as rubbing, rolling, or throwing the fabric can be used to create friction and aid in the felting process.

5. Blocking Tools

Blocking tools, such as blocking boards, pins, and rulers, are useful for shaping and resizing the felted fabric. They help achieve a desired size and shape for the finished project. Blocking is done after the felting process to ensure that the fabric maintains its desired shape as it dries.

6. Washing Machine

A washing machine can be used to felt larger knitted items, such as blankets or sweaters. This method employs the combination of warm water, soap, and agitation to speed up the felting process. However, it is essential to monitor the item closely to prevent over-felting or damage.

7. Finishing Techniques

After felting, there are various finishing techniques that can be applied to enhance the appearance and functionality of the fabric. These techniques include needle felting, embroidering, and adding trims or embellishments to the felted project.

With these tools and techniques, you can achieve beautiful and durable felted projects in knitting. Experiment and have fun exploring the possibilities of felting!

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Felting

When felting your knitted projects, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that can affect the outcome of your final piece. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure a successful felting process and achieve the desired result. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Not using the correct yarn: Not all yarns are suitable for felting. Make sure to use 100% wool or other animal fibers, as they have natural properties that allow for felting. Synthetic fibers like acrylic will not felt.
  • Choosing the wrong stitch pattern: Some stitch patterns, such as lacy or openwork designs, may not felt properly or may lose their shape during the felting process. It’s important to choose a stitch pattern that will result in a dense and sturdy fabric.
  • Not swatching: Swatching is important in any knitting project, and felting is no exception. By making a small swatch and felting it, you can determine the amount of shrinkage and adjust your project accordingly. Failure to swatch may result in an unexpected and undesirable final size.
  • Over-agitating the project: Agitation is an important part of the felting process, but over-agitating can cause your project to felt unevenly or excessively. Avoid excessive rubbing or agitation to prevent this from happening.
  • Not checking the felting progress: Felting is a process that requires careful monitoring. Check on your project regularly to assess the progress and prevent over-felting. Felting times can vary depending on factors such as yarn type, stitch pattern, and desired outcome.
  • Skipping the blocking process: After felting, it’s important to block your project to shape it and allow it to dry properly. Skipping this step can result in a misshapen or unevenly felted piece.

By being aware of these common mistakes and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure a successful felting process and create beautiful felted knitted items.

Creative Uses for Felted Knits

Felting is a versatile technique that allows you to transform your knitted items into a dense, sturdy fabric by agitating them in hot water. Once felted, these knits can be used for a variety of creative projects. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

  • Coasters: Cut felted squares or circles to use as coasters. The dense fabric will absorb any moisture from your drinks, protecting your furniture.
  • Trivets: Similar to coasters, you can create felted squares or circles in larger sizes to use as trivets. These will provide a heat-resistant surface for hot pots and pans.
  • Jewelry: Use small pieces of felted fabric to create unique jewelry pieces. You can cut shapes and attach them to earring findings, necklace chains, or even make brooches.
  • Pouches: Make small pouches or bags out of felted knits. These can be used to store various small items such as coins, jewelry, or even as reusable gift bags.
  • Slippers: Felting larger knitted pieces like socks or slippers can result in cozy, warm footwear. Cut out the desired shapes, sew them together, and add some non-slip soles for added comfort.
  • Table Mats: Create felted rectangles to use as unique table mats. These will not only protect your table surface but also add a pop of color and texture to your dining area.
  • Holiday Ornaments: Cut out holiday-themed shapes from felted knits to create ornaments for your Christmas tree or other festive decorations.

These are just a few of the many creative uses for felted knits. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment and let your creativity shine!

Caring for Felted Knits

Once you’ve finished felting your knitted item, it’s important to know how to care for it to ensure its longevity.


Since felted knits can be fragile, it’s best to hand wash them instead of using a washing machine. Fill a basin with lukewarm water and a gentle wool wash or baby shampoo.

  1. Gently submerge the felted item in the soapy water and let it soak for a few minutes.
  2. Using your hands, lightly agitate the water to clean the item. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing too vigorously as this can cause further felting or distortion.
  3. Rinse the item in clean lukewarm water until the water runs clear and all soap is removed.
  4. Gently squeeze out the excess water, being careful not to wring or twist the item, which can cause it to lose its shape.
  5. Roll the item in a clean towel to absorb more water.
  6. Reshape the item and lay it flat on a dry towel or a drying rack to air dry.


When storing felted knits, it’s important to keep them away from moths and other pests that may be attracted to natural fibers. Here are some tips for storing your felted items:

  • Make sure the item is clean and completely dry before storing.
  • Place the item in a breathable bag or wrap it in acid-free tissue paper to protect it from dust and moths.
  • Avoid folding or compressing the item too tightly as this can cause creases and distortion.
  • Store the item in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent color fading.

Removing Wrinkles and Refreshing

If your felted knit has developed wrinkles or lost some of its shape over time, you can gently steam it to restore its appearance. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a steamer or a kettle with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Hold the item above the steam, being careful not to touch the hot water or steam directly.
  3. Allow the steam to penetrate the fibers of the felted knit for a few seconds.
  4. Gently reshape the item with your hands while it is still warm and pliable.
  5. Leave the item to air dry and cool completely, retaining its new shape.

By following these care instructions, you can keep your felted knits looking beautiful and ensure their durability for years to come.

Exploring Advanced Felting Techniques

Felting is a versatile technique that can be used to create a variety of textures and effects in knitting projects. While basic felting involves washing and agitating knit items to create a dense, fabric-like material, there are also more advanced felting techniques that can be used to achieve unique and interesting results.

Here are some advanced felting techniques that you can try:

  • Nuno Felting: This technique involves felting wool fibers onto a fabric base, such as silk or cotton. By combining different materials, nuno felting creates a lightweight, textured fabric with a beautiful drape.
  • Needle Felting: Needle felting is a method of felting that uses a special barbed needle to interlock wool fibers. It allows you to create detailed designs and embellishments on your knitted items, such as flowers, animals, and patterns.
  • Resist Felting: Resist felting involves using a resist material, such as plastic or bubble wrap, to create areas in your knitting that will remain unfelted. By applying pressure and heat, you can control the felting process and create interesting shapes and textures.
  • Fulling: Fulling is a technique that involves partially felting a knitted item to create a softer, thicker fabric. This is achieved by agitating the item for a shorter amount of time than traditional felting.
  • Cobweb Felting: This technique creates a delicate, lacy fabric by felting fine wool fibers. By spreading the wool thinly and wetting it, you can create a cobweb-like texture that is perfect for lightweight garments and accessories.

When experimenting with advanced felting techniques, it’s important to follow the specific instructions for each technique and test them on a small swatch before applying them to your larger project. Felting is a process that requires time and attention to detail, but the results can be truly stunning.

Remember to have fun and be creative with your felting projects. The possibilities are endless!


What is the process of felting in knitting?

The process of felting in knitting involves intentionally shrinking and matting knitted pieces to create a thicker, more durable fabric.

Why would someone want to felt their knitted items?

There are several reasons why someone might want to felt their knitted items. Felting can make the fabric thicker and warmer, it can hide any uneven stitches or mistakes in the knitting, and it can create a more durable material that is less likely to unravel.

What are some common methods for felting in knitting?

Some common methods for felting in knitting include hand felting, machine felting, and steam felting. Hand felting involves agitating the knitted item in hot, soapy water, while machine felting involves putting the item in a washing machine and running a hot water cycle. Steam felting uses steam to shrink and mat the fibers.

Can any type of yarn be felted?

No, not all types of yarn can be felted. Only animal fibers, such as wool, alpaca, and mohair, have the ability to felt. Synthetic fibers, such as acrylic and nylon, do not have the necessary properties to felt.

Are there any tips for felting in knitting?

Yes, here are a few tips for felting in knitting: always use hot water and a felting soap or detergent, check the item frequently to prevent over-felting, and consider making a test swatch to gauge how much the item will shrink during the felting process.


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