So, you may be wondering just what are these things ?
Strange, ruffled toadstool tops?
Knit sea anemones?
Little gnome hats ?
Nope, they are the BEFORE picture – & here’s the AFTER ….
These are circles which I knit in the round & then FULLED.
A 5-Minute Handwork Homeschool Lesson
1 .What is FULLING ?
Fulling is a quick & easy method used to felt fibres that have been knit or woven.
For centuries, this process has been used to make natural fabrics heavier & thicker. The fulling technique described here is best suited to knit items or garments. Fulling woven fabrics is a somewhat more difficult & quite often done in an industrial environment.
2 . MATERIALS –
– Water – HOT (really hot – but don’t burn yourself !) & COLD
– Soap – real soap (not detergent) – lavendar is a great moth-repellant
– Something to FULL –
**** NOTE The item must be knit of natural (untreated) yarn which may include any combination of these popular fibres –
– wool ( including merino)
– silk (best if combined with a “hair” fibre)
OR these more exotic choices
– angora (rabbit)
– camel down
– quiviut (muskox down)
Occasionally, you may be able to full a yarn which has some synthetic content but it is best to do a test before you knit an entire piece. Natural yarns which are blended with bamboo or soy or other plant-based fibres can work too.
3 . TOOLS –
– Your hands ( you can do this with children but they should only do the cold part !)
– A sink & a tub (or second large container)
– Small Washboard (OPTIONAL – it’s great for larger pieces & to engage younger kids)
4 . TECHNIQUE –
Basically, “fulling” is just a fancy word for shrinking ! All animal fibres have microscopic scales which, when dry, overlap each other smoothly along the length of the hairs. When the fibre is wet, they open up. In hot water they open up even more & when rubbed, pounded or agitated in anyway they catch onto each other. Pop it into some cold water & they clamp shut in their new positions never to return to their former shape.
Let’s start “fulling” !
– FILL your sink basin with very hot water & some soap (if it’s a liquid)
– SWIRL around to make lots of bubbles (just for fun – it’s not really necessary)
– PLUNGE your piece into the basin & scrub it against itself between your hands
– RUB your piece all over with the soap (if you’re using a bar)
– PRETEND that you are trying to get out stubborn stain
– SHRINK the piece evenly by rubbing all over
(or just the areas you really want to shrink)
– CONTINUE for a couple of minutes – you will be able to if the piece is getting thicker
– PLUNGE it into cold water or place it under running water (= more agitation)
– RINSE until all soap is removed
– CHECK your piece to see if it has shrunk enough – if not then….
– PLUNGE your piece back into HOT water & repeat soaping & scrubbing
– ** REFILL your basin with HOT water if it has cooled too much
– RINSE & check
– DRY – once you are pleased with the shape, thickness & size of your project lay it
out on a thick towel to air dry
– ARRANGE piece into final shape – it will dry as it sits
– FLAT PIECES need to be checked regularly to make sure they keep their shape
(pull it back into shape as it dries or better yet pin it onto a padded surface)
– PAT yourself on the back & start thinking about the next project you’d like to full !
5 . PROJECTS –
There is no end to what you may FULL. Here, I’ve used one of my fulled circles to form the base of a mini playscape. Fulling is a great way to enable knit toys to withstand lots of playing & loving. Since fulling makes knit pieces stronger it’s a wonderful technique to use on bags or purses as well as things you’d like to make more waterproof (mitts).
If you have a beginner knitter in your family, fulling is a fabulous way to even out (& maybe even hide a few mistakes on ) their first pieces.
Remember, once a piece is fulled the changes are irreversible. No going back !
Look through your stash, find some great fibres, knit a few swatches (which can become great doll blankets later on), roll up your sleeves & FULL away !
Splish, Splash !!
P.S. Fulling is just one of several types of felting. Felting is the process of binding & shrinking natural fibres together. Fulling shrinks fabric (knit or woven) which has already been made. Wet felting uses water, soap & agitation to bind & shape un-spun fibre (often called rovings) together. Dry felting is achieved by using a special felting needle to poke the rovings until they form a shape. Some people combine more than one method in a single project. Boiled wool is usually considered commercially “fulled” fabric, it is usually heavier than commercially prepared felt which comes in sheets or lengths. These felt pieces can be sewn or glued to create wonderful toys, clothes & decor.