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Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Felting Saga

Felting has become an important part of my fiber arts repertoire. I started out by doing knitted felting (Sassy Sac Bags and Clutches), later learned nuno felting from a wonderful felter in Northhampton, MA (Jean Gauger), hand felting during a workshop at The Independent Art Company in Wilmington NC from Cynthia Mollenkopf), Artfelt felting (on my own), and more recently needle felting to embellish my bags!  I LOVE it all!  And also in recent weeks, I've been combining knit, nuno, and needle felting in what I call "Three-Felt Bags."  It's become a passion!

That is.....until recently!  When I think I killed my washing machine!  And so the saga began!

My trusty old washer!  Well, not so old ('cause they don't make them like they used to!)  It was 9 years old and died one day while doing the weekly laundry.  It had served me well in that capacity, but it was almost always reliable for felting!  I faithfully used a mesh lingerie bag to contain my pieces during the felting process, but many loose fibers escaped and (maybe) clogged the mechanisms.  I had had a repairman come to look at it a couple of weeks before when it wasn't spinning completely dry, and $114 later, it appeared to be OK.  He basically found nothing much wrong with it.  HA!

I knew on DD that I wasn't going to spend any more $$$ for repairs and so went immediately to Lowe's - I had no time that day for traipsing all over Wilmington to find the best deal.  I wanted a simple top-loading washer with agitator (for felting!), no frills, bells, or whistles.  I found one - a Whirlpool - that I thought would be perfect, middle of the pack in price, similar in design and operation (HA!) to my defunct one.  It was delivered the next day!  And it washed the clothes!

On to knitting a bag for felting!  A clutch would be the easiest.  I had seen a design on Pinterest that I wanted to try - no pattern, just the use of contrasting colors - a simple design that should have been fool-proof!  So what's the problem?

  • The whole washer is electronic!  
  • The lid locks during the entire cycle!  Yes, you can interrupt it, but.....!
  • It "senses" everything! can't control the water level.
  • The water isn't as hot - it tells me that in the manual!
  • You can't reset it to go through another cycle in the middle of a cycle!
UGH!!!   ARGH!!!!  GRRRRRR!!!!!
  • First cycle: the water wasn't hot enough; the agitation wasn't fast or long enough!
  • Second round:  I added a pair of jeans and started again.  It "sensed" the addition and when I peeked again, the water level was up to the top!  Far too much water for felting!
  • The bag was an unfelted mess!
Next steps:  Research online how to felt without a machine!  I was willing to try it all to salvage what ought to have been a cute little bag.  I found several possibilities:
  • Vigorously hand-felt it!
  • Use a plunger (new one - which amazingly I had!)
  • Boil it!
So of course, I tried all three.  The hand felting did nothing but tire my hands, back, and ribcage!  The plunger sucked the hell out of it, but didn't felt the damn thing!  I did find online another type plunger with  vents that WOULD eliminate the sucking tendency, but I was not about to go looking for that or wait to order it.  So into the pot went the bag to boil away and hopefully shrink to a usable size.  I was  determined!  20 minutes in the deep!

So what happened?  The house smelled like wet wool (visiting daughter emerged from her room to comment, "What is that awful smell?)  The white of the bag turned an awful shade of greige!  And while it felted somewhat, it never reduced in size lengthwise to produce an appropriate size for a clutch bag.  But still I was determined to make something salable out of this saga.  And unfortunately I didn't take photos of this whole process.  
I did finally create this bag - doesn't look too bad, you say!  Well, look closely, and you'll see that the sides have been CUT and sewed together ( because the bag was probably a foot long).

You can STILL see the lines where it should be smoothly felted! The edges needed some attention on the flap where I cut. Because it didn't truly felt (can you believe THAT after all those processes?), I had to needle felt them to be sure it all stayed together.  I added and needle-felted black wool yarn embellishments with pieces of recycled silk scarf.  The whole of it is not terrible, but....!

Considering the amount of time it took to reach this stage, the price tag should probably be $200+, but of course, that would be ridiculous!  And besides, it's not perfect! has a reasonable price tag and is available at Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts in The Cotton Exchange in WIlmington NC (or directly from me!)



dbk design said...

i had the same problem when i got a new washer-I HATE IT! have you tried a cordless sander?

Louise Giordano said...

I just posted Part II - with my current "solution." It might work for you too! See it here:

Thanks for the suggestion!

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