Regular readers of the DIY Eyrea will know that I'm not much one for knitting fads — and, given that the craft dates back 800-1,000 years, I count a "fad" as anything less than a century old.
By that count, felting (I am not going to call if "fulling" outside of a textile studies programme) via washing machine is most definitely a fad. Felting knitted stuff itself dates back to the first time someone pulled a shrunken, matted piece of work out of the laundry tub and thought to themselves, "You know, if I planned for that before the knitting that could be kind of useful fabric..." Felting by machine, of course, only dates back to since the invention of washing machines. Until the fad, most felting by machine was unintentional.
The Naked Sheep recently got some felted clog-style slipper kits in, and they interested me because slippers are one of the few things I feel justify felting these days. Unless you are a Dutch fisherman, you probably will never need a felted sweater. Felted bags? Meh. Depends on the bag design. Felted slippers, on the other hand, are both warm and hard-wearing. The first is probably less important in these days of central heating, but hard-wearing still counts.
I'd just finished the ballerina slippers from the mercerised wool Gina gave me (see previous post), but felted slippers sounded interesting from a longevity point of view. Knit them once, quickly, on big needles, felt them, and then enjoy them for a long, long time. It sounded like a great return on investment. So I headed down to the Sheep, checked out the kits they still had left, and came home with a purple/blue/burgundy/turquoise blend.
The slippers looked like this initially:
They were almost twice as big as they needed to be. Since I had never caused serious shrinkage to anything woolen in my life, I was very nervous that I would wind up ripping out the things and making more ballerina slippers with them, but followed the instructions with the pattern and dutifully tossed them in the washing machine.
Three and a half hours later, they were this size:
In the photo, it looks like the slippers are still way too big, but when I put them on, they're only a little too big. In other words, they feel like clogs.
I hope these really do last a long time. The felting took more time than the knitting, and it got excruciating after a while having to stop the washer every five minutes to check on the progress. If someone were going to make an entire family's worth of these things, I strongly recommend felting them all in one go. My washer survived the ordeal pretty well, but I'm much more likely to believe those stories about burning out the washer motor while felting now.
Pattern notes: this is a Fibre Trends pattern and assumes you will want to knit in the round. Because most of the slipper is worked in short rows, however, it made more sense to me to convert the whole thing to flat knitting. This only adds 12 rows of seaming to the slipper, and since there are already two sole seams to stitch up, it doesn't seem like that big a deal.