Right, I had to write this post because this is one of those things I’ve been wondering about for a while. Can you felt non-animal fibres?
It was one of those things that my head told me must be possible… but Google told me it wasn’t.
Well, I thought it was about time this conventional wisdom was put to the test. And now I’m ready to call nonsense on felting purists.
But why did I want to test this assumption? Lately my head has been turned by felted Norwegian House Slippers.
I really like them and wanted to make a pair for my Dad. But as I’ve never tried felting before, I wanted to test them in some non-expensive acrylic yarn first. Cue hours of googling…
But you see, even after all this googling it just didn’t make sense to me. Yarn manufacturers now do such an amazing job at replicating animal fibres with acrylic. By spinning very thin acrylic fibres, they can achieve a result that looks very much like wool. Because the process of felting is merely breaking down those thin fibres so they fuse together and create a dense fabric, I just couldn’t see why this couldn’t also be done with acrylic “imitation” wool.
Hence the test:
I took yarn that was 80% acrylic and 20% wool (yes, yes, I know. It’s not 100% acrylic but the amount of wool in there really is negligible!)
But the most important factor I looked for in this yarn was that it had delicate, fluffy fibres (you know, that LOOKS like felting wool). I then used single crochet to whip up a couple of 10 stitch x 10 stitch squares.
I didn’t touch the blue square, but I then threw the purple square into a sink and added some hand soap and some very hot water. I used a potato masher to swish it around and mash it a bit, and then used my hands to rub both sides of the square. I ran it under cold water, then repeated the process a few times. I also found that if I added soap directly to the square instead of to the water, the whole process was much easier.
So, can acrylic (well, 80% acrylic) yarn felt? YES it can.
BUT there are a few caveats…
Shrinkage: I noticed that the whole item didn’t shrink nearly as much as it would have if I was using wool. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because it means you can almost tell what size something will be after felting when it’s still at the crochet size. But it’s bad because it means there are a few “holes” in the fabric.
Sturdiness: If something is truly felted, it should behave like a piece of fabric. So you should be able to cut it up as you please. So I cut through the crochet square and pulled it in lots of different directions to see how it would hold up. It wasn’t too bad but it definitely wasn’t as sturdy as felted wool would be.
Points of improvement: Next time, I would change the following things to get a better result with felting (mostly) acrylic yarn.
- I would crochet the piece with a smaller hook than recommended to get a dense fabric first to make up for the fact the piece won’t shrink very much
- I would try felting the piece in a washing machine on the hottest setting OR in the dryer because I have heard this achieves a more “felted” result
- Perhaps a good compromise between economy and the best felted result would be a 50/50 wool/acrylic combination
But all in all, I was pretty pleased with the results of this experiment. Never again will I be put off from using a wool mix instead of pure wool for felting. And Norwegian House Slippers, here I come! 😀
Until next time…