The best yarns for felting are 100% wool or other animal fibers, such as alpaca, angora, mohair, and llama. You can also try using blends of these fibers. (Superwash wools have been treated so that they will not shrink, so don't use them.) Synthetics are not good felters, but you can try to felt a wool/synthetic blend, as long as it isn't more than 10%-15% synthetic.
Fibers that have been bleached, such as bright whites, and bright colors that have been treated with bleach to take the dye are also not always the best for felting. It is not recommended to use different yarn types in the same piece because they will felt differently. And you need to be careful when felting together multiple colors as they can bleed. No matter what yarn you choose, you should felt a knitted swatch first to get a sense of whether and how it will work.
Felting is easiest and fastest when done in a washing machine. If you don't have a washing machine, you can felt in a bucket or in a bathtub or sink. Don't use a front-loading machine, though, as you must open the machine to check on your item every few minutes.
A zippered mesh laundry bag or pillowcase will protect your washer from the wads of fuzz that come off in the process. You also need bleach-free laundry soap, or mild dish soap if you're felting by hand. A tablespoon is plenty. Because agitation and friction are important factors in felting, a pair of jeans or a canvas sneaker to throw in the machine with your item can be helpful, too.
You need to knit the item you want to felt larger than you want it to be—to account for the shrinking—and to knit it at a loose gauge, using needles that are 2mm larger than the size specified for the yarn. For example, if your yarn calls for a size 6 (4mm) needle, you'd knit your item with a size 10 (6mm) needle. A tightly knit fabric can end up too rigid, but only experimentation with swatches will tell.
Felting is unpredictable; you're taking a risk when you put that handknit item into the washing machine. However, you can get at least some sense of the outcome beforehand by swatching. So before you spend the time knitting a bag that is twice the size you want it to be, test felt a swatch in the same yarn first. Be sure to measure the swatch before and after to get a sense of how much shrinkage occurs when you felt it.
A knitted bag is a perfect project for experimenting with felting. A bag at any size is useful in some way, so even if your handbag ends up a change purse, you can still use it. This felted bag is easy to knit, and the handles are integrated right into the body, so finishing is a snap.
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