Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Felting of the swatch...

This is so cool... I'm amazed every time I do felting.  All the things you are NEVER supposed to do to wool, doing them and coming up with the most amazing and dense fabric you can imagine!

Hot water, strong agitation  with a pair of old jeans and extra laundry detergent.  After five minutes, I got this:

Five minutes

Still some small "holes" in the fabric, this photo is shot with the swatch very wet and plopped on top of the washing machine lid with most of the foam blotted off.  Not much shrinkage yet, but the yarn is starting to fuzz out a little. 

The measurements at this point were 6 3/4" wide by 6 1/2" high.

Back into the washer it went for another five minutes of sloshing around in hot water.  As an aside, trying to find the little swatch in all that foam and the wet jeans was a bit of an adventure.  That water is HOT! Thank goodness for rubber gloves!

After another five minutes, ten minutes total now,  the swatch was 6 3/4" wide by 5 1/2" high.  Interestingly enough, the knitted fabric was pulling in more in length than in width.  I guess I hadn't expected that.  Back in to slosh for another five minutes, fifteen total, the swatch measured 5 3/4" wide by 4 1/2" high.  Finally starting to pull in widthwise and firming up in texture.  Fewer holes in the fabric.  Back in for another slosh, after 20 minutes the swatch was 5" wide by 4" high.  Back in again, after 25 minutes the swatch measured 4 3/4" wide by 3 1/4" high.  One more time and after 30 minutes total the swatch measured 4 1/2" wide and 3 1/4" high and looked like this:

I've got pictures of the whole progression for my own files, but I noticed that the garter stitch edge behaved differently than the stockinette center.  The main difference can be felt (I couldn't help myself - sorry!) in the density of the fabric.  The stitches are no longer visible anywhere, although the garter stitch ridges are still there with a very firm touch.  The fabric got quite "hairy" and dense.  Very little drape so the tam should hold its shape well as long as it is blocked properly.

Now that the swatch is done and felted, I spun it out and rinsed it twice in the washer with the jeans.  The swatch is sitting out on the counter to dry, the jeans went into the dryer to await their duty as companions to the tam when it comes time to felt it.

All that being done, I started knitting on the tam.  Patterning is from Piecework magazine's feature on kilt hose and bonnets from the Royal Highland Regiment Black Watch.

Balmoral Bonnet to match Wallace Tartan
Some part of me recoils from calling a hat intended for a very large man a "bonnet" so I've been referring to it as a tam.  Although not technically correct, it sure beats the mental image of said big man wearing a frilly Easter bonnet.  So, it remains a tam for the purposes of this blog.

I'm pleased with the way the color work is going.  I haven't done any Fair Isle color stranding in a long, long time.  I knit with one color carried in each hand and the stranding almost happens without me thinking about it much.  I remember that tip from Alice Starmore's fantastic book on Fair Isle.  The long rectangles of color will become square in the felting process and, of course, much smaller.  I like the look of the brilliant yellow with all the dark colors.  The tam will be trimmed out in a black grosgrain ribbon edge with swallowtail ends in the back.  There are adjustment ties concealed in the ribbon edge that will adjust the fit.

Back to knitting!

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