Guest Post: Breed Specific Yarns with Beth Brown-Reinsel

There are so many sheep, and so many types of sheep, in this world. “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (the FAO) estimated in 2006 that there are over 1300 breeds of sheep in the world, and this number does not reflect the extinct breeds.”1 It is ecologically important to have diversity in all things, including sheep breeds. These genetic adaptations have come about through changes in the environment as well as a fair amount of human fiddling around to achieve better meat production or to enhance various properties of the wool.

Merino Rams

Merino Rams

I remember that yarn shopping in the 1970s was a straight-forward affair. My favorite yarn store had a dazzling wall of colorful skeins stacked almost to the ceiling. Good old Germantown. It was 100% wool. Period. There was no clue as to what breeds were included in that skein of yarn. Actually I think it is a marvel that yarns made of blended wools can be produced with consistent results, time and time again. It takes great skill to create a blended yarn from all the various fleeces that come into a spinning mill. Most yarns are made this way–an amalgam of fleeces, mysterious to us consumers, but carefully calculated by the manufacturer to create a specific type of yarn.

Most breed specific yarns have been available commercially for just a few decades, other than Merino and Shetland, which are arguably the most recognizable breed specific yarns.

I liken varietal wines to breed specific yarns. Rather than blending different varieties of grapes (or the gene pools of different breeds of sheep), adhering to one variety, or breed, allows the characteristics of that type of grape, or sheep, to stand out. The strengths of that breed can be applied to its best use. Being a handspinner, I found myself naturally drawn to yarns from a single source.

So knowing the breed characteristics can guide you as to the best use for that yarn. Choosing a Merino or Rambouillet yarn, which is of a very fine fiber, to make a textured garment such as a gansey would typically yield patterning so soft it would not show as well as a crisper medium staple yarn, such as Colombia or Corriedale. Because the crimp is so high in finer wools, the light is absorbed more readily yielding a soft, matte look. Other wool fibers with less crimp tend to reflect the light, showing off textures to great advantage. But a fine, crimpy wool is very soft and perfect for baby clothes, or garments worn next to one’s skin.

In the mid-1990s yarns began to appear on the market that were made from one breed alone. I had started my online yarn shop and began importing breed specific yarns from the UK. Some of these breeds were quite special. The Wensleydale sheep, categorized as “at risk” by The Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the U.K., has a sheen like mohair, but can feel soft and buttery. I found it made spectacular Arans, creating deep textures that showed well with the shiny quality of the yarns.

Learn more about Breed Specific Yarns on the Woolery Blog's guest post with Beth Brown Reinsel!

The Suffolk I imported was the most bouncy, jubilant yarn I had seen and made the best cables and bobbles! (As a spinner I scoffed at the idea of Suffolk yarn at first, but learned that the Brits’ idea of Suffolk is completely different than the scratchy US version, which is bred primarily for meat.)

Suffolk Yarn - learn more about breed specific yarns on the Woolery Blog with Beth Brown Reinsel!

Suffolk Yarn

Herdwick wool is coarse and has these lovely bits of kinky white hair (kemp) in among the grey wool. I wouldn’t want to wear it next to my skin, but for outerwear that yarn would last forever.

Herdwick Yarn - learn more about breed specific yarns with Beth Brown Reinsel on the Woolery Blog!

Herdwick Yarn

Icelandic wool is often sold in cakes as a single ply yarn with little twist, called plötulopi. The fleece is double-coated, made up of a soft, shorter undercoat and a more sturdy, longer fiber. The garments made from this yarn are light, yet very warm. From the photo below, the coarser hairs can be seen, creating a fuzzy halo.

Icelandic Yarn - learn more about breed specific yarns with Beth Brown Reinsel on the Woolery blog!

Icelandic Yarn

Shetland is historically used in color knitting for which it is well suited, in part because the genetics have been quite varied in the past, yielding a wealth of natural shades. It is a crimpier, finer yarn. While textures may not show as well with this yarn, it is perfect for stranded color work, such as Fair Isle garments.

Shetland yarn in a Fair Isle sweater - learn more about breed specific yarns with Beth Brown Reinsel on the Woolery Blog!

Shetland yarn in a Fair Isle sweater

The Norwegian Spælsau has been a domesticated sheep since the Iron Age, though to prevent extinction, the gene pool was enhanced in the 1960s and 19702 with Icelandic, Finn, and Faroe Island sheep. This lovely yarn holds up well over time, having a hair mixed in with the wool (an attribute of “primitive” breeds, where the hair has not been bred out of the breed). This yarn was used in the beloved Norwegian Setesdal Lusekofte, a garment that developed in the early 1800s. If you look closely at the photo below you can see the white hairs that give a fuzzy look to the garment.

A Lusekofte made of Spælsau wool - learn more about breed specific yarns with Beth Brown Reinsel on the Woolery blog!

A Lusekofte made of Spælsau wool

The challenge for knitters then is to understand that even within a certain breed there will be wide variety. If you are buying a commercially prepared yarn, you can be assured that it has been made more homogeneous and will be relatively consistent. But there is something so special about working with a breed specific yarn for a project the yarn is so perfectly suited to. Educating yourself as to the strengths of different breeds is fun and enlightening. Knitting with breed specific yarns can become a lifelong passion.

I have listed on my website as many sources as I know of businesses that sell breed specific yarns. There are several books available now (listed below) that explore the wonderful variety of breeds and give suggestions for their respective uses.

Parkes, Clara. The Knitter’s Book of Wool. New York: Pottercraft, 2009.
Robson, Deborah and Ekarius, Carol. The Field Guide to Fleece. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2013.
Robson, Deborah and Ekarius, Carol. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2011.

1FAO. 2007. State of the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture. 512 pp.

bethBeth Brown-Reinsel has been passionately teaching historic knitting workshops nationally, as well as internationally, for over 25 years. Her book Knitting Ganseys has been deemed a classic. She has made three DVDs: Knitting Ganseys with Beth Brown-Reinsel, Color Stranded Knitting Techniques, and Sanquhar Gloves with Beth Brown-Reinsel. Her articles and designs have appeared in Threads, Cast On, Interweave Knits, Knitting Traditions, Piecework, Shuttle, Spindle, and Dye Pot, Vogue Knitting, Knitters magazines, as well as The Knitter, a magazine of the UK. She continues to design for her own pattern line Knitting Traditions. Beth’s website, blog, knitting patterns, and email newsletter can be found at http://www.knittingtraditions.com. Her Etsy store carries her knitting kits, DVDs and other goodies. She lives in Vermont and loves winter!

Meet Wave & Perri + Getting Started on a Turkish Spindle

Since making our announcement on last month’s blog post, we’ve received some requests from our customers who would like to get to know the Woolery’s new owners just a little bit better. Wave and Perri are very excited about owning The Woolery and look forward to continuing the mission of providing a wide variety of quality supplies and equipment at a fair price to the fiber arts community.

perri22Perri will use her retail background to ensure that The Woolery continues to offer the best personalized customer service possible. In addition to rug hooking and cross stitching, Perri enjoys restoring antiques and assigning Wave “Pinterest Worthy” projects for their home.

wave22Wave’s marketing background will help ensure that The Woolery continues to lead the way in offering interesting and unique new products. Wave will also focus his efforts on the e-commerce experience offered by The Woolery. Wave’s outside interests include woodworking and photography.

Married for more than 30 years, Perri and Wave have two grown sons and make their home in Lexington, KY. They look forward to joining you on your fiber journey!

Being able to take your handspinning project with you wherever you go can be especially handy during the summer months. Vacations, picnics, and other outings don’t have to mean that you leave your spinning at home! A Turkish drop spindle travels well and is quite easy to use – and when you’re finished spinning or plying,  the spindle slips apart, leaving your yarn in a neat ball that’s ready to use!

One of our own spinning gurus, Taevia, has a unique way of starting a spinning project on a Turkish spindle which doesn’t require a leader. She has shared her step-by-step process with us this week so that you can give it a try, too!

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Step One: Begin with a small amount of spinning fiber. Gently wrap one end around top of shaft and secure with one hand.

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Step Two: Using your other hand, begin to draft out more fiber, wrapping it around the shaft a few times.

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Step Three: Draft the fiber some more and introduce enough twist to produce a single ply in your desired weight.

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Step Four:  Wrap your yarn a few more times around the shaft, then loop it over your index finger as pictured above to make a half hitch.

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Step Five: Place the loop over the shaft of the spindle and pull the working end of the fiber up – this will secure your yarn, allowing you to continue spinning!

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Step Six: Now you’re ready to spin!

As you amass more yardage, you will need to wrap your yarn around the arms of the spindle. The standard way to do this is to wrap your single over two arms, then under one arm as you tension the working yarn and slowly rotate the spindle as you wrap. This will create a ball of yarn that is wrapped around the arms of your spindle, allowing you to fit a considerable amount of yarn on your spindle, depending on the weight of yarn you are spinning. When you have finished spinning or plying, simply remove the shaft so that you slide each arm out of the yarn ball you just created!

 

 

A Special Announcement + Guest Post: Why I Weave Upside Down & Backwards

WavePerriBefore we jump into this month’s guest post, we have some big news to share with you: the Woolery is under new ownership! Chris and Nancy Miller would like to thank everyone for many fun & fibery years, and we wish them well on their new adventures.

Our new fearless fiber leaders are Wave and Perri McFarland, who are committed to continuing the Woolery’s focus on personalized customer service and enhancing the fiber enthusiast’s overall shopping experience. You can still expect to find the most extensive array of supplies and equipment, both online and under one retail roof when you visit the Woolery in historic downtown Frankfort, KY. 

Without further ado, we’re pleased to share this little bit of weaving inspiration with you. Enjoy!

Guest Post: Why I Weave Upside Down & Backwards with Lindsey Campbell
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I learned early on that the process of weaving is an endurance test. When I decided to make my first weave, I grabbed an empty frame, pushed some pins in the top and slowly started replaying Sandy’s tutorials on youtube. What I thought would be an afternoon project turned into 3 days of frustration, pulling out stitches, wondering why my sides were curving inward and getting back cramps from bending over. When I finally, triumphantly, cut the weave off the makeshift loom and turned it over, I realized that all of my ends stuck out straight like a fiber forest, and that the work was far from over. Another day later my small weave was proudly sewn onto a small stick and hung above my desk. The whole ordeal yielded a far-from-perfect wall hanging, but I was hooked and I haven’t looked back since. The drive to perfect my skills with the frustrating fibers led me to finding my absolute favorite medium.

I have since spent hundreds of hours at my loom and made dozens of wall hangings. I have also built 3 different looms, each bigger than the last. Every time I stretch my creativity and cut a new weave off the loom, I slightly dread the ‘housekeeping’ chores of weaving in all of the ends and sewing on the stick. I’ve learned a few tricks with every progressive weave I’ve worked on and now when you walk into my studio, you will see looms with yarn woven upside down and backwards. Why? you may ask. The short answer is: My method is my own because it works for me and keeps me from pulling my hair out after I’ve worked so hard on a design and want to simply cut it off of the loom and move on to the next idea.

The reason I enjoy weaving from the back is simply so that I can weave in my ends as I work on the weave. A beautiful back is almost as important as a beautiful front in my opinion. I use the weaver’s knot to hide splits of the same yarn and when I reach the end of the color block I simply pull the needle, along with the end, down along the warp string through the previous 5 -6 weft rows and cut it flush to the weave. By weaving in my ends while they are on the loom, I maintain the tension needed for a tight fit that will hold in the end without displacing any of the straight rows from all of my tugging and pulling. When I need to add texture stitches such as rya, I simply turn my loom around to view the front and add them before turning it back around to the back to continue weaving around them. Finishing a weave with a polished back is the equivalent of feeling like a weaving ninja. Plus, it saves time and yarn!

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Weaving upside down is a much more popular technique among weavers. My favorite method of attaching the stick to the top of the wall hanging means requires my warps to meet in pairs at the top with a loop between them. It also requires about 2-3 inches of space before the first row. By weaving upside down, I never run out of room as I near the top of my design. I believe that the top of a wall hanging should be the priority while the fringe at the bottom is an afterthought. Beginning with the fringe doesn’t make sense to my designs, so I turn the loom upside down and try to imaging my design from a bat’s angle. Sure, sometimes this means I don’t quite know how the weave looks until I take a break to turn it right side up, but more often than not, it turns out better than I expected. Sometimes this also means that I have to modify weaving techniques that are done right side up, but it sure is good for my dexterity practice!

Whenever I get questions from new weavers about building their own looms, I always give the same advice: discover your own weaving style and then build/find a loom that works with your comfort method. Weaving from bottom to top? Left to right? Creating shapes and then filling in between them? All are the right way to weave as long as they are right for you. As I learned early on with my first weave – discovery and endurance are the biggest motivations to continue fine-tuning your craft. They provide the perfect amount of elation and frustration to keep pushing you. Happy weaving!

lindseyLindsey is the weaver and blogger behind hellohydrangea.com. Her work includes bold graphic designs with soft, subtle textures. She enjoys teaching weaving tutorials and connecting with the fiber community online. She currently resides in Texas, USA with her husband and two dogs.

 

So You Want to Buy A Loom!

There are plenty of compelling reasons to take up weaving, but the ones we hear the most often from our customers is that weaving is a great way to use up stashed yarn, and it is also a wonderful kid-friendly activity for the summer break. Whether you are thinking of buying a loom for the first time, or you are looking to upgrade, today’s blog post will help you sort through the various types of looms to determine which one is best for your skill level, space requirements, intended usage and cost.

#1: Space

By assessing how much room you have for your loom, you can probably narrow down the list of choices right away. A tabletop, backstrap or hand loom are ideal for those with limited space, while a floor loom is better suited to those with a dedicated crafting area. Keep in mind that, while a loom might fit in the intended area, you will want to be sure that you have enough space to work comfortably when setting up and weaving. If you do have enough space, a floor loom is recommended because it is heavier and stronger and works much faster than a table loom. Floor looms offer more project possibilities and also give a better shed because of their greater depth; some models of floor looms are light and can be folded (Jack types), while others are heavier and take up more space.

A Folding Rigid Heddle Loom

A Folding Rigid Heddle Loom.

#2 Skill Level

Starting small can be a wonderful way to get your feet wet without the huge investment a larger, more complex loom would require. Table looms are generally smaller and less expensive than their floor loom counterparts, and they are portable enough for travel and storage. 4-harness (shaft) table looms are also useful for demonstration purposes, samples and workshops; even once you graduate to a larger loom, it can be used later for samples, research and small projects. Other looms which are easy to master are inkle looms or rigid heddle looms.

Advanced weavers would do well to to purchase a floor loom with as many harnesses (shafts) as possible; the more harnesses a loom has, the more design possibilities it offers. Some looms have as many as sixteen harnesses!

A 16 Harness Floor Loom.

A 16 Harness Floor Loom.

#3 Projects

Next, you’ll want to consider what types of projects you’re most likely to make with your loom. Regardless of the loom you choose, the width indicates how wide of fabric you will be able to weave; while the length can be many yards on floor looms, it is more limited on rigid heddle or table looms. As previously mentioned, the larger the width of the loom and the the more harnesses it has, the greater the possibilities when it comes to projects. For some of the more limited loom types, we’ve compiled a list of possible projects to help you decide which looms would best suit your needs:

  • A rigid heddle loom will allow you to weave light work such as placemats, dishtowels, scarves, shawls or fabric for clothing.
  • Inkle looms are designed to weave several yards of narrow fabric for articles such as belts, sashes, ties, bookmarks, hairbands, guitar straps, etc.
  • Tapestry looms are frame looms which do not require a warping board; they are ideal for making a tapestry to hang on the wall.
  • Triangle Looms are also frame looms which do not require a warping board. Because of the resulting triangular shape, tri-looms are ideal to quickly weave triangular shawls (a 7-foot shawl can be woven in less than a day!). Blankets or afghans can be made by piecing several triangles together; other possible projects include mats, scarves, ruanas or ponchos.
An Inkle Loom.

An Inkle Loom.

#4 Cost

A general rule of thumb when purchasing a loom is that price goes up with size and features – by determining your budget ahead of time, you will be able to match your other requirements to an appropriate loom. For beginners on a budget, a rigid heddle loom is a good way to learn how to weave without spending too much money, and it is the equivalent of a 2-harness loom. Among 4-harness looms, a table loom is cheaper and can be moved easily, but it is hand-operated and therefore much slower than a floor loom; also, because of its low weight and width, the weaving possibilities are limited.

For more information on loom types and features to help you select the best loom to suit your needs, please visit our informational page here on our website.

All the best,

The entire Woolery team

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Hand-Dyeing Fiber With Long Color Repeats

Variegated hand-dyed yarns and fibers are some of my favorite choices when starting a new project, but sometimes those colorful braids and skeins can be a challenge to work with. Especially when it comes to spinning fiber, it can be hard to control where the colors fall as you spin. One fun solution to this problem is to choose a fiber with longer color sections: they can either be a series of differing colors, which would produce a stripe sequence when spun directly from the braid, or a range of tonal values in the same hue, which would produce a gradient effect as you spin.

In today’s post, I’ll show you how to easily dye prepared fiber to achieve long color repeats and gradient effects with as little mess and fuss as possible, allowing you to spin directly from the top to create your yarn.

Ready to get started? You’ll just need some basic supplies which you probably already have on hand. For today’s post, I used Easter egg dyes because they are user-friendly and non-toxic; if you don’t have a stash of Easter egg dye from this past spring as I do, feel free to use kool-aid, food coloring, natural or conventional dyes instead!

Supplies:
1 Easter Egg Dye Kit (I used Paas)
Several large mason jars, plastic cups,  or glass bowls (enough for however many colors you will be using for your fiber)
Distilled White Vinegar
Glass baking dish(es), preferably clear
Spinning Fiber (I used 8 oz. of Louet Jacob sliver)
Gloves
Scale (optional)
Scrap yarn for securing fiber bundles for dyeing

Easter Egg Dyes for Long Color Repeats on Spinning Fiber1. Prep the dye: Click here to read how I prepare to work with Easter egg dye. You can also check out this blog post from the Woolery blog archives for more at-home dyeing instructions. Pro Tip: I recommend mixing more dye than you think you’ll need – spinning fiber can be rather thirsty!

It’s probably easiest to arrange your dyes in a straight line in the order you’d like the colors to appear, but I was short on space, so I arranged my dyes as you see above and worked clockwise from the bottom right.

2. Prep the fiber: Usually, I like to soak the yarn or fiber I’m about to dye in lukewarm water with a little vinegar added; however, I thought it would be easier to work with unsoaked fiber this time around. Honestly, both options would produce wonderful results, it just comes down to a matter of preference.

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Since I was planning to make four large color repeats on the 8oz of undyed Louet Jacob Sliver, I loosely bundled the sliver into four somewhat equal sections by weight.

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To secure each section, I used scrap yarn to wrap around the sliver, which I wound around my hand to make distinct sections.

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Just be sure to leave enough fiber between sections so that you can fit each section in its dye bath without pulling apart the fiber. Also, don’t tie the strings too tightly, or you will have undyed sections on your fiber where the dye wasn’t able to reach.

Spinning Fiber, Ready to Dye in Long Color Repeats!
3. Time to Dye! Beginning with one end of the fiber and your first color, submerge the bundled section in the dye bath. Add the next bundle of fiber to the following dye bath, and so on, until all of your bundles are submerged in their own dye bath.

Dyeing Long Color Repeats on Spinning FiberWork the dye through each section by squeezing it gently. Some of the spinning fiber will still be undyed between each of the color sections; you can either let it sit for a few hours to let the dyes naturally creep up the fiber, or you can use your hands to work the dye through these sections as well.

4. Transfer the Fiber to a Glass Dish: Once you have worked all of the dye through the fiber, you will need to transfer it to a microwave-safe or oven-safe dish (depending on how you plan to set the dye, which we’ll cover in the next section). To do so, you will need to start with one end of your fiber and gently squeeze out all of the excess dye BEFORE transferring it to one end of the dish. Repeat this process, carefully arranging each of the bundles so that they don’t bleed into the next section.

Transferring dyed fiber to a baking dish.

5. Set the Dye: Many folks use the microwave to set the dye, but I prefer using the oven when I dye. A few minutes before I started dyeing, I preheated the oven to 275 degrees F. By the time I was finished with step 4 above, the oven was ready. I put the baking dish of fiber in the oven and set the time for 10 minutes; once it went off, I pulled out the dish and carefully turned over each bundle of fiber, then put the dish back in the over to heat for another 10 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may need a little more time – I usually go by whether or not the dye has exhausted by squeezing a small section of fiber to see if dye or clear water comes out. If no dye is released, then it has been exhausted and doesn’t need any more heat!

Hand-Dyed Long Color Repeats on Spinning Fiber.
5. Time to dry:
Once it’s cool enough to handle, gently remove the  fiber and squeeze out any excess liquid over the sink. Find a good place to hang it up to dry where it will be away from sunlight, curious pets or children.

Dyed Gradient Roving - Visit the Woolery Blog for an easy DIY Hand-Dye Tutorial.
6. Time to spin:
Now it’s time for the fun part! I plan to split this 8 oz sliver down the middle so that I can spin two matching singles in the same sequence of colors. It could also make an interesting single or chain-plied yarn spun directly from the sliver as-is. The possibilities are endless!

For any non-spinners out there, these instructions will also work for dyeing skeined yarn or yarn blanks to achieve similar results; I’ve even seen instructions for dyeing caked yarn in a similar manner!

Like anything, there are many, many different approaches to dyeing yarns and fibers in general, as well as to achieve long color repeats and gradients – this is just one way to explore the world of at-home dyeing, and I encourage you to experiment and try other techniques to see which works best for you!

stefaniegrStefanie Goodwin-Ritter is a blogger, knitter, crocheter, spinner, and all-around crafting enthusiast who calls Chicago home. She used to be a dyer at Lorna’s Laces Yarns, but now experiments with hand-dyeing yarn and fiber at home just for fun! You can follow her fibery exploits at handmadebystefanie.blogspot.com.

Planning Your Next Handspun Project is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Some folks enjoy the process of handspinning as a way to relax or unwind (if you’ll pardon the pun), while others find a more technique- or results-driven approach to be be satisfying – for instance, spinning a woolen-style yarn or experimenting with a new technique to create art yarns. Among our customers, it seems as though most folks prefer a mixture of both, and today’s post will help you plan your next handspun project for those days when you crave a little more structure in your spinning session.

Handspun Yarn

1. It’s all about the yarn: think about the resulting yarn you wish to create – are you looking for something to suit a particular project? Do you have a fiber that you would like to try out which you’ve never spun before? Do you want to make a lofty single-ply yarn, or are you thinking about a sturdy three-ply yarn? Are you looking to try a new spinning or fiber processing technique? All of these are questions which can help guide you to creating the yarn of your dreams without a whole lot of trial and error.

2. Keep a Diary: Starting a sample notebook is a great way to record your progress as a spinner, and it will become a powerful, time-saving reference guide for yourself as you progress. Include a sample of the finished yarn amd make note of  how you prepared the fiber, which techniques you used, how many plies and in which direction you plied both the singles and finished yarn, resulting WPI, ratios used, and – if you have multiple spindles or wheels – which wheel or spindle you used. Making note of any other pieces of equipment you used (for example, which type of combs you used, the type of cloth that was on your carder, or if you used an andean plying tool, etc) is also helpful. These are all things which seems like they’re be memorable at the time, but much later, you’ll be happy you wrote them down – it’s amazing how many of these little details can get lost in the process otherwise!

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3. Spin those samples: Use a small sample of your fiber to spin up singles using the techniques you plan on using. This will allow you to see if the fiber and technique are a good match, and also give you some time to get familiar with both elements. Not only that, but if you need to achieve a specific weight for the finished yarn, the sampling process will allow you to make the necessary adjustments to ensure success in your finished product. Use as much fiber as you can reasonably spare – an ounce or two is ideal. You will want to be sure to treat your finished samples just as you would your finished project by rinsing them in your favorite wool wash and hanging them to dry! If your sample didn’t turn out as expected, it’s time to get back to the spinning wheel to make any necessary adjustments to achieve your desired results.

Once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s time to start spinning the yarn of your dreams!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Guest Post: Wet Felting a Cloche with Sayra Adams

Wet felting tutorial by Sayra Adams on the Woolery blog.

Create a felted cute cloche, that’s fun and cute to wear.

Before I learned to spin yarn, I made ladies’ hats; this led to felting embellishments, hats and other explorations with wool. Felting isn’t hard to do – it’s time consuming, yet very rewarding. These days, everything is NOW, and it’s easy to feel like you’re on overload. Moving back to hands-on crafts is relaxing, fun and cheaper than therapy!

Hats are very flattering, plus they are fun to wear. Popular show such as Downton Abbey always make me want to wear hats, and this vintage-inspired cloche style is reminiscent of what you might see one of the characters wearing. I love wearing hats, and I admit I probably should wear them more.

For those of you new to felting, water, soap and friction (rubbing, etc.) is what makes the felting process happen. Felting is a really fun activity which anyone can enjoy (even little ones!). This project doesn’t require a great deal of supplies: depending on the materials you choose, you can make the hat for around $20-$40. You could use wool roving, a plastic or cardboard resist, and soap because you will be flat felting two sandwiched sections around a resist. Then, after the wool felts enough to pick up and handle-you remove the resist. If you are feeling a little intimidated, fear not – this post will take you through the process step-by-step, and it will make sense as you view the photos below.

I used a basic brown merino, since merino wool felts fastest and it is my preferred fiber to felt with! After I made the hat, I decided it was a little tame, so I dyed it black (because, you know black goes with everything). I recommend picking a color that flatters you, although black is great on everyone.

The materials I used to felt my hat.

The materials I used to felt my hat.

Skills Needed: Patience, basic sewing, and approx. 3 hours of time

Supplies: 
*3.8 oz merino batts, or roving
*matchstick blind, bubble wrap, or textured shelf liner
*2 yards bridal tulle-aids in felt not sticking to the blind
*liquid dish soap
*sewing needle, thread, scissors, straight pins
*millinery grosgrain ribbon
*measuring tape
*resist (made of cardboard or thick plastic-see below)

Optional Supplies:
sewing machine (you may also sew in the headsize band by hand)
hat block (you can use a bowl in a pinch)
ridged wood block
soap saver-ridged bendy tool for shaping thick cord
iron (with steam function)

To make your resist: it is easy to make out of thick plastic or cardboard. The resist should be bell shaped and a bit flared at the bottom. Follow my sketch below to make your resist template:

Template to make a resist for wet felting, visit the Woolery Blog for a tutorial!

Once you have your resist made, you can get started!

Visit the Woolery Blog for a wet felting photo tutorial!
Fig A:
Lay out your tulle, matchstick blind, and two layers of wool. Batts are handy-for felting larger items. Mine peeled apart in layers. Roving take a little patience, place wool evenly.

As seen in Fig B, you must lay your wool in two directions: horizontal one way, and vertical in the other. This aids in felting. Lay the wool about 2” bigger than the resist.

Fig C: Add your resist, then repeat another layer of wool, same as the base (Fig D). You’re making a felt “sandwich” with the resist in the middle. Dribble a tiny amount of liquid soap over the wool. Go easy, since you don’t want a big soapy mess. About 4 small drops of liquid should be enough.

Visit the Woolery Blog for a wet felting photo tutorial!

Fig E: Gently fold the seam edges of the wool over the resist. Then sprinkle water on to moisten the wool (but try not to drench it). If there’s too much water, you can squeeze it out later.

Fig F: Place another layer of tulle on top of the felt, and roll up the matchstick blind. Roll like you’re making dough-for about 3 minutes. Check the hat, see if any of the seam edges have migrated. Continue to roll. Then turn the project, and roll in another direction. Whatever direction you roll, or rub, the hat will shrink in that direction. Keep rolling, and rubbing. Test for “felt” where it feels like the wool is stiffening up. Repeat…and when it gets felted enough, you can remove the resist! (Note: The active felting time can take up to 45 minutes)

Fig G: Oops! Invariably, a ridge might happen on the hat seam. Don’t sweat it. I laid my hat on the hat block, and stitched down the bumpy parts, then continued to roll, and rub. Then I turned my hat inside out to hide it (Fig H). See, there’s always a solution!

Visit the Woolery Blog for a wet felting photo tutorial!

Fig I: This is one way to rub the hat in order to further felt it. Presumably, now you have something remotely hat-shaped: if it’s looking like a bell,you’re heading in the right direction! Now is the time to try it on. If it’s still a bit too big, rub side to side so it shrinks. When it fits the way you want it to, wring the hat out and rinse the soap from it, then put it between two old towels to remove the excess water.

Dyeing a wet felted cloche hat on the Woolery Blog.

I decided to dye my hat black (Fig J). Ideally, you would pick the color of wool you want the hat to be at the start of your project, but sometimes you have a change of heart along the way! I dyed my hat in a glass bowl using acid dye; then I used my microwave on high for 10 minutes to set the dye.

Figs K-M: Use the bowl as a blocking device to shape your hat. You can use steam from an iron to help flatten out the crown tip. Using the thick cord placed about halfway down the hat block, I made a sweatband crease, which is where the optional sweatband will go. I highly recommend taking this extra step because sweatbands are an excellent buffer between you and the wool – this way your forehead won’t itch!

To add your sweatband, you can either sew it in with a sewing machine (a little tricky) or sew it in by hand, which might be easier, depending on your sewing skills and confidence. If it doesn’t work, pull the stitches out and start over!

Wet felted hat project - visit the Woolery blog for step by step instructions!

Fig N: Cut your grosgrain ribbon to fit; you can measure your head by wrapping the tape measure around and choosing an area where the hat would rest naturally. I usually take my measurements at about an inch above the eyebrows, and just over the ears. Add two inches to your overall head measurement to determine the length you should cut the grosgrain ribbon.

Using an iron, “curve” the grosgrain ribbon to make it easier to sew into the hat. It will flex, because millinery grosgrain has flexible edges. Fold the ribbon end over, and pin the 2inches under. Test to see if it fits your head, then divide into fourths, making with a pin (Fig O).

Fig P: Pin equally into the inside of the hat on the sweatband crease.

Fig Q: Slowly sew the sweatband using a sewing machine, or by hand. Sewing with a machine will give it a neater appearance. You may match the grosgrain ribbon with the thread to match the hat, on in this example, I used black thread for the bobbin to match the black felt.

Learn to wet felt a cloche hat on the Woolery Blog!I chose to cut my hat brim down some: I made it 1 inch in the back and slowly tapered to about 2 inches in the front. I used a piece of white chalk to mark the space where I needed to cut, then used a pair of very sharp scissors to cut it, saving a piece of felt to use for the hat band embellishment. To see how I make a rosette motif with art yarns, click here for instructions. Otherwise, enjoy your hat without ornament!

sayraSayra Adams (formerly known as Hatdiva) started making fanciful, romantic ladies’ hats in 1991. Her innate gift using color led to many fun hat designs. After years of dyeing silks and fashioning straw hats, she switched gears and began felting with wool…and an obsession for all things wool began! You can follow her fibery exploits at www.atomicbluefiber.com.