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Felt finishing techniques
Posted on 9:04pm Monday 16th Apr 2012
Ok so I have my felted trinket box I made in the last post, looking very nice here it is again...
But one of the issues with 3D felted items is that they can be a bit too soft and flexible to be really practical for some purposes, depending on what you need. This is great for bags, purses, gadget covers and those kind of things, but not so much for a box, pot or bowl. I like my objects not only to look pretty but to be very useable. So I want to be able to put stuff in this and move it around and it not become floppy and distorted.
With this box being made of thick and thin bulky yarn you can also see that the edges are naturally a bit uneven and bobbly, particularly in the links between knitted rows. Which looks nice and gives it the hand-made feel, but I do want to pull it in a bit.
So first I’m just going to run a doubled-up sewing thread inside the felt around the edge to stabilise it better and strengthen the rim.
Just make sure the needle enters and exits the felt from right inside it and not on the surface as you stitch along. When putting the needle into the felt on a new stitch put it as close as possible to where your needle last exited. Tighten up when you’ve gone all the way around. Thread the ends into the felt, pull up and snip off as close as possible to the felt. The thread will disappear inside so it won’t be seen.
There we are, better already!
Next I want the whole thing to be very much more rigid. There are several ways to achieve this.
Now looking at these options, I really don’t want to felt my item more or beat it because firstly it’s a lot more work and secondly because I like the level of felting I already have. I don’t want to lose that bit of stitch definition remaining and merge the colours further. Although these are great things to do if you want a dense item, but I really like the felting effect I got, I think the yarn is too pretty to have it all merged up. And sewing is fiddly and time consuming. Also I want this design to look simple without decorations. So I’m opting for number 3, treat it with a stiffener.
What I’m doing next is going to seem incredibly scary for yarnaholic knitters, doing even more horrible things to your already traumatised beautiful wool and it might seem a bit odd, but trust me!
Ok so this is what I do, I take some wood glue (the white PVA kind) you really don’t need to buy expensive fabric treatments. Make sure it specifies that it dries clear that’s all.
Mix up a solution of about 1 part glue to 2 parts water. You get a milky sticky mixture.
There are two ways to work with this, you can either brush this mixture directly onto the felted box, or if you don’t mind getting rather messy you can soak the whole thing in the solution, squeeze it out and leave to dry formed over your mould again (remember the milk carton bottom from the last post?).
Brushing on the glue mixture
Be warned, painting this on is going to terrify you, you’ll think that your box is going to be all matted and covered in sticky white patches and all that hard work will be wasted - but believe me, it soaks right into the fibres, and dries clear inside them so it’ll look like nothing much has happened to it except that it becomes stiffer.
For the soaking technique, the glue gets down into the fibres quicker and more easily. But on the other hand you have less control over where the mixture goes, there is a bit more drying time required, and it is much more messy to work with as you’ll be squeezing it out with your hands! If you want to do it this way it makes sense to use the glue mixture as your final rinse after felting.
If you’re doing the brushing technique you can easily spot test a less visible section if you’re concerned about how it will turn out, you can apply the glue mix just to certain areas that you prefer to be stiffer than others, or apply it again if you’re not happy with it once it’s dry - to build up to the level of stiffness you want.
With both methods, if there are any lumps and bumps you don’t want you can mould them out a bit while your felted box is damp after applying the glue solution.
Tips: If you’re painting the mixture on, make sure you use a good quality paintbrush, you don’t want one that will shed all its bristles into your felt! If you want your box really very stiff with little flexibility then use a solution of equal parts water and glue.
After drying, all the white has disappeared and the glue has been absorbed down into the fibres. Magic! It looks normal again.
Once it is dry, to finish off you can snip off any sticking out stiffened fibres you don’t like the look of, and you can even brush it very gently to bring up fluff if you like it more fluffy.
There we are, the box is now more rigid and practical! I can turn it upside down and it doesn’t sag, and put things in it without the edge moving around too much.
But it still feels a little bit flexible, and is soft and woolly on the surface so we haven’t lost all the beautiful properties of this lovely yarn. Now I can fill it with knitty trinkets!