Thursday, January 7, 2010

I am the Queen of Felting

I love the idea that homeschooling isn't just for the kids, it's for the parents too; while the young ones learn about whatever they want to, so can we. It's in this spirit that I took up knitting over the holidays and, while I have been knitting for only a month or so, I've certainly dived right in.

I finished this sweater last week, and I love it. I called it my experimental sweater, a good name because it doesn't really fit me all that well - it's too long in the arms and too broad in the shoulders, while at the same time it's not quite long enough in the body and so I end up looking like a gorilla wearing a sweater that's too short. It is not pretty, which is too bad, because it is such a lovely sweater.

As I was finishing it up, I realized that this knitting stuff is habit-forming, and that I felt really strange without something somewhere on needles. So I decided to make a felted tote from the best knitting book ever (the one we've taken to calling 'Stitch n' Complain' in our house because the real name contains a swear.) I figure I'll use the tote to keep my knitting in, so that I can take it with me wherever I want, instead of using the far-less-transportable basket that houses current projects now.

But the felting presented a problem: to take wool and turn it to felt requires very hot water and agitation. Most people toss their projects into the washing machine to accomplish the task. But we have a front-loader - great for saving water, and cutting down on drying time and wear on clothes - but sucky for felting because you can't stop the washer to see when it's time to stop felting, and also it hardly agitates at all (hence the less wear on clothes). I would have to find another way.

First I tried boiling the heck out of a gauge swatch, but after ten solid minutes of rapid boiling, all I had was a house that smelled like a herd of sheep lived here. So then I found a blog post on the web in which the blogger stuck her project in a bucket on a towel in her bathtub and used a (clean, new) plunger to agitate in very hot water. I must admit I was skeptical, especially after the boiled-on-the-stove experience, but I tossed the swatch into the bucket along with a bit of dish soap and a pair of Owen's jeans, and in about three minutes, voila! I had felt.

Now, it was time to take my finished bag and try it with that.

There it is. I was afraid to stick it in the bucket, because I worked so hard on it.

And here we are mid-agitation. I am getting scared at this point, after five or so minutes of hard labor, that maybe it won't take.

But after another few minutes, less than five, it worked! It felt all felty. So I rolled it up in a towel to get out some of the moisture, and then laid it flat to dry.

And THAT is why I feel that I can call myself the Queen of Felting. Best of all, I ended up with about two combined skeins of yarn in three different colors, so I can make other stuff to felt! Socks, mittens, perhaps another purse... habit-forming, I'm telling you.


Firefly mom said...

All hail the Queen!! I've been knitting for 3 months, and I haven't tried anything remotely as hard as a sweater! Thanks for the tip on felting - we have a front loader, too.

BTW - I also have the "stitch and complain" book. Love it ;D

Diane said...

I think the sweater looks great, especially after only knitting for a month. I crochet but haven't really moved past scarves and blankets. Going to a stitch and sit tonight maybe I will learn some more.

jugglingpaynes said...

Great job! I guess I'll have to buy my daughter a plunger. At least...I'm assuming you don't use the same one that you use for everyday plumbing issues. ;o)

Peace and Laughter!

Lise said...

All hail the queen of felting...and knitting! I can't believe you accomplished all that in a month! You give me hope that someday, I might be able to knit.

Sparklee said...

You have been knitting for a month and you made a SWEATER? I'm impressed!

The purse is super cute, too!

Anonymous said...

All I know is that I'm staying on your GOOD side this year because a bag that cute would be the perfect Christmas present!!! ;)

The Stone Age Techie said...

Firefly Mom - knitting *and* chickens? You and I are getting to be quite the homesteaders, aren't we? The sweater pattern is from a book called "25 Gorgeous Sweaters for the New Knitter" and, while I thought that some things were kind of dated, it's a great resource for easy(ish)-to-knit sweaters and vests. The one complaint I have is that there are no how-to's in the whole book! It'll say 'seam as desired,' rather than telling you how to sew seams, so I kept Stitch n Complain right nearby, I can tell you!

Diane - thanks, I just wish it fit better... but, that's why I called it my 'experimental sweater,' and I learned a lot while I made it.
Crocheting is fun too, although I haven't done it for a decade or so. My Mom tells that when I was really little, like 2 or 3, she taught me how to do a crochet chain stitch and I crocheted my way around our house, leaving a chain-stitch trail wherever I went!
Thanks for stopping by :-)

Cristina - nope! This plunger has never seen the inside of a toilet. Your daughter is going to have so much fun :-)

Lise - if I can knit, anyone can knit! Just try to limit your first attempts to after kiddos are in bed, so they don't hear the swearing until you get the hang of it :-)

Sparklee - thanks! I think that these knitted up pretty quickly because they are on larger needles - the tote is on a size 15 circular, and the sweater is on size 11 needles. I'm now starting a vest on sizes 6 and 8 needles, and I think this one may take a bit longer...

Topsy - now I know what to give you! What are your favorite colors? (Yes, I am serious :-)

Cheers everyone -

Luisa said...

Just came over to your blog for the first time saw your comment in the purple house blog. Love your profile I'm actually homeschooling some of my younger children this year and it feels good.
As for your sweater I'm impressed! Very good. I'm new to knitting and hope to graduate from scarves soon.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Welcome Luisa! And thanks for your compliments :-)

I can't even believe I'm writing this next bit: I am thinking about felting the sweater. It's too big up in the shoulders and collar anyway, and so I figure I might as well shrink it up a bit.

Am I crazy?

Rana said...

I'm impressed you just started this a month ago. That sweater is really cute and I love love love the bag. Where do I put an order in for 3 bags one for me, my sister and my best girlfriend. Keep up the good work.


The Stone Age Techie said...

Rana, you are such a cutie :-) There is an extremely slim chance that I may someday make them to sell, and if that happens I will let you know! In the meantime, like Topsy, I'd consider making you one for Christmas - what are your favorite colors?


Jena said...

I can't believe you've gotten so much knitting done in such a short time. I'd call you the Knitting Speed Queen! Beautiful. Great job!

bugsboysandbooboos said...

My Stitch and Complain book is sitting on a table with my yarn and kneedles...where it has been for over a year now. You, and Sylvie, have inspired me to try it again... I'll let ya know how I fare!