Newsletter November 2010: Felting crochetNews:Mostly knitting news this month!Circé aux Belles Boucles gives us the pleasure of yet another beautiful hat: Rue du Collège.This hat knits up quickly in a bulky weight yarn with 6 mm (US 10) needles. Rue du Collège is worked in garter stitch, with leaves on stems circling your head like a headband. The pattern is available in the shop, of course.Also, if you’re in hat knitting mode, to warm your head in a stylish way or to make Christmas presents, check out the special offer: 3 hats designed by Circé aux Belles Boucles for the price of 2. Please note that this offer is valid only until December 24th!Other news in the web shop: I am now also selling yarn. Not just any yarn – yarn that is unique in one way or another, and also difficult to come by, at least locally here in France. The first one is Mochi Plus.This is a soft, multicoloured worsted weight yarn made from 80% merino and 20% nylon. For now, it is available in three colourways, but the range will be extended. In the shop, you will find pattern suggestions – and look out for a new pattern coming soon, very well adapted to this yarn.Felting crochet:Felting has many definitions. The one I’m using here is to crochet or knit an item and then submit it to agitation, humidity and heat to change its appearance. (« Fulling » seems to be a more accurate term for this precise type of treatment, but everyone calls it felting – and for once I have decided to follow the trend.) A swift way to felt an item is to throw it in the washing machine, perhaps with some jeans or tennis balls for more thorough agitation.To felt, the yarn you’re using has to be made from a natural animal fiber, such as wool, alpaca or mohair. If the yarn is machine washable (such as superwash wool), it has undergone a specific treatment so as not to felt. No matter how many times you run them through the wash, these yarns will not felt. Their appearance might change (rarely for the better), but no felting will occur.There is a lot to read about felting, both online and in books. However, while felted knitting is rather common, there is not much felted crochet around. A search on Ravelry will give 4278 patterns for felted knitting, but only 669 patterns for felted crochet. That’s more than six times more knitting than crochet. In general, on Ravelry, there are three knitting patterns for every crochet pattern, so the bias towards knitting for felting is clear.It seems to me that there is no real reason for this, except perhaps that felted knitting was a trend a couple of years ago and that felted crochet didn’t get as much exposure. I can think of several reasons why it would be more interesting to work felted items in crochet – the first and foremost being that crochet works up faster than knitting. Some people prefer the look of knitting to the look of crochet, but since the goal with felting is to fuzz up the fiber so much that the stitches hardly show anymore, I can’t see why the slower technique should be prefered over the faster. Perhaps someone among my readers can enlighten me?I must admit that I don’t have a lot of felting experience. However, I was so inspired by Olivia Ferrand’s knitted and felted Musset bag that I had to try it out. Below, I share my first tests with you.For these experiments, I used the yarn I sell in the kit for the Musset bag. It’s a thick and rustic 100% wool. I tested several crochet hooks: 6 mm (US J-10), 7 mm (slightly larger than US K-10 1/2) and 8 mm (US L-11). I’m planning to try with an even larger hook (and see more about hook sizes below), but very large hooks make my hands ache.First of all, I worked two sc squares with a 6 mm hook and felted one of them by running it through a wash.You can clearly see the effects of felting here: the felted square is smaller – it has shrunk. The fibers have fuzzed up and blended together, so much of the stitch definition is lost, even if you can still see the horizontal rows and some traces of individual stitches.What you can’t see in the picture is that the felted square is much sturdier and less pliable than the unfelted one. This is the reason that felting is used to make things that need to hold their shape – like bags, slippers, or even bowls.I changed to the 8 mm hook and used dc instead.The difference in size is even more noticeable. What I found especially interesting is that the felting is more « efficient ». There is very little trace of the crochet stitches in the felted square.I believe that this is because the fibers in the wool had more space to move and catch on to each other in this swatch. The hook was bigger, but dc is also a looser stitch than sc. In all the articles and books I have read about felting, it is underscored that the fabric should be worked on larger needles (for knitting) or with a larger hook (for crochet) than usual for better felting. Compared to knitting, in crochet we have one more way to leave space for the wool fibers to felt – we can work larger and looser stitches. It would be very interesting to compare these swatches to one worked in trebles, for example.Also in the dc swatch above, the shrinking looks more dramatic than in the sc swatch with a smaller hook.Just for fun, I worked up a dc swatch with the smaller hook.Above left, a swatch worked with a 8 mm hook. Above right, the same number of stitches and rows worked with a 6 mm hook. Below, the corresponding felted swatches.I found it very interesting to see that the felted swatches are nearly identical in size. Using a larger hook is definitely not an option if you want to increase the size of a felted item – you need to add stitches and rows! It’s just as if each stitch had a specific « felting potential », independent of its size before felting.A difference between the felted swatches, though, is that the stitches are slightly more noticeable in the swatch worked with the smaller hook. The felting is more complete in the swatch to the left, which is denser. Once again, it seems that the wool fibers felt more if they have some space to move around in.In the above swatches, I used simple stitches and aimed for a dense fabric in which the felting hid the stitches. I also wanted to try a more textured stitch, to see if I could obtain some kind of interesting fabric. I decided to use a crunch stitch (alternating hdc and sl st), which gives a lot of texture.Honestly, it doesn’t seem worth the while to me. Too much of the texture gets lost in the felting process.Finally, I wanted to try a multicoloured swatch, just to see how it turned out.Worked with a 7 mm hook, this is the swatch before felting.And here it is after felting: The stitches have fuzzed up, but the colour pattern is definitely still there. The fabric is much sturdier and more cohesive. I will need to experiment with different stitch patterns, but the multicoloured felted bag that is now just an idea floating around in my head might very well become a reality one day.Your computer wallpaper for December is available here. See you soon!