Felting is a simple technique by which you can make wonderfully warm wool items to wear. The main advantage that felting has over other textile techniques is producing a finished article in much less time.
Suzanne Huggs, author of Hooked on Felt and a very talented felter, had shared with me a new technique using a resist rather than a foam form like I’ve previously done. She even offered to come to Alpaca Meadows and teach a Hat Felting Class so stay posted for that!
Leigh Oden, another alpaca breeder, came early so she could card some of her own alpaca fiber for the class. She used some wonderful soft fiber from one of her males named “Cookie Dough” as well as some alpaca fiber she had dyed at home so that she would have some color to use for the design on her mittens.
Making mittens custom fit to each of our hands, we used under layment for laminate flooring to cut our patterns from, carefully tracing around our own hand and wrist, keeping the line even and about three-quarters of an inch away from the hand. This allowed for the shrinkage of alpaca which does not shrink when felted as quickly or as much as wool.
Next we laid four separate layers of fiber crisscrossing each layer 90 degrees in the opposite direction across the hand and wrist. We did the same across the thumb being careful to maintain the shape of the thumb as well as add extra fiber where the hand and thumb meet and across the tip of the thumb to allow for wear. Alpaca is finer than sheeps wool so needs to have more layers laid on the pattern so as not to end up with holes. If you do get holes while felting, finish the process of wet felting, rinsing, drying, then turn inside out and repair by needle felting layers of the same fiber across the hole.
I found several great tutorials, complete with photos, on how to wet felt mittens.
Wet Felted Mittens – Full Photo Tutorial
I would add to this that when you are finished with your mittens, rinse them in a vinegar and water solution, to neutralize the soap in the mitten. Over time if not rinsed completely out, the soap will damage the fiber. Rinse completely then, with clear water. Roll mittens in a towel, then step on the rolled towel to squeeze out excess moisture. Reshape your mittens and lay in a warm spot to dry.
If your mittens turn out too short, you can knit or crochet a cuff and then hand stitch it to the inside of your mitten. Use the cuff portion of any mitten pattern that has a ribbed cuff, but only make it about half the width.
When mittens are dry, you can needle felt a design onto the mitten, embroider an edge or design, add buttons whatever you like. Cecilia cut out the letter “L” for her school, out of a flat piece of felt and felted it on during the wet felting process. Possibilities are endless!
I found these Needle Felted Butterfly Mittens on Ravelry. The design has been felted on knitted mittens but this could be done on felted mittens just as easily.
Felting by Hand
is a very informative little book, with lots of helpful tips on wet felting. The author has researched the felting qualities of sheep breeds available in the United States and explains how to choose what fiber for specific felting projects. There is also a chapter devoted to felt projects for children.
Some other felting books full of great ideas are below: