i checked out Felted Crochet by Jane Davis from the library, which outlines the basics of both hand felting and machine felting. great book! there's a wide variety of projects to try, from blankets, to wearables, to plush toys and more.
i decided to try both types of felting: first with a small project in my bathroom sink, and next with a slightly bigger project in the washing machine.
searching through my stash, most of the extra stuff i have laying around is acrylic or something similar; i don't have much wool. i found a bit of Patons Merino left over from a custom order nearly two years ago, and i heard it was a good yarn for felting.
no pattern here, no counting stitches or anything. i just crocheted in the round like i was starting a hat, and continued to form the bowl shape until i ran out of yarn. then, with the hottest water out of the bathroom tap and a bottle of liquid dish soap, i rubbed and scrubbed and agitated for minutes at a time. i shocked it with cold water every few minutes to lock the fibers together and check the progress of the felting.
these first pictures are of the bowl before it was felted.
and after felting...
what a hot and tiring task! it's so satisfying though, because you can actually see and feel the transformation of the item in your hands. this is good for smaller items, but i don't know if anything bigger than this bowl would be cooperative in my small sink.
this pattern came from the Felted Crochet book. i've only made one pair of socks before, and i've never tried slippers; this pattern looked so simple. it's crocheted with 2 strands of worsted weight wool (i used brown and lavender) and 1 strand of eyelash-type nylon together.
this pattern was simple, and these things worked up so fast. i even got that "wow, you're done already?" comment. into the washer they went...
i took the very simple approach of just tossing the slippers into the washer with a pair of jeans. after a full cycle, there was some felting going on, but i felt the need to toss them in the dryer on a gentle cycle to speed up the shrinking process. this probably wouldn't have been a horrible idea if i'd have thrown them in alone, rather than with half a load of dry laundry. oops!
so, the eyelash yarn sort of matted into the wool and the slippers were not nearly as fluffy as the pictures suggested they should be. they still turned out just fine, and i ended up shrinking them down a bit more to give as a holiday gift to a specific person. the good thing about these slippers is that if they're too big for the recipient, she can just wet them, throw them in the dryer, and shrink them to fit (blocking them by wearing them just after they come out).
i didn't get a before-felting shot, and i need to re-photograph these slippers to try to do them some justice; these snapshots were quick and dirty.
i'm not sure which method i prefer, by hand or by washing machine, but i think it depends on what i'm working on. when i use the washer again, i'll felt more than one project at a time and use either a pillowcase or a lingerie bag to hold each item.