Beginners, Take Heart!

Even the most experienced crafters have bad craft days and/or the supposedly easy project that drives us bonkers. I just finished a hat that is a great example of the myriads of goofs that can befall experienced fiber artists, and I hope it will encourage new knitters and crocheters to continue working with fiber arts despite any setbacks they may encounter. (Being able to laugh at oneself – or at least at all the weird problems one encounters – is very so useful!)

I designed a hat for my friend Andy. First I got his head measurements. (For new knitters or designers, use the measurements from (1) around the widest part of the head – generally right above the eyebrows, and (2) from the bottom of one earlobe, over the top of the head and down to the bottom earlobe.) Andy, I discovered, has a big head, but I’m used to making hats and caps for those of us with large craniums (it’s a family thing).

I decided I would:

  • knit a wool cap slightly oversized and then full it by hand;
  • incorporate the knit/purl pattern used in “Labryrinth Duo” by Roxanne Woods in the 2008 Winter edition of Knitters (pp. 82-83) (also available at Ravelry);
  • use a sport-weight 100% extrafine merino yarn (Trendsetter’s “Merino VI Batik”) I picked up as a close out (great price);
  • overdye the yarn a solid blue (Andy’s requested color) as I fulled it; and, for some unknown reason …
  • do this during a triple digit heat wave.

Here are two pics of the hat before I started the dye bath. The hat came out the way I planned and (so I thought), the fulling process would put it in perfect final shape.

Hah! what’s the saying about “the best laid plans …” ???

First: The blasted hat refused to full or felt – despite my agitating it in the pot on the stove and, later, moving it between bowls of ice water and boiling water to shock it.

Second: I turned off the stove and left the annoying hat in the dye bath before all the dye had been absorbed. I discovered the mottled color (not seen in this picture) after the water cooled and I pulled out the hat.

Third: As shown by the picture at the right, the dratted hat stretched to an enormous size. By the way, the hat in this picture is almost DRY.

Disgusted and muttering about grossly mislabeled yarns, I tossed it into the garbage. Thor pulled it out figuring (hoping?) I’d feel better about it in the morning.

The next morning I tossed it into the machine to wash with a load of bed linens. After adding soap and selecting the water temperature (hot), I walked away and sipped my morning cup of French Roast. Whether it felted or not – I no longer cared.

Here’s how the hat looked when I pulled it from the wash.

It not only fit Andy’s head perfectly, but he likes the slightly mottled color!

If it hadn’t felted, I may have had to try my hand at yarnbombing. If I could find a statue of a horse, and this hat in its pre-shrunk size would probably have fit over its head.

Any ideas from the fiber blogging world why the 100% extrafine merino wouldn’t full or felt (something I’ve done many times), until I tossed it into the washing machine?! All thoughts and suggestions welcome!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Dyeing, Fibers, Knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Beginners, Take Heart!

  1. Well, thanks for that goes to the Honey … I was about ready to set it afire. 🙂


  2. contentedcat says:

    so glad to hear I am not the only one to trash a project and retrieve it the next day!!!


  3. Oh man. I almost never mess with felting for this reason. Glad it turned out!


  4. Hmm. If my crocheted baby shoes are anything to go by (would barely fit a Barbie, let alone a baby) might be safer to get some more knitting experience first!


  5. I just spend the day doing several gauge swatches so the new wool-silk sweater I am knitting will be perfect. :). But the other day I knit a wash cloth and soap sack – no gauge swatch!


  6. Not always the case … Angora felts VERY easily. I once wore a nice top out to a disco (now that dates me), and the next day I discovered the angora trim design on ,
    My top had felted! Agitation + heat = felted angora!


  7. Hmm… Maybe I’ll stick to my ‘it’s a hobby! It’s supposed to be fun! Never make anything that’s supposed to fit anyone!’ rule after all 🙂 I can’t believe that’s the same hat in those photos. He looks super happy in the last shot, so it’s worth it for that, if nothing else!


  8. I find that the scratchiest basic wool is always the best to go for felting. Merino and Alpaca have never worked for me but I’m happy to see that this worked for you! I wish I had your designing hats skills.


  9. A series of unplanned occurrences that only by sheer luck had a happy ending! 🙂


  10. No, there was no bleeding, thankfully. The twist wasn’t too tight either. I guess that leaves the Yarn Devil! 🙂


  11. All I want to know is did the bed linens come out a different color than when they went into the wash? I have had handspun yarns that didn’t felt well because the twist was too tight. Otherwise, I’d blame it on the “yarn devil.” Renate


  12. Very true, and happily that does happen! 🙂


  13. Northern Narratives says:

    That’s a mystery. I would blame the yarn label. What a great story that it was saved and ended well.


  14. Oh in my snit I was blaming the water, the pot, the yarn manufacturer, … 🙂


  15. That beautiful sweater you were working on?! 😦


  16. And sometimes things work out by sheer luck!


  17. Yes … Besides, stuff like this keeps me humble! 🙂


  18. You are right … But that didn’t help (I had soap in the pot). The soap aids the agitation.


  19. There was soap in the pot when I was trying to hand full it, so I couldn’t and still haven’t figured out what went wrong! Oh well, the recipient loves it!


  20. summerlarson says:

    I recently tried (lol) to make a sweater for my sister’s 50th birthday. Got it completed and then realized I hadn’t paid enough attention to the pattern…they listed actual garment size whereas I incorrectly assumed it was sizes with ease. Needless to say, it was way too small! Rip! On my second attempt, I was a solid third of the way through before I realized that my increases at the shoulder looked more like a drunkard’s path than a beautiful spider web. Rip again! On my third attempt, about two thirds of the way through, birthday long gone by, I find that I have lost all energy for this “lovely” sweater. It’s buried in a project bag somewhere in my house…maybe I’ll save it for 51?!


  21. reWOLLuzza says:

    My guess – it didn’t felt out of pure spite… 🙂
    Honestly, no idea. Might have had some sort of superwash treatment, but that should have been on the label.


  22. I’ll have to share this with my daughter. She is 11 and learning how to knit. She gets frustrated and I’ve been trying to tell her that it doesn’t matter what level you are there are road bumps along the way. That she should just enjoy the process and be patient with the challenges. 🙂


  23. All’s well that ends well. I will take heart. 🙂


  24. Slowerpoke says:

    I was under the impression that one should always use soap when fulling a knitted item. I don’t know the reason why, however.


  25. “…. I tossed it in the garbage…” Man, I have been there! Glad to hear Thor rescued it… it looks wonderful and you’d never guess it gave you so much trouble (much like teenagers, that…).

    I wonder if the yarn needed the extra friction from the bedsheets, along with the extra hot water, to felt (full? I never know which is the proper use). Or maybe the yarn was mislabeled and other fibers were lurking in there too? I love the merino, but it will felt on me if I give it a harsh glance… 🙂


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