Monday, July 3, 2006

Fear of Felting

Hi, I'm Ina and I have an unreasoning aversion to subjecting handknits to hot water and agitation, a fear of f-f-f-felting.

There's a name for my affliction: pilopoiiaphobia – from the Greek, pilos, felt + poieo, to make + phobos, fear, pronounced pill-oh-poi-ee-ah-phobia. With thanks to Fyberduck for the crafty etymology and pronunciation guide.

It's a condition, not a problem. Here's my first project, Jersey Fresh felted tomatoes. No comparison to the real thing, but still fun.



These were inspired by all the pincushions I've been seeing in blogland, Nicky Epstein's Felted Apples in Fall 2000 Cast On (also in Knitting for Your Home), and Martha Stewart Living "Homegrown" Tomato Pincushions. The three Christmas red are Paton's Classic Wool, the one orange-red tipped on its side is Cascade 220, and the two green are Plymouth Galway. One 100 g skein makes three beefsteak tomatoes.

As I've never intentionally felted anything before, I tried to be scientific, with before and after swatches and measurable results. Alas, the first swatch was some mystery yarn lurking in stash that proved not to be feltable wool. It actually got larger and thinner after its turn in the washing machine. Yikes. It did not, however, change color – that's just my digicam being weird, as usual.

Mystery yarn swatch before felting   Mystery yarn swatch didn't felt!

So I tried again with a swatch of one of the touchstones of yarny goodness, Jamieson & Smith Shetland 2-Ply. The swatch before felting was all a Shetland swatch should be. After felting, it shrank, stopped curling, bloomed beautifully, yet never quite lost its stitch definition.

Since that seemed to work, it was on to an ur-tomato. An ur-tomato is simply a cylinder knit in the round (I also have an aversion to seaming), with increases at bottom and decreases at top and long yarn tails for finishing.

Ur-tomato

I placed the ur-tomato in a lingerie bag, added it and some towels to the washing machine, and set for stun hot wash, cold rinse. I stuffed the result with polyester fiberfill, sewed the openings shut with the yarn tails (which felted in intriguing ways), and drew the tails through the tomato from pole to pole to shape the tomato and give it blossom-end and stem-end dimples. Then it was back into the machine for another hot wash, cold rinse. The leaves were sewn on separately.

The different yarns felted somewhat differently. Classic Wool felted irregularly into an appealing boucle fabric, remaining thin; there were some patches where the knit stitches disappeared, others where they were still distinct. Cascade 220 also felted somewhat unevenly; the resulting fabric was coarser but about the same thickness. Galway felted the most evenly, becoming dense and thick.

I'm still tweaking the design. My felting guru, clever Anne, suggested using commercial felt rather than homemade for the leaves. Katie suggested using boiling water on the tomatoes to make them felt more uniformly. I suppose with a change of leaf and some additional shaping, the tomatoes could be pumpkins, too. Other suggestions and comments [hi, Meredith!] are welcome.

10 comments:

trek said...

Set to stun!! LOL

KnitXcorE said...

those are really cool :-) I've felted w/ boiling water and a sppon before, the first time i felted MOF, and it is still the best result i've gotten :-)

Chrissy said...

Those are super cool!! I love felting too :) It's awesome!

--Deb said...

Your tomatoes look fabulous. I have a touch of pilopoiiaphobia myself--I'm willing to try it some day, but haven't gotten around to actually trying it yet! I'm glad you summoned up the courage! A little extra incentive never hurts....

Stephanie said...

I LOVE the tomatoes! What a great idea. Those would make awesome gifts for other fiber people. I might have to try your pattern around Christmas time.

Melanie said...

I love the tomatoes! I'd also love to make some for Christmas gifts!

Mitchypoo said...

Those are the cutest dang tomatoes. I just love them. Great job!! I'm going to try my hand at them too.

Meredith said...

You did it!!!! Those tomatoes are awesome! From your pictures they look like they felted very evenly. Way to go, Ina!!

Lisa said...

It was fun meeting you too at Modern Yarn. I don't get to do the weekly group thing much at home so it was nice to get out.

I love the tomatoes. And yes, I remember seeing felted pumpkins at Rhinebeck - but they may have been needle felted which I have yet to try.

Delica said...

Great idea - I think they came out well! Now I'm craving fresh tomato, mozarella & basil :)