It’s amazing what a little time can do. A few months ago there were hardly any tutorials on the web on Shibori Felting. Now they are popping up again and again!
So why am I posting my own shibori felting tutorial? For one reason, there are so many possibilities and variations of technique. The other reason is that I suspect there are some other crafters out there like me. I’m a scaredy cat. A big fat chicken. I can’t bear to felt a hand knitted item. All that work, the commitment, the sacrifice of yarn if it turns out “funny”. I love the experimentation of felting, but at what cost? That’s why I like to use old sweaters for shibori felting. All of the 3-D textural results without the upfront knitting!
Now let’s not confuse fear with laziness. Shibori techniques can take loads of time, all that tying and untying…but I’ll get to that in a minute. The following tutorial is the process I used to make a scarf.
1) The first step is to select a sweater. There is a little bit of mystery in felting a pre-made wool garment. You never know how the wool has been treated in manufacturing. Besides trial and error, I have a not-too scientific process for this. This sweater is a fine gauge lambswool. It’s a Men’s size so it’s nice and big! I hacked off a sleeve to test felt to be sure that I would get a good result before trying the shibori techniques. I just sent the sleeve through the washer (on hot) and dryer (on low) with some other laundry. Afterward, I compared the felted (actually “fulled”) sleeve to the unwashed one. It shrunk about 4″. Like I said, not very scientific, but my guess was that it would work for shibori.
2) Next I cut the sweater into 4 rectangles and straight stitched on a sewing machine. Each rectangle measured about 9″x16″.
3)This is the time consuming part. Tie cotton string tightly around buttons, corks, super balls, soda bottle caps, whatever is interesting. I used a bunch of corks that were sliced into 1/4″ thick “buttons”. I tied off about 29 sections. The wool will shrink everywhere except where it is tied off. Be sure to use COTTON string because it has a high wet strength and it won’t felt!
4)Put the scarf in a lingerie bag. Felt in the washer by using hot water and a little detergent. Put some jeans in the load for some added friction. Stop when you get the desired result. Dry slightly in the dryer on low then air dry. Use a seam ripper to cut the string and remove objects after it is all the way dry. Be patient (it’s hard!) it may need to sit overnight to dry completely.
5) Ta da! Finished scarf. The total width shrunk about 1″, the length shrunk about 12″! (from 64″ to 52″)
I hope I explained everything in a logical fashion. (This is my first tutorial!) I welcome your feedback. Maybe this will encourage non-knitters or hesitant felters to give shibori a try.
For a shibori tutorial on hand knits go to Whip up