Shibori Felting

Dana Hinders
Add texture to knitted projects with shibori felting.

Shibori felting may sound exotic, but this simple technique can add a fun new look to your clothing and home décor projects.

What is Felting?

Felting is a method knitters often use to transform the look of their projects. Any knitted object can be felted, whether it's an afghan, scarf, or hat. The type of yarn used to create an item is the key to the look of the finished felted piece, however. For best results, try felting items made with some combination of wool, mohair, alpaca, angora, or llama. If you're making an item that will be worn by someone with sensitive skin, remember that cloth that is softest before felting will be most comfortable to wear after the process is complete.

While most people associate felting with knitting, you can don't have to miss out on the felting fun if you never learned how to knit. Simply make a trip to your nearest thrift store or consignment shop and look for old wool sweaters with fun patterns or colors. Cut the sweaters into usable fabric swatches, then continue with the felting process as normal.

Felting is best described as more of an art than a science, so be advised that you may not always achieve the results you expected when working with this technique. And, since felting is forever, there is no way to "fix" your mistakes. If possible, it's best to simply practice on a small piece of similar cloth before committing to felting a larger project.

About Shibori Felting

The word shibori is used to refer to a Japanese technique for pleating and resist dyeing fabric. When done correctly, it results in an item with lush colors and rich textures. In felting, you can achieve a similar look by stitching, clipping, wrapping, and tying different sections of fabric before the felting process. When you remove these alterations after you're finished felting, you'll be left with cloth that features a unique textural appeal.

Although the exact steps involved in shibori felting will vary according to the type of item you wish to create, the basic concept is fairly simple.

Supplies needed:

  • Old wool sweater or hand knitted garment made from yarn that is pure wool or at least 80% wool, not superwash
  • Sharp scissors
  • Rubber bands
  • Glass pebbles, round wooden beads, or other small objects
  • Bulldog clips
  • Washing machine
  • Dryer

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the cloth to be felted by either cutting apart your old wool sweater or finishing your knitted project.
  2. Use rubber bands to wrap the fabric around glass pebbles, round wooden beads, or other small objects in a pleasing pattern.
  3. Clip sections of your fabric together to create pleats if desired.
  4. Wash the item in your washing machine on the hottest possible water setting. Keep the water level relatively low, because a high water level reduces the friction that is required to complete the felting process.
  5. Dry your cloth in the dryer on low. Remove when your item is about halfway dry to prevent excessive shrinkage. For safety, clean your dryer's lint traps immediately after your felting project is finished.
  6. Air dry as needed.
  7. When the cloth is completely dry, remove the rubber bands and clips to reveal the textured effect.

Additional Information

For more information about shibori felting, as well as sample projects you can complete using this technique, check out the following helpful links:

You may also be interested in these crafting reference books:

Shibori Felting