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24 September 2011

Weekend DIY: How to Felt a Bracelet



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Several years ago I got fascinated with some felted bracelets I had seen on the Internet. I started experimenting with knitting and crocheting thick woolen bases which I later wet-felted and after weeks of trials and errors I came up with a great product that looked unique and allowed me the freedom to be creative every time. I even started selling the bracelets quite successfully.

What I like about this unique kind of jewelry is how green it is. You only need pure new wool and a pair of knitting needles. During the felting process the bracelets change their shapes and lose much of their size while the fibers intertwine and connect to each other to form a new type of fabric. I like the physical transformation of the yarn - from fiber through a knitted form to a completely new object with different functionality.

Today I will reveal to you something you will hardly find for free on the Internet – how to knit, wet-felt and needle-felt a bracelet.

HOW TO KNIT THE BASE
Materials:
1 skein of pure new wool for needles US 11-13 (8-9 mm)
3 double pointed needles US 17 (12 mm)
1 crochet hook size L (8 mm).
1 tapestry needle
1 strand of waste yarn

Gauge is unimportant for this project.

The size will depend on the wool you use and the time and temperature of felting. Normally a 12 - 13 inches long knitted pieces will do for all wrists.

To get a well felted bracelet you need to use bulky wool. It can be pure new wool or, wool combined with mohair. You also need to knit loosely, so that the fibers can intertwine and shrink together well to form a solid and tough bracelet.

Start with a provisional crochet chain cast on.


Holding two strands of yarn knit 7 stitches. Continue in stockinette stitch for 12 inches (31 cm).


Remove the waste yarn from the provisional cast on and place the live stitches on a needle. 


Join the two ends together with the wrong side facing outside.

Bind off using the three-needle method.



This is the best way to join a ring without a visual bump along the right side of the seam. 


To avoid turning the inner sides out and getting a weird form in the process of wet-felting I leave a long tail after binding off and use it to sew the sides together very loosely.


HOW TO WET FELT THE BASE
The base is now ready for wet felting. I normally do this in my front loading washing machine. 

First I soak the knitted ring in warm water, to let the wool relax and then I transfer it into a wash bag and straight into the washing machine. 

From here on the process is a matter of trial and error, depending on your washing machine. I set mine to 140 °F (60 °C), add just a pinch of washing powder and let it work for about 30 minutes. I don't add any tennis balls or old jeans but if you find that this works better for your felting you can do it. Then I interrupt the process and check the bracelet. It normally needs more felting but I take my time to shock the wool with cold water and turn the bracelet inside out, to make sure it felts evenly on both sides.

After a second cycle of 140 °F (60 °C),this time without powder, the bracelet is ready. If you see that there are spots less felted, you can try once again on higher degree. I sometimes go for a third cycle on 60 or 90 depending on the wool.

Have in mind that with the increase of time and temperature your item will felt faster and will shrink more. 


HOW TO DRY THE BASE
The only thing you need now is patience. Find something that you can use as a mould for your bracelet, for example a mason jar with the appropriate diameter. Place the bracelet around it, adjust the shape and let it dry. This natural process will take between 1 and 2 days. I am lucky to have floor heating at home which assists me quite well in drying my bracelets.

Here is a before felting and after felting look of your bracelet, to get an idea how much it changes in texture and size.


HOW TO DECORATE YOUR FELTED BRACELET
After the felted base is ready and dry you can start decorating. Take a contrasting strand of wool and start needle felting. Don't worry if you haven't done it before, you will quickly learn. Don't forget to place something underneath, for example a thick layer of foam so that you don't prick yourself with the felting needle. 


You can leave your bases plain, or you can go crazy decorating and use not just wool, but also cotton, embroidery thread or beads!


 To see more of my felted bracelets designs, visit my etsy shop.

For more creative DIYs, click here.

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