Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Felting knitted beads in a food mixer

Several weeks ago, I saw a picture on Pinterest of a gorgeous rug made out of felted beads on the Sweet Creations Website -  It's a substantial amount of money, but very well worth it when you consider the work involved.

Bluberry felt ball rug by Sweet Creations
I wondered if it was possible to recreate it myself...  Now, I've made felted beads before - both needle felted and using the wet felted method, so I've got a very good idea of just how long this kind of project would take me to make... probably more years and patience than I've got in my lifetime!  Neither of these methods is good for my back either, so I started thinking about knitting beads with wool and then felting them in the washing machine.

I dug out some handspun merino yarn, some Noro yarn and some Cascade 220 and experimented with knitting little beads.  I managed to work out a little pattern that was knitted in the round, inside out, mostly on 2 double ended needles, with no seams and was stuffed with the tail end of the cast on yarn.  Each one took me about 6 or 7 minutes. 

It became my little "by the side of the chair" project for the week and I would pick up my needles every time I had a spare few minutes.

However, a few days ago, I found several blog posts about felting small pieces of knitting using a 'stand mixer'. As a Brit, I've never heard this term before, but I guessed that they were talking about some kind of food mixer. It was at this point, I got very excited, especially when I found this other post on the Simply Notable blog about felting little crochet hearts.

I'd been putting off throwing my little balls into the washing machine at the idea of just how much of a waste it would be to run this tiny lot through a full wash cycle.

Also, at this stage, (despite the fact that I couldn't stop making them,) I'd already decided  that these weren't exactly my favourite colours, so I was quickly developing a 'What the heck!' attitude.

I dug out my trusty hand held Kenwood mixer and set to work...

I filled a big bowl with very hot water and a squirt of washing up liquid, then threw in my knitted beads.  Throwing caution to the wind, I switched my mixer onto full power and let it do its work for 5 minutes.  Of course the washing up liquid created a lovely white foam on top after just a few seconds, so I really had no idea what was going on under all that froth. The excitement!

I strained them, then plunged them into cold water and whizzed them around a bit for a couple more minutes.  I repeated the hot and cold treatments one more time, (without the addition of washing up liquid) and then examined the results...

Unsurprisingly, there were several casualities, but I was pretty pleased with the ones that survived.

I squeezed out each one and then rolled it in my hand as if I were forming dough into balls.  I then left them to dry overnight on a towel.

They've turned out quite a bit smaller than I would like, so if I was to make a rug, I think I'd spin up a much chunkier yarn and maybe work a couple of extra rounds.

I think the agitation from the food mixer has made my beads quite a bit fuzzier than they would be if I'd put them through the washing machine. They're still a bit squishy, so could probably do with a bit more felting - I just didn't want to destroy any more beads - or my hand blender!

If I try this again (with colours I'm happier with) I may throw them through a full wash cycle first to firm them up and then whizz them with the mixer method to get this lovely fuzziness...

Now, what to make?!

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1 comment:

Terri said...

How can I get the knitting instructions for your beads...I LUV them. Thanks