Fleecy Felty

I made half a dozen little patches of felt this week, plus one larger one (and one failed even larger one). Turns out it’s super-quick to make felt if it’s small enough to fit on your palm.

The idea: Lay some fleece out on a needle-felting brush, needle it until it can be transported without coming apart (5 minutes if you’re being careful, with flips), take it to the sink, soak it, rub it between your soapy hands for another 5 minutes (also with flips) and rinse – done.

finished small felt patches

For all of the smaller patches the fleece barely overhung the felting brush. My goal was thinner pieces of felt than the last time I made felt; those were too thick to expect to keep needles in. To that end I used thinner layers of fleece, which also meant they were somewhat irregular. I stuck some crewel yarn in several of them; in the photos it’s between layers but it can also be on top – just hold the ends down with your fingers while you needle-felt the middle until it’s stuck, and then needle-felt the ends until they’re stuck too. It takes a little more care than just fleece but it isn’t fussy. If you put it in between it may or may not show well.

To flip it helps to have a cat brush that you can get underneath the fleece through the felting brush bristles. I also tried to needle in the edges in particular so they wouldn’t get thin in the wet-felting step. You can see in the third picture below that the size has already decreased quite a bit.

I don’t have photos of the wet-felting step, but it’s straightforward: run warm water, soap up your hands (I tried glycerin hand soap and liquid dish soap and would recommend the dish soap), wet the fleece, and rub it between your hands – gently at first and then more vigorously when the patch shrinks enough to fit entirely between your hands. Flip and rotate it so you hit it from multiple angles. The patch will not be a regular square and I saw no way to influence the shape – it probably depends on what parts of the fleece patch were thicker to begin with.

The first time I tried to make a larger patch it was simply long – and not just that, long in what was already the long direction of the brush. I believe I did not make the fleece thick enough, but it was also quite difficult to wet felt because of how much larger than my hands it was. You can see in the photo below that it really didn’t come together at all.

The more successful larger patch overhung the felting brush some on all sides, for a total that was a bit smaller than the failed one. It had to be needled in sections: first the middle, then in thirds from end to end. The wet-felting was slower but the same idea. Unfortunately I ended up with some gaps in the finished felt (this happened to a much lesser extent with a couple of the smaller patches), so I needled some additional fleece over them and performed a second wet-felting.

You’ll see most of these patches again in upcoming projects. I’ve been crafting steadily; it’s mostly been on things that wouldn’t be interesting blog posts, but there are a couple more photogenic projects in the pipeline!

Weavers: Relaxation, Invitation, Ornamentation

I’m in an art exhibit for the first time ever! [This is more a function of me getting in gear than anything else, but it’s exciting nonetheless.] A set of three mixed-media fiber art pieces, with sewing, embroidery, weaving, and gluing.

"relaxation" art embroidery "invitation" art embroidery "ornamentation" art embroidery

From left to right, these are Relaxation, Invitation, Ornamentation. Click to embiggen; the next larger size would have made them taller than my browser window, and I find that super annoying on other sites.

My hubby took some fantastic closeups of them that I’ll share two of:

"relaxation" embroidery detail "ornamentation" embroidery detail

These will be on display at the Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction, VT, as part of their Earth Day art show. I believe they are up for three weeks starting today, and there’s a reception 4-6 PM today.

A bit on the making: The hoops are 12″, 10″, and 8″ wooden embroidery hoops painted with acrylics; two are over 12″ scrapbook paper. Each has a two-layer fabric “frame” perhaps with other fabric elements and a hanging ribbon that originated on a candy package. The webs are nylon filament sold for beading and the dewdrops are Mod Podge Dimensional Magic, a material I’d been looking for an excuse to buy and try.

The smaller spider is thread and wire (and a loop of filament leading to the hanging thread), held in place with friction and Fray-Check. The bigger one is wire and beads made rigid partially via Jewel-It embellishment glue. The wire lettering is also held in place by Jewel-It. I used steam (was going to say an iron, but that implies touching) to “block” the nylon, which shrinks it a bit but also helps it take the shape it’s pinned to when heated. That was especially important for the hanging spider, who doesn’t weigh enough to straighten the nylon itself!

Single Crochet Shaping 3: polygons

If you want to crochet a smooth disk, you should stagger the increases round to round. If they stack up on top of each other they tend to make corners. If you want something with corners, though, can you figure out how to make it without pure trial and error? In particular, if you want to make regular polygons of various numbers of sides, how do you figure out how to increase?

crochet polygons from three sides to eight

Being who I am, I began with geometry. A disk takes 6 or 7 increases around because when you increase the radius of a circle by 1 unit (i.e. by one round) the perimeter increases by 2π units, 6.28ish. We have to fudge a little, of course, since an sc doesn’t add exactly the same amount to circumference as to radius and we can only increase by whole stitches, but it works out; we are able to make disks.

For a polygon, there are two distances that could play the role of the circle’s radius: center to corner (radius), and center to edge midpoint (apothem). We have formulas that tell you how much the perimeter increases when the radius or apothem increases by 1, depending only on the kind of polygon you’re expanding.

Shockingly, I’ve decided not to go into the algebra here; you can read all about it Math Open Reference. My previous knowledge says you need 8 extra stitches for a square, and that number should be larger for fewer sides and smaller for more sides (you need more stitches to get around pointier corners). Those both matched the apothem calculation and not the radius calculation.

polygon extra stitches per round from apothem formula
triangle 10.4
square 8
pentagon 7.3
hexagon 6.9
heptagon 6.7
octagon 6.6

The apothem numbers leave a lot to be worked out: how to round, what to do when the increases aren’t a multiple of the number of sides, and whether an octagon could even be made when it called for fewer increases per round than corners. I made all six polygons more or less successfully, but they broke out into half easier, half harder.

the easier three polygons to make: triangle, square, heptagon

The easy polygons were the triangle, square, and heptagon.

Triangle: This didn’t go how I expected – I thought I would need to round up to 12 extra stitches per round, but I actually dropped down to 9. I started with 6 sc in a magic ring, and every corner got 4sc. Increases made into previous increases went into the third of the four sc.

Square: As I said, I already knew to put 3sc into the corners to make a square. I started with 6 sc, increased around, and then started making concentrated increases for corners. Increases made into previous increases were made into the middle sc.

Heptagon: Since for me, seven increases is appropriate for making a flat disk, the heptagon was straightforward. YMMV. I started with seven stitches, increased around, and then increased in the second stitch of each previous increase. To improve the point of the corners, in the last round I made 3sc into the second stitch of every previous round increase.

the three more complicated polygons: pentagon, hexagon, octagon

Pentagon, hexagon, and octagon were more difficult, but they did work reasonably well.

Pentagon: The pentagon formula called for 7.3 new stitches per round. Since five 2sc increases would add 5 and five 3sc increases would add 10, I alternated between them: start with 5 sc in a magic ring and make 3sc into each of them. Next round, put 2sc into the center of each 3sc increase; round after that, put 3sc into the second of each 2sc increase. Continue alternating, ending on a 3sc round. I did attempt mixing 2sc and 3sc increases within individual rounds, but it was a mess to keep the side lengths equal.

Hexagon: Like the pentagon, I used a combination of 2sc and 3sc increase rounds. The hexagon’s apothem number was lower and the number of increases per round higher (6 or 12) so I made two 2sc increase rounds for every one 3sc increase round. It perhaps would be even better to make three 2sc rounds per 3sc round, but I worried about maintaining the flatness of the piece. Start with 6 sc in a magic ring, make 3sc into each of them, and then make two rounds of 2sc increasing and one of 3sc. Put your increases into the second stitch of a 2sc predecessor or the middle stitch of a 3sc predecessor, and for best results end on a 3sc round.

Octagon: How can one even make an octagon if even one increase per corner leads to too many stitches around for the piece to stay flat? I suspect the best answer is to make a disk large enough to naturally hit a multiple of 8 stitches around and then do something like (sc, hdc, sc) in each corner on the last round. I wanted to try to stick to the size and methods of the other polygons (though I didn’t quite) and ended up with this: 7 sc in a magic ring; 2sc around; *2sc, sc* around. You’re at 21 stitches. Make a big jump to 32: *2sc, sc* 10 times, 2sc. Last round: sc 2, *(sc, ch, sc), sc 3* 7 times, (sc, ch, sc), sc. The chain in the middle of the last round’s increases gives it a little bit more point without adding even more extra bulk than we already have.

There you have it: all the polygons from 8 sides down rendered in crochet, for your freeform delight. I did these all in spirals and ended with a needle join in the second stitch; the ultimate perimeter would be smoother if you worked in joined rounds.