How to Felt Wool Socks

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Hand-knit wool socks are a treat for all feet. They are warm, lightweight and colorful, and they fit perfectly. Hand knitters have another option to create footwear: felted wool socks. When wool fiber is machine-washed, it binds together to make a felted fabric that is durable as well as warm, and would make great boot liners or slippers. However, because felting also shrinks the fabric, to make a felted wool sock that fits, you must knit a sock larger than usual.

Things You'll Need

  • Wool yarn
  • Set of double-pointed needles that are appropriate for the yarn
  • Tape measure
  • Pillowcase
  • Washing machine
  • Calculator
  • Paper and pen
  • Basic sock pattern
  • Newspaper
  • Knit a tube for a gauge swatch. If you want the felted sock to fit, this is very important. With your yarn and double-pointed needles (DPNs) cast on enough stitches to make a tube about 10 inches around. Join the stitches together in a circle, and knit a tube about 5 inches long. Cast off.

  • Measure the number of stitches and rows per inch. These numbers are your gauge. For example, if you cast on 50 stitches to make a circumference of 10 inches, the stitch gauge is five stitches per inch. If you knit 25 rows to make the tube 5 inches long, the row gauge is five rows per inch.

    Write down these numbers. Also measure the circumference and length of the tube and write down these dimensions.

  • Put the tube in a pillowcase, knot the case closed and wash in a washing machine with hot water and soap. Wool felts with water, friction and soap, so add towels, blue jeans or even tennis balls to the washer to make more friction during the wash cycle. Wash the tube until you get a result that you like, then let it dry completely.

    If you can start and stop your washing machine, you can check the progress of the felting during the washing portion, and determine if it needs more felting before the rinse cycle. If you can't stop your machine, just let it finish whole cycle.

  • Measure the tube again and write down those measurements.

  • Calculate the stitch and row gauge of the felted swatch. For example, if the sample tube is now 8 inches around, the stitch gauge after felting is 6.25 stitches per inch. If the tube is now 4 inches long, the row gauge is 6.25 rows per inch.

  • Measure around the widest part of your foot and multiply this number by the stitch gauge after felting to determine how many stitches to cast on for your sock. For example, if you want the felted sock to be 12 inches around, multiply 12 and 6.25, the stitch gauge after felting, for a total of 75 stitches to cast on.

  • Use the row gauge after felting to determine how many rows to knit for the length of the top of the sock and the foot. For example, for a row gauge after felting of 6.25 rows per inch, to make a sock 8 inches long, you have to knit 50 rows (6.25 x 8).

  • Knit a pair of socks.

  • Put the finished wool socks in the pillowcase and machine wash in hot water with soap. Use the same method as you did to felt the swatch. When the socks are felted the way you like, stuff them lightly with newspaper to shape them, and let them dry completely.

Tips & Warnings

  • The ball band of the yarn has suggested needle sizes, stitch and row gauge.
  • Felting is not an exact process.
  • Because wool shrinks more in one direction, be sure to determine both stitch and row gauge before starting to knit the sock.
  • You cannot felt washable wool or wool blended with a manmade fiber like acrylic, nylon or polyester.

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