Elizabeth and I decided to start out the New Year with some serious stash busting in the form of felted cat beds using the Dotty Cat Bed pattern by Kelly Porpiglia of Kelp! Knits. I know, I know, this project really walks the fine line between wacky fun knitter and crazy cat lady. If you’re a non-knitter and/or non-cat owner you probably think that I’ve gone over the edge. But I have to admit that I really enjoyed knitting it despite what you may or may not take from that.
First, it used up old, scratchy yarn that’s been hanging out in my stash forever. Second, I had fun dying the yarn into bright colors with Wiltons Icing paste without worrying about whether or not the recipient would like them. Third, it knit up fast on big needles and went quick enough that even the stockinette bottom didn’t get tedious. The fourth and most important part, Elizabeth made one at the same time and, as everyone knows, insanity loves company!
For those of you unfamiliar to felting, you start by knitting a giant something out of wool or another animal fiber on bigger needles than the yarn would normal require to make a very loose fabric. Here’s the giant dotty cat bed that I made:
I even personalized it by adding my cat’s name in duplicate stitch before the felting. If you want to do the same, there are many free alphabet charts on-line that you can use. Here’s a few:
Next step, wash the knitted item in hot water, preferably in a top loading washer with a pair of jeans to slosh things around. The agitation and the hot water cause the natural fiber to stick to itself and shrink into a thick dense fabric just right for cats to sleep on.
I went over to Elizabeth’s for the big felting day. Elizabeth’s cat bed was knit in 100% wool and it felted down in no time, just two wash cycles in a top loader. Triumphant success! The resulting felted wool is firm and cushy, and both Elizabeth and her cat Cordelia love it. Here is Cordelia with her new cat bed, before and after felting:
Unfortunately, mine was not a success. In fact, mine was doomed from the outset and I sort of knew that but hoped it would somehow rise above its tragic origins. It was doomed because of one word. One evil, scratchy, hairy word and that word is mohair. I knit my cat bed in an accursed blend of mohair and wool which took forever to felt. Despite the numerous times I washed it, it never fully felted. And during each and every one of the many wash cycles that I put it through, it shed mohair like an Angora goat during molting season.
The mohair went everywhere. Green mohair, yellow mohair, orange mohair stuck to everything. It even showed up the next day in Janice’s washing machine two miles away. This post is getting long so I’ll skip the other things that went wrong but just remember this: pick the items that you add for agitation carefully. Don’t throw in a couple pairs of filthy torn up jeans just because they need washing anyway. That would be a bad idea. At the end of a day of washing the stupid thing over and over, I left defeated with a half- felted floppy fuzzy cat bed. Mohair 4; Tracey 0.
Perhaps it just needs a couple more wash cycles to become the fully felted cat bed of my dreams. Believe it or not, I actually successfully felted a test swatch before I knit the cat bed so there is a glimmer of hope. I’ll try again as soon as I can muster some enthusiasm. But whereas I am disappointed with my not-final product, Fiddle is completely satisfied. He was happy to sleep in the giant cat bed pre-felting and he’s happy to sleep in the half-felted floppy fuzzy bed now. Call me crazy, but in my book, my cat has proven himself well worthy of all the knitterly love that I can give him.
– Reported by Tracey, who will never buy mohair ever again.