Woollen yarn is meant to be fulled. If you haven’t done this before do it by hand in a tub so you can monitor the process.
- Draw warm water and add a little soap or detergent. Swish to make sure it is completely dissolved in the water. There should be no more than about an inch (2.5 cm) of bubbles on the surface of the water.
- Add the fabric. You only need enough water to completely cover the textile.
- Start to
kneadthe textile. You will probably notice the water turning colour as the spinning oils in the yarn begin to come out. The bubbles from the soap or detergent will disappear as it binds with the oils. When there are no bubbles left, drain the water, move the textile to the far end of the tub and draw fresh water the same temperature as the textile.
- Add more soap or detergent and swish to dissolve. Continue to knead the textile. If the bubbles disappear again, drain and rinse as above.
- Continue doing this until the bubbles do not completely disappear. You want a little soap/detergent in the water to act as a lubricant.
- Once the bubbles are stable (usually just a skim of them on the water) drain the water and continue to knead the textile. You may find it easier to actually walk on the cloth. Wear clean rubber boots (wellingtons) or plastic clogs to protect your feet.
- Continue to knead until the fabric is stable. Check for stability by running your fingernail along the threads. Do they move out of their place in the fabric? Can you poke your finger through the cloth? Neither of these should happen.
- When stability has been reached, fill the tub with water (the same temperature as the fabric) and rinse any remaining soap/detergent out of the cloth. Drain the water and gently squeeze the excess water out.
- Never wring wet fabric as this may set permanent creases. If you have a washing machine where you can use the centrifuge only, you can spin out the water; otherwise, pull the fabric up against the side of the tub to drain as much of the water out as you can. You may find that letting it stand and drain for 30 minutes or so will help. Fully saturated wool is very heavy.
- To remove more water, you can fold and roll in towels, then lay flat to dry. Hanging wet wool can cause distortion as the weight of the water can pull the cloth out of shape.
Once you are more familiar with wet finishing, you can use your washing machine to do the work for you. Set the machine (assuming you have a front loading machine) to the most gentle cycle and then let the machine run. Depending on your machine, you may find that once through does the job, or you may find two times through will do it.
Laura Fry wrote these instructions. She has also written a book about wet finishing of hand woven fabric. The books includes washed and unwashed woven samples. Now there are two versions available – the updated Magic Plus Two with two additional samples (soy protein and bamboo with information pages about these new fibres) and the
economy version. Go to: laurafry.com