Fridays with Franklin: Hotter, Wetter, Bigger

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this series, click here.

Those two weird little scraps of artfelt were encouraging, if less than beautiful.


One of the two test scraps. It’s a start.

You ought never to allow wobbly first attempts at anything discourage you from doing more. The first question to ask is, “Did I enjoy myself? Or, at least, do I think with practice I might enjoy myself?”

If the answer is yes, the next question is, “What shall I do now?”

I already had a goal, of course, which was to felt some yardage to reupholster this little footstool.


Taking it apart wasn’t difficult. The outer fabric was tacked down, and not very elegantly.


Beneath that was what may have been the original fabric–a funereal floral brocade in ratty shape, smelling distinctly of nicotine. It’s probably haunted.


Beneath that, happily, was the padding–in fine condition, and not smelling of anything nasty. I let it air outdoors for a few hours, which my grandmother always recommended for any textile that had been covered or boxed up for a long time.


While that was going on, I considered the new fabric. What should it look like? This stool will be next to my knitting chair in the living room. Here are some vignettes of the décor as it is.

As you can see, my tastes run to the slick, the radical, the avant garde.

Ha ha ha. No. My house looks like it was decorated by someone’s prissy-yet-mildly-adventurous Great-Great-Great-Aunt Tillie, who had the largest collection of doilies in the tri-county area.

Why not try to felt a design reminiscent of those arabesques and curlicues and fantastic flowers in the carpet?

So I sketched (roughly) something of the sort on the artfelt paper. Nobody told me a I couldn’t, so I did. If you had a light box, or even just window, you could trace designs on the paper.

The dimensions of the artfelt paper, by the way, were based on the dimensions of the original upholstery fabric–about 17 inches by 14 inches.

Based on the shrinkage I’d measured in my test swatches,  I added an additional two inches either way so the finished fabric would be large enough for the stool.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to build the design, so I decided to start by outlining the motif with the background color. This is the way I was taught to hook rugs. Rug hooking and felting are not the same thing at all, but it seemed like a logical place to start.

I jabbed my fingertip once with that felting needle. I shall try very hard never to do it again.

That went fine, so I got down to filling in the flowers (?) and leaves (?) and buds (?). I used the sketch as a rough guide, while also allowing the wool to go where it wanted to.


Please don’t go nuts trying to figure out the botanical name of this plant, because it’s an utter fantasy.



In case you’re wondering, this didn’t take long at all. I allowed myself breaks, and left the house to do errands and walk Rosamund, and still it was finished in an easy afternoon.


At this point, I wobbled. I was pleased with bits of it. The curves came out better than I’d expected. I liked the colors. It even resembled, somewhat, a flower.

But it was so furry. Unpleasantly so. Like someone had done terrible things to a beloved pet with hair dye.

I soaked it, wrapped it, and popped it into the dryer for thirty minutes (see the previous installment for more detail on the artfelt process).

Then I forgot about it.

It would have been sensible to put it into one of the dryer’s timed settings, so that the dryer would buzz after, say, the first fifteen minutes. Then I could unroll it and check the progress.

No. No, I didn’t do that. For reasons I cannot begin to explain (that will be the title of both my autobiography and the miniseries based upon it) I put the dryer on a setting that just keeps on chugging until you tell it to stop.

That’s not a great idea when you have, as I do, the persistence of memory of a goldfish.

So, one hour and twenty minutes later…


I cannot say I was displeased. In fact, I was so pleased I did a dance. I am beginning to understand why so many people love felting.


I try like the dickens not to use the word “magic,” as we fibery types fling it around way too much. But this change in the material did feel–alchemical. The bizarre patch of wet fuzz had become rather a pretty piece of fabric, looking somewhat like watercolor. And all I had done was spin it in the tumble dryer.

It was also two inches two short in both directions to cover the frigging footstool.

On the one hand, this is immensely frustrating.

On the other hand, I get to do some more artfelt.  I’ll show it to you next time we meet. See you in two weeks!

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Makers’ Mercantile Felter’s Wool Roving (50g hanks)
Bryson Felting Needle #38 gauge, 3 1/2 inch
artfelt Paper
artfelt Tackboard

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site ( or his Facebook page.

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