Felting and guilt

Anyone who has spent a significant time in the West knows that water is a big deal. Denver sits on the high plains; our semi-arid landscape is better suited for tumbleweeds and blonde prairie grasses than green lawns and towering cottonwoods. I imagine there are parts of this state where guns have been pulled over water rights, because out 'chere in the West, water equals money.

In 2002, Colorado was hit by an extraordinary drought, evidenced by sweeping wild fires that left people homeless and the whole state on edge. You could see the smoke in the haze on the horizon and the mood of the state darkened as lawns grew brighter bleached yellow by the sun.

Lackadaisacal famers, we allowed our grass to wither and die over several seasons. Mitch attempted valliantly to ressurect it one spring with an elaborate seeding/blanket system that sprouted a few Rogaine-inspired tufts, but it still looked like hell. You could almost hear the neighbors whispering about the state of our yard.

Two years ago while I was flailing about at a yoga workshop, Mitch started ripping out our grass with a pick ax. I came home to find the front yard partially denuded. I wasn't delighted, as I recall, though Mitch had announced his intentions, but he seemed to be grooving on the alpha-maleness of the whole thing and yard was clearly a blight. He persisted throughout the summer in spite of my grumbling and soon we were spreading landscape fabric, rock and wood chips in lieu of seed.

The yard went from this:

To this:

The "after" photo is old. We have since planted more goodies, and have yet more to go. Most of the plants are xeric, meaning they require very low water. There's no mowing, except for a tiny greensward in the back that I hack away at with a push mower for about 10 minutes. I'll post a more recent photo when the light is better.

Though the last couple of years have been good to our mountains in terms of snowfall, we must still be mindful of our precious liquid resource. Our population is expanding and if we all want to take showers, flush toliets and water a few tomatoes, we need to realize that brown may be the new green.

Climbing down off my soapbox...

So felting...Our washing machine is coming up on the ripe old age of 16. It's a top loader, perfect for felting, but a water hog. Top loaders use between 15 and 22 fewer gallons of water. And eventually Mr. Maytag may have to go to the nice alley recycler in the sky.

Question: Can you felt with a top loader and, if so, how? Are there greener ways to felt?

Addendum: If you live in the Denver metroplex, you might qualify for a rebate if you buy a water-conserving washer.

Comments (7) -

June 2. 2008 04:07


I think you are asking whether you can felt with a front-loader. . . . I know that Kristi at FiberFool does, and can tell you what is needed. Mostly, I think, it is to have a machine that does not lock down its door during the entire cycle. If it does that, you have no way to control the amount of time the agitation and all go on.

I just replaced my old Maytag top-loader with another top-loader. I was looking not only for a felting-friendly machine but a fleece- and garment-friendly machine . . . the deal-breaker feature was something that I could have fill itself with water and then just STOP. NOTHING. No more water, no more spin-out (UNTIL I tell it to, and then JUST spin), nothing.

That was not especially easy to find. Whirlpool makes two qualifying models. I found a couple of candidates at Sears.

I checked out the environmental aspects through Consumer Reports and other places, and short of buying one of the super-efficient washers (which I couldn't afford), this one seems okay. There was less difference between the front- and top-loaders than there has been in previous years. Cycle times on the front-loaders tended to be quite a bit longer, also a factor.

The greenest way to felt is, of course, by hand. Which is terrific fun. Messy, but clean-messy. It does take time. Beth Beede taught some SOAR workshops in the old days where people had great fun hand-felting. There was something that involved bouncing, like balls. Being on staff, I only got to observe from a distance and don't know the particulars.

About half my felting has been done by hand. With music (or a book on tape), it is a kick.

And . . . I've got another top-loader.

Deb |

June 2. 2008 04:12

J Strizzy

If your question was meant to be "can you felt with a front-loader?" the answer is yes.  Maybe, sort of.  Front-loaders tend to felt more slowly than top-loaders, so it takes more cycles.  Also, some front-loaders won't let you open the door mid-cycle, so you can't check on the felting progress.  Something to check during the shopping...

J Strizzy |

June 2. 2008 04:17


Simple.  I felt by hand about 90% of the time. Your biggest investment will be an old fashioned wash board.  Uses far less water and you control the entire process.  A mitten, for instance, takes about 20 minutes.  Plus, the exercise is good for one's arms.
I have also used a front-loader for felting.  It was my only machine option when I lived in Europe. It takes guts, no doubt about it, but there was something Zen-like about the "letting go" aspect of it.  It worked really well for felting old sweaters that I then used for machine-stitched mittens.

threadingwater |

June 2. 2008 06:20


Did I tell you? We scored a nearly-new front loading Maytag Neptune for $75 at a garage sale recently. We sold our still lovely top-loader on Craig's List for $75, including delivery, so I have a much more water- and energy-efficient washer.

Yes, the loads take longer. Yes, the machine locks the door, so you can't get in.

I don't know about felting, but cruise through pricey neighborhood garage sales. This washer didn't "match" her dryer, so the woman was selling it. Score for me!

Roxanne |

June 2. 2008 10:36


Try a brand new plumber's helper (plunger -- lie for the toilet) and a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot or Lowes.  Conserves water and keep you from developing what's called in this region the Hadassah Hang (flabby upper old lady arms.)  My Bosch front loader felts fine, too.

Diana |

June 3. 2008 02:45


Well, everyone else is talking about felting, but I'm interested in xeriscape. (I do like felting, though.) Having lawns in Colorado is ridiculous. It's also BORING. We killed our lawn when we moved into our Lakewood house and our neighbours were appalled--until they saw our beautiful rock-strewn herb garden. Down with lawns!!

Susan |

June 3. 2008 03:13


Front Loader works great, and if I really can't let go over the quality, I use a plunger and bucket.  Put a towel on the tub floor, bucket on the towel, and get some exercise.  The towel alleviates the bucket from moving around and from scratching the tub.

Pam |

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