I washed the thing five times, for a total of 40 minutes, and it still wouldn't felt for me. The bottom is felted, but in the white parts and sides the stitches are still distinct. I'm going to let it dry and see how it looks, and go in for triage tomorrow. But I am getting ahead of myself.
After researching this on the web, I collect my accoutrements.
Gigantic knitted pile of stitches? Check.
Zippered pillowcase? Check.
Pair of old jeans? Check.
Utensil to fish out said pillowcase? Check.
Washing machine? Check.
I created a drying form by tracing the bottom of my largest pot on a piece of cardboard, and then adding three inches to each side, to form a circle 18" in diameter (I always knew my inability to keep track of recycling days was going to come in handy). I am very proud of myself, since the cardboard turns out to be exactly 18" on a side, and I had centered the pot dead center instinctively. I then taped a cardboard circle around the outside. Unfortunately, all this work was for naught, because 1) the bed felted to under 18" and 2) the cardboard was not stiff enough to shape the bed. More on this later.
So I put the bed into the pillowcase (hee!), pillowcase and jeans into the washer, and set it on an extra-small hot load for 8 minutes. I check it out after the water fills up and before agitation starts; indeed, it initially gets bigger after soaking up water. I let it go, and stop it after the water has run out and before it starts spinning (I actually wanted to leave the water in there, and just let it go too long). No sign of felting yet.
Now, I will freely confess that what the washing machine does is a complete mystery to me. I put the clothes in, dump in some detergent, and come back later. Whether or not the clothes get clean is irrelevant. It is the process of washing clothes that makes me a good and productive member of society, not the actual cleanliness of the clothes. Even after staying down there and babysitting the cat bed, I am not entirely sure what the machine is doing. Logically, it seems like it should fill up with water, agitate, drain, rinse, drain and spin. There appear to be different levels of agitation, however; I counted at least three things happening between the filling of water and the draining, although it claims to be a "two-cycle" machine.
On repeated tries two-five, I set it at the 8 minute mark, and try to stop it before it drains. Is the second round of water now too cold? Am I stopping it too early on the dial, to keep the water in? Did I knit it too tight for it to felt (but the stitches were looser on the sides, after I figured out the magic that is addi turbo!)? Does the Big Kureyon just hate me? As an interesting variant, I put the jeans inside the pillowcase -- still no dice. Instead the cat bed and jeans wind up on opposite ends of the pillowcase, as far away as possible.
I do discover that the cardboard form isn't going to cut it. The catbed is smaller than the 18" cutout, though fortunately not by much, and the cardboard sides did not hold up at all. Instead, I used the 12" Calphalon saucier with a towel wrapped around it, which makes the total diameter around 16-17", which is acceptable.
I will have to see how it holds its form after it dries. This is what is really important, not the actual feltiness of the bed -- I don't actually have a problem with a little stitch definition showing. Still want to get some feedback on how to do it correctly, though.
Photos to follow, when Flickr gets done with its "massage." Stupid Flickr, what has it done to deserve a massage? I am much more highly deserving. (There! Massage, virgins, and felting -- that should really get the search engines hopping).