Introduction: Wet Felt Realistic Stones Using a Washing Machine

Picture of Wet Felt Realistic Stones Using a Washing Machine

Wet felting can take a long time! So, when I decided to make a riverbed out of 100s of wet felted stones, I discovered I needed to streamline and quicken my process of making. I still wanted all my stones to have a handmade quality and for each one to be unique. So I developed this method to help alleviate the labor.

Over the course of several months I made over a 1,000 stones for my installation Buffalo. At first, It was still pretty slow going, but as I made more of them, my pace quickened and I was able to make between 60-90 stones (depending on size) in about 8 hours. Today, I'm pleased to share my process with you.

Thank you and Enjoy!

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials
  • Needle felting pad - You can buy these at a lot of craft stores and online. I recommend getting a large one since they are easier to work on. You can use a large sponge but the more surface area you have to work the easier time you'll have.
  • Felting Needle - You only need one but buy a pack because they sometimes break. I found it easier to work with a single needle than a pin holding three needs.
  • Wool Roving - Pick the colors you like or reference some real stones to see what colors you should get. I picked a few grey/ browns/ and whites for my base colors and then got some blue, red, and yellow wool to add unique features. Since I was making 100s of stones, I ordered my base colors in pounds and my highlights in 1/4 pounds. If you are only making a few, 1/4 pound of base color and a few ounces in highlights would be sufficient. I get my wool from Weir Crafts.
  • Wool Stuffing - You can get wool stuffing for 18 dollars a pound through Weir Crafts. This will save you money since wool roving can be expensive. It makes up the interior portion of the stone. A Pound of wool stuffing makes between 30-40 wool stones averaging about 3" x 5"x 1.5".
  • Panty hose legs - I recommend ordering Q size, it's the same price and you get more panty hose real-estate. Cut the leg portion off at the top of the panty hose. You can reuses these for felting multiple batches of stones. 3-5 stones (depending on size) will fit inside a single panty hose leg. I had quite a few pairs so I could wash them in batches of 60 (stones) to save water and energy!
  • Tennis Balls - Adding tennis balls or shoes when you wash your stones will increase agitation and help felt them.
  • Washing Machine - I did over 16 loads in my apartment washer with no problems but if you don't own your machine, put your panty hose inside "wash bags"(see below), it will lower any impact on the machine by containing some loose fibers.
  • Laundry Soap - Any kind will do the trick!

Recommended/ Optional:

  • Dust Mask - I recommend wearing a dust mask when cleaning up your stones if you decided to do this with scissors. It will stop any small fibers from getting in your nose and respiratory system.
  • Scissors - Traditionally you clean up your stones by more wet felting done individually by hand but if you are doing large batches, scissors are quicker.
  • Wash bags - Wash bags are these mesh bags for I got mine from Diaso, any bag made of netting would work

Step 2: Prep Wool Roving

Picture of Prep Wool Roving

  • Pick your base color and spread it out evenly on your pad. Pick your highlight or detail color(s) and place them how you would like.

  • What ever colors you pick, the first one you place on the mat will be the most prominently scene color. It's nice to layer some base colors to make your stones look real. In this example, I didn't place any bright colors, but you can experiment putting those down first so they are really vivid, or under a layer of wool and let the color be more integrated.

Step 3: Shape Stuffing

Picture of Shape Stuffing
  • Pick up a generous amount of stuffing.
  • Fold it into a shape you would like your stone to be.
  • Add or take away some of the stuffing to reach the desired size (Wool shrinks when it is felted by about 30%) When choosing how large your folded stuffing shape should be, measure it to your colors laid out. Think of this like a present you are wrapping: you'll want the wool colors to wrap around the stuffing without much excess or wasted wool.
  • Once folded, keep your hand on it to stop it from unfolding.

Step 4: Wrapping

Picture of Wrapping

  • While keeping a hand on your wool stuffing, wrap your colorful wool around your stuffing. Like gift wrapping, you don't want the wool to be loose but flush with the inside shape.
  • If your wool is loose it might not felt to your stuffing, so keep it "tight".

Step 5: Securing Your Ends

Picture of Securing Your Ends

  • Use your felting needle to secure the ends of your wool roving. It just takes a few stabs along the edges. Don't get carried away making it perfect, about 10-20 pokes is plenty.
  • Check the front, is there any parts falling off? Use your needle to secure any pieces that might be dangling or loose.

Step 6: Encasing

Picture of Encasing

  • You now should be able to pick up your stone without any large wool bits falling off.
  • Now, get your pantyhose leg and roll it down to the toe. You want to roll the pantyhose onto your stone. Don't try to push your stone through the leg of the pantyhose.
  • Once it's rolled into place, tie a loose knot. You will have to undo this knot and it will tighten a bit during the felting process, so be kind to your future-self. (Why a knot? It keeps the stone in place and from felting together inside the pantyhose.)

Tips: The pantyhose will keep your wool tight together so it felts together by helping keep tension on the wool. Panty hose are long, so don't put a long stone sideways in the pantyhose, it will fold into it's self during the felting process.

Then Repeat steps 2-5 until all your panty hose are filled!!

Step 7: Preparing to Wash

Picture of Preparing to Wash

  • Put your Pantyhose sausages into wash bags
  • fold them over carefully, if you just stuff them in, they will felt into balls/ lumps, loosing their rock shapes.

I recommend using wash bags for a few reasons:

  • It will keep your pantyhose legs from knotting and twisting together during the washing process - saving you a good hour of untangling them.
  • It will lower any possible impact on the machine
  • It will stop them from major shrinkage
  • Less awkward to use in a community washer

Why you might not to use them:

  • Can't find them - I believe they are popular in Japanese culture.
  • You aren't felting many stones.
  • Depending on the quality of wool roving, sometimes, they don't felt enough for my liking.

Step 8: Washing

Picture of Washing
  • Put them in your washer!
  • Add Soap (same amount you would to wash your clothes)

Tips:

Use a cycle that will produce HOT water and lots of agitation.

Do NOT put in the drier!!!!!

Step 9: Unwrapping

Picture of Unwrapping
  • After your wash is done take your pantyhose out.
  • You should see all kinds of wool fibers sticking out of your pantyhose holes. This is a great sign.
  • Undo the knot and slowly peel back the pantyhose from your stone.
  • Don't rush it but be firm. The pantyhose might rip, but if they are new and you go slow, they shouldn't
  • Your rocks will look fuzzy, this is normal.

Step 10: Cleaning

Picture of Cleaning

If you are choosing to trim off the excess fibers, I advice you to put on a dust mask at this point.

Scissor Method:

  • Take one of your stones and lightly lay your scissors flush to the surface, now cut. You should be trimming the fibers that are sticking out from your stone without cutting into the fabric you have created. (Like trimming a hedge)
  • Continue this on all sides. (with practice this will be come fast and easy to do)

If your stones are fully felted loosing these ends will not effect the strength of your stone. The ones I made are used to crawl over and they are holding up nicely.

Other Options:

  • Continue adding hot and cold water, and felt them to finish by hand. (there are many tutorials online about wool felting)
  • Continue with needle felting. (there are many tutorials online about needle felting)

Do you have another way? Let us know!!

Thank you for sharing!!!!

Comments

debbiedp (author)2017-09-07

Can these rugs be washed when they get dirty?

dlziomek (author)2015-08-23

I make dryer balls, and I tie cotton yarn between the balls instead of making knots in the pantyhose. I found it a lot easier, because as you said, the knots do get tighter. I love the stones, and your instructions are well written and photographed.

AmberI (author)dlziomek2015-08-23

That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing!!

chefranger (author)2015-08-22

nice idea

piperskeeper (author)2015-08-21

Very interesting technique! Do they feel solid and dense right through?

Are there particular breeds of sheep whose wool you prefer for thorough felting? Thanks!

AmberI (author)piperskeeper2015-08-21

Yes, If you fold your wool stuffing into a compact more solid form and then wrap it so the colorful wool is flush to the form, the stones come out feeling solid. They are like slightly harder pillows and feel great to step or lay on! They do vary in density, which is decided by how hard you compact your stuffing.

In most my projects I use a blend of mostly Romney and Merino wool. It's easiest to wet felt! I then used some colors of Corriedale wool, which work best when you're felting them to some of the Romney/Merino blend. So I would have my base layer be a Romney/Merino blend and then use the Corriedale colors to highlight the stones. (It's also cheaper, so you can mix the white with many other colors, often creating a marbling effect.)

Romney/Merino: (Scroll down to: "Undyed Home Spun Roving")

https://www.weircrafts.com/wool-roving/undyed-wool-roving.html

Corriedale:

https://www.weircrafts.com/wool-roving/corriedale-wool-roving.html

piperskeeper (author)AmberI2015-08-21

Thanks very much for all the specific tips! I've done some needle-felting, but this would be a lot easier on my hands :)

(p.s. a semi-related sidenote: I raise cashmere goats)

AmberI (author)piperskeeper2015-08-21

That's awesome! Do you process the wool from them?

siteground-hosting (author)2015-08-21

nice

Sunglowart (author)2015-08-20

So clever!

ashleyjlong (author)2015-08-20

Genius! I find that I love the obsessive nature of needle felting, but I get impatient with wet felting. I'll be keeping this technique in find for the future :)

JON-A-TRON (author)2015-08-20

This is awesome! Clever solution to a time-consuming problem. Nice installation too-

AmberI (author)JON-A-TRON2015-08-20

Thank You Jonathan!!

StoryAddict (author)2015-08-20

I have never heard of felting before, but your process (and your bed of "river rocks") is fascinating to me. I have been considering how to make some faux-bone pieces for a costume that look stone-y but without the weight or coarseness. Do you suppose this same method could be used to form small animal skulls and spikes? It's for a Viking skirt.

AmberI (author)StoryAddict2015-08-20

Yes! You could make the base shape through wet felting (I would only partially felt it by washing on a delicate cycle) and then do more shaping with your needle. OR do more needle work before washing.

There are also these that found: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/171347960796396762/

^ This was made through needle felting. tutorial: https://www.instructables.com/id/Needle-Felting-Rea...

LeonidasMeyer (author)2015-08-20

Take a lighter and lightly touch the rock and it will create a rolling flame that will burn of only the wispy stuff. I used to do it to my old socks.

AmberI (author)LeonidasMeyer2015-08-20

That's awesome!! I'll have to try it! Thanks for sharing!!

LeonidasMeyer (author)2015-08-20

I have a solution for trimming excess felt. It's something I used to do when I was a kid

chunara_zish (author)2015-08-20

Creative AND efficient? Love it!

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Bio: Amber Imrie-Situnayake was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. Amber was largely home schooled throughout her childhood and first attended public ... More »
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