Introduction: 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
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Put them in your washer!
- Add Soap (same amount you would to wash your clothes)
Use a cycle that will produce HOT water and lots of agitation.
Do NOT put in the drier!!!!!
Step 9: 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
If you are choosing to trim off the excess fibers, I advice you to put on a dust mask at this point.
- 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.
- 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!!!!