Introduction: Wet Felted BirdHouse
Wool is such a fun and versatile medium to craft with. There is so much you can do with it. Wool is inflammable, repels moisture, and can retain its shape.
My husband and I recently bought a house and one of the first things we've been working on is the outside, we put up bird feeders, removed some ugly bushes, and now I'm getting around to hanging up bird houses. I've been wanting to make a felted bird pod for years!
For Making The Pattern
Resist (vinyl found in upholstery sections of fabric stores)
Standard Wet Felting Supplies
Wool (already dyed, roving or batting, locks for embellishments etc.)
Towels (this can get messy)
Rolling pin/PVC pipe (for rolling)
Spray bottle (with hot water)
Bar of soap (I use olive oil soap. I bought a bar in 2015, chopped it into smaller chunks and still have the majority of the bar left.)
Tool for shaping birdhouse (rattle, ball, hand, spoon, etc.)
Hanging the Birdhouse
Thick rope or S hook and chain
Step 1: Making the Pattern
When designing your pattern you want to keep a few things in mind, most importantly that wool shrinks and it shrinks a lot during the wet felting process, sometimes by as much as 50%. The amount of shrinkage depends on the type of wool you're using, the breed of animal it came from, how the fibers have been laid out and how they've been rolled during the felting process.
This means you want to make a pattern that is somewhat larger than your desired birdhouse size. Making your pattern 40-50% bigger is a safe way to go. I also don't think the birds will mind a little more space.
I also make a lot of notes, this helps me remember ideas I want to use later and also to remind me of what my original plans were or how much shrinkage did occur with a specific wool.
For this pattern, I made a couple of shapes I thought would make good birdhouses (tear drop, circle) on Google (because I can't draw evenly) and then printed them to go under the vinyl that will be my pattern. I measured/estimated the size of each shape (lets say the circle is 6" across), to account for 40% shrinkage, I measured an additional 2.4" around the circle and then drew a second larger circle around the first. Then I cut the pattern out of the plastic.
Here is the link to the shapes I'm using (I plan to make a lot of these).
*Note: often you can get shrinkage information from your wool supplier, this information will help in estimating size and amount of wool needed for your project.
*Pro tip: if your vinyl won't stay flat or isn't as flat as you'd like, you can put a towel over it and then iron it for a few minutes to flatten out the plastic.
Step 2: Side 1, Layer 1
On a flat work surface lay out your towel, mat, bubble wrap, and then the plastic pattern.
Because I am using the plastic resist to create the birdhouse, both sides need to be felted. When you put your first layer down, you want about 1/2" of the wool sticking out around the sides so that when you flip to layer the second side (also leaving 1/2" of wool hanging over the edge), you can felt the wool into the second side. This creates a seamless, double sided shape.
To begin, lay a towel down over your work area and then lay your rolling mat on top. Lay the bubble wrap down and then place your pattern on top of it. Begin arranging your wool around the edge of the pattern. Half on, half off. Then fill in the center. Pay attention to the direction you lay the fiber in.
Once you've got the first layer of wool laid out, put the netting over it. Spray the fiber with hot water and rub your soap over it (or making a soapy hot water concoction.) With your hands, begin rubbing over the netting gently in a circular motion. Do this until all the fibers on the pattern are felted together. If the netting doesn't pull up from the wool without bringing some of the wool with it, run over it with soap and work it again. The netting should pull away from the felt.
Put another piece of bubble wrap over the felted side of your pattern and flip.
Step 3: Side 2, Layer 1
Now, lay out your wool around the edges of the second side the same way you did the first and then fill in the center. Lay netting over the wool, spray, soap, and begin working the second side until completely felted. Make sure to pay attention to the edges, we want the pattern to be completely felted around and secure.
Step 4: Layers 2+
After you have the first layer down around your pattern, you want to repeat steps 2 and 3 until your birdhouse is completely felted all the way around several times. Make sure though, that layers 2 and 4, the fiber is laid down in the opposite direction than the fibers for layers 1 and 2. Each set of layers should be laid down and felted opposite to the previous layer.
How many layers you do will depend on how much wool you've been using for each layer. If your layers are on the thinner side, then you will want more layers to make sure your birdhouse is strong and the felt is thick all the way around.
Your final layers are where you would add locks, color embellishments, designs, etc. from additional fiber. You lay the pieces down in the design that you want and then felt the new wool into the felted wool the same way.
Step 5: Roll
Wrap the felt along with the bubble wrap, around a long tube or stick and secure. Roll the felt for about 5 minutes. Unroll the felt, turn it 90 degrees, wrap and roll for another 5 minutes. Do this 2-4 more times or until the resist begins to buckle.
Step 6: Birdhouse Entrance
Unwrap the felt and decide where you want the birdhouse entrance to be. Cut a VERY small opening and remove the resist. You want the hole to be higher than where I cut it on this tear drop----also, cut the hole very small as it will stretch out. (My tear drop now looks more like the Sorting Hat after all the rolling. I ended up putting a couple stitches on both sides of the entrance to raise the bottom lip and make the hole a little smaller. )
Next, using hot water and soap, run your fingers along the edges and inside of the birdhouse to join the fibers.
Re-wrap the felt inside bubble wrap around your tube and roll again for another 5 minutes before turning and rolling. Check the inside to make sure fiber isn't sticking, if it does, re-wrap and keep rolling.
Step 7: Wet Felting Finishing Steps
Now, to really shape the birdhouse and make it 3D, use a ball, rattle, spoon, your hands or something circular shaped to full the wool. You basically want to roll the item around the inside of the birdhouse repeatedly to make the birdhouse keep its shape and not collapse.
When you're done, rinse the birdhouse with cool water to remove all of the soap and then reshape it and let dry.
Step 8: Pro Tips
1. After drying, if some parts of your felt are not completely attached to one another, you can use needle felting needles to secure the wool. You can also use needle felting to add more wool to areas that look a little thin.
2. You can use needle felting to felt on fun designs.
3. I made sure to give extra felt to the top of the tear drop as I knew that's where I would be hanging it from. Other shapes I would do the same or felt on a small tab for hanging.
Step 9: Hanging
I ended up using a chain and a couple of d-rings to hang this formerly tear drop, now Sorting Hat-looking bird pod. I poked a hole in the top of the tear drop and slid the chain through, connecting it to the longer end of the chain with a d-ring and then hanging it on a tree branch.
You can also use rope, s-hooks, etc.
Participated in the
Fiber Arts Contest
3 years ago
I like it, thanks for sharing.
If you stitch some eyes on either side of the entrance it will look like a fish!