Felting has been around since the beginning of civilization. Using natural animal fibers to create a warm, wind-resistant, water-resistant, cushion-y fabric to use as blankets, beds, shoes, coats, and even to insulate huts and tents, our early ancestors paved the way for the many ways we use felt today.
This project is an easy method of doing wet-felting, a way to merge and tangle wool fiber with itself using nothing more than a bit of soap and water and friction. In my internet searching, I found THIS TUTORIAL online and used it as inspiration for creating my own step-by-step instructions for use during local Makerfaires and hands-on crafts events.
Step 1: Materials
- Sandwich bag with a "zipper" closure
- Bubble wrap
- Rubber shelf liner (optional)
- 2 pieces of cardstock - 5.5" x 8.5" with a line drawn horizontally at 4.25" with a permanent marker
- Small amount of lightly soapy water
- Clear water for rinsing
- Rolling pin for flattening finished piece
- Bits of wool roving - (NOT "superwash" - it won't felt)
Step 2: First and Second Layers of Wool
Using one piece of cardstock as your guide, pull off small tufts of wool and place one thin layer of roving horizontally.
Place a second layer of wool in the same manner, except lay these fibers vertically. Try to stay within the lower half of the cardstock paper, not extending too far over the edges of the paper or the drawn line.
Step 3: Add Your Pattern or Design
Using very tiny bits of wool roving in different colors, create your pattern or design. A little goes a long way. You can make tiny snakes for stems by rolling some fiber in your hands before setting on the background. Try not to make your added wool pieces too thick. These thick places are more difficult to "felt" and connect to the other fibers.
Step 4: Put Your Wool Design Into the Plastic Sandwich Bag
Place the second piece of cardstock on top of your design, making a "sandwich."
Slide the "sandwich" into the bag and carefully remove the card stock. Jiggle one piece of cardstock out at a time and your design will stay inside of the bag, virtually undisturbed or distorted. (This was the only way I could think of to accomplish this without making a mess of my carefully-designed coaster).
Add soapy water into the bag - about 2 tablespoons or less, pressing on the bag to get all of the fibers wet.
Squeeze out the excess water (leave about one tablespoon in the bag) and seal. Make sure no fibers are stuck in the "zipper."
Step 5: Do the Felting Thing
Set a piece of bubble wrap on top of the rubber shelf liner and place your sealed bag on top. Begin gently rubbing the fibers with your flat hand - side-to-side, up-and-down. After a minute or two, you can increase your pressure. You want to use friction to meld the fibers together. Turn the piece over and work on the other side too. Try to keep your piece flat and don't let it bunch up or wrinkle too much. You may need to open the bag and adjust your fibers. Just be sure to re-seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible.
After about five minutes of rather vigorous rubbing, your piece should be visibly smaller, fibers compacted and it should feel soft but solid. Try to pinch a few fibers and pull them away. If they slide off easily, you need to rub a few more minutes. If they are stuck to the "fabric", you have accomplished your goal.
Step 6: Finishing Up and Next Steps
Take your felted piece out of the plastic bag and squeeze out the soapy water. Rinse it in cool water to remove all of the soap. Squeeze out all of the water, stretch it a bit to form it into the shape you like, and roll it with a rolling pin to flatten out any bumps or wrinkles. Set it aside to dry. The piece may be ironed, if desired.
Now go and create your own designs! You are limited only by your imagination!
Here are some suggestions:
- Use a gallon-size bag and make a larger piece of felt. It will take longer to become felted, so adjust your timing accordingly.
- After your piece is dry, add beads or other embellishments.
- Adhere your creation to the front of a hand-made card or sign and frame it for a one-of-a-kind gift.
- Use it as a coaster. (Felt is naturally water-repellant, but not water-proof, so use caution on some sensitive surfaces).
- Learn more about felt-making by visiting your local library and checking out some books on the subject, or search online for "wet felting." You will find many great resources and ideas!