Introduction: Felt Solar System Mobile
Have you seen this beautiful Solar System Mobile by author yosyam yet? I ran across it recently and I wanted to make it right away!
One small hiccup though--I don't know how to crochet. . .
But I do know how to wet felt and needle felt. So here's my interpretation of yosyam's Solar System Mobile, made with wool roving and felted.
Step 1: Materials Needed
Wool roving in planetary colors. Some of the colors I used are as follows: white, pale pink, cream, yellow, dark yellow, brown, dark blue, dark green, rust orange, dark red, turquoise, light blue, grey, light grey. I also made use of curly wool roving in blues, yellows, and brown colors too.
Styrofoam balls. I used two 1.5-inch balls (Mercury and Pluto), three 2-inch balls (Venus, Earth and Mars), two 3-inch balls (Uranus and Neptune), one 6-inch ball (Saturn), and one 7-inch ball (Jupiter).
Barbed felting needles. One single felting needle for the fine detail work and a 5-needle puncher for covering wider areas.
Pantyhose stockings, girls tights, and bubble wrap. Sometimes used in the wet felting process.
Books for color/pattern reference. Can also use the internet, your imagination, etc.
Not pictured, but useful items:
Sink and water
Towels for drying
Sewing machine and thread
Thick felting foam. For needle felting Saturn's rings.
Stiff floral wire
Needle-nosed pliers and wire snippers. Used to make loops and trim the floral wire.
Fishing line and crimping beads. For hanging of the planetary mobile.
Step 2: Pluto (the Dwarf Planet Needs Love Too)
I started with the 1.5-inch planets first, Pluto and Mercury, because if you are new to felting, it is better to learn with the smallest styrofoam balls first.
Every planet is going to follow the same set of instructions for the most part.
Choose your colors--a base color and accent color(s):
The base color is going to be felted onto the planet first and then accent colors added and felted on again. Here I made Pluto an icy white base color and added light blue wool roving for the accent color.
Wrap the styrofoam ball in the base color wool roving:
Use what will wrap comfortably around the styrofoam ball, but don't be too generous with the wool or else you'll end up with a wool "planet sweater" that is too bulky and lumpy--which is a waste of good wool. Any thin spots that show up on your planet can be covered strategically by the accent wool.
Holding the wool covered ball in your hand, run it under hot water first, add soap, and squish like crazy:
Not so hot that you are burning yourself, but you want the water really warm to loosen up the fibers. Now add a small drop of liquid soap to your hands and squish the wool ball in your hands as you transfer the ball from hand-to-hand. Don't do the "rolling" motion yet, as the fibers are still pretty loose and might bunch up on one end. Run it in and out of under the hot water again as you squish the wooly ball, the fibers should start to weave themselves together with the slippery soap/water combination. Now the wool sweater is still too big and loose on the planet, so switch to cold water and watch as the wool contracts on itself and shrinks around the styrofoam ball.
Add the accent wool color onto your wet wool ball and wash, rinse, repeat:
Switch back to hot water and add the accent wool randomly onto the planet. Add another drop of soap to get the new wool to slip its fibers into the base felt. Run it in and out of the hot water to get it really sudsy and slippery. You can start rolling the ball between your hands to really get the fibers tangled. When you think the accent wool has been sufficiently bound into the base color, run the wool ball under cold water to contract the fibers tightly together again. If the accent wool is still loose, just go back to the hot water, soap, squishing/rolling process again until it felts together.
Final cold water rinse and dry off the wool ball:
Dry off your wooly ball with a towel. Congratulations! You now know how to wet felt.
If your felting didn't go as planned:
If you were left with bare spots and styrofoam showing through, I show how to fix them under the planet Uranus. It didn't have any difficult felting patterns on it, so I used it as an example on how to fix bare spots in the wet felting.
Step 3: The Name Is Mercury . . . Freddie Mercury
Follow the same steps as felting Pluto, but here you don't even need the accent color. I used a dark gray wool roving on the 1.5-inch styrofoam ball to represent the rocky gray surface of the planet closest to the Sun.
Step 4: Venus, Rhymes With, Uh . . . Nevermind
Let's try something different this time with the planet Venus. We can felt both the base and the accent color on at the same time and (sort of) eliminate a step. This is great for planets that have a random color accents around them and nothing too specific about patterns, etc.
This time when you follow Pluto's felting instructions, have the accent colors already on top of the base color before you start the wet felting. You can use a pantyhose stocking around the planet to keep the colors somewhat in place. You will need to remove the pantyhose off of the planet and felt it again the normal way, once you feel the fibers aren't going to fall off when you handle it. Carefully peel away the stocking, because the wool fibers will have weaved themselves into the pantyhose as well, and you don't want to yank off all the work you just did wet felting.
Step 5: Mars, the Red Planet
Okay, now that you have this wet felting down, lets add in another step: dry felting. This is where the barbed felting needle(s) will be used to felt the wool together, instead of hot water and soap. I use needle felting to create specific patterns on the surface of the planets, and not leave it to chance with wet felting. I still wet felt the planet at the end, as I only use the barbed needle to "tack on" the patterns in place and I still want it securely stuck together with the wet felting process. You could leave it as is, if you want, but I find wet felting the planet at the end gives it a great cohesive look, like adding water to the water color pencils drawn on paper--the planet's surface just looks better after wet felting all the needled wool down.
After wet felting the base color (rust orange wool) onto the 2-inch styrofoam ball, I needle felted the white polar ice cap onto Mars, just enough to tack in place. I then needle felted dark red wool for the Martian canyons using my books for reference. After all the accent wool is tacked into place, I wet felted the planet to give it its final smoothed appearance.
Step 6: 3rd Rock From the Sun: Earth
Earth is felted the same way as the planet Mars. I wet felted the dark blue base color onto the 2-inch styrofoam ball, and then needle-felted the dark green and white landforms and wispy white clouds. After going through a final wet felting, we have our home planet, Earth!
Step 7: Hermoine Says, "It's Pronounced Ur-AN-us, Not Your-ANUS." (*snicker*)
I took the opportunity of Uranus having no real planetary pattern to use as example of some mishaps of wet-felting, namely having bare spots in the felt "sweater." If after wet felting, you find some bare areas on the planet where the white styrofoam is showing through, you can needle felt the same colored felt on top of the spot and wet-felt the planet again. If you find thin areas on the planet, you can also pinch up some of the surrounding felt and move it over in place, and then punch it down with the barbed felting needles.
Step 8: Neptune
Neptune has a base color of dark blue wet felted onto a 3-inch styrofoam ball first. Darker blue (or actually dark purple) is needle-felted in wide wisps around the planet, and light blue is needle-felted next in thinner wisps around the planet (don't forget to needle-felt Neptune's big blue storm). Wet felt everything together on the planet and gently towel dry.
Step 9: Saturn
Saturn is the same felting process as Mars, Earth, or Neptune, except for the added challenge of having to maneuver a large 6-inch styrofoam ball awkwardly around in your hands. I wet-felted the yellow wool to the 6-inch styrofoam ball first, then needle-felted cream, dark yellow, white, and grey accent rings around the ball. I finished with wet-felting the entire planet again after all the needle-felted rings were tacked in place.
Step 10: Put a Ring on It: Saturn's Rings
Felting Saturn's rings is a multiple wet-felting process, only because I wanted to use up some curly scraps of yellow wool. I first laid down a base of pale gray/white wool felt in a circle and needle-felted loose scraps of yellow wool into the ring to tack them in place (use a thick foam piece under your wool so you don't needle felt into the table and break your barbed needles). I then felted the ring, using the same process as wet-felting the planets: hot water, soap, agitation, and finally, cold water rinse; keeping the ring on the bottom of the sink and rubbing the surface of the ring with small circular motions with my fingers to weave the fibers together. I flipped the felt ring over and rubbed the other side before rinsing in cold water to contract fibers.
After drying the felt ring, it wasn't thick enough for my taste, so I needled felted more pale wool on both sides of the felted wool ring and wet felted the new felt to the ring. After the second wet-felting was completed, the ring was sufficiently thick enough to hold up on its own around Saturn without flopping over. We can't have flaccid rings around Saturn!
For added character to the rings, I stitched straight stitches in circles around the ring until I thought it was filled in enough. I trimmed a little off the inside of the ring to fit better, but not too much as to have it slip off the circumference of the planet. I wanted to keep the felt ring tight around Saturn.
Step 11: Jupiter
Okay, all the previous planet wet-felting has prepared you for this: 7-inch Jupiter! If handling the giant styrofoam ball with pale pink wool is proving to be too much for you, you can use children's tights (pantyhose stockings are too narrow of a tube) to hold onto the wool while you wet-felt the base color. Then it is a matter of using pictures of the planet to plan out how you want to needle-felt your rings around the surface. I used the same rust orange and dark red wool colors that I used on Mars, plus some curly dark brown wool to represent the swirls and vortexes of swirling storms along the planet. Don't forget to wet-felt the planet again after you've tacked in your accents!
Step 12: Hanging Your Solar System Mobile
Using a stiff floral wire as a way to hang the planets, I used needle-nosed pliers to turn a loop at the end of the wire. I carefully skewered the styrofoam planet with the straight end of the wire, and pulled the wire through until the looped end was snug against the planet's surface. I snipped the excess wire length off the other end, leaving about 1/2-inch of wire to turn into another loop at this end of the planet. I used crimping beads to hold the fishing line onto the metal loops of the planets and strung them up in MVEMJSUNP order.