Intro: Felting a Camera Sheath
It started with me getting a camera for my birthday that didn't come with any bag. After toying around with ideas I came to the conclusion that felting would be kinda cool, I especially liked the idea of having this piece of high-tech in a package made out of stone age tech.
It was a bit harder than I thought it would be, but not that hard. Even if you're an inexperienced crafter you should be fine with this project.
Step 1: Tools
You don't need much tools in order to do this. I used up a little more than what's in the wool packet pictured. You also need a felting needle and a block of MDF in the size of the thing you want to make the sheath for. Some sort of soap is also needed, I used regular dish washing liquid diluted with water in a handy spray bottle.
Step 2: Diving In
Undeterred of the fact that I only had a very vague idea of how felting is actually done I got some wool and started out. Needless to say this first try didn't work out all that well as you can see in the picture. What did I do wrong? Mostly it was that I did it too thin. I had only layers of wool, and pretty thin ones at that, when you should have at least three. I also had too little soap and not hot enough water, but those are minor points as it only makes the process take a bit longer.
Step 3: Arranging the Wool
For the second try I actually looked up some instructions. Each layer of wool should have the fibers all in the same direction and to begin with I thought I would have to buy a brush but it seems to work out fine if you just gently pull a lump of wool a few times in a certain direction until you get a reasonably even inch-thich strand and just line them up next to each other. Now, this will probably work even better if you use a brush, but since I don't have any hair I don't own a brush either. =) Each new layer should have the fibers turned 90 degrees so that the fibers can get maximally entangled. When deciding what size to make the sheet, keep in mind that it shrinks about 40% when felted!
Step 4: The Actual Felting
After making three layers (if you want really thick felt, just keep adding layers, three layers made it only about 3-4 mm thick) spray the sheet with some soap water (I used regular dish washing liquid diluted with water). Keep spraying an patting the sheet until it's wet all over and flat. The pour about a deciliter of hot water (more if it's a big sheet) and start gently rubbing the wool. Start at the edges and work in small circles. When you have something that seems to be holding together, turn it over and keep rubbing.
Now it's just a matter of rubbing until you have something you're satisfied with. I wasn't getting it as even as I would like and folded the sheet at a couple of places, it's probably easier if you make thicker felt. Since I was making a camera bag I'd made a wooden block roughly the same size as the camera that I could felt around. So when it was starting to look like something I put the block on the sheet and folded the lower part over the block. the I folded in the sides. The plan was to just rub the sides until they felted together. This didn't work all that well however, it just didn't stick...
Step 5: Plan B
What to do? Enter the magical felting needle seen on the tools picture! A felting needle has tiny dents along the shaft that pulls individual fibers along when you stick it in which enables you to stitch together two pieces. So when the felt had dried up some I stitched the sides together. But it still didn't look all that nice, the sides were a bit frayed and obviously stitched. So I decided to put it into the washer at 40 degrees (that's "cold" for you with those weird American washers). I kept the wooden block and tied string around it to keep the block from falling out (rubber bands would probably be better but I didn't have any). Sadly I didn't think to take any pictures of it before the washer so you'll have to imagine it.
The washer trick really worked great! I actually ran it in the tumble dryer as well but it made little difference, apart from drying it. The sides came out looking exactly like any other part of the sheath. A side effect of the washer adventure was that the lid part also shrank a great deal and magically came out just the right size!
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Now for decorating! I had an idea of some sort of vine pattern with leaves (can you tell I'm really making this up as I go along? =D) and I discovered that I cold make sort of yarn strings by rolling the wool between my hands. Then just put the string on the felt and use the needle to fasten it, all in all the pattern took something like two hours. I also needed a way of closing the lid and the lovely lady in the yarn shop suggested that I'd make one or more mushroom-shaped nubbins and holes to put them through. This was rather straightforward, just take a lump of wool and start poking it with the needle until it's properly fastened and tight. Be careful not to make the base too wide. Now if I can only get the idea that they look like nipples out of my head... =P
Step 7: Poke the Holes
Get a proper-sized knife to make the holes. Here you need to be careful not to make the hole too wide, while not cutting yourself. It's a good idea just to wiggle the knife until the tip is through, and then cut. In the end I decided not to make any leaves on the vines, partly because I was afraid it would be hard to make them look good and partly because I thought it looked rather nice without them.
There we go, all in all about a weekend's work.