Over the past several months I have turned my attention from my loom and spinning wheel to the world of feltmaking. Needle felting, wet felting, making decorations, felting hats, bags and other smaller items. In April I had the opportunity to book a place in our local art gallery for a 2 week spot in August. I was very fortunate as usually there is a waiting list that is a year+ long.
Since I was now committed to this big project I went to work. My kitchen table was taken over with wool, soap, bubble wrap, bamboo mats. If I had known how long this project would take, I probably wouldn’t have taken it on. Felting is a very physical activity and hard work. Adding up my time, I think I have put in +400 hours so far. But I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and am starting to think what will I do next?
The old fashioned wash board is quickly becoming my most used felting tool. I use it for the final fulling process when wet felting. What it does is it straightens out the top layer of wool and smooths it out creating a harder surface of felted wool.
When wool hasn’t been felted enough it starts to pill as the fibers continue to move around in the felted wool, break and rise to the surface. Fulling your felt sufficiently prevents this from occuring.
I had a bag that I felted recently. I was a bit impatient and didn’t felt it completely. Soon my lovely bag started to get little wool balls rising to the surface.
I decided to give it the washboard treatment to see if I could stop the pilling. I pulled off the little wool balls from the surface of the bag. Then I filled the kitchen sink with warm soapy water and gave the bag a quick and gentle wash. I refilled the sink with more soapy water and put the bag back into the water. I squeezed out most of the water and took the bag to the wash board.
When you are felting with the washboard do not rub the wool back and forth against the washboard as this can break the fibers. What you should do instead is gently roll it up the length of the washboard using the pressure of your fingers to press down as you roll.
I started by working from the top of the bag. Because the bag is a round shape I worked my way around the bag in circles from the top of the bag to the bottom. Using both hands, I placed the tips of my fingers on edge of the rolled wool.
Using both hands (Picture shows only one hand as I was clicking the photos with my right hand) gently press down on the rolled edge and push up the bag with your fingers until the bag rolls up to your palm.
Keep rolling until you have reached the top of the wash board. Lift the bag and move it back to the bottom of the washboard and continue working your way around the bag.
Move your finger tips back to the edge of the roll and push up again.
After a few rolls your fingers will become more sensitive to what is happening to the wool. You will feel it compressing as the air bubbles are being pressed out of the wool. The wool will shrink in the direction that you are rolling.
This picture shows the partially fulled bag. You will notice that the top part of the bag where I have rolled has shrunk considerably.
It took a few times of working my way around the bag to get it fulled to a smooth and even consistency.
I am using a glass washboard. I think a metal one would work equally well . I cut the legs off the bottom of the wash board so that I could sit it flat on the table and be able to pull it close to me as I sit as I found that the legs were getting in the way as I was working.
Wet felting with wool is so versatile. With a bit of wool, a length of bubble wrap, a spray bottle, some soap and water, you can make just about anything you can imagine. You can make boot liners, slippers, hats, pillows or a piece of artwork you can hang on your wall.
I use merino wool or corriedale for most of my felting work because I find that it felts quite quickly and evenly. I add other types of wool, silk, alpaca for added texture and colour.
To make a felted picture, the process is quite simple, though a bit time consuming.
Start by making a flat piece of wool felt. Put a large towel onto the surface of the table you will be working on. Using white merino wool, I lay down 3 layers of wool evenly across a length of bubble wrap. Gently pull the roving apart into short pieces. Lay these on the bubble wrap, overlapping each row of wool locks by about a third. Make sure that each layer is placed in the opposite direction to the previous layer so that the wool locks cross each other and intersect. I generally start by placing a layer from the top to the bottom. The second layer side to side, from the left to the right. And the third layer, working from the bottom to the top. Wool felt will shrink about 20-30 percent so make this piece larger than what you would like your finished project to be.
After the 3 base layers have been laid in place, fill the spray bottle with warm water and a bit of dish soap. Spray the wool lightly with the soapy water. Place another piece of bubble wrap over the damp wool and gently press down on the wool and rub it with your fingers and palm of your hand for about a minute. This will allow the sopay water to soak into the wool. Now carefully remove the top layer of bubble wrap. The white wool should be a bit flattened and slightly damp. This will make it easier to lay your picture onto the top surface of the wool roving.
To make a picture I start by drawing a cartoon on paper. I refer to this as I am ‘painting’ with the dyed wools.
I lay down the basic landscape of the picture using dyed wools, the sky, the land, the river, the grass. I make sure that all the white wool from the previous layers is all covered and isn’t showing.
The finer details, the houses and the boat will be added later. Now it is time to wet felt the piece. I spray a generous amount of soapy water onto the felt picture. Lay down the second piece of bubble wrap onto the wool and gently press it down with the palm of your hands.
Carefully roll up the wool in the bubble wrap into a tube and roll this back and forth with your hands for about 2 minutes. Then gently unroll the wool package and straighten out the wool felt. Then roll it back up again in a different direction and roll some more. The wool will move around as you are felting, so you will need to unroll it every few minutes to move it back into shape.
Keep rolling and rewinding for about 1/2 an hour, checking every few minutes. You will see when the wool starts to felt and the fibres will bind and come together. When the felt is at a stage where the fibres are staying in place and not shifting around, then it is time to take the wool felt to the sink.
Fill your kitchen sink with hot water and a bit of soap. Fill the second basin, or a large bowl with cold water.
Remove the wool felt from the bubble wrap and gently fold it into quarters. Then dip it into the hot water. Massage the wool in the hot water for about a minute. Squeeze out the excess water and then dip the wool into the cold water and squeeze out the excess water.
Unroll the wool and re-roll it in another direction. Put the wool felt back into the hot water and continue to massage and knead the wool. Then put it back into the cold water.
The action of the kneading, and the shock of the hot and cold water will begin to felt the wool. You will notice that the structure of the wool changes. It will start to harden and also to shrink in size.
Keep kneading, and dipping in hot and cold water. You will need to change the water in the sink a few times as it warms up or cools down.
Once you are happy with the amount that the wool has felted, roll it up in the towel and squeeze out the excess water. Then hang the felted piece up to dry.
Once the felt has dried, you can then add the details to your picture by needle felting the houses, the boats and other features onto your felted picture.
Once I have finished the needle felting, then I add windows, doors, accents and finer details to the design with hand and machine embroidery.
If you are not sure of your hat or head size, using a tape measure, measure around the circumference of your head. Place the tape measure across the widest part of your forehead, just above your eyebrows, around the tips of your ears and across the back of your head. Take the measurement with the tape measure snugly but comfortably around your head – not too tight, unless you like a very tight fitting hat. You may need a friend to help you with this.
The Punti measurement is half the circumference of the head, down one side – from the top of the ear to the centre of the head.
I am having fun experimenting with different methods of wet felting hats.
Wet Felted hat made with merino wool and alpaca.
Wet Felted hat made with merino wool and silk.
Here are some links for how-to instructions on making wet felted hats.
Wet Felted Vessel
Here are some detailed instructions for making a wet felted hat using a balloon as a hat form.
Instructions for how to felt a hat from Hat Shapers.
How to felt a hat using both needle and wet felting methods.
Making a needle felted snowman is a good beginner needle felting project. You will learn how to form a ball using needle felting, how to make indents and shapes and how to join 2 needle felted pieces together.
Form a small ball with the roving.
Begin to needle felt the ball by poking the wool with the needle about 10-20 times.
Be very careful not to poke your fingers – it does hurt.
Rotate the wool ball about a 1/4 turn and continue to poke the wool.
Work your way around the whole ball, smoothing and shaping the wool as go around.
After you have worked your way around the ball a few times, the wool will start to harden and felt.
Hold the ball of wool in your hand and feel for any soft spots.
Needle felt these areas a bit more, so that the wool ball feels evenly felted around.
The wool will continue to harden and felt the more that you needle felt it.
Before it gets to a very hard stage – where it starts to get difficult to needle felt it any more – stop.
And make another slightly smaller ball for the head of the snowman.
When both balls have been needle felted but are still slightly soft and squishy you are going to join the 2 balls together by needle felting them at the neck of the snowman.
Put the 2 balls together, and needle felt them by poking the needle through both the head and the body.
This will joing the 2 parts together because the wool is being pushed through the head and into the body of the snowman.
Now it is time to form the face.
Needle felt small indentations for the eyes and mouth.
Take a very small strand of black wool roving for the eyes and form a small ball in your fingers.
Needle felt the eye into the indentation in the wool.
Do the same for the other eye and the mouth.
Make slightly larger indentations into the body of the snowman for the buttons.
Using black wool, form small balls for the buttons and needle felt these into the body.
Crochet a small hat with fine wool yarn.
Attach this to the snowman’s head by needle felting it into place.
Crochet a small scarf and attach this by needle felting it around the snowman’s neck.
My cat loves wool and crawling into small places to nap. I have many bags of wool so I thought I should make her a own special place to hide from dog and curl up.
I am using the wet felting method to make this cat cave. This project will take about 6 hours to do, and because you will be felting quite a bit of wet wool, it can get quite heavy to work with so take frequent breaks. You may want to complete this project over 2 days. It is fine to leave the wet felt overnight and complete the felting process the next day.
Start by making a thin layer of wool roving over the felting mat approx 24″ square.
Add 3 or 4 more layers of wool roving crossing them in opposite directions.
Place a fine mesh cloth over the wool and spray with warm soapy water.
Rub gently and add more soapy water until the wool begins to felt.
Gently remove the mesh cloth.
This will be the bottom of the cat bed.
Cut a piece of thick plastic such as from a heavy plastic bag into an oval shape approx. 20″ x 24″ to use as a form for the cat pod.
Place this over the previously felted wool.
Add another 3-4 layers of wool roving over the form so that it extends over the plastic form about 2 inches around.
Lay the mesh cloth over the wool roving.
Add some warm soapy water and again rub the wool roving until this begins to felt.
Remove the mesh cloth.
Fold and Tuck the ends of the wool roving under the form.
Fold the edges of the bottom layer over the top.
Yes, the plastic form will be left inside the two layers.
Place the felt piece inside the bamboo felt mat and continue rolling.
Open the felting mat occasionally, spray with more soapy water and turn the felt piece around so that the felting occurs evenly.
Keep rolling and felting.
Eventually the wool will begin to shrink and the edges of the cat cave will start to curl up.
You can now cut a small hole into the felted cat bed and carefully remove the plastic form.
Roll the felt piece back into the bamboo felting mat and continue to roll and felt until the wool becomes quite hard and firm.
Place the felted wool into a sink filled with hot water and continue to felt and agitate the wool to continue the felting process.
Run cold tap water over the felted piece and continue to shape the wool into a ball shape.
The cold water will help to harden the wool so that it holds its shape.
Stuff the inside of the felted cat pod with plastic bags so that the cat bed holds its shape while it dries.
Yes, this felted cat bed can be washed. Wash it by hand in warm soapy water and rinse. You can gently turn it inside out to wash and clean the inside as well.
Roll the cat bed into a towel and squeeze or step on it to remove the excess water.
Stuff the bed with plastic bags and push it back into shape. Place it in a warm place to dry.
Make some felted balls for your cat to play with.
This is a project to felt and sew a hand felted cushion cover.
Wool roving for making felt
approx 1 yard of cotton fabric
16 inch zipper
19 inch pillow form
Hand made Felt
To make the felt top for this pillow, I made a large piece of felt approx 24 inches square. During the felting process the felt will shrink about 15%-30%.
I don’t like to waste wool, so I use the leftover thrums from carding for making felt. This comes from the fleece that is left on the drum carder and isn’t a good enough quality for hand spinning.
I placed a thin layer of the leftover wool onto the felting mat. I then added a second layer of gray wool roving over the wool thrums, laying the fiber in the opposite direction. I added a third thin layer of gray roving over the previous layer, again in the opposite direction.
I wet the wool with warm water and soap and rolled it up in a felting mat.
For more detailed instructions of how to make a piece of felt please see below.
After the wool was felted, the completed felt piece measured approx 19-20 inches square.
I cut 2 pieces of cotton fabric approx 2 inches larger than the felted piece.
I stitched the felt piece to one of the cotton fabric pieces close to the edge of the felt. I want to leave the outer edges of the handmade felt as a border on the pillow.
I sewed a second row of stitching about 1 inch inside of the outer edge, to create a border to the pillow.
I folded and pinned the outer edges of the felt to the inside, to prevent them from being sewn as I sewed the backing onto the pillow.
Right sides together I pinned the fabric for the pillow back to the pillow front.
I sewed one of the seams together and added a zipper.
After adding the zipper, I sewed the remaining 3 sides of the pillow together.
Turn the cushion cover right side out, remove all the pins and insert the pillow.
Time to put your feet up and enjoy!