In this tutorial, we will learn how to wet felt, the oldest felting technique. Felt is a non-woven textile, primarily made out of animal fibers. We have found artifacts dating to back from 6, — 8, years ago, predating woven fabric, which would make felting the oldest form of textile known to our kind. There are a few different ways to felt today, I am going to teach you how to wet felt, which is the technique that has been used for centuries. Warm water with a bit of soapI use a couple drops of dish soap.
The water is your heat and moisture and the soap changes the ph level of the fibers. Wool fibers felt easier if they are thrown either towards the basic side or the acidic side, the soap throws it to the basic side. Tulle netting OR any netting that is made of synthetic material. This material provides agitation and helps keep your fibers in place during the first steps of the felting process. Bamboo placemat OR sushi rolling mat, bubble wrap, textured shelf lining… anything that is textured and can withstand moisture and repeated use.
This also aides with agitation and pressure. Towel to soak up moisture on work table 6. Your two handsor feet! Yes, you can roll your piece sitting down and using your feet to give your forearms a rest. This is how you will apply pressure to your fibers. Next, put down the material you will roll your fibers in bamboo mat, sushi mat, bubble wrap, etc. Then place your synthetic netting down, make sure you have enough to cover the back and front of your piece.
For small pieces I use a big piece of netting and fold over the excess over top once my fibers are laid down.
Either grabbing them between your palm and fingertips, pulling out and laying them down, or by holding the tips of the roving down on your work surface in the area you want the fibers and pulling the roving away, leaving a tuft behind.
Use which ever one feels comfortable for you. Make it as thin as a cobweb, or as thick as a phonebook. Press and massage the water in to the fibers with a small circular motion on the front and back side carefully, as to not upset the lay out of your design, — Apply downward pressure as you roll — Roll about times, turn 90 degrees, repeat until you do all four sides of your piece.
Piece will shrink in direction you are rolling, so the turning ensures equal shrinkage — Pull netting away, turn over and repeat the rolling and turning process — Pinch test the piece, if you can pull any fibers easily away, repeat the rolling process until it is solid — Shrinkage and how tightly felted you want your piece can also vary, you can leave a piece fluffy if you choose.
If kept fluffy, or partially felted, the piece will continue over time anyways due to wear, depending on the application.
These can result in some beautiful concepts.
How to Felt With a Top-Loading Machine
Sit in a chair with your back straight and thighs parallel to the ground with knees bent at 90 degrees.Making a felt flower is great place to begin to learn the basics of turning wool fibers into felt. Using these same techniques you have learned with one layer of felt you can now turn your talents to making a 3 D felt flower with a central core and it's own separate petals.
This method makes it so much more of a challenge! I like to lay down a brightly colored piece of plastic sheeting which has a circular design on it like the one pictured below.
Then I lay a piece of bubble wrap onto it, smooth side facing upwards. I can still see the basic shape through my circle making it easy for me to see where I want to lay the fibers. You could just lay down a circular shape of colored card underneath your bubble wrap! You may have your circle as large or as small as you want your flower. The smaller the flower the finer the fibers I would say though be careful not to make them too thin. A larger flower will need a little more substance to it to hold it all together.
It will also need a lot more rubbing, especially around the central core area to ensure that it is completely felted! I begin by laying down a circle of fibers, keeping the central area a little thicker than the fibers which make up the petals. You might want to keep it simple at first, try using only one color at first and add a few different wool fibers to the top layer or make a simple yellow center. I like my petals wafer thin when the flower is completed but one has to be very careful not to make them too thin as the whole thing may disintegrate if you have not used enough!
Once I have laid down the first fibers I lay a piece of plastic wrap over them but not before I cut a hole in the center of the plastic wrap I intend to cover it with. This hole will expose the central core of the flower which lies beneath the plasticsee images below. When you add the next row of wool fibers ensure that they touch each other and eventually fuse together and become like one when felted at the end.
This whole process is repeated again. Try incorporating some design work in the top layer of the flower using silk fibers or other little bits of decorative wool fiber. These should be covered in odd places here and there so that they embed themselves into the felt during the felting process.
Cover the project with a piece of curtain netting. Wet with boiling hot water mixed with a dash of dish washing liquid. Use a sponge to drip some of the water into the central hole which will eventually become the core of the flower and hold it all together. Gently dab the sponge over the rest of the netting to wet it down. Cover it with a piece of bubble wrap smooth side up and force the water to go throughout the flower. The water will spread outwards towards the edges of the flower.What is Felting?
Basically, it is the process of turning loose wool locks or wool roving into a piece of fabric by connecting the individual fibers. There are several ways of accomplishing this so lets dive right in! A little background: My love of wool and fiber began years ago when we acquired our first two alpacas, Godiva and Permanent Ink. Well, little did I know that alpacas grow a lot of fiber in just one year and since they are very heat sensitive, we had to shear them every Spring.
Consequently, we very quickly realized that something had to be done with all of this fiber! We ended up with bags and bags of lovely alpaca wool fiber every year. What the heck was I going to do with it all??
We asked our fellow alpaca breeders how they used the wool surprisingly, most of them did absolutely nothing with their fiber. They tossed the bags of fleeces in the attic because nobody had any idea what to do with them. I did not like the idea that this wonderful natural material would go to waste. No, I wanted to turn that fiber into something wonderful. So, after a lot of research, I discovered the world of sheep wool.
What did the sheep breeders do with their wool fleeces? Felting, in my words, is the process of producing felt, a textile or fabric that by combining and compressing the loose fibers or hair. You can use fibers that are synthetic or natural.
Do you remember the sheets of brightly colored felt fabric that you used in kindergarten? Those are made with synthetic fibers and mass produced by some large machines. There are two basic ways of felt making: Wet and Dry. Wet Felting is the process of using water, soap and some form of agitation to cause the fibers to open up and then bind together. You can do this with raw wool fiber, washed fiber, carded batts, or processed wool roving and sliver.
This process also works for felting previously knitted, crocheted or woven items such as wool sweaters. Have you ever accidentally shrunk a wool sweater by sticking it in the washer and dryer? Well, you can actually do that on purpose, too! You can do this by hand with a single needleor with a tool using multiple needles. There are also very large machines which create felt using hundreds or even thousands of needles.
Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool or animal fur, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon. Check out How to Needle Felt for Beginners. Basically, the wool is arranged in perpendicular layers to make an interlocked piece of felt fabric. Then you apply water and soap and work it into the wool.
Next, the piece is manipulated with your hands, gently at first with gradually increasing pressure and agitation. Finally, the piece is rolled up inside a matchstick blindbubble wrap or a sisal mat. This is rolled back and forth a few hundred times to further felt the wool. Fulling the felt fabric involves dropping and throwing it on a table.
This further shrinks and hardens the wool and creates a firm piece of felt that can be cut and sewn without raveling. Your final felted fabric will be much smaller than the original layout of wool. How much shrinkage occurs depends on the direction of the fibers and the amount of agitation and fulling.This is what folks think about as the traditional or oldest felting method.
The Wet and Nuno felting techniques are the same except for one slight variation in step 4, and water temperature. Many substitute cold to room temperature water for the Nuno felt process as things have to happen more slowly. See below:. Use cooler water for Nuno tecnique. Note: You can also lay this out on a flat protected work surface if you need a larger area than a dish tub allows. Do this outside or someplace you can drip soapy water without worrying about the floor.
Things are going to get wet, including you! We have seen sections of pool cover used, as well as sushi mats, and others. The keys are that water should be able to move through it, and there should be some texture, which helps the felting process. You can use all kinds of colors and designs just by laying out different shapes and patches of roving. Remember that your piece is going to shrink as it felts so you want to make it slightly larger than you think you will need.
Also keep in mind that you are creating a flat sheet of felt, so building up your layers unevenly will result in a piece of felt fabric with uneven thickness. You can also have design elements on top made with yarns or roving. You will then have roving on both sides of the material, like a mirror image, so that they tangle together through the fabric. Like a sandwich!
Push down while you roll to increase the friction on your felt. Note: If you are working on a table with a big bundle, you will need to continually soak the bundle with hot soapy water you need to keep it warm and wet. Some squeeze bottles filled with hot soapy water can help. Make sure you put pressure on all parts of your bundle at some time, rather than rolling in the same places over and over, as the friction is the main catalyst for felting. Using your forearms to roll it can create more pressure and friction, and help keep you from getting tired.Wet Felting aka Wool Felting is one of my all-time favorite hobbies!
It is one of those activities like gardening where I get completely lost. There is something very peaceful and zen in taking plain sheep wool, mohair or alpaca fiber and magically creating a unique piece of colorful fabric. Each piece of handmade felt is completely unique because there simply is no way that you can duplicate the many intricacies of each lock of wool.
Even if you use the exact same type and color of wool, the outcome will be different. Those little fibers have a mind of their own! Not only that but if you use processed wool roving instead of locks, you get a completely different texture yet.
Honestly, felting wool is like magic as you watch the individual fibers and hairs bind together to make fabric that you can cut or sew into clothing. In this first part of wet felting for beginners, I will show you all of the basic steps involved in wet felting wool.
I will teach you step by step how to take the loose wool locks or wool roving and create a piece of fabric. By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to take any wool or fiber and create a truly, unique piece of felted fiber art. All you need are the basic steps and you can wet felt just about anything! This complete felting kit has all of the supplies you need from colorful wool roving, bamboo mat, bubble wrap and olive oil soap.
How to Felt a Bowl, Resist Felting
I highly recommend this The Complete Photo Guide to Felting to any beginning and intermediate felt makers. Felting is the process of connecting or blending wool, wool roving or fiber together to make a fabric.
With Wet Feltingthat is accomplished with water, water temperature fluctuation, soap and agitation. The other form of felting is Needle Felting which utilizes special felting needles to create felt fabric. Check out Needle Felt for Beginners for more info. Here is how Wikipedia defines Felting. Keep in mind that you are still practicing. This wool roving is perfect if you are just learning how to felt. Once you feel comfortable with the process, you can move up to a finer wool. This is my favorite roving for super soft, next-to-the-skin pieces such as felted shawls and scarves.
How much wool roving you need depends, obviously, on how large a piece of felt you want to make. If you prefer, you can use just one color of fiber. Also, for those of you that are doing a lot of felting, check out this 30 bulk roving. Bubble wrap will work fine for beginners. Two pieces of bubble wrap will last for two to three felt projects. They are durable and last a very long time. Some felters swear by Olive Oil Soap while others prefer dish soap.
Honestly, I have always used plain dish detergent. Note: if your wool is white or very light in color, make sure your soap is white or clear. I felted a lovely white shawl with orange detergent and guess what …. You will be surprised how much water it takes to thoroughly wet down wool roving.
Instead, I cleaned out and repurposed a small vinegar bottle and poked a bunch of holes in the top. If you can find one…. Before you begin, you will want to cover your table with the plastic. Felting uses a lot of water so you may need to cover part of the floor as well. First, place a large towel on the table and then lay the matchstick blind or one piece of your bubble wrap on top of that bubbles down.A FiberArtsy.
Did you see the other Felting Techniques in the Series? What is Resist Felting? A Resist in the felting sense, is a barrier which keeps fibers from felting together. You could also use bubble wrap. You may want to take a look at my Basic Felting Tutorial. Did you use this instructable in your classroom? Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson. Note: You may want to grab a piece of paper and a pen to keep track of the number of layers Cover the table with a large towel.
Place a layer of bubble wrap on the towel. If your bubble wrap is not larger than the Resist, use two pieces.
Wet Felting Tools and Supplies
Place the Resist on top of the bubble wrap. Take your main roving Fawn Alpaca in one hand and with the other hand, pull draft thin tufts of fiber. Place these around the edges of the Resist, overlapping slightly. Add a thin layer of fiber to the center of the Resist, laying the fiber first horizontally and then vertically.
Fill the bottle with warm water and add a few squirts of the soap. Now, place your hands flat on the mesh and begin working in the water. Do this just long enough to thoroughly wet the roving…. Very carefully, peel back the mesh fabric. Some of the fiber may have worked its way through so gently remove it.View on YouTube. Click here. I learned to felt using a matchstick bamboo mat or blind for larger pieces.
These still work well as long as you are careful to get them fully dry before storing. They will mildew if stored damp in a warm climate. These days, my preference is the rubbery carpet underlay that you can buy at Bed, Bath and Beyond in either long rolls for scarves that you can cut up for smaller projectsor in larger dimensions made to fit under various size rugs.
These are relatively inexpensive, very available, portable and re-usable. They offer grip that prevents your work from sliding around, holes that let you add water as needed, and sufficient texture to provide some agitation on the wool.
Look for the thicker version that has a somewhat "honeycomb" look. The thinner shelf and drawer liner can also be used, but it offers less agitation against the wool. However, it rolls up into a smaller roll, making the roll a little easier to handle.
Begin your felting process using cool or cold water. Hot water accelerates the shrinking and tightening of the fibers, and is best used later on. Allow the cool water to open the scales on the wool and begin their migration into the design elements you may have added to the surface. Many people add a few drops of dishwashing detergent to their water bottle before sprinkling onto the wool. Soap acts as a surfactant allowing the water to more easily penetrate the fibers.
My personal preference is to create a separate soap gel that can be applied as needed. Stir to dissolve and leave overnight to cool.
Stir to loosen the gel, then dispense it into plastic squeeze bottles using a funnel.
It will keep for months Soap in this gel form offers more lubrication to the surface and makes it easier to rub the surface during those initial stages. If you wish to restore the Ph balance on a piece of finished felt since the soap is alkalineput a little vinegar in your final rinse water and let it soak a couple of minutes.