Friday, September 4, 2009

Wet Felting - kind of a tutorial

A few weeks ago, my wonderful and creative Aunt showed me how to felt. I am amazed at how simple the process is. Most of the equipment you would have on hand, or could improvise. You need:
- bubble wrap (or some bamboo blinds/beach mat)
- 100% natural backing fabric (optional)
- carded wool
- synthetic mesh/net
- hot soapy water- PVC pipe
- elastic bands (optional)

Note: During the felting process, your item will shrink by about 30%.

My first attempt at felting is documented below...

Step 1 - Cut a piece of bubble wrap so that it is larger than the item you want to felt. Place the bubble wrap on a flat surface. (I used the kitchen bench). If you are using some backing fabric, place that on the bubble wrap. The backing fabric must be made from natural fibres. (I used some yellow cheesecloth). This will allow the wool to felt and adhere to the fabric. Create your design on the backing fabric by teasing out your wool and placing it on the fabric with the wool fibres running in the same direction. You can leave some backing fabric exposed, or cover all of it with wool ... it is up to you!

If you aren't using backing fabric, the wool fibres are placed directly onto the bubble wrap. With this method you need two layers of wool fibres. The fibres in the first layer must run in one direction (eg north-south) while the fibres in the second layer must run in the other direction (eg east-west).

Step 2 - Place some synthetic mesh/net onto your finished design. This will help to keep things from moving about too much.

Step 3 - In a bowl, add some very hot water and create a lather with some soap. Using a sponge or cloth, carefully wet your design. You want to get all of your wool fibres and the backing fabric wet without water logging your bench. Using your fingers and your hand, press the water into the fibres. When it feels wet enough, use your hands and carefully rub your design in multiple directions. This starts the fibres meshing together and will help prevent your design from shifting during the next few steps.

Step 4 - Carefully remove the synthetic mesh. Tweak your design if you need to ... this is the last chance you'll have! Now get your PVC pipe and roll the bubble wrap and your felting around the pipe. Once everything is rolled up, secure it to the pipe using string or rubber bands. A towel wrapped around the exterior will soak up any excess water.

Step 5 - Roll the PVC pipe backwards and forwards ... around 100 times. Then carefully unroll your project, turn it a quarter turn and roll it back up again. Once again roll the pipe backwards and forwards around 100 times. You should do this process four times, so that your project has been rolled from all directions.

This is how my project looked after being unrolled the first time.

Step 6 - Unroll your project. Check to ensure the fibres have felted. They should be nicely matted together. If the fibres have matted together, remove your project from the bubble wrap. Now scrunch your project into a ball and throw it onto your bench. (You may need to moisten it a bit more with your soapy water). Continue picking up and throwing your project for about 50 throws. You'll feel the texture of your project change during this process.

Step 7 - You are finished! Rinse out your project and hang it out somewhere to dry.

On the back of my completed (wet) project, you can see how the wool fibres have penetrated the backing fabric and have firmly adhered.

The wool shrinks by about 30% and results in the backing fabric becoming rouched.

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