How to Felt - Beginners

Wet Felting: A Beginner’s Guide

© Chrissy Lauritz 2005

1.0 Materials

  • Felting supplies - Fibre Fusion Divine Wooltops and/or Felbi Prefelt.
  • Any required embellishments (refer to section 3.8).
  • Piece of curtain sheer or old curtain netting (op shop is a good source), twice the size of your desired finished piece
  • *Piece of clear bubble wrap same size as curtain sheer and a PVC pipe or equivalent, 1 to 1½ times the width of the bubble wrap (Sometimes a perfectly straight edged vacuum pipe has worked)
  • **An empty ice cream container
  • Warm water
  • Couple of drops of dishwashing liquid or equivalent in soap flakes.
  • Couple of old  plastic supermarket  bags
  • Access to a microwave (not essential but does speed up the process)
  • An old towel

* You can substitute plastic pool bubble cover for clear bubble wrap.  If so, you lay pool cover bubbles face down and won’t need PVC pipe as can simply roll up pool cover and roll with this as it has more rigidity.
**Alternatively you can use a washed plastic milk carton with holes punched in the lid with a darning needle.  You can either mix up a mildly soapy solution in the carton and spray on or simply spray water on and then rub a bar of soap over the netting after spraying water on.

2.0 Arranging the Workspace

Lay an old towel on a table.  Place clear bubble wrap on table, bubble side up.  As felting requires some back bending it is worth raising the table if it’s too low.

3.0 Laying the Felting Wool

  1. Refer to section 10 before proceeding further.  If starting with a Felbi base, simply lay down I or 2 layers of Felbi at your desired size onto the bubble wrap and then proceed to section 3.8.
     
  2. If hand laying your base divide the felting wool into approximately 3 sections, as you’ll be doing 3 layers.  This will guide you as to the size of each layer. Remember your final felt piece will be at least 33% smaller than your layout size due to shrinkage. Up to forty percent shrinkage is recommended for wearable felt.  Set a smaller section of felting wool aside for decoration.
     
  3. Pull off some felting wool top approx 50cm long.  If wool top won’t separate, tease wool out wider at the point you want to separate it then pull again.  Increasing the distance between your hands as you pull the wool apart will also help.
     
  4. Spread the top of the felting wool  piece until it is hand width. Hold bottom of wool top securely with one hand whilst gripping the tips of the wool (the top 2 cm) between the palm and bent fingers of your other hand.  Gently pull your top hand away, taking a tuft of wool with it.
  1. Working a good 5 cm in from the sides, top and bottom of the bubble wrap, lay these tufts down onto the bubble wrap, side by side (just touching) in rows until you have used one section of wool.  This is your first layer.
     
  2. For your second section of wool, lay the second layer down perpendicular to the first.  Again, side by side, just touching in rows until you have fully covered the first layer.
     
  3. Lay a third layer down, perpendicular to the second. You will now have a rather thick mass of wool.
     
  4. Finally, for your design phase,  lay your decorative felting wool tufts on top in any direction or design  you like. This is where you could also add Felbi prefelt cut outs, woollen threads, strips of fabric or other fibres.
     
  5. Carefully lay the curtain sheer on top.

4.0 Wetting down

  1. One third fill a 2-litre ice cream container with hot water. Add 1 or 2 drops of concentrated dishwashing liquid. Mix.
     
  2. Dip a crushed plastic bag (pad) into the solution then gently press the pad onto the netting.  Continue until all the wool has been mildly wet. 
     
  3. Hold down one side of the netting with one hand whilst firmly pushing the pad across the netting away from your anchoring hand. Continue this systematically across the entire piece until felting wool has absorbed the water and flattened.  When enough liquid has been applied, the wool underhand will feel flat rather than fluffy.

5.0 Felting

  1. Now you can start more vigorously rubbing the pad in small circular motions over the piece (netting, wet wool and bubble wrap). Continue rubbing, paying attention to all the edges as well as the centre, for about 10 minutes. 
     
  2. After a few minutes you can carefully peel some of the netting away from the wool. Any fibres sticking to the curtain sheer have to be immediately brushed off the curtain sheer back onto the wet wool. If the wool is still dry in places, replace the netting and add a little more water. If the piece is dripping wet, replace the netting and press a dry towel on top to absorb some of the moisture. Remove the towel and continue rubbing.  A piece that is either too wet or dry will not felt well.  If wool fibres are beginning to poke through the netting as you felt, stop and remove the netting then place it back on top again and continue.
     
  3. After about 10 minutes of rubbing, remove the netting. The wool should have formed a coherent piece that will hold together if you lift it up.

6.0 Rolling

  1. Discard the curtain sheer. With the wet felt on the bubble wrap, place the pipe on the edge of the piece and roll them both up.  Place a couple of loose rubber bands over the pipe to hold the work in place.
     
  2. Roll the piece back and forth in short motions, one roll being the length of your hand   Roll, whilst moving your hands systematically across the pipe, doing 50 rolls for every hand position.  Rolling may require anything from 500 to 1000 rolls.  Whilst this sounds a lot, once you get going, it doesn’t take long.

7.0 Fulling

  1. Remove the elastic bands, unroll the bubble wrap and remove the wet felt. Place wet felt in a plastic supermarket bag.  Leave top of bag slightly open. Microwave for 1 minute.
     
  2. Remove hot, wet felt from bag.  Scrunch up gently and drop onto bubble wrap from about a height of around 50 cm.  Pick piece up and repeat dropping in this fashion for a couple of minutes.  Felt should shrink noticeably in this time by 30% – 50%  Stretch piece out by pulling firmly at opposite corners and edges.

9.0 Rinsing

  1. Rinse felt in a bucket of hot water containing a dessertspoon of vinegar, to remove the soap.  Gently squeeze out water.
     
  2. Roll in a dry towel and then iron the piece to speed up the drying process and give the felt a good finish.

10.0 Analysing

It can be a good idea to take note of the weight of your dry felting supplies before you start, measure up the  the dried laid out area. When felting is complete and dry weigh your piece again, then measure up your final felted piece.  This learning is a useful  guide for future felting projects