This past weekend I participated in a wet felting workshop at the Anna Templeton Centre, and it was totally worth being there on my day off.
A quick guide to wet felting:
1. Acquire your fibres – fleece/roving. Merino wool works quite well. Acquire some bubble wrap. Lay the bubble wrap bubble-side-up on two or three flat towels.
Pull the fibres gently apart, grasping with your fingers against the heels of your hands in order to apply as much even pressure as possible. You should produce four or five (at least) translucent thin layers of fleece. Stack each layer so its fibres run perpendicular to the layer before it.
2. Make your soap solution and apply to felt.
The best and easiest way to do this is to grab a bar of regular ol’ Sunlight soap and shave it with a knife into a tub. Boil up some water and pour it in – but not too much, you want the soap concentration to be quite high. Wait until the water won’t scald you, or add a bit of cooler water, then apply evenly in a drizzle to the felt. The fibres will be encouraged to cling to one another partly because of the high heat. If you’ve ever accidentally put your fav wool sweater in the hot wash and let it swish around for an hour, you’ll know that the fibres want to cling together for dear life and incidentally you’ve wound up with a child-sized garment.
3. Go nuts.
Get your hands good and soapy and rub them vigorously over the top of the plastic. Make sure you’re applying a good amount of pressure. Likely water will squish out the sides, which is why those folded towels underneath come in handy. You’ll need to do this for about 20 – 30 minutes. Make sure you flip it over every few minutes, and don’t hesitate to open up the plastic and check on your felt. It should shrink a little. Test it by lifting it off the bubble wrap and giving it a tug. If it’s stretchy, it definitely needs more felting. Even 5 minutes can make a huge difference.
4. Shock the felt.
To set the fibres you’ll need to shock them, which means dunking them cruelly in frigid cold, followed by unbearably hot water. Prepare a bucket of each, and when your felting is done submerge and wring out the fabric in cold, hot, and then cold again. Voila! Felt!
You can also “capture” other fibres between your layers of felt. In this instance there were other types of fabric sandwiched between white and red layers. These can produce subtle variations if you just felt them in, or you can place a piece of thin plastic (like a page protector) over your “captured” material as a resist. Once the felting is complete, locate the capture material and cut away the layers overtop of it. The plastic will have prevented it from felting into the fleece and being damaged, and you’ll be able to reveal it like a rabbit from a hat.
Some folks in my class had fun with colour, here are a couple impressive beginner felt pieces: