Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wet Felting demystified

This is the roving arranged up and down and across on the bamboo mat.
This is how it looks when I have the roving, netting and mat all rolled up.
One side of my felt.
Other side of my felt. Figured I would want both sides to look good in case I decide to do something where you see both sides and not just one.

Well, I did some wet felting this afternoon instead of working on my paper. Cannot think when I am sick. My sinuses are seriously messed up. My daughter was sick last week and now it is my turn. I am sitting here with a cup of tea resting now as I type on my laptop in my comfy chair. Wet felting is a lot of fun and it is REALLY easy to do. What can you do with it? You can use it for surface design on quilts and other fabric based artwork. You can use it to make ATCs. You can use the soldering iron or heat gun and put some holes in it. I have not tried to torture this type of felt since it is still wet. I figure the thin spots will melt. If not, then I can just use my finger and poke holes in it. You can use it as texture on anything paper based. You can use it to make journal covers, purses, checkbook covers, or anything else you would use felt for. It is so much better than the felt you buy at the local craft store though. The colors are fantabulous! You can also add little felt flowers or pieces of yarn/fibers for some contrast. I also made a felt cane but not sure how that will turn out. It is still wet and it needs to be dry before I cut into it with a razor. Can't wait. Will post that pict once it is dry.

What you will need:

*roving in various colors - can be wool, alpaca, merino, or silk. Merino roving is cheaper. A lot of people hand dye it. I have silk and merino roving. I use the merino roving. They come in long strands of thick bunches. Do not use the roving at the craft store. The colors are not great and they do not fluff well for wet felting. I don't like to use that for needle felting either. Yes, I am a roving snob. My little Chinese flat nose is up in the air right now.

*netting - I use white netting that is sold right by the tulle. It looks like tulle but the grid is a bit larger. Will post a close-up pict of it. It is $1.29 a yard but on sale at Joann's this week. You only need enough for the size of your surface - a bit larger. Buy a bit more since the netting may tear when you separate the felt from the netting. You can substitute tulle but I have found that does not work as well.

*bamboo placemat or bubble wrap - I tried it with both but prefer the bamboo placemat. I could roll the felt better with that than the bubble wrap. If you use the placemat, wash it first since it might be a tad dirty and will come off on your felt (if using light colors). I used both sides of the bubble wrap - bubbles in and bubbles out - and it did not make a difference.

* Squirt bottle or container of soapy water - I used my dish soap with a cup. I did not have a clean squirt bottle. You do need to be near a hot water source or microwave though.

*Some clean towels.

*2 rubber bands

*optional: fibers, yarn, or small pieces of felt cut into shapes


1. Give yourself an inch or so border on your mat. If your roving goes over the edges, then it might not get felted. Choose a color that you like. Cut or tear off a small chunk. Take that and pull it apart until it looks like fluff. It does not have to be evenly fluffed. Lay it down on the mat or bubble wrap. The fluff should be all going in one direction - up and down or across. Lay down one layer on the mat giving yourself a little border so it does not go over the edge. You do not have to do it really evenly or worry about missing some spots. The other roving will cover it. I actually like holes in my felt.

2. Do the same thing with different colored roving but do it in a 90 degree direction. If you did it up and down the first time, do it across now. You want a gridlike design so the roving can catch onto each other and turn itself into felt. You can do it with the same colored roving. The importance here is the direction. So, one layer would be up and down, next layer would be across, 3rd layer would be up and down, 4th layer would be across. You get the idea.

3. Repeat with different layers until you happy with it. The felt will come out thinner since it is fluffy. The minimum amount of layers is 3. The most I did was 5. I would think you could do a few more layers but would take longer to felt. Push the roving in from the edges.

4. Lay a single layer of netting on top of your roving and mat. The netting should be slightly larger than the size of your mat.

5. You can do this next step on a large pan or area where you don't care gets wet. It has to be the size of the mat or larger. I did it in the bathtub. I put the mat, roving, and netting in my bathtub. I ran the water in my bathroom sink until it was hot. I squirted a bit of dishsoap into my cup and filled with hot water. I slowly poured it over my netting and roving. I put some more hot water in and did it again. I added a bit of dish soap when my hot water in the cup was clear. It is a bit more wasteful this way but it worked. You could also use a squirt bottle with hot water and a large squirt of dishsoap. I use Ajax. You don't need to cover the entire area but most of it. I had a cup of the hot soapy water on hand in case I missed a big spot.

6. Use your hands and press down on the netting and roving. Push roving in that goes over the edges. Use your hands and gently rub the netting back and forth to agitate the roving and start the felting process. Do that for a few minutes until the roving is well wet.

7. Starting from one end of the mat, roll up the net and roving. It does not have to be really tight but it should be a firm roll. It is okay that the water comes out. Use rubber bands and tie the ends.

8. Put the roll on a paper towel. I folded mine in half. I used the bathroom counter. Some people might find it easier to do it on the floor with their knees holding down one end of the towel. Using your palms, roll the roll back and forth about a 100 times. Make sure your palms go to both the middle and ends of the roll so the felting is even. If you just roll the middle section, then your ends will not be felted well. Do not apply too much pressure or your netting will stick to your felt too much and will tear when you try to separate them. Yes, I did that once. It is not the pressure of your hands but it is the agitation caused by the rolling that does the job. You will notice your towel getting wet with soapy water. That is normal.

9. When you are doing this step, pay attention to what direction the felt was on the mat. Unroll the mat and gently separate the felt from the netting. You will notice shrinkage. No, I will not make any risque jokes here even though I may be thinking it as I am typing. Turn the felt 90 degrees so that the width side is now on the length side. You can tell because the felt will probably be longer on the width side and the length side will be shorter. Basically, you are doing a half turn so that you will be felting it in the other direction to make sure all the roving fibers get felted.

10. Put the netting back on top, roll up the mat, and put the rubber bands on. Do the rolling thing again for 100 times.

11. Take off the rubber bands and unroll. Carefully take the netting off the felt. It is done if it is really flat without a lot of loose fibers or loose chunks. You should be able to crumple it up in your hands and it comes back like a piece of cloth. If it does not do that, then repeat the rolling process one or two more times in different directions until you get a nice piece of felt.

12. Rinse in hot water until the soap comes out. I wring it dry. I figure I can iron it later. You will notice that there has been noticeable shrinkage. Lay flat to dry. I hung mine up on the shower curtain rod.

Kinda tired now. Will tell you how to do the felt cane later on. Come back and tell me how yours turned out. Better yet, email me a pict. I would love to see how yours turned out.

Oh yeah, the blue one with green yarn squiggles. That one is sooo coool! All I did was cut out pieces of yarn and arranged them on the bamboo mat. I laid the roving on top of it. Love how that came out. Love it!

1 comment:

Jen Crossley said...

Looks awesome I must give it a try
Thanks for sharing