While there are numerous felting techniques, they all fall into one of several categories. Once you learn how to felt, you'll find that this versatile craft will provide hours of enjoyment.
What Is Felting?
Wool fibers naturally tangle and pull together. This is because the fibers have microscopic scales on them that get caught in each other and form a mat.
Felting is basically encouraging the fibers to pull together tightly using a combination of heat, moisture, and agitation. You have experienced felting if you have ever accidentally washed a pure wool sweater and created a tiny, thick version of the sweater it had once been. Felting is a frustrating reality when it comes to your favorite sweater, but can be controlled and used to create beautiful and useful items, such as the following:
- Diaper covers
Sometimes wool items are knitted or crocheted and then felted, but other times just the loose fiber is used. Spun yarn can also be felted if you desire a denser fiber. Felting is simple, and you will need only a few felting tools and supplies. You can easily get free felting patterns on the Internet.
Needle Felting Techniques
For needle felting, you will need the following items:
- A barbed felting needle
- Clean, carded wool
- A piece of thick foam from the local craft store
You will need to decide what shape you want your finished piece to be. If you are a beginner, a simple shape like a circle, heart, or square will be easiest. Keep it on the large side. If it is too small it will be hard to maneuver.
- Tear a piece of wool from your bat that is at least ½ inch thick and about ½ inch larger on all sides than your desired shape.
- Lay the wool on the foam, and poke the needle into it in a random pattern. You will be poking the needle straight up and down, somewhat gently.
- Pin the template in the center of the wool with straight pins. Poke the felting needle up and down around the edges of your shape. Keep going until you can easily see the outline of the template. At that point, go ahead and remove the template.
- Continue poking the needle straight up and down in the middle of the shape until the inside is compressed and you are happy with the way it looks.
- Use the felting needle to fold in any wool that extends beyond your shape, and continue felting until it becomes part of your project.
- Lift your piece off the foam and turn it over. Use the needle to push any fraying or stray threads into the piece. Continue to turn the piece and use the needle until it is smooth.
The wet felting technique is fun and easy. You can accomplish wet felting by using warm water, soap, and movement to cause the fibers to cling together.
You will need:
- Wool Roving
- Bubble wrap
- Sushi mat
- Spray bottle
- Shallow pan
- Nylon tulle
- A foam pool noodle cut to a comfortable size
- Add soap and hot water to the shallow pan until it is about two inches deep.
- Place the bubble wrap at the bottom.
- Lay the sushi mat down and lay the tulle over it.
- Place thin layers of your fiber over the tulle. You can mix colors if you like, just be sure to build the layers up evenly.
- Fill the spray bottle with some of the hot water and spray your fiber until it is wet.
- Roll it up with the sushi mat with the fiber on the outside, and secure it with string.
- Push the rolled-up package into the hot water, and rub it on the bubble wrap.
- Keep rolling firmly against your bubble wrap and keep the water warm.
- Unroll to check once in a while to see if the fiber has felted. If not, roll it back up and keep working it.
- Once you're happy with the results, unroll the project and rinse out the soap. Remove the tulle.
- Rinse your piece in hot water with some vinegar in it to set the felting.
- Allow the project to dry completely.
Sometimes you may want to add bulk to a knitted or crocheted project. To use this felting technique, you will need to knit the item larger than the pattern calls for and then use a type of wet felting technique to cause the project to pull together and felt. Many knitting patterns include instructions for creating a project of the appropriate size and texture for felting.
- Once you project is finished, weave in the ends securely.
- Place your knitted item in the washing machine, and fill the machine with hot water and a little laundry detergent.
- Allow the item to agitate in the water, checking it after ten minutes.
- At first your project might get a little larger as the fibers relax, but soon they will begin to felt and pull together. Check every five to ten minutes. Do not let the washer drain or spin at all. Stop it and set it back to agitate when it gets close to the end of the cycle.
- Once your project is felted to your liking, drain the machine and rinse the felted item out until the soap is all out of it. During the last rinse, use hot water and vinegar.
- Lay our your item on a flat surface, pin it into shape, and allow it to dry.
Once you have some practice at this procedure, you can try Shibori Felting, a Japanese technique.
Whichever felting technique you use, always follow the instructions carefully. Felting is an old craft that is finding its way back into mainstream popularity today.