I decided to learn to felt this week and have really enjoyed it. It’s a quick and easy way to make “fabric” with wool. I’ve been told that felt is both water and fire resistant. I chose the most basic method I could find for my first attempt, it didn’t require me to purchase or make anything before I started but was enough to give me some good first results and really wet my apatite.
Materials: String (not pictured), material, rubber gloves, jug, boiling water, washing liquid, carded fleece (not pictured).
1) Layer the fleece, second layer should be in the opposite direction to the first, the third should be opposite to the second and so on depending on how thick or thin you want your felt to be. The first and second batches of fleece I made I just cut big long lengths from my roll of carded fleece (produced by Ashford). Don’t do this. I found I had a much nicer finished product when I just tore off sections and made several rows per level. Even though all my attempts had two layers, my third attempt was a much thiner, more supple felt then the first two, with a more even appearance over all. The method pictured results in a thicker felt and you can see lines from the rows of wool.
2) Pour boiling soapy water over the wool until it’s soaked all over. Gently pat the wet wool all over and then start to rub in small circular motions for several minutes. Be gentle but not too gentle. When you apply hot soapy water to the wool, it encourages the scales to open and when you rub it, you are helping the scales to lock together (or so I’m told). If you rub too hard you will cause the fibers to pull apart and create holes in your finished piece. You want to encourage an even texture.
3) My material is too long for this piece of felt, but, once you have finished rubbing the wool, roll it up like a sausage.
4) Fulling. Tie string in the center on on each end of your roll to help keep everything together. I chose to do this on the gravely paving (some methods tell you to use an old fashioned washboard, or instead of material use a bamboo mat, the back of a rubber door mat, anything that has a texture to it), the method I was following actually just says to roll it on any flat surface. Simply roll for about 10 minutes, give or take, and then unroll and reroll in the opposite direction (top to bottom, then left to right). Re-tie your material and roll for another 10 minutes or so.
5) That’s it. Finished piece of felt.
6) Remove your felt from the material and give it a rinse under a cold tap to remove the excess soap (hot water will encourage more shrinkage). Hag it out to dry naturally or you can even iron it.
I found that there was only minimal shrinkage of around 10cm from my original layering to the completed product. It took me half an hour to make this piece and 35 minutes to make another larger piece. Quick and easy and loads of potential, I’m a felt convert.