Making Wool Felt!
Easy? You Bet!

wool felt

Making wool felt is probably the easiest way to make a piece of fabric. Legend has it that this process was discovered by accident. No - not in a washing machine this time , but by someone who needed to cushion their feet on a long walk.

They say that this person pushed wool fleece into their shoes for extra padding. When they arrived at their destination they basically had wool felt insoles. As they walked, the heat, moisture, pressure and rubbing action had been making wool felt into a mat. Fascinating, eh? Can't wait to try it? No, I'm not saying you have to take off your shoes and trample your fibers (though it might be fun), just follow these simple instructions...

You will need a tray or cookie sheet, soap (hand soap or bar soap is best, NOT detergent), rubber gloves, a jug, hot water and elbow grease! You may wish to use some bubble wrap or a washboard to help reduce work at a later stage. You also need wool fiber, either in a batt or roving. (A batt is formed by carded fibers, a roving is combed fibers). Only a couple of ounces will do for a sample piece about 8 inches across. Merino wool felts best due to its fine fibers.

Wool fibers are fairly fragile until they are felted. Always pull the fibers apart gently - DO NOT cut them, as cutting leaves harsh edges. If you are using a batt, start by pulling a strip off the side. Gently tease it open with your fingers. Shorten the piece to about 8 inches long by laying it down, placing a hand where you want to tear it and gently pulling away the extra fibers with the other hand.

Lay out a square about 8x8 inches. Be sure to have all the fibers on each layer lying in the same direction. With a roving, pull off small tufts and lay them side by side, end to end, overlapping slightly (like the scales of a fish) until you have covered the area of your sample.

Place another layer across the fibers of your first layer, ie. one layer North-South, next layer East-West. Make your layers as even as possible. The more layers you have, the thicker your wool felt fabric will be. 4 layers is fine for this sample.

making wool felt

To start making wool felt use hot water mixed with a good squirt of hand soap. The soap makes the fibers slip more easily and helps in making the wool felt. Start by pouring a LITTLE liquid onto your layered fibers and press down. Continue until all the fibers are wet. Press down all over your project. Fold over onto the top and work in to your sample any stray fibers. This makes the edges more even. Keep pressing down all over for a few minutes. As the water cools, pour off the cold soapy water and add more hot soapy water instead. Continue pressing. After a while you will feel the fibers become more matted and stronger. When you feel your fabric has felted enough to lift without separating, lift it onto a piece of bubble wrap or a washboard.

making wool felt

Now that your wool felt fabric has started to felt, you can shrink and shape it. This stage of making wool felt is called 'fulling'. You do this by rubbing it against the bumpy surface of your choice. This can take some time, so I'll just grab a cuppa while you're busy...Yes, keep rubbing!! The bumpy surface will cut down the time needed to make your sample fully felted. Again, as the water cools, drain it off and add more hot water. After a while your sample will begin to feel thicker and firmer. You're almost there! When you are happy with the feel of your sample you can rinse it off with COLD water. The cold rinse after hot scrubbing helps to fix the fibers in place. Squeeze it - DON'T WRING IT - then roll it in a towel and step on it to get out as much moisture as possible. Lay your piece flat to dry.

making wool felt

So there you have it! You've just learned about making wool felt! Amazing! I still wonder at the simplicity of it, but there are tons of uses for felt. You can make beads, ropes, jewelery, masks, puppets, hats, slippers, vests, even Christmas decorations, just to name a few. You can also make rugs and capes if you're really ambitious! Nomads even make large felt tents called Yerts. Now, they are the experts on making wool felt! Look out for more instructions as my site grows. Have fun making wool felt!

Try making wool felt beads or ropes - so easy, kids can do it!
Check out these easy felt projects!
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