Before I start to go through the process of wet felting, I’ll say that there’ll be no permanent move from the needle to the soap, I love needle felting faaaar too much! So there’ll still be many creatures appearing in the Knittynudo shop as the days go by. 🙂
Ok, so I’ll go through the process of wet felting as I did it, but be warned, this was my first attempt so don’t judge me! YouTube (Terri Pike in particular) was a great help, as were many wet felting books from my library.
How to Wet Felt a Wall Hanging!
Lots of loose carded wool, and another wool blends or yarns you want to integrate
Grated Olive Oil Soap
Two sheets of bubble wrap larger than your project (with little bubbles)
One sheet of tutu mess fabric, larger than your project
Rubber gloves, a tea tray, a think cardboard tube, a jug, and some energy!
1. I decided to make a ‘wall hanging’, as this is a really loose term for anything thats quite flat and can look any way you want it to. A comforting thought for your first go at something! You can’t possibly go wrong!
Lay the bubble wrap bubble side up on a table (or the floor as I did). Then start arranging your wool! You can see in my pictures how much to put down, a little goes a long way. In the end I could have used more, and next time I’ll be putting down a slightly thicker layer. Make sure you can’t really see the surface underneath the wool.
I used a lot of Norwegian carded batts, and merino, and alpaca, and in fact I went a little bit wild! I also wanted to incorporate some silk blends and some silk yarn, and you can see this as the turquoise swirl. If you do this be sure to put a light layer of wool over the top of the yarn to hold it on. I also added some golden wensleydale curls.
My pattern was a little crazy yes, but I wanted to see how it would all work and how the colours went together, so this was definitely an experimental piece!
2. Next, lay your gauze material gently over the wool, making sure you don’t disturb it. Mix a jam jar of hot water with a teaspoon of grated olive oil soap (I got mine form eBay) and pour about a quarter of it onto the gauze. I poured more and it was waaaaaay too much. it’s surprising how little you need – after all, carded wool like this isn’t very absorbant right now.
I put gloves on at this point as the water was hot, but if you can stand it without just go for it! Pat the area until the wool it wet, and them start rubbing with your palms in circular motions until the surface is soapy enough to sketch on – see my finger marks?
Every so often, take off the gauze to make sure it’s non sticking to the wool, re-apply and rub again. When you unroll you can alter the shape of the piece by folding bits underneath or adding more wool. Do what you like!
This part can take a while, but you should start to see the piece come together. To see if it’s felted enough, do the ‘pinch test’. Pinch the wool surface and if it comes up stringy then it’s not felted enough. It should keep relatively firmly to the rest of the wool. If there’s too much water swimming around use a towel or sponge to mop it away.
This is where I noticed I’d gone a bit wrong, in that I hadn’t checked that the yarn was colourfast. The bubblewrap was slowly turning blue! As were my hands, and the whole wall hanging! Eek! Never mind – I had to continue.
3. Remove the gauze and lay the second bubble wrap sheet bubbles down on top of the wool. Holding your tube at one end, roll the whole thing up around the tube, and tie it together with some old tights or bits of the gauze you’re using.
This is the exhausting part! Roll the tube backwards and forwards 100 times, making sure it’s rolling through at least one circumference roll each time. Undo the roll, rotate the whole thing 45 degrees, roll in this new direction and do another 100 rolls. Do this for each side so that you’ve done 400 rolls. The piece should eb getting quite firmly felted now, and should feel like one solid piece. This is a process known as ‘fulling’. I think doing this on a table will be most comfortable. I used the floor and now (three days later) my muscles still ache! (Better than any gym workout!)
4. Once you’re happy the wool is secure together, you get to do the fun part! Unwrap the roll and push away the bubble wrap as you won’t need it now. Get a tea tray and start throwing the piece down from a height of 60 cm. Keep unwrapping your lovingly crumpled heap, as if you don’t it’ll probably felt this way! Do this 30 times, or until you’re happy. This process will make the wool feel even ‘fuller’ and sturdier.
5. Rinsing! I rinsed briefly under the hot tap, and then the cold. Note though that these extremes in temperature will just make the wool felt more and so shrink a little bit. If you don’t want that, then just rinse under cold. It’s then recommended that you ring for 15 minutes in a bowl of cold water with a tea-spoon of white vinegar, and then rinse again.
Dry the piece flat.
And that’s it! This was my mad finished piece! It’s all a little darker than I’d imagined (mostly dyed blue by the yarn) but otherwise a success for my first go!
My blue hands may say otherwise, however…