Saturday, April 9, 2011

wet felting

I just finished a clutch of wet felted eggs for Easter and, as promised, I thought I'd do a how-to for wet felting.  This technique is great for all kinds of play objects like fruit and vegetables...

 or play mats...

...wall hangings or whatever.  Felting is basically the process of binding together the microscopically barbed fibers of wool (or other natural fibers) into a solid mass.  There are several methods to accomplish this irreversible process of making solid fabric from individual hairs.  Dry felting uses a barbed needle to catch and entangle layers of fiber through repeated poking while wet felting employs friction and water (sometimes alternating hot and cold) to swell, intertwine and bind a jumble of strands together.

Begin with pretty much any kind of natural fiber.  Most felters use sheep's wool but goat (cashmere), alpaca, rabbit (angora), and even dog hair are viable options.  If one is not harvesting from a pet or farm animal, already processed (cleaned, carded and combed) wool roving is probably the easiest fiber to find and work with and can be found (natural or dyed) at various craft and yarn shops or on-line.

For making eggs, I began with natural and plant-dyed wool roving.   Since the dyed roving is more expensive, I usually begin with the un-dyed as a base and then make only the outer layers in color.  For making eggs one will also need little plastic eggs, tape, soap (any liquid or solid soap will do), a bowl of very hot water, a bowl of very cold water, a good work surface (that can get wet), a few towels and (optionally) a felting needle.

For a core I used a little plastic Easter egg.  The egg was wrapped in tape so that the initial fiber wrapping would have something to cling to.  (The plastic was too slippery.)
These eggs will ultimately be hallow and the plastic egg will be removed.  Should one wish to make a solid egg or other object, begin instead with a piece of roving tied in a knot to form a permanent core.

The fiber is spread out a bit to loosen it and then wound around the egg in very thin layers.  The layers ultimately bind best when several of them are laid across each other at right angles giving the scales of the fiber a good chance to interlock.  The individual hairs of this particular roving were long and by carefully pulling them out and keeping them connected in a continuous strand, I was able to wrap the egg much like one would wind a ball of yarn.

When I could see no more of the underlying egg, I wrapped with the colored roving in similar fashion.  (This is a solid colored egg.  To make designs - lines, polka dots, et cetera, one can use a felting needle to decorate the egg at this point.  Alternately, embellishments can be added after the solid egg has been completely felted.)


Wet the egg with water as hot as your hands can stand and lather a bit of soap (liquid drops or flakes from a solid) in your palms before gently pressing down the loose fibers.  They may stick to your hands but persevere.  Press and lightly squeeze the egg until the fibers stay in place.


Once the fiber stays put, start rubbing very carefully.  As the fibers begin to bind, pressure can be increased and hands will glide more and more easily over the egg.

Passing the project back and forth between cold and hot water will help the fibers expand and contract and assist with the binding.  The more solid (felted) the fibers become, the more vigorously one can massage the project.

As far as the felting goes, that's pretty much it.  It took about 15 or 20 minutes of  rubbing and massaging to shrink the fiber down so that it clung very firmly to this egg and was quite solid. 

It was then rinsed and allowed to dry prior to cutting a slit to remove the egg.
(One might also cut a jagged, cracked egg edge if that look is preferred.) 

Should the inside of the egg have loose fibers, simply wet and soap up your hands again and gently massage the egg's inside area.


The opening can be left as is but I like the finished look of the blanket stitch. 

Most of the eggs (seen in the basket above) I decorated at this point with small bits of roving and a felting needle.

1 comment:

  1. A year and a half after I posted these instructions I came across something you've just got to see... For a SUPER INCREDIBLE (slightly different) version of basically this same thing, check this out!!:
    Love it!


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