This year for our schools annual fundraising auction, I helped organize the creation of this delightful Felted Spring Wall Hanging. We wanted both parents and children to be able to contribute to the project and so worked it out in stages using various felting methods and materials.
The children in the kindergarten class range from four to six years old and therefore have limited skills and attentions spans but untold wells of creativity. The basic image was inspired by their daily art work and, as you'll see, their contributions were what made so much of the piece original and interesting.
While the children were participating in the classroom, I didn't want to be too distracting by snapping a bunch of photos (also, the light in there is quite low and terrible for picture taking) so, this first part of the photo exposition is a smaller reproduction of our project that I did alone at home.
We began by using duct tape to piece together many scraps of recycled bubble wrap to make two 5' x 3' sheets with which to felt. The tape was stuck onto the smooth side of the bubble wrap at each of the seams.
(I should note that I first tried using packing tape, but it didn't hold up to the water and all the friction and rolling that this project required.)
After a suitable size, colors and desired image were chosen, one sheet of the wrap was laid bubble side face up on a water resistant surface to receive the layers of wool roving.
Upon this sheet, the first layer of clean, carded wool was laid out with the fibers running all in the same direction. (The roving shown here was composed of very short fibers and so looks rather haphazard...still, it's mostly laid down in one direction.)
The first layer established the size and outline of the piece (taking into account that it would shrink by about 20%).
On top of the first layer, a second layer (in the same or different color, depending on the effect desired) was laid with the fibers in the opposite direction.
In the classroom, the children wandered over three or four at a time to assist the parents and teachers in this step. They were surprisingly adept at criss-crossing each successive layer and especially enjoyed laying down the wool where the two colors met.
A third, and fourth layer were then added, each perpendicular to the prior layer until the piece was three or four inches thick.
For this scene, we worked it out so the final layer of "grass" was vertical and the final layer of "sky" horizontal. The children in class were getting excited by this time and the sky wisps especially were not so exactly applied. There were swirls and curves that, in the end, made it even more surprisingly beautiful! One person commented that it had a sort of Van Gogh "Starry Night" quality. Such is the magic that the children's so-called imperfect contribution brought!
We then laid down some yarn and wool to represent sun and flowers (a common theme in the daily art of the children).
On top of this whole picture we gently placed a sheet of tulle (window screen or other types of netting can also be used). This helped hold the fibers in place while little and big hands started the felting process.
Using a warm water and soap solution (about 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of dish soap) we sprinkled the entire project until it was all damp but not soaking.
We then compacted the wool by gently pressing down with our hands, adding water to noticeably dry portions until the sheet was evenly flat.
(Where water pooled and overly saturated any particular area, we soaked it up with a dry towel.)
When the fibers felt fairly stable, we began to pat and rub across the tulle in various directions, lifting it occasionally to keep the wool from felting into it.
Basically, what is happening in this process is that the movement in various directions and the friction of the hands is binding together the microscopically barbed fibers of wool into a solid mass.
(Note that the next photos show the actual larger work of art we made in class...)
When it seemed the fibers and yarn were firmly held in place by our initial rubbing, we removed the tulle and placed the second sheet of bubble wrap over the project.
We wet the top of the plastic with the soap/water solution so that our hands could glide smoothly over the surface and continued stroking in various directions and circular patterns. The two layers of bubble wrap pushed against both sides of the wool act like hundreds of additional tiny fingers that help further knit the fibers together.
The children got a bit wet but seemed to love this portion of our craft.
We would have liked to have had the children help with this next stage also but ran out of time in the classroom.
Instead, at home, I rolled the project (still inside the two layers of bubble wrap) around a pool noodle (which is just a big 2" diameter length of round firm foam...one can used a rolled up towel if a noodle is not available) and tied it firmly in place with some stretchy bits of scrap fleece. I rolled this cylinder back and forth for another 30 or 40 minutes, occasionally untying and unrolling to check on the solidity of the fabric.
For kids this age, needle felting isn't really an appropriate activity, so a group of parents then took the beautiful creations and needled them onto the dried felted base.
In the end, the combination of wet and dry felting gave the project a soft and breezy, three-dimensional quality. We thought it would make a great wall hanging in a child's room or even a festive seasonal backdrop for a Spring Waldorf Nature Table.