What is wet felting?
Hi Creative Mamas! What is wet felting? Simply put, wet felting is a technique that transforms wool roving or sliver (which is carded wool) into a stable and thick piece of fabric. The process enables you to make a durable felt fabric in a variety of colors and designs.
This is Wet Felting for Beginners 101 and a guided step by step tutorial to this magical process! Its the perfect textile craft for moms because you can share the process with the kids. It’s a lot of fun and the perfect way to spend a crafty rainy afternoon indoors.
I first got into wool felting when I moved to New Zealand many years ago. There is beautiful quality wool in this country and there are a lot of felt crafters as well. I had a go at it and fell in love with the technique but it wasn’t until I started my natural dyeing practice on my own wool roving that I got really hooked into wet felting.
Wet felting is also a great way to make beautiful wool crafts with your own dyed wool. My favorite method to dye wool roving is the solar dyed method because there is no risk of felting the wool fiber.
How to dye wool video tutorial
Recently my daughter wanted to experiment with wet felting and we spent a couple of days wet felting together. We had so much fun. I always say and truly believe that textile crafts are a great way to have fun with your children.
It’s a very kinetic activity and one that allows for creative expression. Unlike papers crafts, textile crafts produce a durable object that can become part of our kid’s lives and can last forever.
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How does the wet felting process work?
Wet felting relies on the unique properties of wool and its ability to react to friction, heat and moisture. Because of it’s composition, wool will felt if it’s wetted (hot and cold water) and rubbed with soap. I called this shocking the fibers.
The more rubbing and rolling and scratching your project the better the felting will be. It’s an ideal thing to do if you are feeling frustrated or angry at something. It’s a great release of frustration
How long does wet felting take?
I normally give myself 1 hour to produce a beautiful piece of wet felted fabric. In this tutorial we are going to make a flat felted project, meaning it’s a flat piece of fabric with no relief.
My daughter wanted to make a placemat for the dinner table so we decided to design a square placemat with colors that would make her really happy every time she sat down to eat. She chose her colors and she brainstormed some design ideas :).
The important thing is to have an intention or a story in mind. This is the same process that we use when we are starting any creative sewing or textile craft project.
What materials do you need for wet felting?
Wet Felting mainly requires wool, water and soap. Of course there are some auxiliary felting equipment that you need but they are inexpensive and you may even have some of them around the house.
The main thing is to get a good quality wool roving which is soft and has a length of fiber of aprox 3 to 4 inches. I love using Corriedale wool which is a New Zealand breed that has become very well known internationally for its use in wet felting.
What is the best wool for wet felting?
I have tried using all sorts of wool. I have even accepted bags of uncarded wool from unknown breeds and have done the whole process of washing and carding myself. I have learned the hard way that the best way to achieve a great result in wet felting is to start with a good quality carded felting wool.
The main thing is to get a good quality wool roving which is soft and has a length of fiber of aprox 3 to 4 inches. I love using Corriedale wool which is a New Zealand breed that has become very well known internationally for its use in wet felting. For this tutorial I am using 100 % Corriedale wool.
What soap do you use for wet felting?
I have used different kinds of soap. From dishwasher soap to neutral delicate bar soaps. They have all yielded good results. There is a new felting soap but I haven’t tried it yet so I don’t feel I can make any recommendations.
Wet Felting Tutorial – How to felt wool
Materials and Equipment
For this project you’ll need:
- a sheet of bubble wrap, larger than the size of your project
- a towel, larger than the size of your project
- netting or tulle, larger than the size of your project
- assorted colors of wool roving
- a spray bottle
- a large wooden dowel, rolling pin, or piece of firm pool noodle
- two elastic pieces
Step 1: Choose your wool roving
Choose your colors of wool roving. My daughter loves bright colors so we chose very bright and loud colors.
You can use good quality wool roving such as merino or corriedale.
Step 2: Tell a story through wool fiber
Brainstorm your ideas. what do you want to say? What do you want to express or think about while you are felting? In this case my daughter was playing with the idea of balloons and candy.
The third step is to lay out your project
- Lay out your towel and bubble wrap, bubble side up, on a water-safe work surface.
- Next, gently pull your roving into “drafts”. Pulling lightly will give nice 10-15 cm (4-6 inch) long pieces.
- Arrange each draft on the bubble wrap. Lay each draft in the same direction for the first layer. Try to make the layer as even as possible, filling in thin spots.
- The next layer should be laid in the opposite direction. Make this layer even and consistent as well.
- Add another layer (total three layers) of roving, alternating fiber directions. Sometimes I have 4 layers for a thicker result.
Once you have completed layering the drafts of roving, you can add any design elements or embellishments to the top layer.
Try not to make the little details too thick so that they are easier to felt as described in the next steps.
Carefully place the netting/tulle over the top of your project, making sure not to displace any of the designs you have made or the structure of the roving layers.
Ok, so you have prepared the foundations for the felting process. Now let’s get right into the felting part which is the most fun! Follow the step by step instructions and also watch the video below for more visual references.
Step by Step Felting Process (watch video below)
Fill the spray bottle with hot water and liquid soap. Use plenty of soap, so that the water is quite sudsy. The exact amount will vary depending on the volume of water and the type of soap.
Spray the mixture on the wool. Thoroughly wet the wool, but try to avoid using so much water that it begins to pool. If you add too much water, just carefully blot the excess water with a towel.
Once the wool has been sprayed, gently start rubbing your hands over the project. You will notice that soap begins to foam as you rub. Continue to rub for at least 7 to 10 minutes. This rubbing will begin the felting process. I love this part!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can also rub the wet felting project with a variety of items. In the photo below my daughter is rubbing the wet wool roving with a little rolling pin because her hands were getting tired.
Once you have rubbed your project, place the wooden dowel/rolling pin/foam noodle at one end of the towel. Carefully begin to roll the project up around the item you are using.
Continue rolling until the whole towel and project are around the tool.
Take the elastic pieces and tie them securely around the rolled up project.
Once the ties are in place, begin rolling the whole parcel back and forth. Make sure to roll in long strokes so that the whole parcel is evenly rolled.
Rolling the wet felted wool roving
This is the fun part! My kids like rolling with their feet. They say its like getting a foot massage
After rolling for 10 to 12 minutes, untie and unroll the towel. Carefully lift the netting from the top of the wool. Gently pinch the top—this is called a pinch test. If fibers pull up, your project has not felted enough.
Rotate the piece 90 degrees and repeat steps 3 to 5 again. Try the pinch test again. If very few fibers pull up, your felting is complete on this side.
Turn the wool over and repeat steps 3 to 6 for the back side of the project.
Once both sides have been rolled, peel the wool off both the bubble wrap and netting. Fold into quarters or thirds.
The process is almost done. Now all you need to do is rinse and further shock the fabric
Flat felt wool
Prepare two bowls, one with very cold water and one with hot water. Place the folded wool into the hot water.
Remove the wool from the hot water after a few seconds, gently squeeze the water out, and then place the wool into the cold water. Allow it to set in the cold water for a few seconds and then gently squeeze the cold water out. Repeat these alternating hot and cold dunks four or five times.
Make sure that all the soapy water is rinsed from the wool. The hot and cold water might need to be changed if too much soap builds up in them.
Once the wool is completely rinsed, lay the finished felted wool out to air dry. You have just completed your first wet felted wool piece!
Cut the edges using good quality fabric scissors to create a neat edge.
And here is the final felted placemat. It has been great using the placemat every night and we could even enhance it by hand sewing some details around the edges. But we will get onto that soon.