contemporary & creative feltmaking for the textile artist
An Introduction to Felt Making
IS FELT? Felt is produced through the application of water,
soap, friction and sometimes heat to wool fibres. Repeating these actions results in the
fibres contracting by the cuticles of the wool latching on to each other
and entangling more as additional friction is applied resulting in a
WHAT IS FELT?
Felt is produced through the application of water, soap, friction and sometimes heat to wool fibres. Repeating these actions results in the fibres contracting by the cuticles of the wool latching on to each other and entangling more as additional friction is applied resulting in a stable fabric.
You will need:
Silk fibres (optional)
Soap flakes/Felting Solution (Mix 1 dessertspoon of soap flakes in a litre of warm water)
fibres will shrink approximately 1/3rd during the felting
process so you need add 30% to 50% to the required final size
The fibres will shrink approximately 1/3rd during the felting process so you need add 30% to 50% to the required final size
Seamless Clutch Bag
Merino Wool and/or other wools
Silk or Wool fibres for decoration
Plastic for Template
Once you have learnt this technique you will also be able to use them to make other three-dimensional objects such as vessels and hats or slippers.
Templates need to be made from a material that the wool fibres will not stick to so plastic is a good fabric. It is helpful if this is thick enough to enable you to feel the edges when you are adding layers of fibres.
Shrinkage: The general rule is to add 40% to the finished size of the bag so firstly decide on the shape and size you want to make. Draw this on paper and then add on the 40% i.e. 20% round the edges.
This was calculated as:
25x4 χ10 = height
21x4χ10 = width
Towel/bubble wrap/plastic template.
1. Place your template on the bubble wrap and lay out a fringe of fibres all round half the fibres on the template, half on the bubble wrap.
2. Lay a vertical layer of fibres over
the whole of the template making sure that you overlap the fibres trying to
keep the layer as even as possible and the fibres all lying in
3. Add a second layer horizontally keeping the fibres inside the edge of the template.
4. Sprinkle with soapy water felting
solution and cover with a second layer of bubble wrap, bubble side down. Gently roll with the rolling pin to remove
any air bubbles
5. Carefully lift the top layer of
bubble wrap to ensure the felting solution is spread across the fibres. If some areas are still dry, add more
felting solution and recover.
6. Carefully turn over the template and smooth the fringe over the edge. You might find it easier if you lightly wet the template to help keep the fibres in place.
7. Lay another outer fringe and repeat the vertical and horizontal layers. Wet down, roll and turn over again.
8. Repeat 2 7 again so that you end up with 4 layers on both sides - vertical, horizontal, vertical, horizontal
9. Now is the time to add your decoration. Use other colours of merino, strands of wool or silk. This can just be on one side or both. The choice is yours!
10. Sprinkle more felting solution, replace the bubble wrap and with wet hands rub over the surface to help secure your decorative fibres
11. With your fibres between the two layers of bubble wrap roll round your rolling pin and roll for 50 times.
12. Unwrap and turn the bag 90o, cover and
repeat. Gently turn the bag over and
continue rolling, turning clockwise after another 50 rolls. Repeat once more - you will then
13. The fibres will have started to shrink
and you may be able to remove the template.
You can do this if the fibres feel if they are holding together. If not, roll for another
Removing the template:
14. Starting from the middle carefully cut along the top of the bag until you can easily remove the template.
The bag is still quite fragile at this stage so you need to handle it carefully.
With one hand inside add more soap over the whole surface and then gently rub with an open hand, paying particular attention to the seams.
Turn inside out and repeat the rubbing process.
15. Turn back to the right side and lay back on the wrap and roll 50 times each side. You should now notice that the wool is
getting much more stable and is beginning to
16. You can now begin to add some heat so place in a plastic bag and put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Throw onto the wrap for 25 times.
17. Use a wooden rolling pin, or similar, and beat the bottom of the bag with the end of the pin. This will help form the base and ensure it keeps its shape
18. Repeat 18 19 several more times, gradually increasing the heat until the bag is almost the size you want.
19. You can now decide the size of the
opening and whether or not you want to have a flap on your bag or not. Cut to
the width of the opening required and then, if you want
Soap the edge and rub with your fingers to make a smooth, firm edge.
20. Repeat 18-19 again, this time ending with very hot/boiling water. The bag should now be final size but you can continue to heat and throw until you are happy with it.
You can tell when it is full felted when you are not able to pull any of the fibres out.
21. Rinse very thoroughly, adding white
vinegar to the final rinse to neutralise the soap. Either spin dry or
wrap in a towel and stand on it to remove as much water as
Tightly wrap a tea towel into a tube and push firmly into the base of the bag to make the shape you require. Using a steam iron press over the inside and outside of the bag and leave to dry.
To Make a Bag Handle:
1. Decide on the length of your handle and add 20%. Because the fibres are all laid the same way I have found that the shrinkage is not a great.
Try and keep the length as one piece so you end up with an even handle
2. Twist the fibres three times to give you an idea of the final thickness of the handle and either add or take way the wool until you have the thickness required.
3. Gently smooth the fibres down the length of the handle and then lay on the bubble wrap/bamboo blind, leaving approx 2 off the end.
4. Sprinkle with a little of the soap/water solution, cover with the wrap and very gently roll a few times.
5. Move the fibres along the wrap and repeat 4 until you get to the end of the handle, again leaving 2 free.
It is important that you keep the ends of the handle dry as you will be using these to integrate them into the bag or form when added to the bag.
6. Open up the wrap and check along the length of the fibres and if there are areas that are still dry sprinkle on some extra soapy water.
7. Repeat 4 again, gradually adding
pressure until all the fibres are adhering together. You will need to do this several times
making sure that you roll each section the same
8. Once the fibres are all firmly
together you can now start applying heat.
Either put in a plastic bag and place in a microwave for 30 seconds or
put into warm water,
9. Take hold of the dry ends and throw onto the table up to 20 times. This will shock the fibres and help ensure you have a firm handle. Place back on the wrap and re-roll.
10. You will probably need to repeat these processes at least four or five times until the handle feels very firm in the centre.
As a Separate Handle
Continue with 8 10 until the handle is very firm try to keep the ends dry. You should be able to fold it in half and it remain upright! Rinse and remove the excess water.
Cut two small slits in each side of your bag about an 1 from the top and an 1 apart. Thread the end of your cord through these, from the outside-inside-outside.
You can now add extra fibres to make a rounded end to the cord. Rewet with a little felting solution and begin gently rubbing the fibres, gradually increasing the pressure until you have formed the end of your cord. Rinse and dry.
Integrating the Handle into the Bag
11. When you have laid two layers of fibres on both sides of the template is the time to integrate this handle.
12. Open out the dry fibres and evenly lay one end out in a fan shape around the side of your bag. Repeat on the other side.
13. When laying out the fringe for you next layers carefully wrap them round the handle fibres and then continue as before.
14. After removing the template add extra soap to this area and carefully rub round the handle base to ensure it is held in place.
15. Follow instruction as above to complete felting the bag.
We will be changing these instructions to match in with the next topic at our meetings. So watch out for details on how to make 3D objects, nuno felt etc