Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wet Felting - A Tutorial

Wet felting a piece for an art project can be simple and fun to do.  Despite what you might see and read about it, you don't really need any special equipment.  When making felt for an art piece I don't mind if I have varying thicknesses or a rustic look.  I am not making an article of clothing that has to undergo the rigors of washing and wearing.

Step 1. 
You need wool that has been washed, combed and if desired, dyed.  I like to have mine in a batt just as it comes off the drum carder.  I find working with roving can be a bit more cumbersome.

Step 2.
It generally helps to have a work surface that can contribute some friction against the wool as it is laid down.  If you want to make a nicer piece of wool you can use the plastic canvas that is used for embroidery.  I find a cookie rack inside of an old cookie sheet works just fine for my needs.  If you don't have those, don't worry, you can just use the countertop, but it may take just a bit longer for the felting process.

Step 3.
Begin laying down your wool by pulling off little tufts from the batt.  I generally start in the upper left hand corner and work my way across horizontally.  Lay the tufts down so that the fibers are aligned north to south. The second row starts back at the left side and slightly overlaps the first row.  In the picture on the left you can see what size of tufts I use, but you can use smaller for a finer end product.

Step 4.
Continue laying tufts down row after row until you get to the end of the rack.  If you will notice, the fibers are aligned north to south.  Turn your tray 90 degrees so that the fibers you have laid down are now aligned east to west.  Repeat laying down another layer with the fibers going north to south.  This will produce a layer with the fibers going in the opposite direction as the first layer.  Continue this process turning the tray 90 degrees at each layer until you have a nice thick stack of fibers.

Step 5.
At this point, or really at any point in the process you can add other colors.  If you choose to add them to the final layer then lay them "any-which-way" to get a free-formed look.  I like to check my layers for any light spots by picking up the cookie rack and looking through it.  You should be able to get a pretty good idea if your layers are consistent.  If you find any light spots, just fill them in with additional tufts of wool.

Step 6.
Once you think you have enough wool it's time to wet the wool down.  I take the rack to the sink to do this but if you don't have access to one that you can use, I have place the plastic canvas into a shallow rubbermaid tote and used a spray bottle.  The important thing here is to use hot-hot water.  This causes the scales on the wool fibers to "open up".  Wet the wool down well.

Step 7.
You now need to add soap to the wool.  Some folks say you have to use a special soap, I say pa-sha! I use whatever is at my sink and in a pinch I've used bar soap!  You don't need very much soap to do the job.  We always have diluted dish soap at the sink so it is somewhat watery and I find this helps when trying to get the soap all over the piece without over doing it.  If you use diluted dish soap just dribble it all over the top of your wool.

Step 8.
Now it's time to actually make felt!  Begin gently patting the wool.  As the hot water begins to cool the scales on the wool fibers will begin to "close", catching the other fibers and producing a matted product.  Continue to pat all over the wool and when it has begun to bind together gently and carefully flip the piece over.  Continue pattying and flipping until you feel it is fairly well matted.

Step 9.
At this point you want to gently ball the felt fabric up in your hands.  At this stage I like to hold it over the sink or tub and let the water drain out so that the felt fabric is not so water-logged.

Step 10.
Begin gently tossing the ball of felt fabric down onto the countertop.  Alteratively you can toss it into the bottom of the sink, this generally helps to contain the mess a bit.  For this size piece I am working with I continue this action for approximately 10-15 minutes.  During this time I periodically spread the felt fabric out on the countertop and straighten the edges if they look like they are starting to curl and felt on top of themselves.

Step 11.
You will begin to notice as you continue this action that the wool begins to shrink.  This is the action of the scales locking together.  The wool will most likely begin to look "bumpy".  Don't worry about this at all, it adds to the natural beauty of hand felted pieces.  The longer you continue to "aggitate" the wool by tossing it down, the smaller and more tightly matted the felt fabric will become.  It's all a matter of preference.

Step 12.
Once you have the felt fabric like you want it, rinse the soap out of the fabric with cold water.  Gently squeeze and repeat until all the soap has been rinsed out.

Step 13.
Lay your piece of felt fabric onto a clean, dry towel and roll it up.  Squeeze as much of the excess water out as possible and then hang to dry!

Now wasn't that simple?! and fun?!  You can now take your felt piece and cut out any shape you want.  The edges will not ravel so you could use your cut-outs for applique or sew them together like I did for the yellow bird in my previous post.
Happy Felting!


  1. YOu did an amazing job with the tutorial. This is just too cool! Very clear. Thank you,

  2. Wow. I feel like I actually might be able to do this!! Now all I need is some wool and I'm set. fun!! xo-teri

  3. Thank you so much for the very clear tutorial - It is just amazing and makes me really want to try it soon. It looks so fun! What a process it is. I love that you explained what is happening with the wool to make it create the felt - fascinating!