Recently my mum went to a course on felting at a local craft shop called The Spinning Weal, here’s their website if you’re interested: http://www.spinningweal.co.uk/
After the course we decided it might be fun for her to teach me what she had learnt, it was fun and so I am going to share our experience with you too, there are a few different methods so I have decided to do them in different posts so as not to confuse anyone.
The best thing about felting in my opinion is that you don’t need any specialist equipment, all you need to go out and buy is some felting fibre – and then as long as you have some washing up liquid and some bubble wrap lying about you’re ready to go!
A quick disclaimer – I am not an experienced feltmaker! The following is a guide to how we made our felt pieces, it’s probably not the technically correct way to go about it but it worked for us. If you want to have a go, I’d suggest a quick internet search which will take you to loads of brilliant sites with much better instructions, hopefully though, this post might inspire you to give a new craft a go!
First we lay out towels on the table with sheets of bubble wrap on top of them, why the towels and bubble wrap? All will become clear!
Next we took a sheet of pre-felt and cut it to the desired size. Pre-felt is used as a backing for this felting technique, other techniques don’t use this backing so it is not always necessary. Bear in mind the size you cut your pre-felt to will not be the size of your finished piece – it will shrink!
Then we chose our fibres, I went for sea colours because I just can’t resist them! Fibres come in long thick strands which you separate by pulling on the end. When pulling pieces off you are looking for thin, wispy, fluffy pieces of fibre which you can then layer up to create your design.
We layered our chosen coloured fibres up to create a design, with felt making you can create pictures or patterns or whatever you like but with this method you cannot do crisp or clear lines, think impressionism!
Once the felt fibres were built up and layered up to the point where we couldn’t really see any gaps it was time to put some water and a little washing up liquid on our pictures. We used a sponge to drip warm water all over the felt.
Next we covered our pieces with some clear plastic (half of a carrier bag will do) added some more water and washing up liquid on top of the plastic and began rubbing our hands all over the pieces. The washing up liquid and water help your hands to glide easily across the plastic. It is this rubbing motion and the heat from your hands which will cause the fibres to mesh together and become one strong piece of fabric.
It is quite tricky to describe how you know when to stop rubbing your felt! As I said before this is a rough guide to how we did it but I’m sure you can find more extensive instructions elsewhere if needs be. We probably rubbed our pieces for about 10 minutes, adding more water/washing up liquid if our hands stopped gliding so easily and also added more water underneath the plastic if areas of the felt looked too dry. The piece will flatten and you should be able to see the fibres start to mesh together, at this stage move onto the rolling.
To roll the felt we wrapped it up in between the bubble wrap and the sheet of clear plastic into a sausage shape, we then wrapped the towel around it and began rolling it back and forth, applying pressure so that heat and friction could do their magic to the felt. Water and soap will probably come out of the roll as you knead it back and forth but that is ok. You will want to turn your project every now and then so that each side is equally worked on. The felt will noticeably shrink during this process. It is done when you have spent a good 5 minutes on each side and when the fibres don’t come apart or come off when you pull at them.
The last stage was to rinse all the soap out of the felt, we gave it a quick rinse in some vinegar too to neutralise the soap which can rot if left in the felt. Here are our finished pieces! They may not be beautiful masterpieces but for first attempts I don’t think they are bad. One brilliant thing about felt making is that even if your piece is not a frame-worthy work of art you can add to it by sewing beads or sequins onto it and cut it up into smaller pieces to use for card making.
With a bit of practise I think anyone could create something really beautiful with this cheap and easy technique, why not try making someone a framed felt picture as a gift?