Good morning crafters! Do you remember when we learned about dry felting last week, a technique used to create felt from wool with a barbed needle? Well this week, as promised, we are going to learn about wet felting. Wet felting can be defined as the process of continually rubbing wool fibers together with mild soap and warm water to form a firm, felted object,” and is often better for beginner felters to learn before they start needle felting because it does not involve any sharp objects. The history of wet felting is closely aligned with the history of needle felting - the tents and yurts made by Nomadic people of Asia are most often wet felted - so let’s jump right into talking about the craft!
Wet felting involves creating rectangular fabric made of several layers of wool (not plant or synthetic fibers because those won’t felt well), applying water and mild soap, and sponging or agitating the wool to encourage the fibers to lock together. In dry felting, the wool is agitated with a needle rather than water, but in the end, you will have a tight, sturdy felt fabric no matter which method you use. By the end of the felting process, the wool can shrink down to more than 50% of its original size, one of the reasons that wet felting is a craft more concerned with the feeling and the process of creation rather than the precision of the end result. (A good felting tip is to measure the size of the layers of wool you create before you begin applying water so you can measure just how much the wool tends to shrink).
I am no expert at wet felting, but I’m going to attempt to share my knowledge of the process with you so you can test it out with your kids at home! First, the materials. Before you start crafting, you need to make sure you have everything you need to felt: wool, a spray bottle, hot water, mild dish soap, a large sheet of bubble wrap, netting or tulle, and a bamboo mat or a towel. You can also grab some scraps of wool or yarn for decoration if you prefer! Once you gather all your materials, you should lay down the mat or towel on a large, flat surface, like the kitchen table, and then place the bubble wrap, bubble side up, on top. Then, after pulling your wool into strips about half a foot long, you can start to lay them down on the bubble wrap, all facing the same direction. Try to make a layer of wool and fill in all the empty gaps, and when you finish with the first layer, you can start the second! The second layer should have the strips of wool oriented 90 degrees to the first layer, so the second layer of strips crosses over the first. Keep creating layers rotated 90 degrees from the one below them until you have four to six layers of wool, all stacked in a rectangle on top of the bubble wrap and the mat! If you want, you can make some designs on top of your wool with the scraps of colorful wool and yarn you gathered earlier!
Once you’re done with the layers, it’s time for the water. Place the netting or tulle on top of your wool, making sure it is all covered, and then fill your spray bottle with the mild liquid soap and warm water and spray it onto the wool. Use enough water so that the wool gets thoroughly wet, but not so much that water starts to spill out from underneath. After the wool is all wet, gently rub it with your hands. In this part of the process you are agitating the wool, an essential step in creating felt. After about ten minutes you want to roll up your mat (or towel) with the bubble wrap and wool inside, making sure that the roll is tight. Slide some rubber bands on the rolled mat or towel to keep it together, and roll the whole thing back and forth across the table for ten or so minutes, then unroll the mat or towel and flip the felt over before rolling it up and rolling it around for ten more minutes. After you’ve rolled both sides, unroll the mat or towel, carefully separate the felt from the bubble wrap and netting, and then gently rinse the soap out in tepid water. Once all the soap is gone, carefully squeeze out the water, and roll out the felt again on the mat to flatten it before leaving it out to dry!
Once again, there are many different ways to wet felt and dozens of tutorials to follow, but I hope my tips and tricks helped. If you want to try a slightly different, simpler kind of wet felting, check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube tutorial on how to get started! If you already have some understanding of how to felt and are looking for inspiration for new projects, take a look at this amazing list of wet felting projects or this slideshow of great felt creations to try!
We hope that this blog post convinces you to get out there and try wet felting today. Incredible felt artists like these inspire me to try this craft one day, and I hope they inspire you too! If you want to send your kids to The Handwork Studio this summer to learn how to wet felt, among many other amazing crafts, don’t worry! The summer isn’t over yet! We still offer camps and classes so your kids can have a fantastic experience learning a new, special skill. As always, if you do end up trying a wet felting project, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can give your art the love it deserves!
1) Child in background, rainbow wet felting project in foreground, Handwork Studio camp
2) Child with wet felting project, Handwork Studio camp
3) Wet felt art by Andrea Graham