Making Felt by Hand

Information provided by Shelby Cefaratti's website

Preparing the Fiber

Once you know how well your fiber will felt and decide the kind of project you would like to make, you need to prepare your fibers. Make sure that you use an appropriate fiber for the project. If you start with grease in the fleece, you will need to clean and comb or card it before you can use it for feltmaking. Use roving or carded batts for ease and simplicity. A favorite fiber to felt with is merino. It is a little more expensive than some other fibers, but it felts quickly and easily and is available in a wide variety of dyed colors.

The easiest way to pull off even tufts of roving is to hold the length of roving in one hand and grasp the ends of the wool between the fingertips and palm of the other hand. Gently pull the wool and a small tuft will come away from the roving.
Place a small tuft of wool down on the felting surface. Place the next tuft of wool at the edge of the first horizontally. You will be working on the width of felt. After you have laid the wool out to approximately 12 inches wide, it is time to add the next row.

Place a small tuft of wool down on the felting surface. Place the next tuft of wool at the edge of the first horizontally. You will be working on the width of felt.

After you have laid the wool out to approximately 12 inches wide, it is time to add the next row.
Place a tuft of wool at the edge of the first tuft, overlapping the thin edge of the first with the thicker edge of the second. You want to achieve a sort of shingling effect. Continue laying out the fibers until you have the size and shape that you want.

Lay out the second layer in the same manner, but at a 90 degree angle from the first layer. Continue adding layers—4 to 6 thin layers rather than 2 thick ones. The thin layers give you more control in achieving overall even layers and also allow more opportunities for fiber connections. Think about it like a weaving project: the tighter the sett, the finer the fabric—the greater the number of fine layers, the better quality the felt. Before proceeding, gently press down all around the wool and check for thin spots. If there are any thin spots, fill them in with more tufts of wool. Thin spots can become holes in your felt.

Wetting the fibers

Cover the wool with a piece of netting big enough so that the netting extends over the edges of the wool.

Dip your sponge in the warm soapy water. Place the wet sponge in the center of the wool and press down, wetting the wool and pushing out the air. Continue wetting the wool, keeping the netting in place. The net keeps the wool from moving and sticking to your hands. The wool should be completely wet and soapy. Check to see how wet the wool is by pressing your hand down into it-if suds and water pool up between your fingers the wool has too much water. Dab the wool with a towel to absorb the excess water, but do not absorb too much moisture-there is a fine line between too wet and not wet enough. If the fibers are too wet or too soapy, they will float away from each other instead of felting together. The wool should lie flat. If there are bubbles in the wool, then it is not wet enough. Add more hot soapy water with the sponge.

Remove the netting and carefully fold over any loose edges and press them into the wool.

Now, add other small contrasting bits of wool or yarn for embellishment. Then replace the netting, and wet down the new wool. It will "melt into" the primary wool.

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