I use merino wool mainly as it "felts" very quickly
and finely. The fibres are built up in 3 opposing layers to
enable the scales on the fibres to interlock and so create
a strong fabric. Using pure soap flakes and warm water which
is sprinkled on the fibres, the fibres are massaged through
bubble wrap plastic to create friction. By rubbing and rolling
the fibres with the soap and warm water, the fibres shrink
into a fabric. Bamboo blinds are often used to increase the
friction on the fibres.
|1. Laying down wool fibres
layers on bubble wrap
|2. Sprinkling pure soap
flakes onto the design
||3. Adding water to the
|4. Placing a second layer
wrap and rubbing to distribute
water and soap throughout the fibres
|5. Rolling in bamboo
mat for added
friction to shrink wool
|6. Finished felt piece
to make felt
- You will need two pieces of bubble wrap plastic
the same size. Put one to the side and lay one piece
with bubble-side upwards on a flat surface. Using
merino wool or other fine wool tops, pull the end
fibres out gently and lay them down on the plastic
in a square with all the fibres in the same direction.
- Leave a gap of approximately 2cm clear between the
edge of the fibre square and the edge of the plastic.
When you have created a fine but dense layer of fibres
repeat the process but with the fibres laying in the
opposite direction, making sure that you cannot see
the previous layer through the second layer.
- Repeat this process with the fibres running in the
direction of the first layer.
- Create a design on this fibre base using whatever
colours you may like and maybe with the addition of
other fibres such as wool yarn to add effect. Sprinkle
a very small amount of pure soap flakes over the piece
and then add a small amount of water.
- Place the second piece of bubble wrap over the whole
piece with the bubble-side downwards and with wet
soapy hands rub over the plastic to disperse the water.
If necessary, add some more water to ensure that the
wool is "wetted" out but not too much so
as to saturate the piece.
- Carry on rubbing until the fibres are shrinking
together. Then you can roll it in the bamboo matting
which increases the shrinkage. Finally roll the piece
in a ball in your hand and throw it down onto the
mat repeatedly, this shocks the fibres into shrinking
- Rinse out the piece and leave to dry.
of felt making
Felt is the oldest textile known to man. It is made without
sewing or weaving and is a non-constructed fabric. The stories
go that a man was walking across a desert in the dim and distant
past and as his footwear was rubbing he grabbed a handful
of sheep wool or camel hair, depending on what livestock he
had with him, to put into his sandals for adding comfort.
The constant friction from walking and the moist and warm
atmosphere in his shoe together with the sweat all went to
turning the wool into a piece of felt.
Felt has been used for many cultural reasons throughout the
centuries and is very prevalent in Central Asia where it is
used for everything from carpets to hats. Making
felt is a very ancient craft skill. Felt is produced in many
places in the world for such diverse items as shoes, tents,
carpet, fine clothing, art objects, hats and jewellery. It
is such a versatile craft that it will lend itself to many
different treatments and new uses for it are being discovered
by a new generation of artists and craftsmen.
The felt I make uses Merino wool, which is one of the finest
and "felts" very easily. I dye my own wool and silk,
which I use to make what is called ‘Nuno felt’.
This is wool felted through a fine open cloth, like silk or
muslin, to create more of a ‘drape’ for wearables.
I also make felt creatures using a technique I call felt sculpting.