Like you all need another excuse to dance in the shower…
It was warm (55ºF) and rainy today, and I decided it was the perfect day (ie. Not Miserably Freezing) to work on some sheets of welt-felted wool for Christmas gifts. I have a couple projects in mind for this felt, some of which I can’t really discuss here because I have family members who read, but I figured I’d share how I made the felt in case anybody out there is mad enough to try it themselves some time. (I want to take this time to briefly suggest you read the little note at the bottom of this post for info on a giveaway I’ll be hosting later this week over at Tanglewood Farm!)
First, you must procure some wool. I am lucky enough to have wool growing in my back yard (on sheep, not trees) and I also have a friend who gifted me many fleeces earlier this year so I’m up to my ears in the stuff. My sheep are Icelandic sheep, which means they are double coated. Their wool consists of a soft inner coat, or Thel, and a course (albeit still softer than many wools) longer outer coat called Tog. Tog and Thel.
After getting yourself some wool, you can either hard card, drum card, pick or leave it natural. If you leave it natural, you are going to end up with some seriously wonky felt, but who knows, it might just work for your project.
A drum carder is a pricey piece of equipment that, with some wools, gets the job done well and quickly. With Icelandic fleeces, however, it is difficult to get a good “batt” of wool out of a drum carder because the wool fibers are not all uniform in length or fineness. I prefer hand cards, honestly.
With hand cards you can make yourself little mini-batts of brushed fiber that are all more or less going the same direction. This is helpful when you want to make a uniformly textured piece of felt.
Once you’ve carded your wool, you should lay it out on a large piece of screen (more than double the size of the felt you want to make) in a single layer all going vertically. Then take another layer of carded wool and lay it horizontally (perpendicular) across the first layer. Continue to build up these layers until you have your desired thickness when you’re pressing down on the wool. I did three simple layers for this wool and it worked fine and dandy. After your layers are laid out, fold your screen over so it is covering the back and front of your wool, with a few inches to spare on each side.
Next you’ll want to wet your wool with hot water. I did this in the bathtub. I laid out my screen on the bottom of the tub (with a hair guard in the drain!) and carefully poured VERY hot water over my wool. Take your hand (or foot?) and squeegee the water through the wool until it is evenly wetted and then find yourself some dish detergent. Pour detergent over the wool (I did a sporadic zig zaggy pattern) so that your wool will lather a bit, but not so much that you’ll be stuck washing soap out of your felt for hours.
Now comes the fun part.
Roll up your screen in a tight roll (like a newspaper log) and then agitate the crud out of it. Stomp on it, punch it, smack it, beat it, flail it… Dance on it (Like I did!) and while doing all of this, alternate between pouring very hot and very cold water over the roll. Once you’ve danced your little heart out you can unroll the screen and roll it up the opposite way and dance another dance.
Finally, after your dance encore, unroll the screen and using your foot or hand, rub vigorously back and forth across the whole wet sloppy disaster. Rub until your arm or leg falls right off, and then flip it over and rub again on the other side…
Lastly, roll the screen up and wring out whatever water you can. If you’re impatient like I am, you can put the whole thing in your washing machine and put it ON SPIN ONLY. Do not let it add water to the washing basin, and for the love of GOD do not let it agitate. You’re using the spin cycle to remove the water using centrifugal force. Woo! Science!
Unroll your screen and marvel at the beauty of wool and it’s amazing ability to adhere to itself.
Of course this is the easy part. Coming up with what to make is that hard part!
What would you make with handmade wool felt?
Want to win some wool for your own fibery adventures? Check out my site tomorrow morning for a chance to win approximately 4 ounces of raw Icelandic fleece in the natural color of your choice (black, black-grey, moorit or white)! It is a versatile fiber, perfect for spinning, felting and even doll hair! I’m addicted to the stuff, myself!
Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens and her livestock, her quest to become a cottage foods bakery and her adventures in leasing a small 19th century cottage and orchard in SE Michigan.