wet felting tutorial

Tutorial Number One: Wet-felting for Needlefelters

When I'm working on a needlefelted sculpture, sometimes I need small, flat, densely-felted pieces. Maybe I need them for feathers, fins, or eyelids.

Today, I need ears for a black cat, so I'll walk you through my process.

 


1. Lay out a very thin layer of wool with the fibers all going the same direction. Make sure there are no obvious gaps in the fibers.  (Look, there's one of  Sarafina Fiber Art 's lanolin bunnies! I'm going to need it for my hands after I use so much dish soap.)

1. Lay out a very thin layer of wool with the fibers all going the same direction. Make sure there are no obvious gaps in the fibers.

(Look, there's one of Sarafina Fiber Art's lanolin bunnies! I'm going to need it for my hands after I use so much dish soap.)


2. Put down another thin layer of wool with the fibers running perpendicular (90 degrees) to the first layer. Crosswise, like this.

2. Put down another thin layer of wool with the fibers running perpendicular (90 degrees) to the first layer. Crosswise, like this.


3. Needlefelt the layers together, poking the needle in at different angles so the two layers are firmly stuck together. Fold the wispy bits sticking off the edge back into the rectangle and needlefelt those in place.

3. Needlefelt the layers together, poking the needle in at different angles so the two layers are firmly stuck together. Fold the wispy bits sticking off the edge back into the rectangle and needlefelt those in place.


4. With great care, slowly slowly slowly peel the flat piece off the base and flip it over. Needlefelt on the other side.

4. With great care, slowly slowly slowly peel the flat piece off the base and flip it over. Needlefelt on the other side.


5. When I needlefelt black creatures, I like to add a little dark-colored wool to the black. It makes the finished black color a little less dull-looking. Here, I added some dark chocolate brown and a little navy blue.

5. When I needlefelt black creatures, I like to add a little dark-colored wool to the black. It makes the finished black color a little less dull-looking. Here, I added some dark chocolate brown and a little navy blue.


6. After flipping and adding layers a few times, hold the piece up to the light to see where it needs density. Holding this up, I could see from its woven appearance that I needed to add a few diagonal layers, so I did.

6. After flipping and adding layers a few times, hold the piece up to the light to see where it needs density. Holding this up, I could see from its woven appearance that I needed to add a few diagonal layers, so I did.


7. This piece is now strong enough to wet felt. Notice how it's a little over three inches wide. That will change.

7. This piece is now strong enough to wet felt. Notice how it's a little over three inches wide. That will change.


8. Gently run hot water over the wool -- as hot as your fingers can stand!

8. Gently run hot water over the wool -- as hot as your fingers can stand!


9. Add some dishsoap (I used Palmolive, but any brand will do) and rub the piece between your hands, gently at first, then with more force. Work up a lot of suds. You will see the shape begin to shrink.

9. Add some dishsoap (I used Palmolive, but any brand will do) and rub the piece between your hands, gently at first, then with more force. Work up a lot of suds. You will see the shape begin to shrink.


10. Turn the water to COLD, then rub the wool under it between your hands. This shocks the wool and locks it together. It feels like the wool is cringing in your hands! Expect rapid shrinkage.

10. Turn the water to COLD, then rub the wool under it between your hands. This shocks the wool and locks it together. It feels like the wool is cringing in your hands! Expect rapid shrinkage.


11. Add more soap (just a couple of drops, each time) and give it the hot water. Then the cold. Then the hot. The last rinse should get all the soap out.

11. Add more soap (just a couple of drops, each time) and give it the hot water. Then the cold. Then the hot. The last rinse should get all the soap out.


12. Daub off most of the water with paper towels, then iron out the rest.

12. Daub off most of the water with paper towels, then iron out the rest.


13. The iron is super hot! I like to use the paper towel as a barrier. You can see some steam coming up, here. Iron until the steam stops.

13. The iron is super hot! I like to use the paper towel as a barrier. You can see some steam coming up, here. Iron until the steam stops.


13. Ta-daaah! The finished piece, ready to be made into cat ears. Notice that it's an inch smaller than it used to be, and very densely felted and smooth.

13. Ta-daaah! The finished piece, ready to be made into cat ears. Notice that it's an inch smaller than it used to be, and very densely felted and smooth.


Now, QUICK, lotion your hands, because they're probably very clean, but so dry they feel crispy. I like to fondle Sarafina's lanolin bunny at this point.

When I cut out the shape I want the cat's ears to be, I'll leave an extra flap for the attachment point. I'll loosen the felt on the flap with a seam-ripper, then needlefelt the ear firmly to the cat's head.