Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday Makery - Faith's Felt Making

We are so happy to bring you this guest makery from the talented Faith of Damselfy (read more about Damselfy here).  It's clear from the Damselfly collection that Faith is someone with a passion for fabric....and when we found out she knew how to make felt from scratch we just had to invite her over to tell us how!

This felt making tutorial has a clear step by step guide and photos - put together for an easy introduction to felt making for little ones.  Older children can take it further and create even more sophisticated designs - we will be bringing you more ideas for what to make with felt soon! Here's how to get started:

Felt flower meadow

This Monday Makery is definitely a touchy-feely one. Feltmaking is a lovely hands on process that involves gently rubbing loose wool fibres with soap and warm water until they knit together to make something solid.
The felt flowers can be made easily by tiny hands, and older children may like to make the background or picture base on which to display the flowers.

You will need:

  • Merino wool felting fibre. This is available from or I used a 250g mixed bag from Wingham’s this time, but you only need 100g to do this project so you’ll have some left for another day. You need to look on the site for ‘dyed merino tops’.
  • Soap ( the plainer the better, without moisturiser in it or you get too many bubbles).  Ecover washing up liquid can be used as an alternative to soap
  • Two pieces of bubble wrap, about twice the size of the picture you want to make.
  • A couple of tea towels
  • A couple of hand towels for mopping up any water that emerges as you roll and rub your fibres
  • An empty plastic milk bottle ‘Sprinkler’ made by punching a few holes in the lid with a compass.
  • About 4 elastic bands. I use the ones that the postman leaves around our letters sometimes.

Before you begin:

  • Your fibres will most likely be in the form of a long ‘sausage’ called Tops. You need to keep this very dry or the fibres will start to felt together  as you handle them and you will end up with a snake or a pretend tail (a project for another day!)
  • To pull of pieces to work with you need to hold the Tops at least 10cm from the end. Then put your fingers across the end and pull off the tiniest wisp. If your hands are too close together you won’t be able to pull off the fibres as you’ll be holding the other end with your other hand!
  • Try to keep the end of the tops straight. This makes them much easier to use when you move on to the picture background

To make Felt Flowers

1. Put the soap (or a squirt of Ecover) into the bowl, and cover with the hottest water that is comfortable for little hands

2. With DRY hands pull of a wisp of fibre and form this into a little puff that fits into the palm of whichever hand is not your ‘main’ hand. Get your other hand nice and soapy and wet and then gently dab the puff of fibres so that they flatten down on your palm. When it’s all wet and smooth you can reshape it by tucking the edges under to make a nice flower shape.  If you want a flower middle of a different colour, take another tiny puff and flatten it into the centre.

3.  Very very gently pat, stroke or rub the fibres, keeping them very still in the palm of your hand. It helps to think of stroking a tiny chick in a nest! If your ‘middle’ starts to move around, try patting it for a while or stroking in a tiny circle. Try to keep it still as you work. The invisible scales on each fibre of wool will be linking together as you rub, helped by the soap and the heat of the water.

4. Keep rubbing until there is no ‘hairiness’ left and the surface is starting to get firm.

5. You’ll soon find that you have a solid piece of felt fabric. You can rub a bit harder now, until it is really shrinking in size. If you want it to shrink even quicker, put it down on the smooth side of a piece of bubble wrap and then put another piece bubble side down on top. Sprinkle some water on the surface to make it slippery and rub round and round really fast.  You’ll see that it can end up about half the size that you started with, so as you do more, you’ll be able to gauge how big a puff you need to create the flower size that you want.

6. Rinse all your finished flowers until the water runs clear. If you leave the soap in it will discolour your felt.

They will take at least a day to dry.

7. Put them in the sun, or spread out on a towel on the top of a radiator - or anywhere warm.

If you’re not happy with the shape of any of them, you can cut them to whatever shape you want. You can display on a background you can make from felt, or you can use them to decorate hair bands, bags ... or wherever you think a splash of colour would look nice.

To make a background ‘meadow’ for your flowers:

1. Decide how big you want your finished picture to be and then cut two pieces of bubble wrap. They need to be roughly One and Half times the size of your finished piece plus around 10 centimeters all round.

2. Choose a work surface that doesn’t matter if it gets wet. Spread out a small towel or a big one folded up and then lay on your first piece of bubble wrap with the SMOOTH side facing UP.

3. Now you will need to lay out several very fine layers of fibre on your bubble wrap, leaving a 10cm empty space all round. Each layer must have the fibres going in a different direction. So first, lay out a covering of wisps, slightly overlapping, all going horizontally. Then do the same but lay them vertically. Put down at least 3 layers, maybe 4, depending how finely you are able to pull them off. Try to avoid putting down big lumps - keep laying little wisps!

When you’ve done your layer, it should look like a fluffy mattress.

4. If you want to add some decoration - maybe some more abstract flowers so that it looks like an Impressionist painting, now is the time.

5. Use you milk carton sprinkler to cover the fibre mat with droplets of water.

6. Very carefully, trying not to disturb the fibres lay your second piece of bubble wrap on top, with the smooth side down. With a flat hand press down gently all over. Try not to use an Ironing motion or you’ll spread all the fibres out and end up with a huge, thin piece of felt.

7. Sprinkle some water on the surface of the bubble wrap to make it slippery and starting gently rub round and round all over the fibres with a flat hand. You can gradually press harder and harder.

8. Roll up a tea towel (use two together if they are thin) to make the neatest, tightest sausage that you can.

9. Place this on your bubble wrap and roll up your picture around the tea towel sausage. Secure the ends with elastic bands. Put a couple in the main part of the roll too, but not too tight.

10. Roll backwards and forward quite gently, at least 50 times.

11. Undo your roll. You should see your fibres flattening down nicely and beginning to hold together. If there are any bits that look dry, sprinkle on a bit more water.

12. Place the tea towel sausage on a different edge of the picture, roll up, secure and roll for another 50 times. Repeat until all four directions had a turn at being rolled.

13.  You should now have a piece of felt fabric.

You can rub it with soapy hands or with a squished up piece of bubble wrap if it needs to firm up more and shrink down more. Remember, it needs to end up about half the size you started with. When it dries it will look much softer and fluffier (not a good thing for felt!) than it does when it’s wet, so make sure you’ve really rubbed it before rinsing it out. You can give it a good squeeze under the tap - it won’t hurt it!

14. You can glue or sew your flowers onto the meadow.

Next time, now you know how to make felt, you can get even more sophisticated with the design, and older ones especially can get stuck into more ambitious projects. You can make art pictures with the design felted straight onto the background. You just place your flowers, or whatever your design is going to be, onto the background. The best time to do it is just after you pressed the fluffy mattress of the background down with the water and bubble wrap. Just peel off the top layer of wrap carefully and place your design. Then sprinkle again and put the lid of bubble wrap back on.  You can also write your name with thin strands of the fibres and make all sorts of lovely effects.

This felt making tutorial can be used as the basis for many more projects - which we will bring to you in future Monday Makeries! Felt is something you can be so creative with and it's amazing to discover how simple it is to make.

We are so grateful to Faith for showing us how. Thank you Faith.

We have more Monday Makery craft & recipe ideas here.

For behind the scenes photos of Sisters Guild we have the gallery of the A-Z of Sisters Guild here.

1 comment:

  1. this is such a good tutorial for wet felting!
    you girls are so awesome with all your cool projects!