How to Felt Wool
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Felting refers to several processes for making felt, a type of fabric/material in which the fibers of certain animals are tightly matted together using either a barbed needle (needle felting) or water, heat, and friction (wet felting). A different process, sometimes referred to as felting, is fulling, which is matting together the fibers of yarn which has been knit or crocheted. To full a knit or crocheted item it’s critical to be sure it’s made from 100% animal fiber/wool in order for the fibers to lock together. Non-animal fibers and also “superwash” wool will not felt (superwash wool is treated to prevent felting/fulling).
There are several methods for felting. Needle felting utilizes a barbed needle. When it is poked into the wool roving, the barbs catch on the fibers and cause them to mat. As you continue to poke the needle in, the felt becomes denser, and can be shaped into the desired form. It’s an easy, fun and versatile, and not too equipment-intensive. You can get started without spending a lot of money on supplies. The basic kit would start with a few needles, some roving, and pillow or piece of foam to work on. With these simple supplies you can make beads, figures, small vessels, and more. Needle felting is wonderful for 3D creations!
Wet felting can be done using several different processes. They all use water, heat, and friction to achieve the matting, and can be used to create 2D or 3D projects and fabric. One of the most popular introductory projects is making felted soap. To do this, you wrap roving around a piece of soap, and rub it with your hands under alternating hot and cold water until the wool becomes felted around the soap. This gives you a lovely soap with its own washcloth! There’s a great tutorial here on the Mielke’s Farm website.
Here on Craftster we have a great Fiber Arts board, with all kinds of fiber arts, including both needle felting and wet felting (information on Fulling can be found in the knitting boards). The Felters on these boards are very friendly and enthusiastic about their craft, and very willing to answer questions and discuss the processes. Everyone is welcome to show off their creations, regardless of skill level!
If you are looking for a new craft to learn, felting is a fun and rewarding one to try out.