A beginner’s guide to wool felting

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One of the main discoveries I made during the first lockdown was just how important it is to get back to basics.

The extra time I had on my hands was spent wisely rediscovering those long forgotten passions and even making time for new hobbies.

With the UK in yet another lockdown, there’s another opportunity to do just that, with new skills learnt – helping us to rediscover what we love about life as well as keep our bodies and minds active during this testing time.

As we’re always keen to mention, wool isn’t just for winter. This diverse, beautiful and utterly luxurious material can be called upon all year round and in its simplest form can even be used to unlock a hidden talent. Wool felting is a great hobby to take up this lockdown.

Here we take a closer look at this underappreciated art form and how you can get started this lockdown with your wool felting project.

What exactly is wool felting?

Wool felting is the process of creating felt using loose fibres or hair. These loose fibres can be either natural or synthetic but to get the right texture and quality, wool fibres are the best material to work with when felting.

The resulting felt is sturdy, water-resistant and windproof – providing a great foundation for several accessories and homewares.

Felting is no new thing. It has a long history around the world as wiseGEEK details:

“Humans have been felting wool for centuries. Archaeological digs in Europe have produced felt garments, tents, shoes, and other products, dyed in vivid colours and extremely well made.

The fact that the fabric can endure for centuries shows how strong a piece of felted fabric can be. Textile historians suspect that felting has been around far longer than knitting and weaving since it is relatively easy to do in comparison with either of these techniques.”

Whilst during the modern-day, felt is produced mechanically, the art of handwoven felt is making something of a comeback.

The process of felting is particularly therapeutic and offers a great opportunity to work with natural fibres at home in the most creative way.

How is wool felted?

There are two wool felting techniques – wet felting and dry felting. As the name suggests, wet felting involves the moistening of the wool fibres with water, soap, and some physical activity before they are bound together.

For wet felting, you’ll need to work with raw wool fibres, although washed fibres, carded wool batts and processed wool roving are popularly used.

The dry felting technique takes away the need for water and soap, with special barbed needles used to create a similar matted effect.

Should I try wet or dry felting?

Both felting techniques are enjoyable hobbies to pursue, although those looking to take an extra sustainable approach may want to try wet felting.

Wet felting is perfect for reusing old materials, with previously knitted, crocheted and woven wool items able to be repurposed.

Yes, even that treasured wool jumper that was accidentally shrunk in the washing machine can finally be put to good use.

How do I get started with wet felting?

There are so many wet felting techniques, but every one of those begins with the right supplies.

You’ll need your wool fibre (Merino wool is the best fibre to felt in our opinion), two large pieces of bubble wrap, a lightweight rolling pin, spray bottle, and a bar of olive oil soap.

For basic wet felting, start by laying one piece of bubble wrap on a sturdy, flat surface. Place a thin layer of your wool fibre on top and add another layer perpendicularly for good measure.

Next, fill the spray bottle with soapy water, spray the wool liberally and work the fibres together with your hands.

Add a third layer of fibre running in the opposite direction to the second, and spray and work once more. Keep repeating this process until you achieve your desired thickness.

As you continue to work the fibres, you’ll notice them holding together. This is your cue to cover the fabric with your second piece of bubble wrap. It should then be rolled with the pin repeatedly before fulling.

Fulling is simply the process of dropping or throwing the fabric onto a table. Some even walk on the fabric to ensure it’s completely ‘fulled’. The impact causes the fibres to shrink and harden to create that familiar, largely waterproof and durable felt material.

Full with caution, however, fulling for too long can cause the fabric to shrink excessively. Repeating the fulling action 30 times seems to do the trick.

With the fulling process finished, rinse your felt in cold water and hang to dry. It can then be cut and sewn into your desired design to create a fetching purse, scarf or even a jacket.

Images: Zoia Kostina / Shutterstock.com, sajinnamu / Shutterstock.com