Wet felting is the process by which animals fibres, such as wool, are made into a sheet of non woven fabric through a combination of wetting and agitation, making the fibres shrink and lock together. Usually, this is done by laying out rows of wool tops, 3 or 4 layers thick.
When laid out the fibres of each row overlap the previous row, and each layer runs at a 90 degree angle to the fibres of the previous layer.Embellishments can be added to the top layer, such as silk fabric, curly wool locks or even skeleton leaves. As the wool felts together and shrinks, the embellishments, which don’t shrink, start to distort as the wool pulls them. See the section on ‘Other fibers’ for more information. Another way to lay out fibre is by using wool batts or batting. Batts are the equivalent of 3-4 layers of wool tops, but the fibres haven’t been combed all in one direction, so they don’t have to be layered or alternated. Depending on the thickness of the batt, the batt can be torn to the shape needed and then wet down.
The wool doesn’t necessarily have to be wool tops, or batt, or even many layers. Felt can be made with as little as one layer of wool as long as the fibres over lap each other or criss cross. Interesting effects can be achieved by using locks from curly wools laid out thinly.
You don’t really need any specialist equipment to start wet felting, apart from the wool, you can probably find everything you need around the house, in fact some people use bubble wrap as their only ‘tool’. The bubble wrap provides a good surface for friction and agitating the fibres. A netting fabric or thin plastic to cover the wool will prevent it from sticking to your hands, or embellishments moving too much while you rub. A bamboo place mat or rubber shelf liner with a wooden dowel provide support and friction for rolling. If you use netting, it is a good idea to check for trapped fibres before each use and have different ones for different colours to avoid spoiling your felt. It is also a good idea to carefully lift the netting after each set of rolls to make sure it isn’t sticking to your felt.
Click here for our tutorials on wet felting techniques.
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