Wet-Felted Bowl Workshop

Wet-Felted Bowl Workshop

I taught a new wet-felted bowl workshop recently so I decided I’d share my thoughts and ideas about developing and running that workshop in this blog.

I’ve taught a few different wet felting workshops over the years.  I really prefer people to start with making good quality flat felt before moving on to other things, but sometimes I bow to the pressure to do something else. I try to remind myself that I’m not the felt police and neither can nor should be in charge of how other people choose to learn. (But, of course, there’s still a little bit of me that would like to be the felt police.  If the vacancy comes up I will almost certainly apply!)

I wrote here in May this year about developing a felt flower workshop for a community art project. Link here if you want to look back at it. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/05/18/community-art-installation/

This time I decided to go even more 3D and do a basic bowl, working around a flat circular resist. I wanted the workshop to be suitable both for complete beginners and those with some felting experience who were interested in trying out a 3D make.

I dug about in the studio and in my photos to see if I could find some old bowl examples and came up with a few.


I then walked my way through making a new sample bowl with a workshop hat on. By ‘workshop hat’ I mean focusing on what I think are the simplest techniques for inexperienced felt makers to achieve the best and most reliable results.

I decided on my layout: starting with a fanned-out layer from the centre then a second layer following the circumference of the circle. I intended the circular layer to overlap the edge as little as possible to reduce bulk in the middle, with the main overlap to connect the two sides on the ‘fanned’ layer.

I immediately realised I should have done the layers the other way around.  It’s much easier to follow closely the edge of the circle if you can actually see it! I also realised it was better to start laying the wool around the edge and move inwards rather than starting at the centre and moving out.  

I find it interesting how wearing a different ‘hat’ makes me think in a very different way from when I’m just making something myself. It’s a useful exercise.

I thought the sample bowl could demonstrate a couple of different surface design options so added some silk fabric, some locks and a little white wool to the grey area.

Sample bowl finished

It’s not the most beautiful bowl but it did its job. The collection of bowls then got me thinking about the size of opening.  I like a small-holed bowl to look at but it’s not necessarily so useful and it is certainly harder to full, being difficult to work from the inside. I decided that participants could choose.

I gathered together a range of tools and smiled at the weird variety of odd things I own. This is only a small proportion.

Some of the ‘tools’ I use

Something these tools all have in common is that not one of them was designed for felt making. My most recent purchase was a job lot of 15 small plastic rattles bought second hand on eBay. Actually, these worked remarkably well, especially for the bowls with small openings, and the quantity would come in very handy if I was teaching a bigger group. That was £5.35 well spent.

The workshop venue was the Horsebridge Community Arts Centre in Whitstable. The Centre has a lovely workshop area: really light and spacious with good tables and lots of sinks. Ideal for our purposes. After welcoming the 4 participants and a short introductory chat I demonstrated the layout. Jenny, Suzanne, Jane & Ronn then chose their wools and set about their bowls.

I had decided to go for 2 layers of wool rather than 4 as I find most people lay the wool out quite thickly to start with. 2 participants had some felt making experience and 2 did not. All of them went for quite thick layers.

We wet the first 2 layers down before flipping to the other side as I find this helps to get the wool tight around the resist.

Next I showed them how to start to work the wet wool: paying lots of attention to the rim of the circle and encouraging the wool towards the centre to reduce the chance of creating an accidental ridge.

Once they’d reached the prefelt stage we did some rolling using just the bubble wrap and towel. Then they were ready to cut the opening & remove the resist. Jenny went for a small opening, Jane and Suzanne a slightly larger one, while Ronn had something more organic in mind. She made 6 cuts out from the centre to create a sort of flower / leaf shape that would hold a plant pot.

Plenty of chat, a little music and lots of elbow grease later ……..

….here are the ladies at the end of the day, delighted with their finished pieces.

And here’s a better view of their bowls (plus the one I’d made alongside them to demonstrate the different steps – 2nd left). I was very pleased not to see any accidental midriff ridges as I think a smooth transition between the two sides is one of the hardest things to achieve when starting to work with resists. The bowls were felted really well, which made my inner felt policewoman very happy, with just the plant pot holder needing a little more finishing at home to fit around its plant pot.

I always ask participants to complete a short feedback form at the end of the workshop. There’s a bit of admin then 3 boxes to complete: ‘what did you like about the workshop?‘; ‘what could be improved?’ and ‘any other comments?’.

I also make mental notes for myself along the same lines. So, here are my own observations

We had a really nice day. It was a lovely group with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere: everyone seemed to enjoy making their bowls. Judging by the feedback forms, people found me adaptable, clear, knowledgeable and helpful throughout the session so lots of positives there.

What could be improved?

The participants didn’t have any suggestion but for myself I thought the timing was a little generous. I’d allowed 6 ½ hours (including a lunch break). We finished slightly early so maybe 6 hours next time, though that may be different if there were more participants.

I realised I didn’t give enough thought to / instructions on the interior of the bowl design. Because my sample bowl had a small opening the interior isn’t visible so I forgot to think that bit through. In fact all the visible bowl middles were good but definitely more luck than judgement on my part.

My making a bowl alongside the participants worked OK but I had to work very quickly to get it to the next stage while spending most of my time helping and advising the others. It would have been simpler to have pre-prepared another bowl sample to pre-felt stage.

All in all a successful workshop with some notes for myself on how to improve a few things if I run it again. Hope you enjoyed your virtual visit to our bowl workshop.

24 thoughts on “Wet-Felted Bowl Workshop

  1. That was very interesting Lindsay, and useful.
    I noticed that your students were using the tools on the outside of the pots as well as the inside. Do you find that rubbing felt with a smooth tool helps to get a smooth and less hairy surface? I have just found that rubbing a needle felted surface with the back of an old silver spoon reduces the religious (holey) effect of the needle punches; and I wondered if it has a similar effect on wet felt.
    All the resulting pots/bowls are very good, and I love the plant pot version – Oranges and green are one of my favourite colour combinations. No wonder your students enjoyed your workshop. Plenty of good feedback too – I should go for more (if you can find the time!)

    1. Thank you, Ann. I do find tools can reduce fluffing on the surface as well as working the inside shape. But I also realised I find teaching the fulling of a 3D object quite difficult as I do lots of different things depending on how it feels and what I want. That’s something that is difficult to pass on.

  2. Love your bowls and feel the same as you about the larger v small holes! Unless I am reading it wrongly, you don’t mention how many layers to use. I usually lay out four layers, not including embellisments. What do others do?

    1. BTW – I was advised that if you use a lot of soap on your hands while shaping and finishing you don’t raise the fibres so much and therefore get a smoother surface. If you want a really smooth finish, ironing or shaving work well

    2. I definitely lay out 4 layers for myself but I find new felt makers lay their layers thickly, irrespective of what I demonstrate and say! So on this occasion I suggested 2.

  3. What a lovely venue – so spacious and bright.

    Your students produced pretty bowls – it is tricky to avoid the ridge around the edge so didn’t they do well?

    You picked up some good ideas for yourself from this workshop for future ones 🙂 – great set of ‘tools’ by the way.

    It’s difficult to guage the time needed for a workshop – it depends on the ability of the students which is an unknown. But it’s better to overestimate the time needed than having disappointed students who couldn’t finish their projects.

    1. If you do over estimate, you could use the spare time to talk about any up-coming workshops, or get feedback on what the students might like to do next; they might surprise you and give you new ideas on that.

    2. Thank you. Yes, it’s a lovely venue – both the teaching space and the galleries themselves. And the people who run it are so hardworking and helpful.

      The students did really well not to get ridges – I may have made quite a big point of that!

      I agree about timing. I hate running out of time, so finishing early felt relaxed

  4. Thank you Lindsay for showing your workshop. Your students made some lovey bowls. I love all your tools. I must remember that I have a couple of ‘mushrooms’ that I can use next time.

    1. Thank you mariees26. Glad you liked it. Yes, darning mushrooms are great for working wool. I do go around looking at all sorts of odd things thinking ‘what would that be good for?’ Just today I was looking at a handmade lemon squeezer thinking ‘hmmm, that look’s useful…’.

  5. Looks like a wonderful workshop and the results really demonstrate your capabilities as a good instructor. I love all your tools. They look very handy. I am thinking about what the felt police uniform might look like? And you would definitely need some sort of a hat, wouldn’t you? Would you carry a felt truncheon? 😉

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Ha, ha, I hadn’t thought about the uniform, but now you mention it…. I’m in trouble here as it should be felted but I can’t wear wool at all, not even a hat. So I’m going to have to go with an impressive felt truncheon and maybe some felt handcuffs for offenders!

  6. Lindsay your students achieved great results, including no middle ridges, so a great reflection on your teaching. I’m sure they will pass the word on.
    I love the finished sample you prepped for the class. Also your earlier mottled green-blue one – can you tell me what you used for this one please.

    You were lucky to spend quality time with each student. If you had a larger group, this would not be possible & you would be hard pressed to get your own sample worked up, in which case you might benefit from not just one additional stage sample but two – 1. pre-felt (as you mentioned) & 2. partially fulled allowing you to demonstrate the differences in feel & texture also the shrinkage etc. Maybe even 3. Fully fulled, showing even more integration of fibres & shrinkage. I know that means you would have 3 or 4 bowls ‘on the go’ but it would definitely give you more freedom of time for a larger group.

    An impressive collection of tools….you have beaten me on this one! It’s amazing though what we all collect, each item being commandeered from other purposes.

    Felt police uniform & truncheon….definitely! Now the hat….???….you have so much choice of styles, and of course you would need felt cuffs too!

  7. Thank you, Antje. The mottled blue/green one is partly nuno felt so a charity shop silk scarf whose fibres were both loosely woven and not tightly twisted. I did like the effect.

    Yes, you’re right about ‘here’s one I made earlier’ at lots of different stages. I find with flat felting I can usually get away with one preprepared sample as I can sort of work it as I talk to people but more would certainly be better.

    The uniform idea has lots of potential!

  8. Very nice bowls, Lindsay. I love the one you dubbed “not perfect but it’ll do” 😀 I’m a monochrome fiend!

    It looks like everyone had a great time under your enthusiastic supervision. If you’re ever in Edinburgh for a workshop, I’ll take it. Would love to make a grey bowl for myself ^_^

    1. Thank you, Leonor. If I’m ever in Edinburgh I’ll swap you some grey bowl tuition for some of your wisdom on dyeing techniques!

    2. It’s a deal! It also applies if you’re ever down in east Kent

  9. Lovely results from your students Lindsay, I like them all but particularly the two with the smaller openings.
    The way I get my students to lay a specific number of layers, without being too thick or too thin, is to have them start with a certain weight of fibre divided into however many layers I’ve asked them to lay. I find this works well and, on the whole, enables them to lay fine, even(ish) layers. There will always be someone who hasn’t felted before and struggles with handling the fibre but it’s such a forgiving medium that they still take home a project they are proud of.
    I now can’t get the image of you as the felt police, with felted truncheon and cuffs, out of my head!

    1. Thank you, Karen. Yes, weighing out the wool is an excellent idea. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me, other than that I never know how much I use but I’m sure I could work it out!

      Sorry about the felt police image – it’s kind of run away with itself!

  10. I like the blue/green one with the orange locks the best.
    Looks like a great class. I usually do 10-4, with an hour for lunch. Sometimes we go a little over and sometimes we finish early, every class is different.
    Karen beat me to the I have my students divide their wool( pre weighed) up into the number of layers and sides they have to cover. this helps them be consistent with the layers and both sides of the resists.
    Sometimes it’s good to have an example of things that go wrong, like a thin spot or hole and a ridge.

    1. Thanks Ann. I can see the advantage in weighing the wool but I give the students free rein when choosing wool from a large selection of colours so I’d have to take scales with me. Maybe I could just show them a guide amount. I will think about that if I run the class again. Timing sounds similar, which is helpful.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: