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Felting Soap with Guest Artist Leonor Calaca

Felting Soap with Guest Artist Leonor Calaca

Our guest artist today is Leonor Calaca from Felt Buddies shares her method for making felted soaps.  You can see more of her work at http://www.FeltBuddies.co.uk

Hello! Today I’ll teach you how to make your very own felted soap.

Before we start however, I’m sure a few of you are wondering, “What on earth is a felted soap?” Good question! Allow me to explain.

A felted soap is, as the name might reveal, a bar of soap that’s surrounded by felted wool. This means you’re basically getting a bar of soap and a washcloth in one product, making the former last longer, while using the latter as an exfoliating agent.

The wool around the soap also makes the soap last longer, and when the inside is all used up you can use the wool as compost material, or keep it as a decorative pebble.

Christmas is fast approaching, and this would make a great gift – it smells nice and it’s useful, what’s not to love? I actually sold out last holiday season!

Let’s get started, shall we?

1

First, you’ll need the following ingredients: warm soapy water in a clean container, a nice bar of soap with round corners (sharp corners may break through the wool), enough wool to cover the soap with, and some bubble wrap for friction.

A couple of good extra items are a felting needle (I’ll explain why in a moment), and a pair of kitchen gloves.

2

Begin by carefully wrapping the fibre around the soap. I used a lovely wool top with silk tweed here, but you can use roving or a batt – just make sure you’re using enough to cover the soap, but not so much so that it makes lathering hard!

You’ll need to wrap the fibre in two opposite directions. I like to start by wrapping it horizontally and then vertically because I think the end result looks nicer, but you can do it whichever way you prefer – just as long as you have two opposite layers.

3

Remember the felting needle I mentioned before? Here is where it can comes in handy: I like to needle felt the ends to make sure nothing comes apart when I’m wet felting. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but I find it keeps things neat.

4

Once your soap is all wrapped up, it’s time to dunk it in warm water.  I highly recommend you go slowly at this stage, as the fibre might fall off the soap or migrate if you haven’t secured it with a felting needle. Squeeze all the air bubbles out carefully in the water and, once you take the soap out of the water, gently squeeze out all the excess liquid and start rubbing the top layer lightly so the fibres start clinging to each other.

5

Once the fibre is secured, it’s time to help it shrink around the soap. I had a bubble wrap pouch from a mailing bag that I used to help create friction, but regular bubble wrap will work just fine.

Rub the bubble wrap against the soap, checking regularly if your fibre isn’t migrating, you don’t want to end up with bare patches (you can needle felt some extra fibre on those at this stage, and continue wet felting).

6

Once the fibres start contracting around the soap, you can use your bare hands to continue the felting process.  I like to create friction on the ridges of my sink; I sometimes also wear kitchen gloves because the rubber also helps, and I like to alternate hot and cold tap water so the fibre shrinks around the soap faster.

7

Once the fibre feels compact around the soap, you’re done!

Carefully rise out the lather under the tap, gently squeeze the soap and let it dry; after that, you can add some kraft paper around the soap to make a “belt,” or you can just place it inside an organza bag.

8

Don’t be surprised if, after gifting this to friends, they come back for more! You can always direct them to this tutorial so they can make their own…

Feel free to ask me questions about this in the comments section. Happy felting!

Thanks Leonor for sharing your method of felting soap.  I have a feeling a lot of people will be getting soap for the holidays.

 

Meet The Artist

Meet The Artist

Today we have a Meet the Artist post, with Leonor from Felt Buddies answering our questions.

Fibre 3,2,1
Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?
My first obvious choice would have to be sheep’s wool! It’s a lovely fibre to work with and oh so versatile – from felting to knitting, it’s wonderful for just about anything in my world. Although merino is a staple, I find coarser fibres are great for needle felting and love using them.
The second fibre would have to be alpaca hair, because the brown is just perfect for some animals I make, like horses. It’s just the perfect shade, but I have a confession to make: I don’t love working with it, it’s so fine it makes it hard to needle felt!

FB 7Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?
Can’t needle felt without felting needles, and I use aluminium wire a lot in my projects as well.
Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?
Can I say spinning wool? I know it’s not what I do for a living, but it is fibre-related and all things fibre just fascinate me.

felt buddies (6)
General Questions
What is your business?
I own a handmade business (of mostly) needle felted sculptures called Felt Buddies and Co. I specialise in making people’s pets, particularly dogs.

felt buddies (5)bWhat kind of items do you sell?
My bestsellers are definitely my pet commissions, although I also make other things in felt: dryer balls, toadstools… I’d like to increase my ready mades in the future.

felt buddies (4)What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?
I can’t speak for other businesses, but I truly love what I do and care about the quality of items I produce, and that my customers are happy with my work. I try to create a more personalised relationship with them, because that’s what handmade small businesses should be about. I have also made friends along the way, so I’d say it’s a win-win situation.
I am also constantly trying to improve my technique and come up with fun things to make besides bespoke pets, which keeps my brain occupied for most of the day.

felt buddies (1)bWhere are you located?
I am in London, UK. I was born in Portugal and grew up in China.
Where can we find you on the internet?
You can find me here:
Shop – www.feltbuddies.net
Facebook – www.facebook.com/feltbuddies
Instagram – @feltbuddies
Blog – www.feltbuddies.co.uk

felt buddies (3)How did you get into fibre arts?
One day I was perusing a medieval fair in Portugal and happened to come across a stand that sold felting supplies. I was immediately drawn to the many colours displayed, and the items she had on display (3D fun looking animals). I just had to give it a go! It was an absolute disaster, as I didn’t quite get the hang of wet felting. I gave up.
It was when I switched to needle felting that things really started flourishing. I could picture the end result in my head, and my hands just had to follow my brain’s schematics – and the more I did it, the more I enjoyed the process.

Did you study art at college?
I did not. I have a college degree in Psychology because for some reason I got the notion it would be more “sensible” of me to pursue that than arts, but then I just went back to my lifelong passion, making things with my hands. Even my hobbies reflect that: knitting, spinning…

felt buddies (2)bWhat are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m between pet commissions and enjoying the hiatus by making notebooks with felted covers. I’m also in the process of working on a tutorial for needle felting, so here’s hoping that happens quite soon.

FB 9What do you like to do when you aren’t creating art?
I think my brain melted a little with that question. Can time be spent without having my hands in fibre?
Seriously, though: I love reading and can lose myself in a good book very easily. However, if you read my first reaction, this will come as no surprise – I have been trying to master the art of reading and knitting at the same time. I also love baking bread and am enjoying coming up with different types of dough each time.
My final goal is to be able to read, cook and knit at the same time. I’m joking! Or am I?

FB 8Many thanks to Leonor for taking the time to answer our questions. Don’t forget to check out Leonor’s work on her sites and etsy 🙂

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