In this tutorial we'll show you how easy it is to make your first piece of felt. You can either make a plain piece or use scraps of yarn and fabric to make a patterned piece.
You will need:
A large, round-stick sushi mat
A piece of small-bubble, bubble wrap, slightly larger than the sushi mat
A piece of tutu net, slightly larger than the sushi mat
Merino wool top in your choice of colours, approx 25-30 gms (1 oz)
A water spray bottle
Washing-up liquid – any kind will do for this project
Scraps of wool yarn and open weave fabric (optional)
Now that you've gathered what you need, this is what you do:
Choose a suitable work surface that can tolerate water and place an old towel on it. Spread the sushi mat out on the towel and put a piece of bubble wrap, bubbles up, over the sushi mat.
Take a piece of merino wool top, about 45cms long then split it down the middle, lengthwise, to make two easy-to-use lengths. From one of these lengths, pull a fine tuft of wool and place it on the bubble wrap, as shown in the photo.
To pull off a tuft of wool, hold a length 8-10cms from the end, and with your other hand, grip the end of the length between your fingertips and your palm, then pull gently – if you pull too hard the wool will resist you.
First tuft of wool laid - fibres running horizontally
Continue placing tufts of wool on the bubble wrap, with the fibres all running in the same direction, until you have completed a row, then start again from the left, making another row, and another until you have a rectangle of wool, as shown in the photo.
Slightly overlap the tufts to get a fairly even coverage of wool. The layer should be fine and you will still be able to see the bamboo mat through the wool layer at this stage.
Second tuft of wool laid in the first row
First layer of wool complete
Make a second layer, but this time the wool fibres should run in the opposite direction. On the first layer the fibres ran west to east, but on the second layer the fibres will run north to south.
Use whatever colours you like and mix them up a bit or you can just use a plain colour.
Second layer of wool complete
Make a third layer of wool, with the fibres running west to east, in whatever colours you choose.
Third layer of wool complete
For the fourth and final layer, lay merino wool down with the fibres running the same way as you did the second layer.
You can stop at that if you want a plain piece of felt, or you can then randomly place scraps of wool yarn, open weave fabric or wisps of different colours of merino wool on top to embellish it.
Fourth layer of wool complete - embellishments added
Close-up look at embellishments
Put some warm water in a spray bottle and add a squirt of washing-up liquid (don’t shake the bottle - you don’t want too many suds).
Place the tutu net over the wool and spray it with the soapy water until you think it’s saturated (but not swimming!). Push down with your fingers until it’s flat. If you’ve over-watered, mop it up with a small sponge - push it down onto the wool, through the net, and lift it straight up again so that you don’t disturb the fibres.
Flattening the wool and encouraging it to take up the water
When the wool is flat, scrunch up a scrap of bubble wrap and rub it over a wet bar of soap, then rub the soapy scrunched up bubble wrap all over the surface of the wool, through the net, using a gentle circular motion. After a couple of minutes, slowly lift the net in a peeling motion, releasing any trapped fibres with a flick of your fingers. Replace the net and rub for another couple of minutes.
Gently agitating the wool, through the net, with soapy scrunched up bubble wrap
Pull the sushi mat out from under the bubble-wrap and place it on top of the wool – leave the net in place on the patterned side of the wool. Gripping the bubble wrap and sushi mat, flip them over then remove the bubble wrap.
Roll up the wool and net, firmly, in the sushi mat as shown, until it’s completely rolled up like a Swiss roll. Grip it firmly in the middle, and tip it over a bowl to let any excess water drain away.
Place it on an old towel and roll the whole thing back and forth for about 30 seconds.
If you find that the bamboo mat loosens during rolling, you can secure it with a rubber band at each end or tie it up using the legs of old tights.
Rolling up the wool in the bamboo mat
Carefully unroll the sushi mat, releasing any trapped fibres, then turn the wool through 90 degrees clockwise (leaving the net in place to prevent the embellishments becoming entangled in the bamboo). Roll it all up again - the wool will hang out both sides of the mat, but don’t worry about that.
As before, roll for about 30 seconds.
The wool in the bamboo mat after the first turn
Carefully unroll the sushi mat, releasing any trapped fibres, and again turn the wool through 90 degrees clockwise. Gently smooth any creases.
Continue with the rolling and turning until the wool has been rolled from all four sides, then turn it over. Keep the net against the patterned side all the time.
Lifting the net occasionally to release any trapped fibres, repeat the rolling and turning until it's been rolled from all four sides.
Keep rolling and turning until the wool turns into felt. It should feel firm and it will shrink by 25-30% from the original size.
Note: Leaving the net in place on top of the embellishments prevents loose ends snagging between the bamboo sticks.
Finished piece of felt
Gently rinse the finished felt in tepid water until the soap clears - add a dash of white vinegar to the final rinse.
Do not wring the water from the felt – roll it up and squeeze it gently then spread it out on the sushi mat (rinse the soap from the sushi mat first) and roll it slowly and gently for 10 rolls in each direction to smooth it out.
Felt will keep the shape in which it dries, so place the piece of felt on a rack (e.g. a cake cooling rack) and put it in a warm place to dry.
If you liked this tutorial you might like our eBook Creating Felt Artwork that shows you step by step how to make a beautiful meadow picture or create your own picture.