This tutorial has been updated (as of March 2012)
This tutorial will show you how to make a basic piece of flat felt.
Anyone can make felt – it’s easy. To start, all you need is some inexpensive equipment:
a sushi mat, some merino wool top/roving, bar of Olive Oil Soap, soap flakes - we grate our own flakes from the bar of soap, some small-bubble bubble-wrap, a piece of tutu netting and a clean milk container (with holes punched in the lid) containing some tepid water and 2 tsp of soap flakes.
The following steps will show you how to make a piece of flat felt and from there you can then make a lot of things -for ease, this tutorial will show you how to make drinks coasters.
1. From your merino wool, pull off a tuft as shown in the photo. Never cut the wool as the blunt edge will not felt well. Keep your hands about 15cm apart to gently pull the tuft of wool off.
2. You can make felt just using one colour, but if you want to add a bit of interest, try using 3 colours at the same time. A quick way to blend the colours is to pull off 3 tufts,
then lay them one on top of the other, grasp the ends and pull gently apart. Lay the 2 tufts one on top of the other and repeat until you get the colour mix you want – stop before it gets muddy.
3. Spread a piece of bubble wrap (bubble side up) on your work surface and lay out some tufts of wool on it, as shown, horizontally. (The size to be a rough 30cm square.)
4. Lay more tufts to cover the first layer, but this time lay them vertically.
6. Carefully place a piece of netting over the wool.
7.Sprinkle water over the wool through the net – don’t over wet.
8. Push down all over the wool, through the net, with flat hands until you feel the water being taken up by the wool. At this stage you will be able to determine if you need more water.
9. Without disturbing the wool, gently rub soap across the net. This is easier if you hold the net with one hand while soaping with the other.
10. Gently rub the wool, using a circular motion across the top of the net, for a few minutes.
11. Carefully peel back and remove the net, releasing any trapped fibres, as the wool should be just about holding together now. Carefully lift it off the bubble wrap and onto the sushi mat.
12. Roll the sushi mat up tightly and drain off any surplus water.
13. Roll the sushi mat backwards and forwards for about a minute – if you put the sushi mat on an old towel, it will be easier to roll as it won’t slide about.
14. Carefully unroll the mat and turn the felt through 90 degrees.
Roll the mat up and repeat the rolling process for about a minute.
Repeat steps 13 & 14 after turning the felt over.
Repeat all steps, until the felt is ‘felted’. You will know when it’s ready by doing the ‘pinch test’. Pinch your thumb and forefinger into the felt and if you can pull the layers apart then it’s not felted – keep rolling until it’s ready.
15. Rinse the felt in tepid water to remove the soap. Do a final rinse in cold water - add a small dash of white vinegar to the water to help remove any soap residue - then pat the felt dry between two layers of old towel or kitchen paper. Roll it again in the mat for a few seconds to flatten it.
16. Get a cookie cutter the size you want your coaster to be then press the cookie cutter firmly into the felt. You will get an impression left in the felt that will give you a guide to cut around.
Alternatively, you could cut around a template or cut freehand.
17. Put your coasters onto the sushi mat.
18. Roll up the mat and roll the felt 10 times.
Unroll the mat and turn the coasters through 90 degrees.
Roll up the mat and roll the felt 10 times.
Repeat this process until the coasters have been rolled 4 times.
Turn the coasters over, turn them through 45 degrees then repeat the 4 times rolling process.
After this, the edges should be nicely felted in – if not, repeat until you’re satisfied.
19. Put the coasters in a warm place to dry – then enjoy them!