You will need:
- wool fibre
- soap (I use unperfumed and unfragranced soap for sensitive skin)
- bamboo blind/mat for rolling
- other fibres (optional)
- white wine vinegar (for rinsing)
The first layer should run in one direction, let's say horizontally. It should be even (no lumps please!) and thick enough so that you cannot see the bubble wrap beneath it. The second layer should run in the opposite direction, vertically.
The more layers you add the thicker your felt will be. I usually put three layers. For this piece I did two as I wanted it a little thinner. If you add a third layer it should run in the same direction as the first.
2. If required, add other colours or fibres to the surface of the piece. I have used blended merino and silk and some sari silk fibres in this example.
3. Gently place netting over the laid out fibres and sprinkle with warm water. I don't rub the net with the soap because I find it moves the fibres beneath the net. Instead, I wet the soap and rub it between my hands above the work until enough soapy suds have dripped down on to the piece. Then gently rub over the net with your hands.
(There is a bag in the picture because some felters use it to rub over the piece. I prefer to use my hands.)
4. After a couple of minutes, peel back the net to stop the fibres felting into it, replace the net and rub for a few more minutes. You will know when you have rubbed enough as the fibres won't move if you run your hand across it. Some use the 'pinch' test, ie. the top fibres don't pull away from the ones underneath.
5. Now for the second stage of felting called fulling, where the felt shrinks and firms up the most.
Wrap the piece in bubble wrap and then roll it in the mat. Roll 100 times back and forth. Yes, it will make your arms ache!
6. Now unroll the mat, rotate the felt a quarter turn inside the bubble wrap and roll back up in the bamboo mat. Again, roll another 100 times. Keep repeating this until you have done a full rotation. This should be fully fulled, but if you feel it is not firm enough or needs to shrink a little more you can keep rolling. It will, of course, reach a point where it is fully felted and will shrink no more.
7. Now rinse with hot water and then cold (to shock the fibres). Repeat so that all the soap is removed. In the final cold rinse you can add a couple of drops of white wine vinegar to return the felt to its natural ph (I haven't always done this and I can't tell the difference if I',m honest).
8. Leave to dry. Your felt is now ready for embellishment, cutting and stitching.