How to Make a Wet Felted Flower
Think felt is just a square colored sheet of polyester? Think again! Wet Felting, one of the world's oldest art forms, is a process that involves soap, water and raw wool from sheep, goats or rabbits. Using just those things and the pressure of your hands, you can make the fibers magically come together. It is a great way to make clothing, bags, or decorative items.
The origin of felting is unknown but it is considered to be one of the oldest known textiles. Traditionally the material is used in the creation of functional clothing such as scarves, socks or hats as well as sculptural artworks
This month's craft comes with a free accompanying art kit!
Pick one up while supplies last!
Felted Flower Kit
Carded wool in various colors
Colored chenille stem
Things you'll need from home
Cup of hot water
A bath towel
Prep your area! Lay a towel down on a table and place a small piece of bubble wrap on top of the towel. Now is a good time to gather all your other materials. You'll need a cup of hot water and soap, any soap will work but a natural soap is best. You will also need a sheet of plastic, you can cut the bag your wool came in so you have a nice flat square.
Next, set up your wool. Take a portion of your carded wool and pull it apart so you have small thin pieces, lay them out to make a 6 inch circle. It does not have to be a perfect circle! This will later be the petals to your flower. Add another thin layer of wool on top of your first circle. You want to be sure you cannot see your towel through your circle. If you can, you might need to add another layer. If you do not have enough wool, you can make a smaller circle.
Once you have laid out the main color wool for your flower, you can lay some thinner pieces on top of a different color for decoration or add a third color for the center of your flower. It will look a little bit like a puffy cloud at this point.
After you are happy with your layout for the wool, sprinkle the fibers with hot water. Make sure you really wet all the fibers so the wool circle is completely flat. Once it looks saturated, using your hands, pat the wool gently to make sure that all of the fibers are wet.
After wetting all the fibers, put soap on your hands and rub your soapy hands on top of your plastic sheet. lay the plastic sheet (soap side down) on top of your fibers. Place another piece of bubble wrap on top of the wool flower. Start rubbing the bubble wrap in a vertical motion and then in a horizontal motion, continue for 5 minutes. This action will tangle the fibers and cause them to intertwine and become a solid piece of fabric. (Just like a washing machine that shrinks a wool sweater)
After 5 minutes have passed, lift the bubble wrap and once more, sprinkle additional hot water on the flower that you are creating and add more soap to the plastic sheet if needed. Place the bubble wrap back on top and rub for another 5 minutes. At this point, the fibers should all be holding tight together. You can pinch the wool to test it to see if a tiny bit of fiber lifts off or if it stays put. If it stays in place, you're ready!
Roll the bubble wrap with your hands so you end up with a tube. You can use your rubber band to hold your tube together so your flower doesn’t fly out! Using both hands roll the tube back and forth for another 5 minutes.
Now, here is the fun part! Unroll your creation and rinse it in hot water. Squeeze out a little bit of the water into the cup or sink and throw it on the table! you can also do this in the sink, its a little less messy that way. Make sure the sink is clean first!
Throwing the wool will cause more agitation (remember that washing machine comment) and your fibers to blend together and shrink even more and become stronger so they do not separate.
Do not be discouraged if you have holes in your flower. If some parts appear to becoming undone, you can take some hot soapy water and using your fingers and hands, rub the petal pieces together to take the shape that you want. You won't notice these imperfections after the next step.
Using the cold water, rinse the soap out of your flower. You can let it dry if you'd like but its not necessary.
Now to finalize your flower, pinch the back of your fabric and gather it up. Using a bag tie or rubber band, secure the portion you bundled up. Attach the chenille stem to the tied area to use as your flower stem.
Turn your flower over and pull out the petals of your flower gently to form it into the shape of the flower you would like.
Now you have a flower you can give to someone you love or put it on display to brighten up your space!
What is Felt Anyway?
Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers. The fibers form the structure of the fabric, so it is very soft.
Felt is the oldest form of fabric known to humankind. It predates weaving and knitting!
In Turkey, the remains of felt have been found, dating back at least to 6,500 BC. Felt can be dyed to any color, and made into any shape or size.
Many cultures have legends as to the origins of feltmaking. One notable legend is that of the story of Saint Clement, the patron Saint of Hatters, and Saint Christopher, the patron Saint of travelers, in which the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters while fleeing from the Romans. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks!
Another legend tells the tale of the animals on Noah’s ark shed their fleece during the voyage and trampled it underfoot, after which Noah discovered the floor of his ark carpeted with felt.
Feltmaking is still practiced in traditional styles by nomadic peoples in Asia, where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made, Sumerian legend claims that the secret of feltmaking was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash.
Felt is now widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.
Did you know?
Our mascot Woolly Nilly was also created using the same technique!
Meet Our Sheep
In partnership with Revive the Roots, Artists’ Exchange runs a sustainable fiber and animal husbandry program. We shear the wool from our two sheep Clementine and Clover to use in our fiber classes. We clean, dye and card the wool right here at Artists' Exchange.
Our wool will soon be available for purchase in our online store.
Revive the roots is a non-profit organization in Smithfield, Rhode Island with the mission of creating ecologically regenerative and dynamic social spaces through the education and practice of permaculture. In addition to the sheep, Located at Mowry Commons are miles of hiking trails, community gardens, a forest garden, great fishing spots and much more!
Want to learn more about wool? Campaingforwool.org has some great information and also lots of really cute sheep to look at!
Interested in some fun WOOLLY SHEEP games? Visit britishwool.org.
Still not sure if you’ve gotten the hang of it? Gypsy Felting has a really great, simple tutorial to walk you through the basic steps!