Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making a Felt Book, Pt. 1: Wet Felting

Felted books are thick and squishy, with a set of characteristics quite different from paper books. I learned the wet-felting technique in 2003 from my sister-in-law who suggested that I make felted books, which otherwise never would have occurred to me. I thank her. It is fun to play with color in soap and warm water. New Zealand Romney is coarse but wet-felts well, and Merino wool is finer and seems to work better for needle felting. You can mix the Romney and Merino in wet felting. A good book is Feltmaking: Fabulous Wearables, Jewelry, and Home Accents by Chad Alice Hagen. Not much room for text in felted books, however, so these are good to make when you have some kind of concept and some colors you'd like to work with. I'm thinking about cacti. This is a multi-part project.

Tools: vinyl tablecloth to cover work surface; 2-3 layers of cloth towels; 21 3/4" x 12" (55 cm x 30 cm) piece of ridged plastic dish liner used for kitchen shelves; two sushi mats; Ivory Snow soap powder (other detergents will not work); large plastic container; access to hot water
Materials: at least one ounce of wool roving; wool yarn, wool scraps, pieces of wool sweater (optional)
Example: 17" x 9" (43 cm x 23 cm) wool felted fabric

The New Zealand Romney is the darker green, the Merino wool is the longer, olive green piece. I order wool roving from Black Sheep Designs and Blue Goose Glen.

Most of your time will be spent rolling up the soapy wet wool in the sushi mats and pressing on it, unrolling it, then rolling it in the opposite direction and doing this again. Allow an hour or two. Eventually, you will be able to feel when the felt is hardening and shrinking: at that point you can work vigorously, and this will shorten your time.

Use finger-sized pieces
and place them on the plastic
Overlap them like shingles
or fish scales
Continue to add
overlapping rows 


Cover the plastic with
these loose rows

Start a layer of
perpendicular rows
Make a second layer
this direction
Make a third layer in the opposite direction
Pour on hot, soapy water
Press down gently

Press until uniformly wet
Once it holds together, roll up in sushi mats
Press gently several minutes
Gently wring out extra water
Arrange in opposite direction



Press and roll gently
(Repeat rolling and unrolling)

Pinch to check fibers
These are loose

Once fibers stop shifting
rub in circular motion

Pinch to check fibers again
These are tight


Crumple into a ball
and scrub on the plastic
Rinse well in hot water
Do last rinse in cold
Rinse plastic
Roll up in mat to flatten out
Press briefly


Let dry on towels
















If you are interested, some of my earliest felted books are here, some more recent ones here.







Next up: Cutting the pages to size

1 comment:

Dave said...

This is so cool!! If I wasn't already over my head with other projects, I'd give this a try!! I'll have to show this to my wife...she's always felting using knitted yarns...she might like doing this with rovings!!