Saturday, January 8, 2011

Getting to Know your FELTER/Episode 1

I'm starting a new series called, "Getting to Know your Felter" - who could that be?

I thought I would re-post this tutorial to "show & tell" how I make one of my Keepsake Bowls.

Stayed tuned for another episode coming to your computer shortly............................
EPISODE 1 - tutorial on felting a bowl

Welcome!  This is my first tutorial and I will endeavor to make it as clear as possible.  Recently, I've been felting these little vessels.  I often add embellishments to make "tapestry bowls" and other times they're perfect as is.  I want to share the basic process with you hoping this will spur you on to try felting yourself.  If you're into cooking and baking you can surely transfer your skills. There are many sites and blogs that will show you how to do this..they certainly have helped guide me.  All felters will eventually find what tools and techniques work for them.  Many of the supplies listed below can be found in your kitchen and/or hardware store.  You can find the wool from many sellers on Etsy.

Any type of wool roving.  I use Merino in this example.

rubber mat
tulle netting
wallpaper roller
rolling pin
large spoon
soap (liquid)
bamboo placemat
sharp scissors
plastic grocery bags
plastic lid
crab mallet

Before we get started, here are several pictures of the finished product from this tutorial.  It's approx. 4" round, 2 1/2" tall and the openng is 2".  I decided to use off white wool roving as I'm going to make into a colorful tapestry bowl to match a rug in my bedroom.

    What is a resist/template?  It is simply any pliable, yet capable of "resisting" water, material which prevents two layers of wool from felting together.   For this project, I used a top from a plastic container - the kind you get at the deli counter.  I cut the rim off.  It can be any size you want.

    1.  Lay down your towel, mat, bubblewrap (bubbles up, please), tulle (netting) and lastly the resist.  The size of the resist determines how big the bottom of your vessel will be.

    2.  Lay down small amounts of the wool around the resist to look like a pinwheel.  They should somewhat meet in the middle and extend about an 1' to 1 1/2" beyond the resist.  These will be the sides of your vessel.

    As you can see, I've added alot because I want to make sure that I have substantial sides (you can't go wrong)

    3.  Now it's time to add three layers onto where you can feel the resist is (you'll still be able to see it through the pinwheel fibers..or just pick them up and look).  The layers will be laid down perpendicular to eachother.  You can start horizontal or vertical.  This is done so they will grab onto eachother.  The color is funny here because it's easier for you to see (white on white - ugh?)  Here are two layers.  Add one more horizontal.

    4.  I lay one more layer of pinwheel fibers as I did in step #2.  Wow, now look at this dense pile I've made! lots of air and fluff.

    5.  I'll lay the tulle over the piece and in small amount pour very hot water just on the part that covers the resist.  I add a dab of the dish liquid.  Then I will rub my fingers around the edge of the resist - feeling with my fingers.

    6.   I take a small piece of bubblewrap and go over this the entire circle/resist area for about two to three minutes...have to be careful not to move the fibers around too much because you just want the layers to mesh together and start to hold.  When finished, put a layer of bubblewrap ontop.

    7.  Time's up and ready to flip the whole thing over.   You now see the resist with the pinwheel fibers behind it.  Take the fibers and gently fold them into the center and smooth them. I usually end up with a huge pile (if you should, it's OK).  Hmm, looks good enough to EAT!!!!! Smooth them down as much as you can.

    8.  IMPORTANT:  START AGAIN!  To this mass of wet fiber, begin steps 2 - 7 .  Don't worry, it works.  You will end up with the picture above but on the other side.  These steps are all done to make sure you don't get holes and that it's frankly, just a nicely packed and happy little loaf!

    9.  So, you've done it all and now it's time to be a real Pastry Chef!  Patty cake!  This is where you're actually doing the "felting".  The wool, with hot water, soap, some pressure and agitation, rolling, etc. is going to make you a bowl!  Put some music on and enjoy!

    10. Here I'm picking up my cookie and going around the edge with bubblewrap.  You can put the tulle back over your piece for extra agitation.   I like to work from the outside of the cirlce inwards and I feel it's important to get the edges somewhat felted first.  Hot water and more.

    11. I'm also going to go around the outside with my wallpaper roller to make sure I have a nice edge.  I will flip it over and do it again and again adding hot water.

    12. If you get too many suds, rinse the tulle and bubblewrap under the tap.  Keep working around the edge. Take either a piece of bubblewrap or the roller and work towards the middle. You can roll towards the center going round and round.  The fibers will bunch up in a lump in the middle, but...

    13. Here comes the rolling pin.  Gently roll it over the circle.  Feel like a gentle baker..turn it around and roll again..turn it over, roll again every so gently.  Notice, I have the bubblewrap on.

    When I've worked it over using the rollingpin and wallpaper roller and I notice that it seems all in one piece (not alot of ridges where those pinwheel pieces were),  I'll add water and continue
    to roll.

    13. It feels pretty firm but not ready yet so I put bubblewrap on both sides and stick it on the sushimat, roll it all up and go back and forth many times (how many depends on how your arms and back are feeling - try to place yourself in a position that's right for you).  Then I will open up the mat and turn the cirlce the other way..again and again.  (you want to make sure that you're getting the fibers all mushed from several different directions).
    Unroll....if you need to do more work, go ahead, you can't hurt it.

    24. Take your sharp scissors and cut a small hole in the center.  Cut straight down through all the layers.  This will stop the fibers from going anywhere.  Don't worry..just cut till you see the resist.  

    Oh, look who I found - not the four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie!

    25. To seal the edges of the circle, take some of the soap and with your fingers go around (the same way you cut) the lip.  Remember, you have more work to do, so don't be amazed if it doesn't seal.  Now we have to get the resist out.  Since mine is plastic and not too pliable I'll run it under water while reaching in to get an edge and just worm it out.  The hole will get somewhat bigger that's why you don't make a big circle cut to begin with.

    26. Begining to look like a bowl?  Oh yeah!  Now it's pretty well hanging together, but it needs to get tighter and hold a firm shape.  Next step is called, "Fulling" - you get it "full" of itself.  I'm going to roll it some more with the rolling pin, the wallpaper roller - no more soap - but yes to water.  You can rough it up a big now.   That small opening is now big enough for me to put some fingers in.  See that horizontal ridge below?  That's where the edge of the resist was.  I want to make a bowl, not a disc so I'm going back and forth on the bubblewrap to get rid of the ridge and give the bowl some height. 
    27. I'm going to run it under hot water and push and pull it and then under cold - this shocks the fibers and at the same time allows me to further full it, scrunching it up and agitating it.

    28. Looking good.  I'm going to take bubblewrap and go around the inside. (many felters will turn their bowl inside out).  Go inside with the wallpaper roller too, if you have the room.

    29. Take the rolling pin and turn the bowl so it's on it's side...roll, roll - every side.

    30. It's looking very good - hey it's a bowl!  See some of the ridge in the bottom of the picture?  Cool, leave it if you want.  Take cutup pieces of the grocery bags and stuff the bowl - real tight - you are now shaping it!

    31. Plop it into boiling water, stir it a bit (more cooking than I ever do) and take it out to beat it up some more.

    32. Looks like a dumpling!   Roll it around on the bubblewrap (careful, hot potato) hit it and get it into the shape I want.   Look at those great ridges!

     33. I can also stretch it with my fingers, run it under water again, stretch some more.  I take out the wet grocery bag scraps and take a look...hmmm..nice

    34. Run it under water and make sure all the soap is out - not good for wool..oh, no!  Then dry it off
    and take it into the bathroom to pack with dry grocery bags.  I'll  hit it all around with the crab mallet and smack the bowl (so satisfying) sometimes angling the mallet so the bowl will get taller or smooshing it to make it smaller.  I can manipulate the lip, too.

    All done.  I've looked at it from all sides and it's down onto the heat register to dry alongside it's purple counterpart.  Now wait and when it's dry, out with the stuffing and you can embellish it with needlefelting, embroidery, buttons, etc........

    Here are just a few resources I use:

    Wool Roving

    Books on Felting
    Beginner's Guide to Feltmaking by Shirley Ascher & Jane Bateman
    How We Felt by Carol Huber Cypher


    1. Great tutorial! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Have you checked out the felting forum?

      There are a wonderful bunch of people there and all kinds of information for felting.

    2. Wonderful tips, and I love the one about placing it in a pan of boiling water. You have my mind working on my next bowl design, thank you for a great tutorial.

    3. Your bowls are absolutely beautiful!

    4. Great tutorial! Thank you for sharing your technique!

    5. I had no idea of how to felt a bowl,thanks!

    6. I didn't realize it was so labor intensive! Thanks for the great post.



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