How to Make a Wet Felted Gilet for a Child
Wet Felted Gilet
Wet Felted Gilet
Use a Commercial Sewing Pattern to Wet Felt a Child's Gilet
Commercial sewing pattern was chosen as the basis for this wet felting tutorial. Shrinkage is estimated to be around 30 percent so choose a pattern which is three sizes larger than is usually required by the wearer. Burda 5288 Vintage Pattern
Begin by first tracing the pattern and all the markings onto a sheet of thick plastic and then cut around the edges of the plastic template before proceeding with the rest of the tutorial.
- Plastic template
- Commercial sewing pattern for a child's gilet or waistcoat (Burda Pattern 5288 Vintage)
- Merino wool roving
- Thick plastic sheeting
- A bamboo blind or sushi mat
- Bubble Wrap
- A palm sander (optional)
- A tumble dryer (optional)
Step 1— Trace the Pattern
- Cut around the Commercial Sewing Pattern and then trace the pattern pieces onto a sheet of see-through plastic.
- Cut out the plastic template as shown in the images below and include a seam allowance at the side seams to allow for additional shrinkage.
- Don't join the shoulder seam yet.
- Leave the seams completely open as is shown in the images below.
Trace the Template Onto a Sheet of Thick Plastic
Lay out the Merino Wool Fibers
Step 2— Lay out the Fibres
- Begin by laying out the merino wool fibres. Create three even layers of wool.
- You may wish to put down the fibres in a continuous manner running from left to right and back again in uniform rows leaving out the holes for the armholes and neck.
- I chose not to go the conventional route and put the fibres around the top and bottom and sides of the pattern before filling up the inside with different colours of wool.
The Fibres on the Plastic Template
Step 3— Overlap the Edges
- Place woollen fibres around the arm and neck areas.
- Allow them to overlap the edges slightly as these will be turned in later.
Put Down the Design
Step 4— The Edges
- The fibres were placed around the edges of the template as part of the design.
Adding the Design
Step 5— Break the rules!
- This image shows some unconventional placing of the fibres as they were added to the design.
- I broke some of the rules where they should have been placed them at 90 degrees to the previous layer. I sometimes say that these rules are there to be broken. If it works for you, that is all that matters!
The Completed Design
Step 6— 3 Even Layers
- Three layers of wool fibre were put down onto the template.
- As I have said previously, I did not follow the conventional way of placing down the fibres down onto the template.
- I did, however, make sure that the layers were put down evenly.
Cover the Project With Curtain Netting
Step 7— Curtain Net
- Cover the fibres with a piece of curtain netting.
- A slightly finer texture the ones shown here if possible. It will be easier for you to smooth down the fibres if the netting is finer than this example. Using curtain net which has large holes can create problems, especially if you rub too long and too hard as the fibres can sometimes become entangled in the net.
Remove the Curtain Netting
Step 8— Wet the Fibres With Hot Soapy Water
- Wet the fibres with hot soapy water, except those which will later form the shoulder seam.
- These should be left completely dry so that these can be fused together later.
- Once the fibres have been smoothed down, gently remove the curtain netting.
Join the Shoulder Seams
Step 9— Neck and Shoulders
- As can be seen here, the neck and arms holes have been turned in using the template as a guide.
- The fibres on the shoulders were not dampened at all.
- This is to enable the wool to be folded in and made wet later to create a seamless join.
Joining the Shoulder Seams
Step 10— Neck & Armholes
- The neckline has been folded in, as have the shoulders.
- These fibers have all been dampened down.
Keeping the 2 Sides Separate
Separate With the Bubble Wrap as Shown
Step 11— Bubble Wrap
- Place sheets of bubble-wrap between the two layers.
- This will prevent the layers from being felted together.
- Pay special attention to the shoulder joints as these will take will take quite a bit of work before they have been felt together sufficiently enough before they fuse together. (A palm sander is particularly useful here) Please ensure that you follow all the safety rules for working with electricity and water if you decide to use one.
Please check out this article for more advice on using this method of felting.
Rolling with a Wooden Rolling Pin
Step 12— Bamboo and a Rolling Pin
- Place bubble-wrap between the layers while rolling with the rolling pin or rub using your hand covered in a plastic bag.
- Here I can be seen rolling with the rolling pin rather than rolling the contents around the rolling pin. I find this works very well so long as I keep a bamboo mat under the project with bubble-wrap, smooth side up covering the Project.
- A bamboo mat under the garment really helps promote the felting process.
- A small bamboo mat can be moved around underneath the project and can be especially useful when working in small spaces.
Bamboo Mats (Sushi Mats) or Bamboo Blinds
Step 13—Bubble Wrap & Bamboo Mats
- Here I have placed bubble-wrap between the front and back of the garment to keep the two sides separate.
- I also tucked a bamboo mat under the Project and covered the area I was rubbing with bubble wrap. I used the rolling pin to roll over the bubble-wrap, smooth side up.
- One can use a hand covered in a plastic bag to rub the surface of the Project. I find it much easier to roll the rolling pin over each section carefully.
Step 14— Seams Joined Together
- Here you can see that the seams are now joined.
- The wool was dampened down and rolled using a rolling pin.
- The Project is still very fragile at this stage and a lot more rubbing and rolling will still be required.
The Garment Beginning to Come Together
Step 15— Rub and Roll
- Keep on rubbing and rolling until the fibres no longer move under your fingers.
The Front of the Garment
The Back of the Garment
The Garment Measured Against the Template
Step 16— Original Template Alongside the Garment
- Here you can see the garment laying inside the plastic template.
- As can be seen here the felting process is incomplete.
- The garment will still need a lot more rubbing and a good roll before the fibres are completely felted.
Rolling Inside the Bubble Wrap
Step 17—The Felting Process
- With the bubble-wrap placed between the front and the back of the garment, you can now start rolling to complete the felting process.
- Keep on changing the direction in which you roll the garment!
Change the Direction in Which you Roll the Garment
Step 18— Maintain the Shape of the Garment
- Keep on changing the direction in which you roll the garment.
- This helps to maintain the shape of the garment.
- It is important to understand that fibres shrink in the direction in which you roll them.
- Change the direction often and you will have a lot more control over the outcome.
Electric Palm Sander
Genesis GP 5080 Palm Sander, Grey
Step 19— Genesis GP Palm Sander
- A little unconventional to be sure, but a very useful tool which can really help with the felting process. I use a Genesis GP 5080 Palm Sander which does not have a dirt bag. Yours should not have one either.
- Please abide by all the safety tips found in this article. Here you will find more advice on this method of felting. There is no doubt that a palm sander used correctly can be used to good effect, and it certainly takes away some of the aches and pains associated with rolling wet wool to make felt. I used the palm sander to finish off the felting process here before I finally rinsed the garment in hot and then cold water.
Almost Ready! The front
The Back of the Garment
Step 20— Shrinking Fibres!
- As can be seen here the fibres have started to shrink.
- Use the pinch test to check to see when the fibres no longer move under your fingers.
- Check all the areas carefully, especially those which have been folded over and those which form the seamless shoulder seam. Only when no movement has been detected in the fibres should you start massaging and rinsing the garment in hot and cold water.
Hot and Cold Rinses
- Rinse the garment in hot water and then cold.
- Repeat this several times until the water runs clear.
- Squeeze any excess water out and then throw the garment down onto a hard surface several times until the fibres shrink back further.
- Need a little more help! Put the garment in a tumble dryer to shrink the fibres further.
- Keep on checking every few minutes until it can be seen that sufficient felting has taken place. Once this happens, shape the damp garment and finish off the garment as desired.
The Shrinking Process
Step 22— Shrinkage
The completely ‘fulled’ garment is seen here laying on the original template which was traced from the commercial sewing pattern. As can be seen here, the garment shrank approximately 25 - 30%. During the felting process. This is only an estimate as not all woolen fibres shrink at the same rate. Shrinking is influenced by several factors such as the way we work, the type of wool used and by the method used. For instance, I don't always use conventional ways to felt; sometimes I use a tumble dryer or an electric sander! One learns from experience but I do hope that you will enjoy experimenting with this process as I have done. I look forward to hearing any comments or queries you may have regarding this project.
Place a Bamboo mat between the layers or on the underside of the garment to add a little extra friction. Bamboo blinds are extremely useful in felting and I consider them to be one of my favourite felting tools. Roll the garment up inside a bamboo blind to encourage felting and discourage uneven edges.
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Questions & Answers
© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen