Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental and always interesting.
Use a Commercial Sewing Pattern to Wet Felt a Child's Gilet
Commercial sewing pattern Burda 5288 Vintage 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.
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 above 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.
Step 2: Lay Out the Merino Wool 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.
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.
Step 4: Follow the Design Along the Edges
The fibres were placed around the edges of the template as part of the design.
Step 5: Add the Rest of the Design, and 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!
Step 6: Continue Adding Fibres to Create Three 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.
Step 7: Cover the Project With Curtain Netting
- 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.
Step 8: Wet the Fibres With Hot Soapy Water, Then Remove the Netting
- 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.
Step 9: Join the Shoulder Seams
- 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.
Step 10: Fold in and Dampen the Neck and Armholes
- The neckline has been folded in, as have the shoulders.
- These fibers have all been dampened down.
Step 11: Separate the Two Sides With 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.
Step 12: Roll With 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.
Step 13: Use Bubble Wrap and 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: Inspect the Joined Seams
- 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.
Step 15: Continue Rubbing and Rolling
Keep on rubbing and rolling until the fibres no longer move under your fingers.
Step 16: Check the 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.
Step 17: Roll the Garment in Bubble Wrap
- 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!
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.
Step 19: Consider Using an Electric 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 safety tips. 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.
Step 20: Check the 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.
Step 21: Rinse
- 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.
Step 22: Check for 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.
What Causes Shrinkage?
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.
Felting Baby Booties: Video Tutorial
© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 19, 2015:
I wish I could tell you how much roving I used for this garment but I made it using a lot of my scraps which I had at the time. I could have weighed the item if you had asked me last week:) I kept the garment until last week when a little relative took a liking to it and I gave it to her to wear. I no longer have it in my possession.
She is three, a very small three and it fitted her beautifully, just like a little waistcoat rather than what you see on the little guy here because I later put it in the tumble dryer (intentionally) to shrink it down for her. I would err on making something which is larger rather than smaller - one can always shrink the garment down as I did but it is almost impossible to stretch it if it shrinks back too much. I can only guess that it took me around 200 - 300 grams. This was my first attempt at doing something like this but I do think that the garment looked better for a bit more shrinking - it was really rather cute. I added a button to the front.
I should add that when I shrunk the garment, there was also no need for me to fold over the front facing. It fitted perfectly without the need to have one - it looked better for doing this.
I wish I could be more helpful.
Ashleigh on January 19, 2015:
How much grams of wool did you use for this? As this looks the same size as the one I'd like to make my daughter but I'm not sure how much wool to use. Thanks, great tutorial :)
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 06, 2013:
Nellieamma I am. I have something coming up shortly.
Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 06, 2013:
Fantastic! Hope you write more about those ideas!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 04, 2013:
Nellieanna, your understanding of textiles is impressive. I love working with wool fibers as they offer so much potential for creativity. I love the fact that you can use so many different methods to get similar results. I really love working with this medium and am looking forward to getting back to experimenting with some more ideas I have. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on this Hub.
Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 04, 2013:
I studied textiles in my college years, when the 'natural fibers'- wool, silk, cotton and linen - were the only clothing fibers there were. 'Man-made' was not an adjective one associated with them! Other coarser natural fibers, such as hemp and bamboo were not considered for clothing use.
Each of the four natural fibers has its special characteristics, and, of course,- wool's is the thorny surface of its fibers, which both captures air to make it a good insulator and mats the fibers together when they're wet and heated, making them limp; then when cooled, restoring the stickers, & shrinking and matting the fibers together, i.e.: felting them!
Without weaving or otherwise combining, felting creates the fabric for felt hats and its characterists allow it to be shaped as desired when again subjected to moist heat. I've formed felt into hats in my past.
So I was so intrigued by your title here (and for others of your Wet Felting techniques featured in your hubs)! This whole creative concept for another ingenious use of wool's traits is so exciting! It's no wonder you're really into it! I'm so impressed!! Thank you for sharing!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on July 12, 2013:
It really is a true art form 4FoodSafety. It is amazing what a bit of friction and a few wool fibers with some hot soapy water can produce. The result is always something unique and individual to the person who is creating it. That is why I love felting. There is no wrong way of doing it, especially if end up feeling pleased with the result. Thank you so much for your comment and also the vote up. I appreciate it.
Kelly Kline Burnett from Fontana, WI on July 12, 2013:
Wet Felt is a true art. I was amazed at the quality and wanted to learn more a couple of years ago when I saw a display of web felt hats - absolutely exquisite. This is a wonderful tribute to an art that produces heirloom quality pieces. Very well done - voted up!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on June 05, 2013:
DDE It makes all the hard work so worthwhile -when I hear such lovely comments - thanks too for the vote up and all the other lovely things you said.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 05, 2013:
Incredible how you put all together and so greatly explained, most informative and lots of work put in here t o inform us readers of your wonderful idea. With such creativity I have to Vote up, interesting, awesome, beautiful and useful thanks
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 20, 2013:
MsDora, You are very kind. Thank you very much for the feedback and the visit. It is this which makes sharing ideas so rewarding.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 20, 2013:
Voted Up and more. Your instructions and pictures seem easy to follow, and the end result is amazing. Thanks for your detailed tutorial; you're a great teacher.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 17, 2013:
Thank you tirelesstraveler, The title was meant to enable the reader to find what they might be looking for, with only a few words, odd as it may seem, the average person and even an experienced Felter might not have ever entertained the possibility of working with a commercial pattern to achieve what the article suggests. Sometimes there are no guidelines in felting except one's own desire to create, so I am pleased I was able to achieve this. I am glad I was able to make you curious at the same time! The process of actually making your own unique fabric from a few fibers and some soap and water is amazing. Making a seamless garment using this simple process, I feel opens up exciting opportunities for me to be even more creative! The child is beautiful and adorable and is quite the apple of my eye. Best of all the feeling is mutual! Thank you so much for your comments and also your follow.
Judy Specht from California on May 16, 2013:
Fascinating process. The title was captivating. I had absolutely no idea what it meant and was compelled to read you article to discover the meaning. You cleared the confusion nicely. Your pictures truly tell a complete story. The adorable child caught my attention too.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 14, 2013:
Hi Billybuc - I seem to be developing a following with most of my traffic coming from external sites such as Pinterest. Will definitely be concentrating on felting for a while as these Hubs appear to be my most popular Hubs. Thanks Billybuc.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 14, 2013:
This is one of those niches that will take time to grow a following. Keep at it....I'm sure there are many out there who will use this information, but it takes time for articles to circulate around the internet. Good luck with them.
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 10, 2013:
Hi Vicki, thanks - he really is a cutie - a tad on the small size but nevertheless a great little model and one I could borrow at short notice. I adore him - he is a little treasure. Thanks for stopping by again.
Vickiw on May 09, 2013:
Really like your model! Great addition to your Hub!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 08, 2013:
Hello Chris, so pleased that you enjoyed the Hub. Very pleased that you took the time to stop by. Thanks too for the vote up and also for the share. I really appreciate it!
Chris Achilleos on May 08, 2013:
This is such a creative and interesting hub! I loved it. All your images illustrate the whole process perfectly. Voted up, awesome and interesting!
Thanks for sharing,
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 07, 2013:
You read my mind Vicki. As you say having a child in hand is not always possible. I was hoping that I might have the loan of one today. Perhaps you will soon see a photo of a child wearing the Gilet on these very pages! So nice of you to stop by and thank you for the great comments.
Vickiw on May 07, 2013:
Hi Sallybea, I loved this - well written, and the photos are gorgeous. Only one thing would be more appreciated - a photo of a child actually wearing it! Sometimes they just aren't handy when you need them though! Well done!
Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 07, 2013:
Hello purl3agony, great to have you come visit my pages again. Glad you enjoyed the Hub, thanks for the sharing and for voting up.
Donna Herron from USA on May 07, 2013:
This is a great idea and hub! I never thought of using a commercial pattern to make a felt garment. Thanks for sharing!! Voting up!