Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental and always interesting.
A Little About This Bird Pod Project
This felting project has been designed to utilize a few tools which will help to speed up the felting process. These include a tumble dryer and a balloon.
Time needed to complete this project is estimated at around three hours and includes half an hour which was spent with the project spinning around inside a tumble dryer. I timed it from beginning to end, but then I was taking all the photos, too.
The end result is a bird pod which will keep its shape perfectly. Felting by hand never produces a felt which is as firm as that done mechanically—at least, that has been my experience.
Items Required for This Project
- A tumble dryer
- A template made from plastic such as bubble wrap or similar. Laminate floor cushioning would work, too.
- A large dinner plate
- A felt-tip pen
- A quantity of merino wool roving suitable for felting in colors of your choice
- Grated olive oil soap or dishwashing liquid diluted in hot water
- A latex balloon or alternatively a Gertie Ball which can be inserted into the cavity of your pod
- Bubble wrap
Quick Overview of the Method
- Place the dinner plate onto a piece of bubble-wrap/laminate underfloor cushioning.
- Draw a circle around it with a felt tip pen. The plate should measures approximately 11 1/2 inches across.
- Add a handle to the drawing as shown in the image below and cut out the template leaving a space for the handle.
- Place the template onto a waterproof surface and put merino wool fibers down onto the first side of the template as shown below,
- Cover the layer of wool with curtain netting.
- Wet with hot soapy water and apply gentle downward pressure to the wet fibers with both your hands.
- Press the water down and out towards the edge of the template.
- Remove the curtain netting and turn the project over.
- Tuck in any loose ends.
- Repeat the same process with the pod handle section, turn any loose fibers in.
- Fill in the center of the template with fibers, this time the fibers should not extend beyond the edge of the template in order to avoid making uneven layers in the pod.
- Repeat this process three times on both side of the template and add a few decorative fibers to the final layer as desired.
- Cover with bubble-wrap, bubbles facing the project and then cover with a thick piece of plastic sheeting.
- Using a palm sander, sand the layers of felt until you can perform the 'pinch' test. This may take a while but do this as thoroughly as possible.
- Cut a very small hole into one side of the pod and be careful not to penetrate the layer underneath the template.
- Leaving the template inside, carefully insert a latex balloon into the cavity and inflate it, leave a little space (It will look a little baggy). This space will be taken up as the project begins to shrink in the tumble dryer and the air inside the balloon expands.
- Knot the end of the balloon and wrap strips of bubble-wrap around the handle of the pod.
- Insert the project into a freezer bag. Tie the ends, leaving a little space through which any excess water can escape and insert the pod into a tumble dryer.
- As the project shrinks, keep on checking the progress.
- As the fibers tighten up and the balloon takes up the slack in the pod, untie the balloon, let out a little air. Each time you do this, put it back into the plastic bag and place into the tumble dryer until further shrinkage has taken place.
- Do this three or more times or until you are satisfied that the pod will hold its shape when the balloon is removed.
- Remove the balloon and the template from the project and neaten the entrance to the pod as shown.
- Don't worry too much if a little bit of the resist template remains behind in the handle. It will give this area a little added strength and it won't be seen by the bird inside or anyone else.
- I like to rub the handle between my hands so that it becomes a little rounded. This will happen anyway in the tumble dryer but if not, give it a little help.
- Put the balloon back into the hole for the last time, rinse thoroughly under running water and then put the project back into the tumble dryer to dry a little and allow the pod to dry out on a hook or washing line with the balloon still inside.
- Your project is now complete.
Step-by-Step Guide With Photos
Below are detailed instructions and photographs of each step.
1. Gather Your Materials
The image shows a party balloon, a pair of scissors, the template and a felt tip pen, an old towel, bubble-wrap is used to cover the surface of the table. I use a marble table but any waterproof surface should suffice.
The sushi mat shown here will not be used for this project.
2. Draw and Cut Out a Template
Place a dinner plate which should measure a minimum of 11 1/2 inches onto a piece of laminate floor cushioning or bubble-wrap. Draw around the plate with a felt tip pen. Add a handle as shown in the image below and cut the template out.
In this case I used something which feels and looks like apple box packaging.
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3. Add Merino Wool Fibers to the Template
Begin by adding merino wool fibers to the 1st side of the resist
4. Fill the Center Space With Fibers
Cover the resist with an even layer of fibers.
Make sure not to leave any gaps as this will result in thin spots. Aim to get all sides as even as is possible.
5. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
Cover the wool fibers with curtain netting, wet and smooth down the fibers with hot soapy water. Do this by pressing down onto the wool. Push the water out towards the edges of the template and then smooth them down with your fingers.
6. Remove the Netting
Gentry remove the curtain netting from the woolen fibers.
7. Turn the Template Over
The overhanging fibers on the edge should now be gently turned over.
Use your fingers and hot water to smooth them out.
8. Turn the Fibers Over the Edges of the Top Section, Then the Handle
Begin by turning over the fibers in the top section near the handle.
9. Fold in the Edges
Neatly fold over the woolen fibers to form a neat circle as shown.
For a really neat edge cover with bubble-wrap now and rub for a few seconds.
10. Cover the Handle With Fibers
Cover the template as shown with more woolen fibers.
11. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
Cover the beginnings of the handle with curtain netting, wet with hot soapy water and smooth down the fibers.
12. Remove the Netting
Remove the curtain netting once the wet fibers have been smoothed down.
13. Turn the Template Over
Turn the template over and begin by folding in the edges to create a handle for the bird pod.
If you fibers are very long, don't worry, take them back around to the other side so that the edges are completely neatened off.
14. Turn One Edge In
Begin by turning in one edge as shown in the image below.
15. Neatly Fold in the Other Edges
Turn in both edges of the handle, one over the other. If you fibers are shorter you may not have to do this.
16. Fill the Center With Woolen Fibers
Fill in the second side of the template with woolen fibers as shown and cover the project with the curtain netting and wet with hot soapy water.
17. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
Wet with hot soapy water, smooth down the wool and press the water down and out towards the outer edges of the template. Rub gently with your hands.
18. Neaten the Edges
Carefully turn any loose edges in to make a neat edge to the template by turning it over and neatening them off as before.
19. Cover With Bubble Wrap and Wet the Surface
Once neatened off, cover the project with a piece of bubble-wrap, bubble side down and wet the surface so that your hands can glide smoothly over the top. Give both sides a good rubbing.
20. Rub the Project Well
With the project now covered in bubble-wrap, bubble side down, rub well. This will give the project a nice neat finish in preparation for layer 2.
21. Remove the Bubble Wrap
Layer 1 has now been completed. The result is a beautifully neat wool covered template.
This will now be repeated twice more. The final layer will also have the addition of a little decoration.
22. Begin Layer 2
Start by covering the 1st side of layer 2 with a layer of merino wool fibers as shown below.
23. Fill the Center
Starting on the edges, overlap the template with a circular layer of fibers.
24. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
Cover the woolen fibers with the curtain netting, wet and smooth down as was done with Layer 1.
25. Remove the Netting
Smooth out the fibers and remove the curtain netting
26. Turn the Project Over
As seen below, the woolen fibers are ready to be turned over onto the previous layer of blue.
27. Tuck in the Loose Fibers
Smooth the wool over the edges and wet down with your fingers and some hot soapy water.
28. Cover the Center With Woolen Fibers
Fill the hole with fibers as was done in layer 1.
29. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
30. Smooth Out the Fibers
31. Cover the Handle With Woolen Fibers
Put a layer of fibers on the handle section
32. Cover With Curtain Netting and Wet With Hot Soapy Water
Wet with hot soapy water and smooth out the fibers.