How to Make a Wet Felted Cat / Kitten Cave/ a Free Tutorial
Wet Felted Cat/Kitten Cave and Sitting Tenant
A Few Notes About This Tutorial
This step by step tutorial is designed to assist the more advanced Felt Maker to create 3D Cat Cave/Kitten Pod or Vessel using a resist shape. The resist can be made from a piece of thin plastic or bubble-wrap or even a piece of cardboard. The latter was used for this tutorial.
A resist is used to prevent the two sides of this project from fusing together, thus a 3D vessel is created.
My personal preference is to use a plastic based resist, something such as a heavy bubble-wrap or a piece of laminate floor cushioning. Cardboard can become water logged during the process and tends to break up in the process, as very nearly happened with this project!
Wet Felted Cat/Kitten Caves/ You Choose!
Things You Will Need to Complete This Project
- Merino wool roving
- Latex balloons
- A resist/template which measures 20 inches in diameter made from Laminate floor underlay
- Grated olive oil soap
- Curtain netting, sufficient to cover the template
- A palm sander which does not use a dust bag
- A tumble dryer
A Cheese Grater, Merino Wool Roving and a Resist Shape
Olive Oil Soap
Grate the Olive Oil Soap
Olive Oil Soap
Dissolve the Grated Olive Oil Soap in Hot Water
Dissolve a small quantity of the olive oil soap in hot water and pour it into a squeeze bottle or use a sponge to add the soapy water to the fibers.
Dish washing liquid soap may be substituted. Olive oil soap however, tends to be a lot kinder to the hands and also the merino wool roving.
Draw and Cut out the Template
1. Draw and cut out a circle from the laminate floor underlay.
It should have a diameter of around 20 inches. Bubblewrap or cardboard may be substituted, however, cardboard will fall apart and crack if it becomes too waterlogged.
Place the Resist on a Piece of Bubblewrap
Place a piece of bubble-wrap down onto a waterproof surface with the bubbles facing up.
Allow the Fibers to Extend a Little Beyond the Edge
Begin by laying down the wool fibers. These fibers should extend beyond the edge of the resist.
If you would like to incorporate special details or patterns into your cave, do this on this layer and then turn your project inside out on completion of the project, making this layer your top layer.
I kept my layers plain and did not turn the project inside out at a later stage.
A Circle of Wool Roving
Cover the Template
Put the fibers down in a circular pattern as shown above.
Continue adding fibers in a circular pattern until the whole of the template has been covered.
The Completed Circle of Fibers
Cover the Fibers Carefully with Curtain Netting
Wet the Fibers with Hot Soapy Water
With the curtain netting in place, wet the fibers below with hot soapy water.
Press down on the project and smooth the fibers dpwm gently with your hands. Press the water out towards the edges but keeping the wool which extends beyond the edges dry. These will be folded over to the other side in the next step.
The Wet Fibers
Flatten the Fibers
Flatten the wet fibers until the edge of the template is reached.
Remove the Curtain Netting Gently
Removing the Curtain Netting
When the fibers below the curtain netting are wet through and smoothed down, remove the netting very carefully. Try not to displace the fibers as you do this.
Turn the Template Over
Fold in the Dry Edges
Fold the dry edges over the edges of the template. Use wet soapy hands and a little extra water to smooth them neatly over the edge.
Cover the Template with a New Layer of Fibers
Second Side of the 1st Layer
Cover with Curtain Netting
Carefully Remove the Curtain Netting
Turn the Template Over
Fold in the Edges
Both Sides of Layer 1 Are Now Complete!
Both sides of the template have now been covered in one layer of merino wool fibers.
It is now time to repeat this process until you have 4 layers of wool on both side of the template.
Repeat Until You Have 4 Layers on Each Side of the Template
Cover the template on both sides with merino wool as before until there are 4 layers on both sides.
The Final Layer (5)
The first layer on layer 5 should extend over the edge of the template as previously shown.
The final layer of the second side should NOT overlap the edge of the template.
Any loose fibers can however be neatened over the edge and damped down with hot soapy water.
You now have five layers of wool on both sides of the template.
Second Side of Layer 5
As can be shown in this image, the fibers have not been allowed to extend beyond the edge of the template.
This last layer should be damped down and any loose fibers should be tidied up before proceeding with the felting process.
You may wish to experiment with a variety of felting methods shown below:-
- Felting with a Palm Sander
- Rolling the project in a Bamboo Blind
- Rolling the project in Bubble-wrap
- Using a combination of these methods which may include a Tumble Dryer and a Balloon
Bamboo Mat Versus Palm Sander and Tumble Dryer
If you don't have a sander, you may wish to roll the project in a bamboo blind or bubble-wrap.
The former works extremely well. Remember to keep on turning the project around so that the rolling takes place from several angles. This help maintain the nice round shape of the cat cave.
The template inside will buckle and bend as the felting process takes place. The five layers of wool will take a lot of rolling.
ALTERNATIVELY USE A PALM SANDER!
Cover the wet fibers with a sheet of bubble-wrap, bubble side down and then cover with a thick sheet of clear plastic sheeting as shown here.
Sand with the palm sander until the fibers no longer move beneath your fingers.
You may wish to roll the project in a bamboo blind further until you are certain that the fibers below have been completely felted.
I cheated a little and resorted to a tumble dryer and a balloon when my cardboard resist began to disintegrate!
Take care when using electricity near water. Ensure that you follow all safety instruction associated with electricity and water. Wear rubber soled shoes and make sure that the palm sander never comes into contact with water.
Only a sander without a dust bag should be used.
This is the type of sander which can be used to help felt the wet fibers. It should be one of the type which has no dust extractor.
Cover the Project with Bubble-Wrap and a Thick Sheet of Clear Plastic if Using a Palm Sander
Felting with the Palm Sander
Sand the project with the palm sander until the fibers no longer move under your fingers.
Or Use Bubble-Wrap And/Or a Bamboo Blind
Once Felted, Mark a Small Circle in the Wool
Mark a Circle in the Top Layer
Mark a small hole in the top layer.
Do this by pressing a small round object into the wool.
It should have a diameter of around three inches. Cut around the mark and remove the small circle of fibers. Be careful not to cut through the bottom layer. Make sure that the edges of the cut hole are sanded or rubbed until they are stable before removing the template.
Don't make the hole any larger than three inches. It will stretch. Better to have a hole which is too small rather than one which is too large.
A small hole can easily be made larger later. Once made larger the fibers can be massaged with hot soapy water until they felt neatly together.
Felting Is Not an Exact Science as I Found Out!
A sander was used very effectively to felt the outer fibers of this project. However, the layers below did not felt as well, partly due to their thickness.
When I cut the hole as shown below I found that the underneath layers were not felted as much as i would have liked them to be.
The cardboard template also became rather fragile during the process.
I decided to carry out some damage limitation. I carefully removed the wet cardboard, pulling pieces through the entrance to the cave and then very carefully placed it into the tumble dryer.
I then inserted a balloon into the cave entrance and blew it up and then knotted the end. I did it this way because blown up, the balloon was larger than the entrance to the tumble dryer.
I was left with some little slack around the balloon which I knew would soon be taken up once the tumble dryer had worked its magic.
I kept on checking on the progress and once all the slack had been taken up by the shrinking fibers, I burst the balloon and inserted a new one. Once again I left some slack which allowed for further shrinkage to take place in the tumble dryer.
There is no doubt that the tumble dryer gives one a much firmer texture to the kitten cave.. This is is exactly what one needs if you are making a cat cave. I have seen many caves made where the fibers clearly were not sufficiently felted. These could be salved by using this method.
If You Don't Have a Tumble Dryer!
Put bubble wrap bubble side down onto both sides of the project.
Roll with a rolling pin or use a rolling pin which you have covered with a sushi mat. Use elastic bands to keep it on or
Alternatively, a bamboo blind can be used very effectively for larger projects such as this one.
Keep on turning the project so that that you are rolling from a different angle. This will help to maintain its perfect shape. The edges of the template might move around a little but this is acceptable as it helps prevent a ridge from forming where the end of the template stops.
The template will start to buckle and bend underneath as the fibers below begin to shrink.
The Inflated Balloon Inside the Felted Cave
A Balloon Inside the Felted Project
This image shows the cat/kitten cave after felting in the tumble drier. Burst the balloon and remove it from the cave.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse with Hot and Cold Water
Rinse with hot and cold water and then give the project a final rinse in water which has a dash of white vinegar added to it. Pack with towels, shape and allow to dry on a cake rack. Remove the towels when it is evident that the cave is self supporting.
One Kitten Cave/Now Occupied
Questions & Answers
What heat level do you use for tumbling the wet felted cat cave in the dryer?
My tumble dryer is a small one which has only 'hot or cool' settings. I use the hot setting, but many people say that it is the tumbling effect which helps the felting process. I feel that heat helps speed it up. I would suggest that you experiment with different heat levels and use the one which suits you.
© 2015 Sally Gulbrandsen