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How to Make a Wet-Felted Cat or Kitten Cave: Free Tutorial

Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental, and always interesting.

This cat tenant is testing out the new kitty cave.

This cat tenant is testing out the new kitty cave.

A Few Notes About This Wool Cat Cave Tutorial

This step-by-step tutorial is designed to assist the more advanced felt maker to create a 3D cat/kitten cave, 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.

What's the Best Kind of Resist to Use?

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 heavy bubble wrap or a piece of laminate floor cushioning. Cardboard can become waterlogged during the process and tends to break up, as very nearly happened with this project!

Kitty

Kitty

Wet Felted/Cat/Kitten Cave: A Free Tutorial

Wet Felted/Cat/Kitten Cave: A Free Tutorial

Things You Will Need to Complete This Project

  1. Merino wool roving
  2. Latex balloons
  3. A resist/template which measures 20 inches in diameter made from laminate floor underlay
  4. Grated olive oil soap
  5. Bubble wrap
  6. Curtain netting, sufficient to cover the template
  7. A palm sander which does not use a dust bag
  8. A tumble dryer
1. Gather Your Supplies

1. Gather Your Supplies

Olive oil soap is kind to the hands.

Olive oil soap is kind to the hands.

2. Grate the Olive Oil Soap

2. Grate the Olive Oil Soap

3. 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.

Dishwashing liquid soap may be substituted. Olive oil soap, however, tends to be a lot kinder to the hands and also the merino wool roving.

4. Draw and Cut Out the Template

Draw and cut out a circle from the laminate floor underlay.

It should have a diameter of around 20 inches. Bubble wrap or cardboard may be substituted, however, the cardboard will fall apart and crack if it becomes too waterlogged.

Here is a cardboard template/resist which measures 20 inches across. An alternative would be to make it out of bubble wrap or floor laminate cushioning.

Here is a cardboard template/resist which measures 20 inches across. An alternative would be to make it out of bubble wrap or floor laminate cushioning.

5. Place the Resist on a Piece of Bubble Wrap

Place a piece of bubble wrap down onto a waterproof surface with the bubbles facing up.

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6. Start Layer 1

6. Start Layer 1

7. 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.

This is a circle of wool roving.

This is a circle of wool roving.

8. Cover the Template in a Circular Pattern

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.

One side of the resist is completely covered in wool fibers (layer 1).

One side of the resist is completely covered in wool fibers (layer 1).

9. Cover the Fibers Carefully With Curtain Netting

9. Cover the Fibers Carefully With Curtain Netting

10. 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 down gently with your hands. Press the water out towards the edges but keep the wool which extends beyond the edges dry. These will be folded over to the other side in the next step.

Press down on the wet wool and smooth down and out towards the edges as shown

Press down on the wet wool and smooth down and out towards the edges as shown

11. Flatten the Fibers

Flatten the wet fibers until the edge of the template is reached.

Carefully remove the curtain netting.

Carefully remove the curtain netting.

12. Remove the Curtain Netting Gently

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.

13. Turn the Template Over

Turn the template over and fold the wool fibers over with a little hot soapy water.

Turn the template over and fold the wool fibers over with a little hot soapy water.

14. 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.

15. Cover the Template With a New Layer of Fibers

15. Cover the Template With a New Layer of Fibers

Cover with a layer of fibers.

Cover with a layer of fibers.

16. Cover With Curtain Netting

16. Cover With Curtain Netting

17. Carefully Remove the Curtain Netting

17. Carefully Remove the Curtain Netting

18. Turn the Template Over

18. Turn the Template Over

19. Fold in the Edges

19. 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 four layers of wool on both sides of the template.

20. 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 four layers on both sides.

21. Start 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.

This image shows the final layer of wool fibers being taken to the edge but not over it.

This image shows the final layer of wool fibers being taken to the edge but not over it.

22. Lay Down the 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.

23. Prepare for the Felting Process

You may wish to experiment with a variety of felting methods shown below:

  1. Felting with a palm sander
  2. Rolling the project in a bamboo blind
  3. Rolling the project in bubble wrap
  4. 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 maintains 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!

Palm Sander (Sand Critter)

Palm Sander (Sand Critter)

24. Prepare the Palm Sander (if Using)

This is the type of sander which can be used to help felt the wet fibers. It should be one of the types which has no dust extractor.

25. Cover the Project With Bubble Wrap and a Thick Sheet of Clear Plastic (if Using the Palm Sander)

25. Cover the Project With Bubble Wrap and a Thick Sheet of Clear Plastic (if Using the Palm Sander)

26. First Option: Felt With the Palm Sander

Sand the project with the palm sander until the fibers no longer move under your fingers.

26. Second Option: Felt With a Bamboo Mat and Rolling Pin

26. Second Option: Felt With a Bamboo Mat and Rolling Pin

Mark a small circle in the wool with a small round object, about three inches in diameter.  I used a roll of masking tape to press the circle.

Mark a small circle in the wool with a small round object, about three inches in diameter. I used a roll of masking tape to press the circle.

27. Once Felted, 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.

Troubleshooting: 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 limitations. I carefully removed the wet cardboard, pulled 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 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 salvaged by using this method.

28. Dry

I dried my project in the tumble dryer, as described above. Here is how to dry it without using a tumble dryer:

Drying Without a Tumble Dryer

  1. Put bubble wrap bubble side down onto both sides of the project.
  2. 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
  3. Alternatively, a bamboo blind can be used very effectively for larger projects such as this one.
  4. Keep on turning the project so 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.
  5. The template will start to buckle and bend underneath as the fibers below begin to shrink.
This picture shows the reults of the felting process once the felting process has taken place in the tumble dryer.

This picture shows the reults of the felting process once the felting process has taken place in the tumble dryer.

29. Remove the Balloon

This image shows the cat/kitten cave after felting in the tumble drier. Burst the balloon and remove it from the cave.

This cat cave is stuffed with towels and bubble wrap, left to shape and dry on a cake rack.  Remove the towels and bubble wrap when it can be seen that the shape will be maintained.

This cat cave is stuffed with towels and bubble wrap, left to shape and dry on a cake rack. Remove the towels and bubble wrap when it can be seen that the shape will be maintained.

30. Rinse With Hot and Cold Water, Then Let Dry

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.

Here is a Kitty Cave occupied by a resident.

Here is a Kitty Cave occupied by a resident.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the estimated cost of the materials to make a wet felted cat?

Answer: It could cost you as little as £12 if you purchased Botany Waste from World of Wool. For your money, you get 500 grams of wool which sometimes has a little synthetic fiber added to the mix. You don't have to use these for your project, but you could add them to the surface for decoration. If for any reason they are out of stock, put your name down and they will come back to you when it becomes available again. You won't get to choose your colors, but you will get some fabulous fiber in a variety of glorious colors. This is the route I would take for this project to save on cost. I neither work for them or are sponsored in any way, I just find it the most cost-effective way to buy my wool. I seldom buy anything else these days. Alternatively, you could look on e-Bay for merino wool is being sold 'used' but is really wool which might be left over from a project. Unfortunately felting wool is becoming increasingly more expensive. You are likely to get at least two cat caves out of the 500 grams of wool you purchase though it does depend on how large you are going to make your cave. The one here was made for a kitten rather than a large cat.

Question: Approximately what weight of wool did you need to make a wet felted cat?

Answer: It really does depend on how large you are going to make your cat cave, but I would estimate that this one probably weighed about 400 grams. To be on the safe side, I would purchase 500 grams of Botany Waste Yarn from World of Wool as the price is very reasonable. You won't get to choose your colors, as it will be a lucky dip. I find that it is wonderful for large or small projects. Just remember that it sometimes contains fibers which are not pure wool. These can be used to enhance the look of your cat cave but cannot be used on their own as they will not felt. Alternatively, you could use wool from a fleece to bring down the cost.

Question: Have you thought about using raw washed sheep fleece or dog fur to create a cat cave?

Answer: Yes, I have used raw washed sheep fleece and also dog fur for another project. The former worked well, the latter was not something I would like to do again. I neither enjoyed the smell of dog fur or liked the result.

Question: What heat level do you use for tumbling the wet felted cat cave in the dryer?

Answer: 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.

Question: Roughly how long does it take to make a wet felted cat/kitten cave from start to finish?

Answer: It probably took me about a morning. Never put yourself under any pressure to complete a project in one day. There is no reason why it can't be done in easy stages! Cover dry fibers with bubble wrap and put a weight on the top to stop them from being displaced by any movement such as a breeze, or someone, or the cat passing by. Wet layers left for a few days will come to no harm. Simply wet them again when you are ready to continue. Don't leave them so long that they grow mold. My limit would be about 4 or 5 days. Most times the wool will need wetting again before I can continue. I hope that helps.

Question: How much wool (approx. in grams) do you need for this project?

Answer: I estimate that I used approximately 200 grams of wool roving for this project. Please bear in mind that my cat cave was designed to be used by a kitten. I would purchase at least 250 grams if it were for a fully grown cat.

Question: I’ve made a felted hat before, using a crochet pattern. The size of hat was very large so I alternately washed and tumble dried until I got the size I wanted. Can it be done this way also? Curious

Answer: I would say that the answer lies in whether or not the wool you used is pure wool or not! Pure wool can be shrunk and shaped to almost any shape you want but if it contains synthetic yarn I think it unlikely. It really will depend on how close the crochet stitches were formed. I have never done it myself so I think it unlikely but you could always experiment with something smaller.

Question: Could 100% wool quilt batting be used to make a cat cave? If yes, how would I get the two sides to stay together?

Answer: If you mean pure wool which has been carded into batts, I cannot see any reason why you could not use it to make a cat cave. A combination of warm soapy water and friction will fuse to layers together.

© 2015 Sally Gulbrandsen

Comments

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on July 23, 2020:

Chitrangada Sharan, you have been such a loyal follower and I am so grateful for each and every visit. Thank you so much!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 23, 2020:

Congratulations for winning the crafty prize. It’s so well deserved. I have been following your work since long. These are beautifully done.

Thanks for sharing the details.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on July 23, 2020:

These cat caves are very popular with cat lovers:) I was delighted to read that you too are a winner in the crafty contest. Congratulations Bev!

Bev G from Wales, UK on July 23, 2020:

I love these! A few years ago I crocheted a cat cave but none of our cats would go in it. These felted ones look much nicer. Congratulations on winning the crafty contest, Sally. xx

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on July 22, 2020:

Hi Glenn, I had no idea I had won the contest before I read this. This win comes tinged with a little sadness as this cat, belonging to a dear friend, went missing soon after I made the cat cave. She was a free spirit, and a fearful hunter, but at least I still have the memory and the photos I took on the occasion.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 22, 2020:

Wow, I never saw anything like that before. Very unique, and it makes a great gift for cat owners. You did a great job with the clear details describing how to make this Sally. And your pictures add the extra touch that's needed to easily follow along.

Well done, and congratulations on winning the crafty contest with this.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on June 21, 2019:

Hi Kimberly, I hope you do but be careful, this art form can be addictive:)

Kimberly Schimmel from Greensboro, NC on June 20, 2019:

Wow! This is wonderful. I have fulled knitted objects, but never done straight felting. If I ever do, this will be my reference point.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 26, 2018:

Hello Gwen,

It really does depend on how big you are going to make it. I would estimate about 250 grams but I have never made a large one. It also depends on how thick your layers are and even the type of wool. I suggest buying Botany Waste Wo0l from World of Wool which is very reasonable and although you don't get your own choice of colors, you will get 500 grams for about £12. Not sure where you are based though. I hope that helps.

gwen on January 26, 2018:

How much merino wool do I need to make a cat cave for a large cat?

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on December 11, 2017:

It sounds to me as if you either did not Felt the cave hard enough in the first place or you did not use thick enough layers. I would suggest putting it into the tumble dryer for a few minutes at a time if you have one. Check its progress often and then when it is hard enough wet it again and pack firmly with towels with plastic bags or even balls or balloons. Alternatively, you could wet it again with soap and water and roll inside a heavy-duty bamboo blind until the wool felts a bit harder and then you can rinse, hit on a hard surface and pack it again with towels or plastic bags until it is dry. I hope that helps.