Sally Gulbrandsen Feltmaker: Her tutorials and techniques are as individual as she is—unique, experimental and always interesting.
Felting With a Tumble Dryer!
Felt which is created inside a tumble dryer is always a lot firmer than felt made by rubbing or rolling the fibres by hand. This makes it the perfect choice for creating a handbag which will get a lot of use.
Add a simple template and a soft, squishy, round Gertie ball to the mix and you have the perfect project to make with small groups of adults or children.
Why Gertie Balls Are Great for Felting
The Gertie ball can easily be inflated or deflated using the small tube which is provided by the manufacturer and sealed with a long plastic plug. Gertie balls can be stored flat and used multiple times over, with or without a tumble dryer. They are great for projects just like this one and are often used in hat making, especially when making felt hats with children.
Things You Will Need to Complete This Project
- A tumble dryer
- A circular template which can be made from plastic packaging or bubble wrap with a diameter of about 17 inches (43 cm)
- A quantity Merino wool roving embellished with silk for the top layer of the ball
- A quantity of red Merino wool roving (or in a colour of your choice)
- A Gertie ball
- A bamboo blind
- A handbag frame, which can be new or recycled from an old handbag
- Dish washing liquid or grated olive oil soap which has been diluted in hot soapy water
- Strong thread and needle for sewing on the bag frame
How Much Roving Do You Need?
The finished weight of the bag is a total of 400 grams. This is the approximate amount of wool roving which you will need to do make this project.
Step 1: Draw the Template
Draw the template on bubble wrap or recycled plastic packaging. I used some which came from the Pickford Van Removals Company.
Step 2: Lay Out the Fibres
- Start on the outside edges and work into the middle.
- The fibres on the outer edges should overlap the template so that they can be neatly folded around the edges when the template is turned over.
Step 3: Cover the Template With Merino Wool Roving
Cover the template with the red wool roving taking care to make sure that no thin spots are left anywhere.
Step 4: Wet the Fibres With Hot Soapy Water
Sprinkle the fibers with hot soapy water and cover with a sheet of bubble wrap.
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Step 5: Cover and Wet the Surface of the Bubble Wrap
Wetting the surface of the bubble wrap helps your fingers glide easily over the top.
Step 6: Rub the Wool Fibres
- Push down on the bubble wrap so as to disperse the water throughout the project and right up and until the loose edges.
- Rub the surface firmly until the fibres are laying flat.
Step 7: Turn the Project Over
Flip the project over and use the hot and soapy water to help neaten the edges.
Step 8: Smooth the Surface
Fold the loose fibres over the edges of the template. Use your fingers and a little hot soapy water and bubble wrap to smooth the surface.
Step 9: Neaten the Edges
Use the sheet of bubble wrap and a little surface water neaten the edges and the top surface.
Step 10: Add the Final Layers
- Cover the final two layers of the template with a decorative layer of wool roving which should be opened out flat as is shown below.
- Run your fingers down the length of the wool roving and they will open them out, after which you can spread them evenly over the surface of the template.
Step 11: Wet the Fibres With Hot Soapy Water
Sprinkle the fibres which have been laid out on the surface of the template with hot soapy water.
Step 12: Cover and Rub
- Cover the Merino/Silk layer with bubble wrap and add a little surface water to the top.
- Disperse the water throughout the project by pressing down firmly.
- Rub the surface of the bubble wrap, leaving the overlapping dry fibres on the edges to be folded over when the project is flipped over.
Step 13: Remove the Bubble Wrap
Remove the bubble wrap and flip the project over.
Step 14: Neaten the Edges
Turn the edges neatly over the edges using a little hot soapy water.
Step 15: Add the Final Layer
Add the last layer of flattened wool fibres to the template.
Step 16: Cover the Project With Bubble Wrap
Wet and cover the final layer with bubble wrap and rub the fibres below using hot soapy water.
Step 17: Remove the Bubble Wrap
- Remove the bubble wrap when the fibres have been firmly rubbed.
- Flip the project over and neaten the edges as described previously.
Step 18: Finish the Final Layer
The last layer is now complete and is ready to be rolled inside a bamboo blind.
Step 19: Roll Inside the Bamboo Blind
- Put the project inside a large bamboo blind and roll it up carefully.
- Roll gently at first without putting any downwards pressure on the fibres below.
Step 20: Change the Direction of the Roll
- Keep on checking the contents of the bamboo blind.
- When the fibres start to firm up change the direction in which you roll them.
- Keep moving the template around inside the bamboo mat to prevent uneven shrinkage from taking place
Step 21: Put the Project Into the Tumble Dryer
- I used the heat setting when the project is being tumbled inside the tumble dryer.
- When the fibres have firmed up but are not completely felted put the whole project including the template into the tumble dryer and tumble it for about 5 minutes.
- Keep on checking the contents of the dryer and when the project looks like the image below remove it from the dryer.
- It should not take more than 10 minutes to get to this stage but nevertheless don't leave it in for this period without checking it regularly.