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How to Make a Wet Felted Tulip

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

Beautiful Tulip

Beautiful Tulip

If Only Tulips Could Talk!

It is said that if tulips could talk, they would tell many a tale about their origin. However, since they cannot, this shall remain a mystery—except to say that it is likely that their origin lies somewhere in a corridor which spreads between Northern China and Southern Europe.

This tutorial explores how to craft a 3D wet felted tulip using a wire frame and merino wool roving.

Materials Needed

  • One tulip
  • One roll of beading wire or florist wire
  • Small quantity of silk roving in yellow
  • Merino wool roving in red and yellow
  • A little green wool roving to make the stem
  • Paper template (see instructions below)
  • Electric palm sander and a thick sheet of plastic, clear or patterned.
  • Liquid soap, preferably olive oil soap
  • Small electric palm sander (If no electric sander is available, use a heavy-duty bamboo blind to roll the items in.)

Using Nature to Create a Template

Drawing is not my forte. Tracing an image is about as good as it gets. This is why I have begun this project with a botany lesson where I was able to dissect a tulip in order to reveal its inner and outer beauty. Once done, I was able to understand what I needed to create a tulip which comes as close to the original as nature intended it.

Perfect petals on my sample tulip

Perfect petals on my sample tulip

Stunning stripes on the petals

Stunning stripes on the petals

Step 1: Remove the Petals

Remove the petals so that the tulip can allow you into its secrets.

Peering into the interior of a tulip

Peering into the interior of a tulip

Step 2: Observe the Inside of the Tulip

  • You will see that each stamen has been carefully arranged around each style.
  • One stamen is assigned to each petal, making a total of six.
A view of the inside of a tulip

A view of the inside of a tulip

Stamen (Anther and Filament)

This image gives one a clear indication of how the stamen (anther and filament) should be constructed when you start to recreate your very own tulip.

Close-up of the stamen (anther and filament of a tulip)

Close-up of the stamen (anther and filament of a tulip)

Step 3: Make a Template of the Stem and Style

  • Make a template using the parts of the flower.
  • Trace around all the items.
Stem and style of the tulip

Stem and style of the tulip

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Tulip style

Tulip style

Step 4: Dissect the Tulip

  • In order to recreate a tulip using wet felting as your method of choice, dissect the tulip and draw around the items.
  • Make a note of how nature intended the colours to be.
Remove the outer three petals.

Remove the outer three petals.

The rear side of the tulip

The rear side of the tulip

Step 5: Note the Petal Placement

Look from the underside side of the tulip to see how the petals are attached to the stem.

A single petal and one stamen, still attached

A single petal and one stamen, still attached

Step 6: Trace Around the Petals

When drawing around the petal, make a note of the colouration.

Paper Template for the Petals and Stamens

Below is the paper template of the tulip. There are six petals, six stamens, one style and one stem.

Template

Template

Step 7: Cut Out the Six Petals

Draw the petals, stem and stamens and add the design.

The cut-out pieces are shown here.

The cut-out pieces are shown here.

Step 8: Make the Flower

  • Make six wire petals using the silver wire as shown below.
  • Twist and tie the wire to form each petal.
  • Use the template as a guide to creating petals which follow the lines of each petal.
  • The frilled edges of the wire will give the tulip its frilly appearance.
  • The wire should be firm enough to keep its shape.
  • For a realistic look, keep the petals as thin as possible.
Tulip petal frames

Tulip petal frames

Step 9: Cover the Wire Petals With Yellow Merino Wool Roving

Cover the wire petals with a fine layer of merino wool roving. This will allow the petals to adhere to the wire when the fibres are put down.

Three covered tulip petal frames

Three covered tulip petal frames

Six petals are shown overlapping one another.

Six petals are shown overlapping one another.

Silk Roving

Silk and Merino roving were used for the petals. The silk fibres and lovely sheen are perfect for this project.

Pressing Flowers in the Spring

Take the opportunity to pick flowers and press them for when the flowers are no longer in the season. Keep them between pages in a book or buy a flower press. You will be glad you did if your aim is to make flowers which look just like the original!

One frame, one petal template and the original pressed petal.

One frame, one petal template and the original pressed petal.

A close-up of the silk roving

A close-up of the silk roving

Pull off very fine slivers of the silk fibres.

Pull off very fine slivers of the silk fibres.

Step 10: Lay Down the Silk

  • Begin by wrapping one fine layer of merino or silk roving around the frame.
  • Then add a fine layer of silk or merino which should extend to just beyond the edge.
  • Add another layer.
  • Put these down so that they lay in the opposite direction.
  • Use red merino roving for decoration. Use very fine slivers.
  • Complete the centre of the tulip by cutting a small piece of red roving for the centre from a fine layer of wool as shown in the images below using the tiny template piece.
Keep the layers very fine.

Keep the layers very fine.

Lay the fibres in two directions.

Lay the fibres in two directions.

Use red merino wool roving to add details to the tulip.

Use red merino wool roving to add details to the tulip.

Here a small flattened piece of red has been cut from the tiny template for the center of the tulip.

Here a small flattened piece of red has been cut from the tiny template for the center of the tulip.

An electric palm sander with the petals and the hot soapy water.

An electric palm sander with the petals and the hot soapy water.

Step 11: Add Grated Olive Oil Soap

  • Use grated olive oil soap diluted in very hot water.
  • Put it into a squeeze bottle.
  • Olive oil soap is kind to the hands and the fibre.
  • Prepare all the petals and only then proceed with the sanding process. It will save you lots of time.

Step 12: Add Hot Soapy Water

  • Use the squeeze bottle to add hot soapy water to the centre of each flower.
  • Do this one at a time and set them aside.
Wet the center of the petal.

Wet the center of the petal.

Step 13: Fold the Edges Over Neatly

Ensure that the edges are as neat as you can make them.

Fold the fibres in over the wire frame.

Fold the fibres in over the wire frame.

Edges folded in, right side showing

Edges folded in, right side showing

Step 14: Put the Petals Inside a Folded Sheet of Plastic

  • Lay the petals between a thick piece of plastic sheeting.
  • Sand for several minutes.
  • Check to make sure that the fibres have fused together. This will take around about five minutes.
  • It may take less time if your plastic sheeting is thinner than what is shown here.
  • Do a pinch test to see if the fibres have fused together, if not, continue until they no longer move under your fingers.
Completed petals arranged between a sheet of thick plastic; in this case, a child's play mat

Completed petals arranged between a sheet of thick plastic; in this case, a child's play mat

Close up of the play mat

Close up of the play mat

Never use a sander which has a dust bag.

Never use a sander which has a dust bag.

A completed petal

A completed petal

Sanded petals arranged as a tulip

Sanded petals arranged as a tulip

Step 15: Make the Sepals, Stem, Stamens and Style

  • The four S's—prepare the frames for the four items and complete them in the same manner as the petals were done. Please see the images below.
  • In this case, these items will be rolled rather than sanded on a shelf liner such as this one or on a bamboo sushi mat. Both will work equally well.
Wire frames

Wire frames

Cut to length and then twist the wire as indicated here.

Cut to length and then twist the wire as indicated here.

Step 16: Create the Stem

  • Use green roving for the stem and yellow for the style and stamens.
  • Confine the yellow to the top end only.
  • I used a mix of raw light beige Alpaca wool for the stem, coupled with tiny amounts of light green.

Step 17: Prepare to Roll

  • A Duck shelf liner was used for rolling and felting the stems of this tulip.
  • A heavy-duty bamboo mat would work equally well especially if you do not have a palm sander to hand
  • Use a waterproof table or cover the table with a plastic tablecloth.
  • I use is made of marble table but you could just place down another plastic sheet or towels placed on a wooden table.
Lay the frame on the fibres.

Lay the frame on the fibres.

Step 18: Wet the Wool

Wet the wool with hot soapy water in just the same way the petals were done.

Wet the fibres.

Wet the fibres.

Turn the edges in and roll on the drawer lining.

Turn the edges in and roll on the drawer lining.

Roll well until fully felted. You may wish to add two layers to the yellow section to make it more defined.

Roll well until fully felted. You may wish to add two layers to the yellow section to make it more defined.

Step 19: Add Another Layer

Add two layers of yellow to make the stamens and style more defined.

Continue rolling.

Continue rolling.

Add a second layer of yellow.

Add a second layer of yellow.

Step 20: Rinse in Hot and Then Cold Water

  • Rinse all the items in hot and then cold water.
  • Make sure that the items are completely felted before you insert them into hot water.
  • You should already have performed a pinch test. This is when the fibres no longer move when pinched with your fingers.
Ready to rinse in hot and then cold water

Ready to rinse in hot and then cold water

Step 21: Repeat the Rinse

  • Drop each item into a bowl of hot and then cold water.
  • Repeat once more for each item and then rinse thoroughly under hot water and then rinse with cold water with a little vinegar added to it.
Very hot water in one, cold in the other

Very hot water in one, cold in the other

Dipping into very hot water

Dipping into very hot water

Dip into cold water.

Dip into cold water.

Step 22: Dip the Stems Into Hot and Then Cold Water

Repeat the process with all the petals and the stems.

Repeat the hot and cold water on all the items.

Repeat the hot and cold water on all the items.

how-to-use-a-wire-frame-to-make-a-wet-felted-tulip

The Tulip Parts Are Rinsed and Ready to Assemble

  • Having completed the rinsing, I placed all the items on a hand towel and then covered them with a sheet of plastic. I then used the sander to help me remove any excess water and smooth pit the items to make them look crisp and fresh again.
  • An iron would suffice!
  • I was then able to assemble the tulips immediately.

Step 23: Wire the Stamens and the Style

  • Tie florist wire around the stamens and style to keep them together.
  • Put the style in the middle and then assemble the petals one by one, by first placing three petals around the stamens.
  • Add another layer in between the spaces made by the previous layer.
  • Twist all the stems together as shown in the image below.
Wire the seven items together to make it easier to assemble the petals correctly.

Wire the seven items together to make it easier to assemble the petals correctly.