Wet Felting and What to Do When Things Go Wrong?

Updated on October 25, 2016
sallybea profile image

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

Bird Pod

A  Bird Pod which has been completely re-worked
A Bird Pod which has been completely re-worked | Source

Failures

Failures can and do occur but more so when you are new to felting.

Understanding why these failures occur is the first step towards a better understanding of how the process of felting works.

Correcting errors can be time-consuming. It is far easier to follow some basic felting rules and get it right the first time!

Most projects can be salvaged by applying some extra fibre to any thin spots. Do this with a barbed needle felting tool such as the Soledi which I prefer as it has a wooden handle and comes with several additional needles which can be safely tucked safely away inside the handle. I also find that wooden handled felting tools are more comfortable to work with than the ones which have plastic handles.


How to Rework a Failed Project

I have used the Bird Pod I made in my first ever Hub to show how a project can be salvaged when things don't go quite to plan.

Many projects can be re-worked with just a little effort.

In this example, I cover the thin spots with fibres which I took from another failed project. The end result is a much stronger and more pleasing Bird Pod.

Recycling or reworking a project can sometimes be a bit of a challenge but these images below show that it can be done quite simply.

Incomplete Fulling

Incomplete fulling of the wool fibers
Incomplete fulling of the wool fibers | Source

Insufficient Fulling (Right Side)

  • In this example above, it can be seen here that the fibres were not sufficiently felted (fulled)
  • Because of this, I was able to peel a section off and re-use them to 'tart up' the 'failed' project.
  • I needle felted the fibres onto the less than satisfactory Bird Pod using a barbed needle felting tool.
  • Once I had covered the thin spots, I inserted a 'Gertie Ball' into the cavity of the Pod.
  • I then blew the ball up using the plastic straw which came with the ball, sealed it with the little plug and wet the wool with hot soapy water.
  • I then put the Project in the tumble dryer where the felting process was completed.
  • If you do not have a Tumble Dryer, simply insert a Gertie Ball into the cavity of the Pod and rub or bounce the Project on a table or on the floor until the fibres have completely fused together.
  • Reduce the amount of air in the ball several times during the process so that the fibres shrink back against the ball giving you the required Bird Pod size.


Fully Felted

This is the how the same fibers above should look once they are fully felted
This is the how the same fibers above should look once they are fully felted | Source

Incomplete Fulling (Wrong Side)

The underneath side of the blue felt above shows that the project too was insufficiently fulled.  The fibers are still floating.
The underneath side of the blue felt above shows that the project too was insufficiently fulled. The fibers are still floating. | Source

Fully Felted

The lilac fibers have knitted together completely.
The lilac fibers have knitted together completely. | Source

A Side by Side Comparison

Side by side example of the perfectly felted pieces lying side by side.
Side by side example of the perfectly felted pieces lying side by side. | Source

The 'Failed' Bird Pod with Thin Spots

The 'failed' bird pod
The 'failed' bird pod | Source

Bird Pod

This image above shows a Bird Pod which was insufficiently 'fulled'. It also had many thin spots.It was re-worked below to demonstrate how a Project which did not quite go to plan can more often than not be salvaged using a needle felting tool and a few additional merino wool fibres

A good source for Merino Wool to use for this project is Amazon or E-Bay. I generally buy Merino Wool Roving as it felts easily and is perfect for Wet Felting.


Cover the Bird Pod with a Layer of Fleece

Wrapping the ball in a layer of Merino Wool which was stripped from some of the partially fulled fibers which appear above.
Wrapping the ball in a layer of Merino Wool which was stripped from some of the partially fulled fibers which appear above. | Source

Take Care!

Please be very careful when needle felting! The needles are incredibly sharp.

Wrapping the Bird Pod

This image shows how I peeled a layer of wool from a previous 'failed' Hat Project. I wrapped these fibres over the Bird Pod before needle felting them to the Pod.

First I first inserted a small block of needle felting foam inside the pod so that I could not felt the walls of the Pod together.


Needle Felting

Needle felt the fibers to the existing Bird Pod.  The idea is to build up the fibers wherever you find any thin spots.
Needle felt the fibers to the existing Bird Pod. The idea is to build up the fibers wherever you find any thin spots. | Source

Needle Felted Fibers

The thin spots which were once visible have now been filled in the front of the Bird Pod using the needle felting tool
The thin spots which were once visible have now been filled in the front of the Bird Pod using the needle felting tool | Source

Needle Felting the Fibers

This image shows the Fibres being needle felted to the Pod while the needle felting block is still inside the Pod. The small piece of foam keeps the walls of the Pod separate from one another.

Nearly Finished!

Needle Felting the fibers
Needle Felting the fibers | Source

The 'Gertie' Ball Inside the Bird Pod

A 'Gertie Ball' was inserted into the bird pod cavity and then blown up.  Wet the Pod with hot soapy water and insert into a tumble drier to complete the felting process.
A 'Gertie Ball' was inserted into the bird pod cavity and then blown up. Wet the Pod with hot soapy water and insert into a tumble drier to complete the felting process. | Source

Insert the 'Gertie' Ball into the Cavity and Blow the Ball Up

  • This image shows the Bird Pod which has now been completely felted with the Gertie Ball still inside the pod.
  • Once the felting process has been completed inside the tumble dryer you can release the air inside the ball and remove the ball from the pod.
  • Decorate as desired.

Helpful Hints & Advice

  • Choosing the correct type of wool for felting is very important when you wet felt wool. I use Merino Wool Tops or Roving for most of my projects.
  • Always lay your wool at 90 degrees to the previous layer when laying down your fibres; 5-6 thin layers are always preferable to using 2-3 thick layers.
  • Check your layers for thin spots before you add the hot soapy water. Inspect them with a small hand-held torch to check for any thin spots.
  • Use curtain netting or a screen to cover your work before wetting it with hot soapy water. A sponge can be used to dampen down the fibres. Little is always better than too much. There will be less chance of the fibres floating away if you do it this way!
  • You can use any kind of soap but try using Natural soap, such as Olive Oil soap which should be grated and dissolved in the hot water. It produces far less foam than dish washing liquid. It is also much kinder to the hands. Only use a small quantity of soap. Using too much can sometimes hinder the felting process.
  • You only need just enough water to wet the fibres. Any excess should always be dabbed up with a dry towel.
  • Keep your water as hot as possible though there are times when you may wish to slow down the process just a little, especially whilst working on something intricate. In this case, try using cool water and only add hot water when you are ready to hurry the process up.
  • When you 'full' wool, you remove the air from between the fibres. If they don’t tighten, the wool will pill and eventually it will fall apart. I find a bamboo mat, particularly helpful for Fulling. Always change the direction in which you roll the Project. This gives you complete control over the shrinkage process
  • How will you know when your fibres have been sufficiently Fulled? Simply said, the wool will no longer stretch when you pull on it.
  • Use the ‘pinch test’. Pinch your thumb and index finger into your felt and if you can pull two layers apart, then it has not been sufficiently felted. You will need to roll it some more!
  • When the Fulling process has been completed, rinse the Project with cold water. Any soap left in the wool can make the wool fibres brittle over time. The project may even disintegrate over time so rinse them carefully in cold water. You can add some vinegar to the rinse water.
  • Gently squeeze out any excess water. You can speed up the drying process by rolling the felt in a towel to remove any excess water
  • Let the project dry completely before adding any decoration. Wool has a very good memory and will hold whatever shape you dry it in. A full 24 hours is usually needed for the wool to dry completely.
  • Occasionally I put my wet fibres into the microwave and blast them for around 30 – 60 seconds to help speed up the process.

Some of My Favorite Felting Aids

  • The Tumble Dryer– one has less control over the texture of the felt as you can end up with a firmer piece of felt if you leave it too long. The dryer does take out a lot of the repetitive rolling action and save your arms and neck from aching.
  • A handheld Palm Sander can be used to effectively vibrate the fibres under a large sheet of plastic.
  • Please observe all the safety instructions for using electricity near water. Please see this previous Hub; http://sallybea.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Wet-Felt-a-Large-3D-Felt-Flower-using-an-Electric-Sander
  • A Vintage Washboard is a great tool for fulling wool.
  • Bamboo Mats, small or large
  • Bubble-Wrap
  • Kitchen Sandwich Wrap for putting between layers of felt when making 3D Items
  • A wooden rolling pin or a broom handle for rolling large projects
  • Curtain netting - to use as a screen
  • Jiffy Bags for felting small projects inside.

Bird Pod

A rejuvenated bird pod
A rejuvenated bird pod | Source

Fix Felting Flubs

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen

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      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 months ago from Norfolk

        Bonnie, you could try needle felting with a needle felting tool or just use a felting needle to poke roving into the areas which you want more color. You could then try wet felting it with more hot soapy water and friction. Take a look at my Valentine's Heart Cushion tutorial to see the possibilities. If you are like me failure is just not an option, there is usually a solution to most problems.

      • profile image

        Bonnie 

        5 months ago

        Hi Sally.. My recent and first felting project needs an adjustment. The project is flat and well felted but I am not happy with the colour of the middle section. Is it possible to add a new layer of unfelted wool on top and felt the new layer on felted wool? Thanks for your willingness to help.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        7 months ago from Norfolk

        You are very welcome, anytime.

      • profile image

        Valuable 

        7 months ago

        Thank you so much for your advice.They did become smaller but not to the desired shape. I put them to dry for the night and will see how they are in the morning, will let you know. Once again thank you for your advice and support!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        7 months ago from Norfolk

        Try the wall trick, you can hit them in the areas where they need shrinking, more soap and hot and cold water will do the trick. Don't give up yet! I am sure it can be done. If all else fails, wet and soap again, put them into the microwave for about 20 seconds to heat the wool up, cool and hit them again or ask a friend to pop them in her tumble dryer. You can also wet and soap them again and put them on your own feet to shink them. This is probably the safest method. I have never had a problem with something not shrinking enough and I know you can do it but don't be too gentle with them.

      • profile image

        Valuable 

        7 months ago

        hi Sally,

        Thank you for advice.

        . I emerged them in hot water and then in cold and they shrunk a little in length but not in width. Such a pity!!!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        7 months ago from Norfolk

        I don't shrink my items in a washing machine unless they are 'knitted' slippers. If yours are knitted using synthetic fibers rather than wool, they will not shrink. I do however use a tumble dryer regularly for wet felting. It can be hot or cold as it is the tumbling effect which felts the slippers rather than the heat. I would wet and soap the slippers and put them into a tumble dryer if you have one available to you. I don't have any doubt that they will shrink further but if you don't have one you will have to take a different approach. Put them under very hot and then cold water until you feel them shrink under your fingers then you can take them outside and hit them hard against a wall until they shrink further. I know this sounds drastic but it works. Once shrunk you can shape them on your own feet or on a pair of shoe lasts. Let me know how you get on.

      • profile image

        Valuable 

        7 months ago

        I have made a pair of slippers but they are huge... I tumbled them in my washing machine but they wouldn't become smaller. What to do and how can I make them my size if possible?

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        3 years ago from Norfolk

        Hi Sarah, yes you can and it sometimes help to add a few new fluffy fibers to the surface of the, existing project, wet them, cover with bubble wrap, rub or alternatively roll in a bamboo mat, something like a small sushi mat or a bamboo blind will do or roll in bubble wrap, secure with an elastic band and toss in the tumble dryer. I hope that helps.

      • profile image

        Sarah 

        3 years ago

        Once I finished felting (I'm not making anything fancy, just a simple flat piece) and I find out after its dried it's not full felted and is a bit fluffy, can I re wet it and carry on matting the fibres together?

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        3 years ago from Norfolk

        Hello Helen,

        Although not much of a knitter myself, I have felted knitted wool in the washing machine. However, this wool I used was designed specifically for felting in the washing machine and it did work well. I have read that some dyes do affect the yarn's ability to felt; even within the same brand of wool yarn. If all else fails I can only suggest that you wet the project well and place it in the microwave for about thirty seconds. Be careful here as you don't want to burn the wool but you do want to make it very hot. I would then place the hot item into the tumble dryer for about five minutes or until it is felted.. The tumble dryer is a very efficient felted, more so perhaps than the washing machine. Keep a careful check on the hen though as you don't want any portions of it to weld together which should not. In fact, it might be best to keep the item stuffed with plastic bags before you microwave it and place it into the tumble dryer. I would be interested to know if this works.

        Best wishes,

        Sally

      • profile image

        Helen 

        3 years ago

        I knitted a hen and felted it successfully using a brown 100% wool but the other hen knitted in a variegated wool of the same brand and 100% wool did not felt. Is there any reason the straight colour worked and the variegated didn't. All wool must have been dyed initially to be the colour all wool was same brand and 100%, I would love some feed back please. Helen

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        You are very welcome RTalloni - I am pleased you were able to stop by. Felting is very forgiving. Most of the problems are the result of laying down uneven layers of wool. Try to ensure that your pinch test produces a good result- it is so important at this stage to ensure that the fibers have knitted together. If not, keep on rubbing until they do. I appreciate your visit and your comments, thank you very much.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        5 years ago from the short journey

        Thanks for this look at felting fixes. I've not yet attempted it, but felting is on my to do list. Being aware of possible issues and knowing how to deal with them encourages me to move this craft closer to the top of my list--thanks!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        It really is very simple DDE - I love felting and I love photography so it is great for me to be able to combine the two in a Hub.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Incredible work and you have shared such lovely photos in explanation the actual Hub, lots of work but you make it sound so simple.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Think your typo had me there for a minute Eiddwen! So pleased that you enjoyed the Hub and will save it for a rainy day! Thanks too for the follow. It is much appreciated.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        5 years ago from Wales

        This gem I shall have to shave for a rainy day.

        Eddy.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thanks MsDora, thank you so much, I appreciate the visit and also the vote.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 years ago from The Caribbean

        This would seem impossible to me if it were not for your instructions and pictures. Expertly done. voted Up!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Hi Careermommy, Delighted to have you visit my pages again. I look forward to hearing how you get on with your first felting project. Thanks for your comments, they are as always much appreciated.

      • Careermommy profile image

        Tirralan Watkins 

        5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

        sallybea, this is full of great felting info. I haven't begun felting yet, but when I start I will defer to all of your valuable hubs. Thank you for sharing this info.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Hi Vicki, I never like throwing things away. I can't stand to think of those poor sheep growing all that wool on their backs just so that I can bin a failed project. I am all for a bit of re-cycling or re-working. Thanks for the lovely comments, always so nice of you to stop by.

      • profile image

        Vickiw 

        5 years ago

        Hi Sally, lovely descriptions and photos. This will give hope to the clumsiest felt projects! Nice to know the mistakes can be rectified.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thank you so much Chris Achilleos, I really appreciate your comments. It is always so nice to get such great feedback. Thanks too for the sharing and for voting up.

      • Chris Achilleos profile image

        Chris Achilleos 

        5 years ago

        What a fantastic hub Sally, well presented and the directions are straightforward. The bird pod is absolutely awesome. Well done. Shared and Voted up!

        Chris

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        You surprise me ImKarn2342 - whatever were you thinking! Thank you for your comments, they are appreciated as always.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        We all learn from our mistakes and I can promise you, felting gets easier as you learn exactly how your felt should look and feel. I think it is good to share our successes and our failures.

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 

        5 years ago from USA

        Great hub for when your project doesn't work out quite as you hoped :) You're brave to share your experience but an excellent hub! Pinning now!!

      • ImKarn23 profile image

        Karen Silverman 

        5 years ago

        Sigh..i can't even TELL you what I thought this title said...LOL...

        let's say it definitely caught my eye, and i'm glad i dropped in - even if the topic was clearly not what i had expected! You're very artistic and talented...

        also, you must have the patience of Job!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thank you so much Mike, this one has been in the pipeline for quite a while! One never likes to admit to not getting it right all the time but sometimes we learn from our mistakes and I wanted to share this with everyone. Thank you so much for your comments, for the voting and sharing. It is very much appreciated.

      • profile image

        mjkearn 

        5 years ago

        Hi Sally

        WOW what a hub. Amazing amount of work in this and the photos are stunning. Great directions and instructions for using a material that can be difficult to work with. Love the bird pod it looks fantastic.

        I would have copped out having never worked with felt and made something out of steel or wood but it would never look as good as this.

        Great job. Voted up and shared.

        MJ

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