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Wet Felting: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

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

This is a bird pod which has been completely reworked.

This is a bird pod which has been completely reworked.

How to Fix Felting Failures

Failures can (and do) occur but more so when you are new to felting. Understanding why these failures occur is the first step toward 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!

Extra Fibre Can Save a Project

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 that can be safely tucked away inside the handle. I also find that wood-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 article to show how a project can be salvaged when things don't go quite to plan. Many projects can be reworked 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 the images below show that it can be done quite simply.

Incomplete fulling of the wool fibers

Incomplete fulling of the wool fibers

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

Insufficient Fulling (Right Side)

  • In this example above, it can be seen 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.
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.

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 lilac fibers have knitted together completely.

The lilac fibers have knitted together completely.

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.

The 'failed' bird pod

The 'failed' bird pod

The 'Failed' Bird Pod With Thin Spots

The image above shows a bird pod which was insufficiently 'fulled'. It also had many thin spots. It was reworked 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 eBay. I generally buy merino wool roving as it felts easily and is perfect for wet felting.

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.

Wrap 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 inserted a small block of needle felting foam inside the pod so that I could not feel the pod's walls together.

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.

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

Needle Felt the Fibres

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.

Needle felting the fibers

Needle felting the fibers

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.

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 and 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 hot water. It produces far less foam than dishwashing 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

  • 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.
  • Palm Sander: A handheld 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.)
  • Vintage Washboard: This is a great tool for fulling wool.
  • Bamboo Mats, small or large
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Kitchen Sandwich Wrap: Put this between layers of felt when making 3D items.
  • Rolling Pin: I use a wooden rolling pin or a broom handle for rolling large projects.
  • Curtain Netting: Use this as a screen.
  • Jiffy Bags: You can felt small projects inside these.
A rejuvenated bird pod

A rejuvenated bird pod

Questions & Answers

Question: Can a wet felt project be half completed and left for a couple of weeks then re-wetted and completed?

Answer: I sometimes leave a project for a few days before completing it. For some reason, this seems to help the felting process but I would not leave it so long that it becomes moldy. I suspect that if you let it dry out fairly quickly by placing it on a wire cake rack or on (similar item) you could return to it some weeks later. In that case, I would just wet it again with warm soapy water and continue with the felting process but the honest answer is, I have not left it longer than a few days. I use a tumble dryer for most of my projects. If you are finding it hard to complete a project, I would explore this option too.

Question: How can I join two pieces of wet felted fabric together?

Answer: I think it really depends on whether the fabric you intend joining has been fully felted or not! Please refer to this felted tutorial where I keep the seam area dry to create a seamless join - when the garment has been partially felted elsewhere. Pre-felt can also be joined using a large zig-zag stitch using a sewing machine. Keep the cut pieces aligned so that the seam lays flat. The process of wet felting can then be continued to create a seamless join if this is your intention! I would probably do this in the tumble dryer but watch it very carefully to make sure that it does not shrink too much. Embroidery stitches can also be used to join fully felted pieces together/ I would join them in the same way but embroider over the join using wool to conceal the zig-zag stitches.

Thank you for your question, you remind me that this is an area of felting which fascinates me and that I have long wanted to write another tutorial on it. I do however wonder if we are sometimes too focused on making seamless garments. It seems to me that a well-fitting garment often relies on seams to make it fit perfectly but it is an irresistible challenge for me to do the same without seams.

Question: While dyeing wool locks some of the fibers appeared to have halfway-felted themselves. Is there a way to undo this process/salvage the already felted pieces?

Answer: You can sometimes gently tease or pull the felted pieces apart using your fingers.

Question: I over felted and flat Matt base migrated through and my hummingbird is just a blurry dull-colored mess, ugh, is there a way to salvage?

Answer: I am not sure if you are referring to a wet felted item or is it a needle felted hummingbird? If it is a wet felted item, you may be able to needle felt a little more wool onto the surface. Needle felting is not my area of expertise but I imagine you might have to start again

© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 03, 2020:

You are welcome, thank you.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 03, 2020:

Interesting. Very meticulously explained. Thanks.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 30, 2019:

Thank you, Devika, best wishes to you.

Devika Primic on November 30, 2019:

I had to come back here to see your lovely outlay. Hope all is well with you.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 29, 2019:

I never get folds in my projects when I use a heavy-duty bamboo mat. As I roll the wool shrinks and the position of the wool on the edge of the template shifts as the project shrinks. I never use a pool noodle and don't really advocate anyone using one either. I never remove the template before I put a project in the tumble dryer and have never had this issue. It is possible that you are not rolling the wool inside the bamboo mat enough before you put the project into the tumble dryer. It is likely that you are removing the template too soon and that the two sides are becoming attached to one another to create folds. Keep on checking the project every few minutes to avoid this happening. I hope this helps.

Wendy Anderson on November 29, 2019:

How do you keep from getting folds or crimps in your projects when you tumble dry? I have such a terrible time when I am rolling my projects over a pool tube, bamboo mat, anything - I get a fold or a wrinkle in the project that can't be removed

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on October 29, 2019:

Hi Suzanne, I think you will have to put it down to experience. Sadly felting is not an exact science yet and so much depends on the type of wool you use, how many layers you put down and how hard you felt the item. Sometimes I include bits and pieces from 'failed' projects to add a little detail and I have in the past even reshaped a piece by molding it over a hat block to turn it into something new. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment. It is much appreciated. Happy felting.

Suzanne Linch on October 29, 2019:

Thank you so much for your detailed pod, its wonderful.

I did make a scarf, but it shrunk and is really hard felt, can I rectify this, or leave it down to experience.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 14, 2018:

You are very welcome. I think the lesson learned is that you can always shrink something down, especially if you use a tumble dryer to assist with the process but it nearly impossible to stretch wool once shrunk. I am delighted that you reported back on your efforts. Thank you so much. It is much appreciated.

Anneke Kaandorp on November 14, 2018:

Hi Sally, thank you very much! I did as you said, the stretching didn't really work but by tearing after the warm water, I think I won a centimeter.

Also, I hung my case to dry and I think that helped too, at least to no shrink back. Now it's still not really big enough, but do-able and I learned an important lesson too ;-,

Thank you very much for your kind help!


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 12, 2018:

Hi Anneke,

You could try soaking the item in a bath of warm water and baby shampoo or hair conditioner. After about 20 minutes gently stretch the item over a piece of something like a bendy plastic lid which you have cut to the same size as your tablet. Tupperware comes to mind! Once you have the right shape, rinse the item under hot water until the water runs clear. Don't rinse under cold water unless you have any room to spare as it will shrink back again. I would leave it to dry with the plastic still inside. I always err on the bigger side when making hats or anything else, it is so much easier to shrink something than it is to stretch it. I hope it works for you:)

Anneke Kaandorp on November 12, 2018:

Hi Sally, thank you so much for your great tutorials! I made lovely felted baby boots and felted soaps as presents, all learned from you :-)

Now I made a beautiful case for my tablet, but, it shrunk too much! It is now 1 cm too short. What can I do to fix this, if anything?

Thanks for your help! Anneke, a Dutchy living in France...

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 11, 2018:

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.

Bonnie on May 11, 2018:

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.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 22, 2018:

You are very welcome, anytime.

Valuable on March 22, 2018:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 22, 2018:

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.

Valuable on March 22, 2018:

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!!!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 22, 2018:

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.

Valuable on March 21, 2018:

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?

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on October 21, 2015:

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.

Sarah on October 21, 2015:

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?

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 24, 2015:

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,


Helen on August 24, 2015:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 26, 2013:

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 on August 26, 2013:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on June 11, 2013:

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.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 11, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 09, 2013:

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 from Wales on May 09, 2013:

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


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 02, 2013:

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

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 02, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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.

Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on April 29, 2013:

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.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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.

Vickiw on April 29, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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 on April 29, 2013:

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


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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.

Donna Herron from USA on April 29, 2013:

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!!

Karen Silverman on April 29, 2013:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 29, 2013:

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.

mjkearn on April 29, 2013:

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.