Saturday, May 29, 2010

The magic of wet felting

The weather is just about perfect here in Arizona, so I've been taking the opportunity this week to play in the back yard with hot soapy water and wool roving. That's right--it is felting time! Wool felt is made by taking a mound of soft fluffy roving, and dunking it in hot soapy water. Then you rub it and beat it and throw it around, agitating the dickens out of it until the fibers velcro together and it shrinks down into a strong, durable fabric. And I do mean shrink! Just for fun, I took some before and after shots of this week's projects.

A couple of days were spent making sets of juggling balls. These are made by wet felting wool down around a golf ball core. The golf balls give them a good weight for throwing and catching, and the seamless wool coat gives the balls a bit of texture, so they're less likely to slip out of your hands. With these, I wet felt the balls by hand until I get a good shape, and then toss them in the dryer to finish hardening. Let me tell you, a dozen golf balls bouncing around in the dryer makes a gawd-awful racket, even if they are coated with wool!

The rest of my felting time this week was spent making pocket camera cases. I posted a tutorial on how to do these awhile back, at . The one that I made for that tutorial has been living in my front pocket on a daily basis for several years now, and is still going strong. Real felt is not that flimsy craft stuff you used in kindergarten--this stuff wears like iron! The only real result of being in my pocket that long is that the felt has continued to compress down, molding itself to the shape of my camera and becoming an even denser material.

Here's before and after shots of a couple of the camera cases I made this week. It really feels like pure magic. Abracadabra, add some elbow grease, and you have an amazing transformation.

And for fun, here's a couple of group pictures of the projects. The juggling balls are already up in the Etsy shop, and the camera (or cell phone, or Ipod, etc) cases will be joining them soon.


  1. Yikes... golf balls in a dryer. Don't give my neighbors any ideas!

    Just out of curiosity, can those camera cases be made with outer pockets? It would be great to have something snug fitting for my camera but also have somewhere to put the battery when not in use.

  2. I think if I lived in an apartment and tried the golf ball trick, my neighbors would have a fit! Luckily all I have to worry about is the rest of the family rolling their eyes at me. :)

    As for the outer pocket...I'm sure it can be done, but I don't know how off the top of my head. Maybe if I encased a little square of plastic sheeting, and cut it open after the felting was almost done...? How big a pocket are we talking about here? Hmmm...I'll think about it. (Look, a new puzzle to play with!)

  3. I'd guesstimate the battery to be about an inch by an inch and a half, maybe a quarter of an inch thick (if that). So not a really huge pocket. I'm not sure how "average" that is for camera batteries though.

    Keep us updated on the puzzle!