Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tutorial: How to make a Wet Felted Rock

I read the weather report for the craft show I'm slated to be in this coming Saturday, and there is a chance of rain. In Arizona, that also means a good chance of wind. Thinking ahead, I thought it might be a good idea to bring along something heavy to hold things down on my table. Rocks would be good...but plain rocks are kind of boring. I decided that I'd make a felt coating over the rocks, to make them look neat and to fit in better with the theme of my table. Besides, they are fun to do!

Here's what I did:

First I went to my nearest source of fist sized river rocks. That happened to be the dog kennel in my bedroom, because my spaniel thinks he's a rock hound. Seriously. He gathers them from behind the hot tub in the back yard, brings them in, slobbers over them, guards them from the cats, hides them under my pillow, and eventually stashes them in his den.

I picked out a batch. Malcolm and I had a talk. I gave in and let him keep one of his treasures, and took the rest away. He was not amused. This is despite the fact that he still had like a dozen rocks in the crate.

Anyway, now that I had obtained a rock, I also dug through my stash and picked out some wool roving. This is mill end stuff that I got from www.thesheepshedstudio.com/. Make sure when you get roving for felting that you don't get 'superwash' wool. That has been treated to prevent felting.

I broke off a length of roving that was long enough to go around the rock, and feathered it out so it was thin, even, and wide. Then I wrapped it around the rock.

I wrapped another section of roving around the rock at right angles to the first one. Criss crossing the fibers like that makes it easier to felt them together.

I had lots of white, so I used that for the inside layers. Now I added a layer of my base color, again at right angles to the previous layer.

One more layer of base color at right angles to the previous layer, and I had a tribble. No, wait. I had a rock ready to felt.

But I decided that I didn't want a plain colored felt rock. I added some wisps of other colors to decorate it. I know things are going to move around in the next stage, so I wasn't really attached to the exact placement of the decorations. (At this point some people like to put the wool/rock combo into the cut off toe of a nylon, to keep things under control in the next stage. I don't find that necessary, but it can help.)

I took the tribble to the sink, and then coated my palms with a thin layer of dish soap. This serves two purposes. The layer of soap helps keep the fibers from sticking to my hands. And the soap gets down into the fibers, and helps them slip around against each other. Wool fibers felt because they have microscopic scales on them, that kind of velcro together when you add water and agitation. If the water is hot and soapy, the felting goes faster.

I turned on the hot water, cupped both soap slicked hands around the rock, and let the water run through my fingers onto the wool until the wool was wet through. It is hard to show this to you, because I also have to use one hand to take the picture. So this is the wool just after it has been wet down.

Now, making sure there was some soap on my hands, I gently started tossing the rock back and forth between my hands. It was kind of wrinkly, but a skin started to form as the outer layer of wool grabbed on to itself.

Once that outer layer formed, I could toss it back and forth a little harder. The wool started to shrink down against the rock, but things were still pretty mushy. (If I were using a nylon, I'd carefully peel it off at this stage, when the fibers began to migrate through the nylon.)

After awhile things held together, and I could rub the rock and roll it around in my hands in addition to throwing it back and forth. I alternated now and again between adding a dab more soap to keep things slippery, and running the rock under hot water to shock the fibers and keep the suds under control when they started to take over.

Now it was a matter of time. I kept throwing the rock back and forth, rolling it in my hands, slapping it, and generally abusing the wool. After awhile all the mush went away, and I had a solid, seamless coating form fitted to the river rock.

I set it with the other rocks to dry...

...until Malcolm came in to check on me. I put the rock next to him, and he was rather confused. That wasn't his rock, was it???

The dog is convinced I ruined a perfectly good treasure. But I think it will do the trick quite well, and I'll be felting up the rest of the rocks too. (Don't worry--there are plenty more for the fluff brain.) Between the batch of them, I don't think I'll be blowing away come Saturday!


  1. Awww, sorry pup!

    They look great! A strange recreation of a rock's original streaks...
    I imagine they'll serve the purpose perfectly!

  2. Thanks! What a great tutorial. I have an outdoor show coming up and was trying to come up with an idea to hold things down. I'll give this a go!

  3. What a great idea both pretty and functional. Thanks for the tutorial. I will pinterest it.

  4. I've seen felted rocks and always wondered what they were for -- that's a smart use and a great way to make the weights pretty!

    Lynette - Sweet Posy Dreams
    Blogging Buddies team

  5. What a great idea! This would be fun to do with the kids. :-)

  6. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Polyspace, I've done with with grade school aged kids, with smaller sized rocks. They had a ball.

  7. That's VERY cool -- I wonder what I do that keeps making felted things smell like a wet dog? I machine felted a diaper bag and it was HORRIBLE. Maybe because it was light wool?

  8. Oh man, your dog is adorable! And helpful! :)

  9. You had such a great helper - maybe he might keep one of the felted rocks? Thanks for the tutorial, I'll have to try this.

  10. Excellent! I want to make some to use for pattern weights. How long did tossing it around take? (just as a guesstimate - so I don't start something when I have to leave the house for an appt.)

  11. Charla, the big fist sized ones ones took about a half an hour. Smaller ones will take less than that.

    Pattern weights are an awesome idea for these! Now I need to make us some smaller ones. Do you mind if I use that idea?

  12. Go for it! I'm going to get some nice small-ish rocks out of the river and try this next week hopefully. I'll let you know how it goes.

  13. Charla, it takes 5-10 minutes for the felting process for the little (quarterish) sized rocks. I'm making up a batch to have with me on Saturday, to sell as 'Fairy Stones' to the little kids. I like having something inexpensive and colorful on the table so the kids have something in their range too. The story goes that fairies like to sit on rocks in the garden to sun themselves, and this way if a fairly comes visiting the stone has a special cushion on it just for them.

  14. what a great article, so cool I want to try it now! Love the dog, so expressive and cute!!thanks, Carol