We opened the felting workshop again today for our friends Wendy, Abigail and Lilli. They weren’t able to come in November when I showed the adults in our knitting group how to felt with roving, but were very excited to try it out. I thought it would be fun to start with a treasure box because it is small and doesn’t take long to execute.
Lilli and Abigail started by wrapping a wooden alphabet block with several layers of wispy white roving. Since the fibers were fairly short and the roving wasn’t combed like the colorful bits hanging behind us, we wrapped pencil roving around the blocks to bind it all together. Pencil roving is sold at yarn stores in large rounds that remind me of cow pies.
The next step is to dip your hands in liquid soap and then pour a little hot water over the cube, just enough to moisten your bundle. We make our own liquid soap by grating 8 oz of pure olive oil soap into 3 cups of hot water on the stove. The soap will slowly dissolve and create a uniform liquid which you can pour into containers once it has cooled. We keep our soap in recycled yogurt containers with lids for easy dipping and storage.
Lilli loved dipping her hands in the slimy soap mixture.
Abigail thought it was gross.
Sophie raced on ahead confident that she knew what to do and didn’t need to wait for everyone else.
After the first layer of roving has started to felt, you can add additional layers to make the box more sturdy and colorful. Abigail and Lilli loved choosing new colors from the rainbow roving clothesline.
This is the point where you need to work carefully as the later layers can easily form dreadlocks, felting to themselves instead of to the first layer of felt. Dip your hands in slime and a little hot soapy water, then gently pet the new fibers into place over the first layer of felt; rub the cube gently, trying not to lift up the new fibers.
If you start to see the fibers separating, wrap more pencil roving around the cube, or just take a bigger piece of drafted roving and wrap it around the entire cube, then start petting the new layer again. You may have to repeat this step more than once until you become familiar with the technique. Trial and error are the best teachers.
Each layer of roving will take at least five minutes of constant agitation. Turn the cube over in your hands so every side gets equal attention, or twist it in a circular motion between the palms of your hands. You can try rolling the cube on your tray, or squeezing it between your hands when you start to get tired or bored. Sophie, who is in first grade, can usually stick it out for the whole project, but Owen’s more active body can’t last that long.
Periodically dip your hands in the soap slime then pour fresh hot water over your cube, all the while rubbing it vigorously. Use the hottest water that your hands can stand; it will help the felt to form more quickly. Pour off any cold water that has collected in your basin or pan.
Your felt has felted when you can pick up the cube by pinching just a couple of fibers. When the felt is firm, the fibers will stay attached to their nearest neighbor; if the felt seems to pull away from the cube, then you need to go back to the soap, hot water and rubbing routine. Expect a small treasure box with three or four layers of felt to take around 30 minutes to complete. Blot the finished cube on a towel and set on a windowsill to dry.
Lastly, slice three sides of the cube with sharp scissors, being careful to get the innermost fibers and then extract the wooden block.