Thursday, March 19, 2009

Using Common Household Items and Inexpensive Tools for Feltmaking: New Tips, Old Tips and Your Tips Please!

Although traditional feltmaking is becoming more common with kits and supplies popping up at local chain craft stores, it is still somewhat of a rare art form. When I started felting several years ago, I had to search local specialty yarn and fiber shops as well as online for supplies. I also found that some common household supplies and other inexpensive items came in handy during the felting process. That made me think about all the little things that I've used over the years for wet felting and needle felting. Some of them have been specifically purchased for the art of feltmaking and some of them have been improvisational. I know that my fellow fiber artists understand what it is like to shop for feltmaking supplies at the hardware store or grocery store! Whatever works well is what you end up using. I decided to compile a list below of some of the odd ball things that I've used and adapted for feltmaking. Please feel free to add to my list with your own experiences. Leave a comment and let me and my readers know what kind of improvisational items you have used during the felting process. I know that you probably have some good suggestions and stories to share!

The Funky Felter's Little List of Non-traditional Household Items Used in Traditional Feltmaking:

Bubble Wrap - Okay, so this one is becoming much more common now and even recommended by several feltmaking books. It is quite helpful during wet felting and provides a nice surface for agitation.

Foam Swim Tubes - This one is also pretty common. Those dense foam swim tubes make a great inner stabilizer to wrap your wet felting project around and roll repeatedly for agitation. I use this in conjunction with bubble wrap and a string to tie it all together. Then you can easily roll, roll, roll, your way to a finished felted item. Oh, and I recommend that you cut the long foam swim tubes into smaller segments according to your project size.

Thick Foam Sheets - I don't know how common this one is, but I personally use large-sized thick foam craft sheets to cut out my patterns for wet felting three-dimensional objects like purses. They make a good reusable relief structure for wet felting. I have several foam pattern cut-outs that I've used over and over again. These do have a smooth texture though so they aren't as good as something like bubble wrap for agitation, but foam sheets are water resistant and easy to cut through for making patterns of all shapes and sizes.

Bamboo Beach Mats - At the end of last summer, I found several large bamboo beach mats on sale at Pier 1 Imports. They were only a buck each! I couldn't resist and ended up buying at least five of them to use for feltmaking. Bamboo mats have been used a long time in the process of wet felting. They are good to wrap around your fibers and then roll for agitation - similar to what you would use bubble wrap for. I always seem to find bamboo mats in the strangest places though. You don't have to buy one specifically for feltmaking. Check out your local dollar store for small size bamboo mats.

Dish Soap - I know that many feltmakers use olive oil soap and more expensive soaps for feltmaking, but the truth is that plain old dish soap will work just fine. I have almost exclusively used dish soap for wet felting with great success. It can be hard on the skin and hands though if you don't wear gloves. I have also found some brands to work better than others.

Pantyhose - Either full size women's hose or knee highs can be of great help in felting smaller items. I use hose to wrap around a fiber covered bar of soap when making felted soap. It holds the fibers in place as they full and shrink. Knee highs are also great for tying around your rolled up fibers that have been bubble wrapped around a swim tube or other stabilizer.

Plastic Storage Lids - If you don't have a nice size sink, table, or bath tub to felt in, a thick plastic storage lid works well. I've used all sizes of plastic storage lids to felt in. Since they have a slight lip on the edge, they work well for catching water. Sometimes I use a plastic storage lid on the counter of my kitchen for feltmaking. Then I just pour or sponge off the excess water into the sink as I work. Plastic storage lids aren't good for large projects though because they are difficult to handle when they are big. I recommend using them as a work area for smaller items only.

Pillow Foam and Pillow Bolsters - I use dense pillow foam pads for needle felting. I usually buy a large square pad and cut it into smaller pieces to have several needle felting surfaces because they wear out rather quickly with regular use. I also modified a round pillow bolster to make a hat form for needle and wet felting. It works better if you cover it in clear plastic. The plastic helps the form to keep its shape, and it will degrade less over time during the felting process.

Those are a few of the household items and inexpensive tools that I use to make the feltmaking process a little easier. I'm sure that there are many more. If you have a tip, please do share by leaving a comment. I always appreciate your input!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips. :)
    Here is one of mine.
    For needle felting I have used cookie cutters as "mold's". I buy the open metal cookie cutter not the plastic ones.

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  2. I took a paint roller tray to a craft show to demo wet felting, the sloping tray makes a scrub-board and the bottom part catches all the excess water making it easier to dump. Then rolled in a towel to finish the process.

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  3. Great tips! I use reed blinds to roll felt, especially for large pieces, and you can fix 2 together if you're felting a huge piece. Cut off all the cords and remove any fittings and you're ready to go.
    Another, perhaps not the smartest tip is to use an iron to heat your felt back up instead of adding more hot water. You have to be sure to wear rubber soled shoes and rubber gloves just to be on the safe side. I figured irons use water so not as bad as using an electric sander for agitation (saw that on Pat Sparks site).

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  4. I've got my boyfriend felting beads for me with just his hands! He's fidgety and likes just rolling the fiber around while he's sitting. It's nice to have a craft that can be done with little house hold things...

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