3D Feltmaking tutorial

Taking a plain glass vase and turning it into a usable felt vessel.

Firstly you will need to gather your equipment and materials.

Then you can make a sample piece of felt to check shrinkage. ( please see shrinkage calculation tutorial).

If you just want to get stuck in then use a rough 1.2 shrinkage calculation. i.e. size x 1.2 =……..

To make your resist (template) you will need:-

  • a piece of paper,
  • calculator
  • pen
  • ruler or tape measure
  • *something for your resist

*This can be a piece of bubble-wrap, sheet of plastic, drawer liner, yoga mat or piece of lino. – you get the picture. It needs to be flexible as you have to take it out later.

I used lino here. I like it because you can use it again and again, it is easy to find the edge of it once it is covered in wool, holds its shape ( won’t get folded over or slip inside) and flexible to remove. But I also like bubble wrap or drawer liner as they give friction from inside as well.

Measure the height, depth and width. Write them down. This is where it gets a little technical, but not much.

Add the depth to the width and then multiply it by your shrinkage. i.e 1.2 This is now the width of your resist.

Add the depth to the height and multiply that by your shrinkage. This is now the height of your resist.

Draw this rectangle on to your resist material and round of the bottom two corners and cut it out.

It probably looks pretty big. Don’t be tempted to reduce it as you will need it all when the fulling begins. I use a permanent pen at this point to label it with sizes and what it is for. But I am VERY forgetful.

Now to the felting.

For this you will need:-

  • 60g of merino tops ( depends on the size of vase )
  • Large piece of net
  • Soapy water
  • soap bar
  • decoration

Place the net down on your surface ( I worked on an old towel on top of my table, but we all have our own little ways) place the resist on top and start to lay out your pattern. Remember you are working inside out and so when layering you must put what you want to see outside directly on the resist.

laid out. Right way out.

Notice the image becomes flipped – so writing has to be laid out back to front.

You are also working in 3D and so wrap pieces of your design on to the underside of the resist for a truly seamless appearance.

Once you have your design on one side, start to layer your fibres. I always use the fibre splitting technique as I am forgetful. (see fibre splitting technique)

Lay out your fibres in one direction allowing about a 2cm over hang around the edge, then repeat at a 90*.

Cover with net and wet the middle with soapy water. Press the water into the layers of wool gently trying not to wet the edges to much.

then flip it over. Take your time, the water will hold the fibre to your resist and if you try to flip it quickly it may move or slide. Be confident, lift and turn. Sort any slipping and carry any design over to this side. Complete your design and then fold over the wool over hang from the other side on three of the edges, leave the top sticking up. You can use soapy water to hold the overhang down.

I find using the net to fold the edge over and rubbing gently through the net the easiest, it gives a firm hard finish, stops the wool sticking to your hands and saves time as you do it in on big movement, but you will find what works for you. Build another two layers of wool as before- again with the over hang . Cover with net, wet in the middle and press the water through the wool and flip.

fold the overhang in and wet down.

Place the net over, put soap on your hands and apply pressure/agitation to the centre with the flat of your hands. Try to imagine you are pressing through the felt. don’t move your hands in big circles yet, just wiggle your hands as if you are waving, lift and repeat in a different place. try to keep about 1 cm from the edge. This movement will encourage all the layers to tangle into a cohesive mass. Irregular rubbing at this stage can make twice the work – the movement would be untangling some fibres by pulling them back out!

Now repeat the layer building, this time use four layers in alternating directions, there is no need to overhang now just place the tufts to the edge and wet as before. If you do go over don’t worry. Flip.

Fold any overhang in as before and layer again. Flip and fold in. Now repeat the hand pressure and wave movement through the net. The net protects the surface of your felt, adds a little friction and stops fibres sticking to your hand. You may want to lift your net from time to time or it will become one with your work. Not good.

Now add some warm water and rub your soap bar gently over the middle. Rub away. Enjoy the smooth sensual contact with your work gliding your hands in any direction you please. Flip and give the other side some love too.

Now this is important. This is where we make the difference between 3D and seamless 3D. This little trick means people will look at your 3D work – bags, gloves, hats etc and say – how did you do it in one? Where is the seam?

The centre should be starting to felt. This is trick no.1. felting the middle will make the middle shrink, pulling in on the sides keeping it tight on the resist.

If your piece grows ( when you add warm water to wool it relaxes a little and so can ‘grow’ a bit.) and you felt the edges, you get a ridge where the felt from one side meets the felt from the other. This gives the game away. It can be fixed to a point, but it is time consuming and always leaves tell tale signs.

Pull the edge inward and rub the edge. Pull it as if you are trying to get it to come round from the other side. Rub with soap and warm water like this all the way around. Flip and repeat.

Now just give the whole thing a jolly good rubbing. Everywhere. Use the pinch test to see if you are ready to move on to fulling.

I rolled mine up and put it in my rolling machine, but you can roll it in a bamboo blind just as well. Roll then turn 90* and roll again until you have done all four sides. Flip and repeat.

Cut along the top edge. Now you know why you don’t turn this edge down. How would you know where the top was!

Pull the resist out and give this edge a good rub to tighten the fibres.

Rinse the piece and then using hot soapy water shock the peice by throwing it about ten times on to the floor or table. Keep it warm/soapy whilst doing this. You should start to feel and see the piece shrink and tighten.

Once it is about an 3 cm to big for your vase put it on the vase and start to rub.

I have missed a photo of this. I will insert one ASAP

I use a wash board, but anything with texture will do. One of the racks from the fridge, the draining board of your sink or a bit of drawer liner. Rub every side keeping it in place as much as possible. The more you rub the tighter it will get. I know you can’t believe it……but give it some welly ( But be careful not to break the glass). The corners will seem bulky, but just keep rubbing.

Lots of soapy water helps now. As it firms up around the vase, start to rub the corners, especially at the bottom corners. Keep at them, they will melt right in.

Once you have a good fit carefully take out the vase. I say carefully as everything is slippy and you don’t want to drop the glass.

Now rinse the felt and plunge several times into first hot and then cold water. Each time you do this you will shock the fibre a little more. Place the glass back in to the felt. It should be quite tight now and looking fabulous. You can choose to shape the top or cut it off. This is personal taste.

(these are still wet and so still slightly puffy)

Put somewhere warm to dry.

I steam mine for around 20mins before drying. Heating and then cooling locks in the form you want the felt to take. Wool has a sort of memory and you have to brain wash it into your ideal.

Once dry you can use a disposable razor gently over the surface to clean up any stray fibres, this also removes some of the fibres which migrate through your design from the background colour diluting your image.

Finished photo to follow.

Now get the kettle on and enjoy the fruits of your labour.


10 thoughts on “3D Feltmaking tutorial

  1. Joni, you have done a great job, the tutorial is very clear and I have learned couple of new tricks (not wetting the edges and shaving, also how to prevent folds at the edges). I think I should come to one of your workshops, do you still do them? Monika

  2. Pingback: warm wooly slippers for wet and windy winter « Red 2 White

  3. Pingback: 3D felting tutorial « Little Hill Felting

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  5. Yes, someone shared this on Facebook and I’m thankful. Must confess that I have learned all sorts of good tips. Am envisioning how one might steam-set larger felted items. thanks!

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