Learn how to wet felt 3 dimensional objects such as hats, slippers and bowls with this basic resist felting method
This tutorial will show you step by step how you can make a 3D wet felted bowl or other objects using wool fiber and some sort of resist. This method perfect for creating items with multiple, separate layers such as Christmas Stockings, slippers and cat caves or pods.
What is 3D or Resist Felting?
One of Webster’s definitions for ‘Resist’ is: to try to stop or prevent (something)
That is exactly what I mean when I say Resist Felting. A Resist in the wet felting sense, is a barrier which keeps fibers from bonding together.
In this tutorial, I used a sheet of heavy builder’s plastic between my layers of wool. If you don’t have any heavy plastic sheeting, you could also use a layer of bubble wrap.
Note: you do not need previous wet felting experience to complete this project, however it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the process. You may want to take a look at my basic felting tutorial.
- Raw Wool or Roving
- Decorations such as Dyed Locks or Dyed Yarn (optional)*
- Heavy plastic for the resist (or bubble wrap)
- Bubble Wrap (2 pieces larger than the project)
- Synthetic Mesh Fabric
- Dish Detergent (not generic)
- Spray bottle (needs to deliver a lot of water)
- Old Towels
- Warm Water
- String, sturdy yarn or strips of panty hose
* NOTE: Any yarn you use must be 100% Protein aka animal fiber. Plant or synthetic fibers will not felt.
Try this beginners Wet Felting Kit!
The Resist needs to be a solid layer of plastic that the wool cannot penetrate. As I said above, I use a heavy sheet of plastic which can stand up to the vigorous felting process.
Your piece of plastic needs to be the same size as the diameter of your bowl which in my case was 10″. If you wish to make your bowl larger, you can use a bigger resist. So, to begin, using the scissors, cut the plastic resist material in a circle.
Note: A couple of things to keep in mind when deciding how large to make your bowl:
- It is easier to begin with a larger resist, since you will have to put your hands inside the bowl to felt the inside walls.
- The fiber will shrink by approximately 30% during the felting process.
The basic steps:
Wet felting can be a bit messy since you will work with a lot of soapy water. Therefore, you may want to set up your table in a room with vinyl or tile floor. You can also work outside if the weather permits. Make sure it is not too windy!
1. Lay out the wool
Hint: You may want to grab a piece of paper and a pen to keep track of the number of layers
Begin by covering the table with a large, old towel. Place a layer of bubble wrap on top of the towel. (If your bubble wrap is not larger than the resist, use two pieces.) Next, place the resist on top of the bubble wrap.
Now, take a piece of roving in one hand and with the other hand, pull (draft) thin tufts of fiber. Place these around the edges of the resist, overlapping slightly. (thin layers felt easier than thick ones)
Then add a thin layer of fiber to the center of the resist, laying the fiber first horizontally and then vertically, overlapping the ends. You want the entire area to be covered with a thin layer of wool.
Note: This first layer will become the inside of your bowl
2. Wet and work the wool
Fill the spray bottle with warm water and add a few squirts of the soap.
Carefully lay the mesh fabric on top of the fiber and liberally sprinkle water all over the piece – don’t forget the edges.
Now, place your hands flat on the mesh and begin working in the water. Just move your hands back and forth a little at first so you don’t displace the fiber. Do this just long enough to thoroughly wet the wool…. about a minute at most.
3. Add wool to the other side
Now you want to very carefully peel back the mesh fabric. Some of the fiber may have worked its way through so be gently removing it.
Lay the other sheet of bubble wrap on top of your piece and with one hand on the bottom and one on the top, flip the whole thing over. Don’t worry if some of the wool comes loose. Just tuck it back in.
Your project should now look something like this . . .
Next, you want to carefully take the overlapping fiber and flip it to the other side of the resist … all the way around.
Now you will repeat Steps 1-3 on this side, again add fiber, wet it down, work it with your hands, flip it over and fold over the edges. Once you finish that, you have made one layer.
You will repeat everything 3 to 5 more times. You want at a minimum 4 layers of the base fiber on each side of the resist. The more layers you add, the thicker and sturdier the walls of your finished felt bowl.
6. Add decorations
So, first you need to decide which side will be the top and which is the bottom of your bowl. This is important because you will have to cut a hole in the top of your bowl so plan the decorations accordingly.
Now, take some of the dyed roving, locks or whatever you have and lay them out to decorate your bowl. I decided not to use any dyed wool locks in the picture, opting instead for just the dyed roving and yarn.
If you wish, repeat adding wool to the bottom of the bowl. I also wrote the word “Love” with a length of yarn.
7. The Fulling step
Now the real physical work begins. Place a sheet of your bubble wrap on top of the piece and begin rubbing it all over with your hands.
Add more soapy water, if needed. Once the top fibers are starting to hold together, you can gradually apply more pressure.
Then, flip the piece over and work the other side. Don’t forget to work the edges, too! Continue felting the whole piece for a good 20 – 30 minutes.
Next, with bubble wrap on the top and bottom, roll the whole thing up tightly in a large towel. Secure each end with some string, scrap yarn or strips of panty hose.
Now you want to roll the package back and forth, adding more water as needed.
After about 5 minutes or so, you will need to check the felting process of the fiber. Open up the roll and with your thumb and forefinger, pinch and pull on the wool. Is it holding together or does it pull apart easily? (This is also called the pinch test.)
Is the piece hardening? Shrinking? You will notice the resist begin to buckle within the piece as the fibers shrink.
9. Cut the bowl opening
This is the scary part! The time has come to cut the opening for your bowl. First you need to decide where you want the opening to be.
It doesn’t have to be in the center…. it also does not have to be round. This is entirely up to you. If you want it to be round, it helps to use an inverted glass as a guide. Also, make sure you are cutting into the right side.
So, take your scissors and cut an X in the center of where you want your opening. Make it small at first. You can always cut it larger.
9. Shape the bowl
Right now your wet felted bowl is pretty loose and shapeless so we need to firm it up. Take some scrunched up bubble wrap in your hand and begin vigorously rubbing the inside and outside of your vessel, shaping it as you go.
Doing this will harden the fibers so that your bowl stands on its own and doesn’t collapse. It is a bit hard to say how long this process takes but you will be able to tell when the walls of your bowl are sturdy enough to stand. The longer you work the fiber, the harder it becomes and the more it shrinks.
10. Finish the bowl
Once your bowl is sturdy enough and holding up well, you want to thoroughly rinse it, inside and out, to remove all of the soap. Squeeze out the excess water.
Then just reshape your bowl and set it somewhere to dry. This can take a day or more, depending on the thickness of the felt and the humidity in the air.
I hope you will try wet felting a bowl or other 3D object. If you need a refresher on basic felting techniques, check out the following tutorials:
Related Felting Tutorials:
- Felting: A Beginner’s Guide
- Basic Felting
- Nuno Technique
- Cobweb Felting
- Lattice Method
- 3D or Resist
- Felted Dryer Balls
- Wet Felted Easter Eggs
- Soap Felting