Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dying and felting woolen toys

I think felting wool could become an addictive craft.  Wool is such a wonderful fibre to work with, and felting it is incredibly relaxing, simple (very young kids can participate easily), and makes beautiful soft toys.  Yesterday our little one and I made felted woolen balls, of all shapes and sizes.

First we cleaned the wool, tried our hand at carding...a little...and then dyed the wool.  For dying here is what you need:

To dye with berries, use 1/2 cup salt to 8 cups water, to "set" the fabric.  To dye with plant materials, use 2 cups vinegar to 8 cups water to "set" the fabric.  Boil your fabric or wool which you plan to dye for about 1 hour in the water to set.  This will help the dye colour to hold fast.

For dying, we used black currants from the freezer for our berry dye - it made a greyish-blue colour; and turmeric for our plant dye - it made a dusky sunflower yellow colour.  Both colours were quite satisfying.  We heated the wool in the dye bath and let it steep for about an hour again.

Rinse the fabric/wool in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear.

To felt, prepare a large bowl with hot soapy water (use several Tbsp dish detergent as soap).  Then take small pieces of wool, wet them and roll in palms of hands working them into tight balls.  Keep adding small thin layers of wool ontop of the ball, constantly wetting and adding more hot water as needed. Shape into balls of all sizes, or acorns (see below), bracelets, dolls, blocks, other shapes...

This is a labour intensive process, but very relaxing and social - and wet.  Wear old clothes and have a towel or two on hand to soak up any drips and spills!  A great winter activity to do with kids!

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