Thursday, October 20, 2016

Waldorf-inspired art classes for kids: wool felting

Last week the kids in our Waldorf art classes tried their hands at another wool project - wool felting.  Working with soft wool roving in vibrant colours is always a favourite kids activity.  The tactile nature of wool felting is soothing and relaxing, and the art that comes from it is always beautiful even for a beginner. 

In the class we talked about where we find felted wool in our lives - maybe as coasters, under table or chair legs, made into warm waterproof slippers or winter boot liners, wool diaper covers for babies, and even (in some cultures) traditionally made into houses such as the amazing wool yurts in Mongolia in which whole families can live!

There are many ways to felt wool - any which of us hasn't done some accidental wool felting at least once when we shrink a favourite 100% wool sweater in the wash?  The basic idea with wet felting is to use hot water, soap, and friction, to bring the wool barbs together tightly into a wool mat.  The more friction or agitation, the tighter the wool felt will become.  There is also needle felting in which a sharp felting needle is used to poke at the wool barbs to bring them together.  We used several techniques with the kids - the younger group wet felting using a simple ziploc bag method (see below), and the older group used bubble wrap and mat rolling method (see below).  We used white wool roving as our base "canvas" and layered colours on top.  There were such lovely art pieces that came out of this, and most of the kids could have keep going long after class was over. 

How to wet felt with wool:

Ziploc Bag Technique (great for younger kids)
a) Lay out base wool roving (white) on a table.  Mist with hot soapy water.  Press firmly down with both hands on wet wool to flatten.
b) Layer any coloured wool into a pattern as desired on top of the white wool roving.  Mist again.
c) Place wet wool into ziploc bag, then flatten it out as best you can before sealing the bag.
d) Agitate the bag, pressing, pounding and rolling it, to felt the wool.
e) Take out wool, let dry on flat surface.  It will tighten up and shrink a little as it dries overnight.

Bubble Wrap & Mat Technique (great for older kids)
a) Lay out bamboo sushi mat, and cover with one piece of bubble wrap that is a similar size to the mat.
b) Now lay out while wool roving on the bubble wrap, and mist with hot soapy water.
c) Lay out colours of roving into a picture or pattern as desired.  Mist again. 
d) Carefully roll up the sushi mat around the bubble wrap and wool. 
e) Agitate the wool by rolling and pressing the mat as firmly as possible.  The longer this is done, then more felted the piece will become.
f) Unroll then let wool art piece dry on a flat surface.  It will tighten up and shrink a little as it dries overnight.

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