Sunday, December 18, 2016

Making felted soap & wool dryer balls

How we love wool in this house!  This weekend we held a favourite workshop here - all about wet felting wool.  Participants made wool felted soaps and wool dryer balls, and we talked about all the ways that wet felted wool can be used - to make clothing (hats, slippers, jackets), three-dimensional items by felting over a form, artwork pieces, and even larger pieces like tents and yurts.  Traditionally the yurts in Mongolia are made of felted wool.  The fleece is made wet, then rolled into huge long tight rolls and pulled by horse rolling along the ground behind in order to felt!  Amazing!  Other large pieces can be wet felted by walking on the wet wool, which felts up a large mat in no time at all!  Felted wool is very dense and water-proof, wind-tight, warm and durable, which is why it's so versatile for all these types of uses.

In our workshop participants learned the basics of wet felting while working on small projects, but this technique can be applied in many other ways.

Why make felted soap?
It is a great way to use of small ends and pieces of soap (for soap makers this is a perfect recycling project as we always have small pieces and odd-cut bars lying around); and felted soap is like a wash cloth and soap all in one; plus teh wool felting helps make soap bar more long lasting as you use it - these felted soap bars seem to go on for ever!

How to felt soap:
1) take small bar of soap, wrap in your choice of wool roving (best done in thin layers, to fully cover the soap bar)
2) wrap soap and roving in a piece of cotton jersey cloth (stretchy cloth) and secure with rubber bands
3) dip this soap "package" into hot water that has dish soap added, let it get fully wet and soapy
4) rub soap bar on a piece of bubble wrap or a sushi mat or anything else abrasive, and continue to scrub for about 5-15 minutes (dipping soap bar into hot water occasionally)
5) unwrap soap, check if wool is felting, add more wool or continue to felt it until you are happy
6) let soap dry for 24-48 hours, wool will continue to tighten and shrink around the bar as it dries

Why make felted wool dryer balls?
Wool dryer balls are so simple to make, and if used in the dryer can save energy by cutting down on drying time (they absorb water from your wet clothes) and eliminate static naturally.  For those who use a clothesline and don't need dryer balls, these balls can also be used as cat toys (add a little bell in the middle before felting), or as soft natural toys for babies and toddlers, or juggling balls for older kids, etc.  

Wool dryer balls are great recycling projects too.  Use scraps of old wool sweaters, scraps of 100% wool yarn, and odd bits of wool roving, and you are done!

How to make your own wool dryer balls / wool ball toys:
1) Layer one: Roll yarn or wool sweater bits (100% wool only) into a small ball.
2) Layer two: Secure with more wool yarn and keep wrapping in a ball shape. 
3) Layer three: Add colourful wool roving over top layer.  Make the rolled up wool ball slightly larger than you want your finished felted ball to be, as felting will shrink the ball.
4) Secure this ball in an old nylon stocking, tie up the nylon tightly around the ball, and then make your next wool ball until the entire nylon is full. 
5) Throw your nylon "string" of wool balls into your washing machine with a load of towels and wash on hot at least twice.  Balls will felt perfectly every time!  Let dry well between uses.

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