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Prefelt and Bamboo Felting Mat - tried and tested

"I've done a small amount of felting, the balls I made for the felt caterpillar were very easy and great fun for the children. There was no pressure, just grab a handful of tops, shape them into a rough ball, add a little soapy water and roll. The felted Santa was a little more difficult. He was made through trial and error but gave a satisfying result. I guessed the amount of fibre, bundled it into little packages and then let the washing machine do the rest!

I've always been put off by the apparent exertion that feltmaking appears to need. A few times I've begun a felted piece and then walked away from it, the results not being as fast as I would like. When Susan bought in the prefelt fabrics and then the felting mats I thought I would give it another go. The prefelt fabrics are made from 100% Merino wool and come in black or white natural. This loosely felted fabric is 120cm wide, (160g per metre) and is sold in half metre lengths. It can be used as a base for feltmaking projects as part of the felting has been done for you.

As the time of testing is late November, I decided to make a snowman. I had intended to make the snowman into a puppet but he went horribly wrong! However, the exercise was worthwhile as I got to use and test the bamboo felting mat, prefelt fabrics and bubble wrap."

Felt Puppets made with a bamboo felting matHere are my findings:

  • The bamboo felting mat made light work of the fulling (stiffening) process. Wrapping it around a rolling pin and rolling it back and forth over a tea towel worked best.
  • I initially placed my prefelt fabric directly onto the mat but after the first rolling, I found that the fabric had attached itself. I was able to pull it off quite easily although this would have been more difficult if I had left it until the end.
  • Putting a layer of bubble wrap between the prefelt fabric and the bamboo mat stopped the fabric from sticking to the mat and helped to keep the components of the snowman together.
  • Rotating the pieces encourages shrinkage in all directions.
  • The snowman consists of two layers of undyed prefelt and a hat cut out from the black prefelt. I sprayed each of these, front and back, with soapy water. I placed a piece of bubble wrap, slightly smaller than the body, between the two layers to create a void.

Conclusion

The prefelt did not shrink as much as I had expected but the pieces did felt themselves together quite readily. The resultant fabric is very soft and dense. Adding additional layers of prefelt would create a stiffer fabric which would probably support the snowman's top-heavy head. Using the piece of bubble wrap inside the snowman's body worked well as a resist and would work equally well for use in 3d wet felting.

Used with upbeat music playing in the background, the bamboo mat made light work of the feltmaking process. I highly recommend that it is used in conjunction with a rolling pin.

Felting IdeasExperiment with the technique:

Here is something else I tried, a simple and fun project The black prefelt makes a good background for the swirls of brightly coloured wool tops.

Alternatively, the prefelt can be worked with a felting needle to add embellishments such as other fibres and yarns.

To order wool fibres, bubble wrap or a bamboo felting mat, please see our range of Feltmaking Supplies.

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