After spending a good many hours getting acquainted with the new stash of Navajo-Churro wool, there was enough carded to experiment with my first project wet felting the raw wool. I have done a fair amount of wet felting with roving purchased online but this would be my first experience with the freshly sheered, raw, unwashed fleece. Since a large, flat, water resistant work surface was needed, I set up a tarp outside on my driveway. A tote bag was a simple enough project to start with and I basically needed to felt a large rectangle. So I started by layering thin wispy pieces of the darker wool into a crude shape, all going in one direction.
For the second layer I repeated the same step but going in the opposite direction.
With each piece I was making sure not to make the wool too thick.
After I had a few layers of darker wool, I added several layers of lighter wool in hopes that the inside and outside of my bag would be contrasting colors. With each layer I was still taking care to change directions as I applied the pieces of wool.
Finally I had about 5-6 layers. My goal was a nicely shaped rectangle made of evenly layered wool where none of the tarp was showing through.
My next step was to very gently apply hot soapy water so that all the layers were saturated. I poured the water over my hand, pressing and allowing it to soak into the wool.
Once completely saturated, I started pressing and patting the wool. If you have never done any wet felting before it is difficult to describe, but after several minutes of gently pressing, the wool begins to felt and you can start adding more pressure and friction. At that point I used force to rub the fabric for about 10-15 minutes adding more hot soapy water and then alternating with cold water. The temperature change shocks the wool into felting.
When my fabric was felted enough to flip over easily, I worked the other side then rolled it into the tarp. Using my arms I massaged the tarp back and forth many times, unrolled the fabric and repeated in the opposite direction.
I then had a piece of clean, felted wool fabric.
A close up view shows how the fibers have joined together.
It was then time to dry in the sun for a couple of hours.
The result was a very cushy fabric much like a plush rug. A bit hairy, but I guess that is a characteristic of this particular type of wool.
Each side successfully felted in a different color.
I hand sewed my bag together by folding in half and there it is, ready to add some leather handles.
The end product is a rustic wool bag that is a sturdy, easy project to try for your first wet felting adventure.