Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wet Felting With Raw Wool

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


  1. This looks amazing and doable! I tried to spin dog hair as my first attempt but it kind of felted too. I think this would work best for all the leftover fiber I have from that somewhat failed project. :)

  2. Thank you so much for this post. Very helpful!
    I had a bunch of beautiful raw baby alpaca wool & turned them into 2 beautiful scarves.

    All other posts online seem to be trying to sell so many supplies and your technique can be done at home with a plastic surface that suits one's project (for those that don't have tarp).

    thanks again!

  3. Score! What a great find here! I've acquired a bit of raw wool that I'd like to felt with. This tutorial is super helpful, thank you! I'm also in the East Bay and identify with your lifestyle. Like I said, what a great find here in cyberspace...and the neighborhood :)

  4. Thanks for that helpful site. I just had an unsuccessful attempt at raw fibre felting, and should have looked at your site first! I'll have another go back home.
    Thanks from Christchurch New Zealand.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. This was exactly what I wanted to know - I have raw fleeces and want to wet felt without all the doo-dads they try to get you to use and I knew it had to be simpler than that. Great job on your tote bag - looks great.

  6. Thank you very much for your careful documentation and sharing the experience!

  7. I love your blog..I have several fleeces that I want to play with...I have washed it and it is dry ready to be carded...What's your secret to doing it on your own or is it better to take it have it made into roving ?? I want to do all of this myself...I hope!! Lol

  8. Thanks so much for this post. I have a friend with alpacas and another with a spinning wheel and I was acting a go between to get wool to the spinner when it dawned on me that maybe I could felt it. I found this post and with minimal drama made myself some inserts for my favourite slippers that I've just about walked totally through. I now have my sights set on a dog mat. I'm spreading the word and many of us in Sydney Australia will be making felt thanks to you.

  9. Thanks for the blog loaded with so many information. Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for. cashmere suiting fabrics

  10. can I ask you what micron you were using for these samples. I would love to know more but it is not always easy to ask the right questions. Alison Jane. I don't know how long your blog has been around but I am just starting felting and have been given 10 fleeces ranging from 14 to 30 microms. First attempt would have embarrised a camel. x