Wet Felting

Wet Felting


Wet feltingwhat is it

Wet felting – a short history

Wet felting – how to make


What is wet felting (sheep’s wool)

Felt is made by entangling wool fibres, so they matt together. The art is knowing what you want to achieve and how to go about it.

The way wet felting works is by laying the wool fibres across each other, add warm soapy water, and with a bit of friction and pressure this causes the fibres to bond.

You may have put a wool jumper in the washing machine and experienced how much it shrinks and can become almost leather like.

The reason that sheep’s wool can make such a strong bond is if you look at a sheep’s fibre (hair) under a microscope it has a scale system that is uneven and ragged.

When you saturate the fibres with warm soapy water the scales open and with friction and some pressure the fibres lock on to each other forming the felt.

There is a huge quantity of items that can be made using wet felting technique, it is such a versatile medium, from carpets, hats, slippers, scarfs, and the list goes on.

In the last 30 years there has been a large amount of interest in the hand crafting community, experimenting with trapping and entangling and using the migratory ability of the wool interacting with other fabrics like silk this is called nuno felt.

This jacket is made by wet felting

with many pieces of silk fabric

and merino fleece. There are no stitches

In this jacket


Wet felting – a short history

Felt has been used in Central Asia for 1000s of years, it is possibly the oldest man-made textile. The theory is that hunter gatherers may well have used the skins of animals to sleep on, and over time the fibre of certain animals would have become tangled up allowing the fibres to be cut from the skin. The result would have allowed Neolithic people to make use of the felt as padding and eventually making clothing and useful footwear.

Many nomadic people even today use felt extensively in their circular tents called Yurts, carpets, bags and boots.

In 1979 Mary Burkett organised an exhibition “The Art of the Felt Maker” it travelled around the UK. The exhibition and the accompanying book has been instrumental in the increased interest of crafters and artists in the techniques of wet felting.


Wet felting – how to make

Instructions to make a wet felting sample about 10cm x 10cm

It is a very easy to make wet felt. I suggest at first attempting wet felting using a good quality fine merino fleece, olive oil soap grated, bubble wrap – small bubbles and thin sheet of plastic.


Soap Flakes  Put 1/2 a tea spoon soap flakes in 200 millilitres(10 fluid oz) of warm water in a jug or bottle. Put the rest of the soap flakes in a saucer or small container with table spoon of hot water and mix.

If you find that the fibres keep lifting add a small amount of the thicker soap solution. If you use too much it will get very foamy and that will prevent a strong felt, rinse some of it off and continue.


Getting started

You can watch me wet felting by laying out felt layers, wetting and rubbing, on my online tutorial for wristwarmers  Wristwarmer Felt Kit Tutorial – ArtFelt

A            Using the fleece, choose a colour to cover an area of about 15cm X 15cm. Divide the fleece into manageable sections, part along the length and then subdivide the same way until you have a finger thickness. From this you can shorten the length by gently pulling into approx. 15cm lengths, do not cut.


B             Place the small section of fleece on your bubble wrap (bubbles facing upwards) and by placing your left index finger on top of a thin end to hold it down, pull gently away with your other hand. A very thin section of the fleece should stay on your bubble wrap, pat it down, continuing all in the same direction till the area is covered, then repeat at a 90 degree angle. Over hanging fibres are a normal part of the process. You may wish to make a third layer.


C             When you are happy with the way you have arranged the fibres you can start to add silk fibres or yarns and pre felts and experiment with trapping fabrics.

Finally you get to the wet felting stage sprinkle warm soapy water all over the fibres, put plenty on, the worst thing you can do at this stage is not soak it thoroughly, put a piece of thin plastic on top and pat for 5 minutes, the longer you pat it down the less any design you have made will move about.

Once the patting stage is done start by rubbing with flat hands, be gentle at first, rub in one direction for 1 minute, quarter turn your felt and repeat rubbing, this is done 4 times in total so that your felt has been rubbed in each direction.

Give the wet felting a pinch to see if the fibres have connected, if they are still very loose (that is quite normal) repeat what you have just done but with a good deal more force. If you have been sitting try standing and put your weight behind what you are doing.

If you ae making a much bigger project you will have to roll your work, I recommend insulation pipes that plumbers use.

Everyone has their own approach to this, and you may find that having a few goes at wet felting some small samples helps. I would encourage you to watch and try making my peace lily(8) Make a Handmade Felt Peace Lily with Andrea Coleman of Artfelt – YouTube  

See link


D             to finish the wet felting it has to be rinsed out in cool water, give it a good squeeze and roll it up in a towel and put it to dry flat once it is touch dry. You can iron the finished piece..