In order to justify my ever expanding wool collection, we do number of spinning and felting projects that are fun for anyone ages 5 to 85. We’ve been felting beach rocks for interesting sculptures and beautiful treasure pouches here at the campground for the past couple of years. This posting is for anyone who might like to incorporate a great activity into a scouting meeting, 4-H group or a fiber festival. I’m happy to share it and would willingly answer any questions you might have…I certainly don’t claim ownership of the idea.
Admittedly these instructions assume that you have some experience with wool. If you’ve never felted before, find a fiber friend with some felting experience for your first effort. There are plenty of books about felting now too. Once you get the hang of it…the variations are endless…instead of a beach rock, you could use a ping pong ball as a resist…if you cut a slit into the ping pong ball and drop a tiny bell into the ball…you can felt a really cute cat toy.
fast felting wool (attention spans are never that long) in either batts or roving
a rock the size of a chicken egg (anything larger slows the process down and gets too heavy for some of the participants)
bits and pieces of wool yarn for wrapping
a couple of water containers filled with warm to the touch water and dish soap
A bar of soap for a little extra slippage
Bath towels to squeeze out the extra water when you’re done
Sharp scissors to free the rock
Yarn or cords or ? to make a necklace for the treasure pouch
Introduce the concept…
Down and dirty explanation of the felting process (if you have girls with long hair, make a hair snarl analogy), where wool comes from and a bit of speculation of the treasures their pouches will contain. I usually have several pouches on the table so participants can understand the layering of the colors. It helps to set the ground rule that no one can wet their stone until the leader is ready to supervise that part of the activity. If you’d like more information about felting, do a Google search for some terrific websites.
Everybody chooses a handful of wool in colors that please him or her. Spend some time fluffing the wool…make clouds of color. Remind your artists that people will see the inside and the outside of their pouches so plan accordingly.
Wrap the various colors of wool around your rock making certain that the wool overlaps and everything feels even…no extra heavy spots and no thin spots. When the rock is wrapped with enough wool, it should feel like a firm orange…the wool gives under the pressure of your thumb but you can still distinguish the texture of the rock if you concentrate. Thin spots will lead to holes in your pouch and thick spots will take too long to felt.
Wind some complimentary colored yarn around your wool covered rock so that it holds all the colors of wool in place. Keep the yarn tight and and use as many short pieces as you’d like…just tie some form of knot to hold everything together. The yarn is going to felt into each project and become an integral part of your treasure pouch.
Take your bundle of wool and dip it into the warm soapy water…submerging it long enough for all of the wool to get wet (less than a minute). The key is to begin massaging your bundle gently while it feels as though the wool skin is very loose. There should be a few soap bubbles, so if your bundle feels dry, rub your wet hands over the bar of soap. Remind participants to massage as if they were holding a baby bird when they first start so that their felt is smooth and even. Gradually the massage can become more forceful until the felt is hard and there’s little wiggle room between the wool and the rock.
When the felting is complete (usually this takes between 15-25 minutes) you can press the extra water out into a bath towel and cut the desires hole in your pouch…this is the fun part! If someone has an unexpected hole or thin spot there are a few options: 1) make this the opening of the treasure pouch, 2) needle felt a bit of wool over the spot, 3) call your creation a worry bag and tell everyone the holes are to let the anxiety escape!
Remember to have fun…and keep your un-used wool away from all the buckets of soapy water…embellish any way you choose. I don’t have any good photos of the process in my digital files but I’ll plan the activity for sometime this week and upload them into this posting and on the flicker photo album on the sidebar.