PAT SPARK © 1995

There are many different approaches to making three dimensional objects out of felt. The object can be hollow like a hat or stuffed like a doll. It can be made of solid wool, with a soft or hard center. Flat sheets of felt can be made which are then cut into shapes, sewn together and stuffed. Or the felt object can be made around a resist so that the wool meets and felts together to create a seam at the edges of the resist, but does not connect together anywhere else. This type of 3-D felting usually falls into two categories. One being the making of an object which is felted together in some areas, but left open in others. Hats are often done this way. The front and the back of the hat are connected by a felted seam along the top and side of the resist. The hat is open at the bottom. The other approach to this type of 3-D feltmaking is to totally enclose the resist. When the felt is almost completed, the object is cut open and the resist is removed. This last method offers a lot of possibilities for the feltmaker. It is easy for a beginner and can offer challenges for the expert.

I first learned this method of making 3-D felt from Istvan Vidak, a Hungarian feltmaker. But later, when I was researching my second feltmaking book, Scandinavian-Style Feltmaking, I learned that this method is a traditional technique in Norway. The version of the enclosed resist technique I am currently experimenting with involves felting around a cardboard resist. However, I have also had good luck using foam backed plastic place mats or flexible linoleum as the resist. With this technique, I have made boots, mittens, berets, pouches, purses, eyeglass cases, slippers, animals, and dolls.

To learn this technique, I have included a pattern for a pair of baby booties. The following instructions are similar to ones I wrote about this process of an ENCLOSED RESIST TECHNIQUE for Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot and Fiberfest magazines. In the SS & D Fall,'95 issue, I wrote about making pouches with children. The Winter '96 issue of Fiberfest Magazine has this information on making felt booties.  



Note: You can use just the mat/wrap and bar, just the washboard or a combination of the two to full the booties.

1. Separate the wool fiber into two equal parts. One part will be used for one side of the bootie pair and the other part will become the other side.
2. Cut out the cardboard resist using the pattern provided and put it on the bamboo mat/bubble wrap.
3. Cover the cardboard with several layers of fleece using one of the wool halves,. The first layer will be placed with the length of the fibers lying left to right. The next layer will have the fibers lying up and down. Subsequent layers alternate these two directions. Try to keep the layers thin. The fleece should extend about 1 1/2 inches beyond the edge of the cardboard. If your fleece is so long that it totally covers the U area between the two booties, you may need to cut it into smaller lengths or cut down the center of the U to free the fibers. Eventually, you will be folding the fiber over the edged of the cardboard resist, so it should be short enough to do this. (See diagrams.)

4. Lay the piece of netting over the layered wool and gently pour warm soapy water over it. Press down and moisten all of the fiber to moisten it and get rid of the air, including the fringe. If the fiber is so wet that you can see puddles of water, use a sponge or towel to sop it up.

5. Carefully remove the net and turn over the cardboard with its layers of wet wool.

6. Fold the wet fringe over this side of the cardboard. This fringe will become part of the felt "seam" which connects the two sides of the booties together. Make sure the wool is folded snugly up against the cardboard so there is no excess to cause a flap on the outside.

7. With the second half of the weighed fiber, cover this side of the cardboard template with layers of fleece in the same manner as before. Cover with the net, wet with warm, soapy water and flatten out the air. Remove the net and carefully flip the booties over. The original side of the booties will now be facing you. Fold the wet, outside fringe over to this side.

8. Cover the booties with net and tuck the net tightly under the outside edges. Pressing from the outside edge of the cardboard towards the center, begin to gently massage the booties with your hands. This motion helps prevent a flap from forming around the outside edge. Your hands should slide easily over the net. If they don't, squeeze some dish detergent onto them for lubrication. Lift the net every so often to make sure that it isn't felting to the booties. After five minutes of massaging, remove the net and turn the booties over. Re-secure the net around the booties and massage this side for another five minutes. Continue to turn the booties and massage both sides until the fleece turns into a fabric which is firm against the cardboard. The massage pressure is very light in the beginning. As the surface starts to harden, you can apply more pressure. When you cannot move the fibers when you gently push on them, the felt is ready for fulling (hardening).


9. Put the rolling bar on one end of the bamboo mat/bubble wrap. Roll up the mat and bar, capturing the net covered booties as you are rolling. Roll the mat back and forth around 25 times. (Because the cardboard has gotten wet and soft, the resist will roll up easily with the felt.) If the wet bamboo is irritating to your skin, wrap a dry towel around the mat and continue your rolling. Unroll the booties from the mat, turn them and roll the felt up with the bar, net and mat from a different direction. Roll the mat back and forth another 25 times. Continue to do this until the booties have been rolled on both sides, from all four directions.

AND/OR Cover the booties with the net and (keeping them flat) rub them up and down on the wash board. Turn over and rub the other side.
NOTE: You can use just the mat/wrap and bar, just the washboard, or a combination of the two to full the booties.

10. The booties should be shrinking and the cardboard on the inside will begin buckling. Using sharp scissors, cut through the centerof the booties. This cut become the opening that separates the tops of the two booties.

11. Put soapy water on your hands and gingerly lift open the cut edge of the booties. Felt the cut edge by rubbing it between your fingers until it hardens.

12. Turn the booties inside out. Lay each one on the table surface, cover with net and massage the surface until it also firms.

13. Full this side of the booties by rolling them from all directions with the bar and mat.

14. Rinse the booties to remove all traces of the dish soap and wring it in a dry towel. Smooth the booties and gently pull and tug to block it into the finished shape. Allow to dry.

Pat Spark  8/30/01