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This file is a collection of various messages having the common theme of FELTING AROUND A BAR OF SOAP, collected from the feltmaker's list. I have done a limited amount of editing. For instance, most of the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter. The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors. Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the orignator(s). Pat Spark, Manager of the Feltmaker's List.
QUESTION:*Joyce Jackson asks: A friend of mine wrote me about some felt covered home made soap she saw at a craft fair does anyone know how this is done?
*Rose Kramer replies: I make wonderful felted soap
bars in all colors and using any kind of soap. It is so easy, all I do is
start with a solid bar of soap( the kind that will not dissolve easily in
water). I then wrap a small amount of wool round the bar making sure that it
is covered completely and the wool is even all around the bar. I slip it into
a piece of pantyhose and felt it until it is snug to the bar and not floppy.
There you have it, a wonderful soap and washcloth in one! I hope you try one,
they are fun!
*Dana Sheppard replies: A friend and I tried felting over soap bars (goat's milk soap) – it worked great! You want to use a bar that lathers well. It was easy – wrap the wool tightly around the bar, wetting as you go so it doesn't get "baggy', then wrap in netting and felt. I've been using it in the shower and bath, and it has a very nice gentle scrubby feel to it - not as harsh as nylon scrubbies you buy, but still enough to exfoliate. And it looks very cool...I'm inspired to make some more goat milk soap and felt bars for Christmas.
QUESTION:*Joyce Jackson asks: Thanks. It is early in the morning and when you said put it in a pantyhose to felt I imagined then putting it into the washing machine since that is what I do when making felt balls they are the only thing I use pantyhose for ...except to wear of course.
*Rose Kramer replies: Sorry Joyce if I missed a step. If you threw it into the washer you would end up with a washcloth with no soap! I just gently massage the bar with the wool in the pantyhose and it felts very quickly. I then rinse most of the visible soap from the wool and don't squeeze to get the excess water out but just place on a folded towel to absorb the water.
QUESTION:*Joyce Jackson asks: What would you say are the fastest felting wools?
*Rose Kramer replies:
I have used many
different scrap pieces of wool and they all worked well. What seemed to work
the best though was the wools that felted fast, because, you don't want to use
up your soap trying to get the felt to work. My most successful wool was some
that I had bought from Harrisville yarns. I got a kit a while back showing me
how to do this whole felted soap thing from a catalog called Chinaberry. In
their kit they gave 4 wonderful round hand made soaps. I tried to find round
soap to make more but couldn't so I ended up using Dial with some of their new
clean scents. Would you believe people loved the Dial the best!! Go figure!
Also in the kit was wool that sure felt like Merino.
*Pat Spark replies: Fast felting wools which would be scratchy and good to use around soap as a rough surface (like a loufa): karakul, Cotswold, Scottish black faced, Icelandic, Gotland, Norwegian felting batts from Norsk Fjord Fiber (a combination of Norwegian long wool and Gotland). Fast felting wool which would be very soft: merino. The wool covered soaps I've seen are usually made with the coarse wool so that the bar can help with (I think it's called) exfoliating. That is removing dead skin.
*Jill Gully replies: I have made numerous felted soaps using my merino and I find the finish is not as hairy as the coarser wools. However, I kinda like to put some of the coarser wool underneath the merino because it gives a more sponge-like texture which feels good. With 56 colors of merino in stock, I can make spiral rainbow-colored outer coverings which look really neat, or I like to use green with a swish of purple to look like lavender.
QUESTION:*Lynne Holtrust asks: I was wondering if anyone knows the 'ball park' price one would ask for these felted soaps.
Jackson replies: I have heard of them selling for 7 to 12$
*Rose Kramer replies: I have sold them for 5$ to 6$ and they went like hotcakes! I figured that I spent hardly anything for the wool since it uses so little and the soap was not much either.
*Angie Carnahan replies: In the latest issue of Interweave Knits, they show a California artist's felt bars selling for $10.95.
*Virginia Hewson replies: Have you seen the felted soaps in the new Interweave Knits for Fall 2001 (page 6)? they are made by a California artisan, Jan Edwards. She calls it "Soap in a Sweater" and they sell for $10.95 each. There has been so much interest in felted soaps lately I thought I would bring this to everyone’s attention.
QUESTION:*Deb Potter asks: I mentioned the felted bars of soap to another "fiber friend" last evening. We both thought they sound wonderful but wondered what keeps the soap from turning into a yucky mass - I guess maybe this mindset because we're always looking for the perfect soap dish that allows the soap to air dry between uses.
Wilkinson replies: After using felted soap each time rinse it quickly
under running water and leave to dry on bath rack or soap drainer. The felt
part will eventually be hollow, once the soap has all gone, and then you can
clean the bath with it - waste not, want not <g> The trick is to find the
right soap that will froth through the felt but not too much, or it does stay
soggy and also gets used too quickly. Round glycerin soaps would be good.
Rectangular bars make for weak points in the felt covering. We tried
several soaps (living where we do made it interesting, we had to get a shop in
town to send us a batch of different soaps to try...I gave up trying to
explain to them that we were felting soap!! )
*Rikki replies: was given a bar of felted soap as a gift. The felt turned yellow, there were mold marks after a few weeks and all in all, I was persuaded not to try making these. It was a small round cake of soap. Very appealing before use. BTW, I use liquid soft soap or body wash just because I got tired of the mess of bar soaps.
*Deb Potter replied: Thanks for the quick replies! I have a friend who makes a well-air-cured goat milk soap that may be worth trying. I'm also wondering about buying some round glycerin soaps & leaving them out to air/set longer. Of course, it probably still won't be the kind of gift I give to my in-laws in Florida where mildew is the state flower!
QUESTION:*Lorraine Kent asks: I want to make some felted soaps as small Christmas presents. Some time ago people were talking on the list about making these & I tried to-day, using what I could remember from the posts. I used combed top but when the felt dried around the soap, the surface was slightly hairy. Did I not continue felting long enough or is this the way the felt looks? I didn't want to wear away the soap. Would someone be kind enough to send detailed instructions on how to felt over a cake of soap, please?
Carnahan replies: When I felt soap, I wrap the roving around the soap, add
a design, then wrap a piece of sheer fabric (like netting) around that....I
then wet the soap, tap it on the washboard a couple of times, and then proceed
to rub it on all sides on the washboard, adjusting the fabric as necessary. I
use Merino wool.
*Lorraine Kent answered; Thanks, Angie. I used fine merino top over goat's milk soap, wetted down with warm water, wrapped in plastic then rubbed over bubble wrap to felt & finally removed plastic & finished by hand-rubbing as if I were washing my hands. When it dried, I snipped off little neps then burnished it on a hard surface. This morning, looks quite good. I'll try again to-day using the netting idea. Will also try a design with plain coloured top. The one I used was a multi-coloured blend.
*Lynn H replies: Basically, you get the soap and wrap roving/top around it, first one way then the other, and then the first way again. Make particular effort to make sure the corners are covered well, or use a knife to round off the corners before you start so you don't end up with empty patches. Wrap the roving much tighter than you normally would with feltmaking. I often add a strip of pencil roving or feltable yarn wrapped 'round the whole thing, to hold it tighter at first. I've found that people like best, the ones that have a watercolor look by using perhaps 3 versions of green on one soap, or 3 versions of purple, or 2 purples and a blue. The more colors, the better they sell in general.
Then you just wet the whole thing, carefully so it doesn't knock the wool off it's place (you can dunk it in warm-to-hot water and hold it there till it all is wet, or you can sprinkle the item with a sprinkler bottle 'till it's evenly wet). wrap in a netting (can get mosquito netting at a PX/army surplus or use crummy net-like curtain material like I found at a garage sale... or even double knit polyester, but then you can't see through the fabric to see what's going on). Then rub rub rub. If you have a washboard, rub on the washboard. At first be gentle, then add friction as it starts to hold together better. I find it starts to shrink best if I make it go round and round in my hands one way, then round and round the other way. Pay attention to the tiny sides of the soap, they need to shrink, too.
After the fiber is starting to hold together, I often shock the fiber by running very hot water over it, then running very cold water over it. You can also "whop" the soap against the side (prepare for a splash of soapy water) to shock the fibers into shrinking. With regular felt, it really works fast when you throw the felt so this is useful when it acts like it doesn't wanna shrink. When you are done, blot as well as you can with a terry towel and place where it will dry on all sides (I cheat and put it on my floor heat vent). Very lovely. I particularly like wrapping with mohair yarn. Mohair takes color so well, and it's so shiny, that it makes a good contrast. You'll find your own way to do it.
The limitation of felting solid objects is that you can't really lay the wool out as well. When I felt a flat piece, I pull out little bits and lay them down like shingles on a roof going horizontally, then i do the same but vertically, then I repeat horizontally again. I use 3-5 layers. This makes it so that there are zillions of fiber ends ready to tangle. When I wrap things (soap or plastic flamingos, or beautiful bottles to make vases) I can't do that or it won't stay on the surface long enough to felt. So that means it takes longer to felt. Don't give up. At first just press and rub lightly until the fibers start locking together. Take the net off when it's holding together well enough that you don't need it. The net is just to keep the fiber from going all over your hands rather than sticking to the object. Net can introduce wrinkles to the piece so you might want to unwrap occasionally.
I am somewhat new to feltmaking (took to it like a duck to water this past April). I use Australian wool, very fine merino-blend, which felts fast. I know merino is good, and I know people on my feltmaking list talk about Romney. I don't know any other info about which wools are good or not. The Feltmakers list Frequently Asked Questions page is jam-packed with info (you have to look a bit because it's crowded). That page is at: http://www.peak.org/~spark/feltlistFAQ.html and it's put together by Pat Spark, a well-known author on feltmaking. I've written too much, let me know if you need more info but by now you probably have TMI (as the teens in my life say, Too Much Info).
QUESTION:*Lorraine Kent asks. Lynne H., Thanks for info. but what do you mean by: "I particularly like wrapping with mohair yarn."? Felting this on to the soap casing? Wrapping around the dried soap? Wrapping the soap in clear plastic/cellophane then tying the package with mohair? Yes, mohair dyes well & retains that sheen. I used to breed angora goats & dyed their fleeces -often in outrageous colours for wigs for dollmakers.
H replied: What I meant was... I wrap the soap with different-colored top,
then I wrap mohair yarn (or thin strips of top, like unspun yarn) around the
top before wetting/felting. It makes things easier to handle until the fibers
start felting to themselves, and it adds a lovely design element. For me, a
color-fanatic, there is the extra bonus that mohair yarns can be so intensely
dyed. I have a brushed purple mohair yarn that is pretty, and I tried some
Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals that also was just beautiful.
I hope that fixed my lack of clarity. I did take some electronic pics of my soaps and intend to manipulate them/make them smaller, and then send them to Dana. It wasn't my idea by a long shot... I heard about it from this list. But it was so fun to do and I sold every one I made (about 2 dozen) plus I took an order for 4 to be delivered after the show, for a friend.
By the way, I figured out that they take me about 15-20 minutes apiece and the soaps cost $0.50- $1.00. Someone on the list had mentioned that they would sell like hotcakes at $7, and although I realized that meant my wage per hour would be nothing near what I make computer consulting, I was also dead broke (business line is just not ringing much this year) so I went for quantity sales versus high wages. Maybe I can figure out how to wrap them faster or buy soap cheaper, too. I think the felting process just won't speed up any faster than I already have it going.
Anyway, I sold 28 soaps at $7 apiece (and that was on top of some other items I sold... felt, knitting, and a little polymer clay) so I had the best show I've ever had... that is, I didn't lose money this time. I think switching to fiber from polymer this year was helpful for sales... people understand fiber better than polymer, and the colors I used were a bit more muted this time (I'm a color-holic and sometimes over-color things for my conservative, Midwestern market).In any case, making the soaps was way more fun than making a zillion polymer keychains, and way faster, too. It was a blast!!!
QUESTION:*Christina Coghill asks: With all of this talk of felted soap I decided to make some up for extra X-mas Gifts. Would Ivory Soap be ok to felt over? (Thats all I have in the cabinet at this time.)
H replies: I used mostly Ivory soap. I also tried Irish Spring but it was
so stinky I had to lock it in my entryway with a closed door. Also found some
quite lovely cocoa butter soaps at the "Family Dollar" super-discount store.
The main problem with Ivory is that the bars are really square on the corners.
It's easy to end up with thin spots there, so watch for that. Otherwise it
worked fine and people bought them just as fast as the curvy/scented soaps.
*Lynne Holtrust replies: Ivory works great....next time I will carve the square corners off (as someone suggested). The oval shaped glycerine bars were the absolute best to do...roll around your hands real nice.
*Sandra Duvall replies: I made felted soaps last week for gifts for some fiber friends. Time sneaked up on me and some of the felt was not dry in the morning. I used Ivory soap. Well, I thought I could heat the wool up a bit to hasten drying by putting it in the microwave for a few seconds. I put the time on 3 minutes instead of 30 seconds!!! Hot Ivory soap expands like a giant Marshmallow and stretched through the felt. It definitely found weak spots in the felting. What a wild mess !!! When the " sculptures" cooled down the soap became brittle. I just stood there and laughed . Moral of the story: Don't microwave Ivory Soap in Wool !
QUESTION:*Donna Mouton asks: I have been reading about felting soap with great interest. What happens as the soap gets smaller? Does the felting shrink also?
*Nancy Sottosanti replies: I made some several years ago, and some were hairy--depending on the soap. They did matt down as folks used them. I used a coarse fiber over an anti-bacterial soap to be used at the garden sink; then a finer fiber over the 'delicate soaps' for the bath. I did find out that folks didn't want brown fiber which I thought was better for the garden sink.
QUESTION:*Emily Callaway asks: I had my first fling with felt covered soap this weekend, and they are beautiful! But I am worried about the whole issue of the fibers breaking down because of the high soap content. Do any of you have any suggestions as to minimizing this? Or, without treatment, how long can you expect the wool wrapping to hold up? (these aren't destined to be sold until October or so...they're Corriedale fiber)
Higgs replies and asks: I make soap slips for our family use all the time.
They hold up quite well for long periods of time. Yours should too. What kind
of soap are you using in your felted soap? Handmade or commercial?
*Emily Callaway replies: I used a commercial (but yummy all natural ingredients... Sappo Hill brand name) soap for the first batch, but have dreams of teaming up with a local artisan soapmaker and splitting the marketing venture.
Major asks: As a soapmaker, I am curious about these and have a few
1. What is the purpose of the felted bar??
2. Do they sell well and what are people charging for them?
3. Has any customer complained of skin irritation?
4. Are you able to use the soap down to the last bit??
1. You have a cloth and soap in one, plus they are nice. My potter friend asked for them as they scrub her hands nicely to get rid of the clay.
2. They sell relatively well, but I would only make a limited supply. I price them at $5.00CND.
3. No complaints. Should be none anyway. Why do you ask?
4. The felted bar is more likely to be able to be totally used up than a "normal" bar of soap.
QUESTION:*Eleny asks: I guess I'm a little confused. Do you just add bits of wool to each mold and then pour in the soap? At first I thought that the felt was wrapped around the bar and you just got it wet and the soap would bubble thru to the surface. But I guess not. I make melt 'n pour soap for holiday gifts and would like to try this soon.
Rasku replies: You were right the first time. The wool is wrapped around
the bar and is felted onto the bar. I guess you could add the wool to the
soap, much like loofa and get a scrubby type of bar, but since I don't make
melt and pour soap I would not do that and the alkali in the unaged soap would
degrade the wool.
*Helen Swartz replies: In making felt bars of soap, do not put the wool with the soap making process. The soap is made and cured first. Or, you can purchase any brand of soap to use in making felt soap bars. Then, you put the roving, pieces of batts or carded wool in white, colors or combinations of colors around the soap. You then begin the process of felting just like you would making any felt object. Some put the wool around the bar of soap, make sure it is well covered, I usually use three layers. Then you either begin the soft felting process to help make the wool snug around the soap bar or some use a sander (without the sandpaper) and that is faster.
You will know when the wool has reached the soft felt stage, it will take the shape of the bar of soap. You now need to reach the fulling stage where the wool is tight around the soap bar. You then have the bar of soap and the cloth all in one and they are especially nice for feet, elbows, and skin that needs exfoliating. When you use up all of the soap, the wool will still remain intact without soap in it. You can use the bar of soap until all of it is used up.
*Jill Gully replies: make my felted soaps by wrapping a bar of soap (one with rounded corners, preferably) with carded batting, and gently needling the wool just enough to hold it in place. I then take a lengthwise strip of my spiral dyed wool roving and attach it with the felting needle at one end. I then carefully spiral the wool down and around the soap, needling gently in just enough places to hold the wool in place. This puts a pretty spiral design on the outside. I then dunk the bar in warm water, add some soap gel to the outside and gently massage it. I only rub long enough to form a skin on the felt. I find extended rubbing only causes the soap to begin to lather, and then everything gets too soapy. Since it is going to get "fulled" when you start using it, I actually prefer to leave it at the softer stage so that the wool will shrink with the use of the soap... at least until the soap gets pretty small. If you are afraid of shifting the fibers, you can place the wool covered soap into a piece of stocking/hose to hold it in place while you wet it and rub it. With merino, it only takes about two or three minutes of rubbing to form the skin. Just pat it dry in a towel and place it to dry on a cookie cooling rack.
McIver asks: So, finally to my questions. Just in starting out I've used
ivory (a crowd pleaser) and some glycerin type soaps along with several other
of the more "natural" variety. The glycerin bars seem to become soft and
squishy with use (not sure I like that sack of sand look that can come from
squeezing too hard) and even the ivory bar can become squished if a apply a
certain amount of pressure.
Question: do most soaps do this? Do you consider it a problem? I've been planning on teaming up with one of the local soap makers and maybe getting some of their seconds (slight chips, mottled colours) but don't know if home-made soap tends to be harder or softer than these aforementioned. (would it depend on whether animal fat or plant oils are used?)
Also, I have only had them for a week or so and wonder if it is always true that they felt down along with the bar, it makes sense with the scrubbing action being the same as felting but what if someone leaves the soap soaking in the tub while they bathe or in a puddle of water by the sink?
Is there a size of bar that is better than others? For example I find the big ivory bars take longer to dry after use and so the next time one uses them they can be cold and clammy (not the nicest tactile experience).
I personally am finding the ivory bar smell no longer to my taste and would like to use some of the essential oil scented bars out there but don't want to have something turn mushy on me so any suggestions would be helpful. I wouldn't even mind making my own soap if it can be used for felting as my favorite soap maker is looking for another occupation. I remember talk of an olive oil soap recipe for felting but wonder if it results in a hard bar.
replies: You could certainly make your own soap! It has to cure for several
weeks unless you use hot process. The hardness of the soap depends on the oils
used. I use olive, cocoa butter and palm oil in my soaps to make them hard.
They last a very long time, though any soap that sits in a puddle of water
won't last as long. Some people will add a little melted beeswax to the oils
when making soap to make the soap even harder and longer lasting, but I have
heard it cuts the lather a bit. I would then make sure to use castor oil
and/or coconut oil to boost the lather. If you want to buy soap to use now
avoid glycerin, an all olive oil castile soap is a much harder bar.
*Monica Bennett replies: Using hand made soap may push your price too high, unless you can get a really cheap supply. Also, it will probably need to cure well so that it gets really hard. For my part, I have found that the cheap, scented soaps I can get in the Chinese import stores work very well. The bars I use come in Jasmine, Rose and Sandalwood scents, are made from good, hard soap, lather up nicely, and seem to make good, felted soaps. I find that the trick is to wrap the bar well and evenly and to start the felting in the toe of a nylon stocking to hold it all in place until the wool starts to hold together. That way I don't have to rub too much or too hard before it is well felted. I have made them for gifts last year and to sell this year at our farmers' market and the craft fairs. I put a tag with each bar that tells the user to store the bar on a rack out of water so it can dry well between uses. So far, no complaints (and I live on a small island so I would have heard back by now.) Good luck!
*Ann McElroy replies: Home made soap can work fine. I make sheep's milk soap and it works fine without going soft or mushy. Now the bars I am using are well cured. The longer you let soap sit in the open the harder it gets. Glycerin soaps don't work as well as glycerin attracts moisture. Coconut oil based soap lathers well in all water but tends to be drying. Lavender is by far my best seller and from talking to other soap makers it is the same for them. Flowery smells tend to sell best in summer and spicy or exotics in winter. If you don't want to make your own from scratch are a several soap making ingredient suppliers on the net that sell melt and pour soap in many varieties. You can add your own scent to these. These make very nice soaps as a rule.
*Nancy Gilkeson replies: I have been felting over soap at intervals over the past year to give as gifts and last month sold 20 in a guild booth at a craft fair. I took with me two used bars....out of sight until needed to show a customer who was skeptical, then I brought them out and revealed my 5 month "used up" shower bar....cut down the middle so one could see the soap was gone, the wonderful fragrance remained and nothing nasty about the smaller felt which remained. The 2nd bar was a 4 month used shower bar, which still had a layer of soap within and firm, and pleasant in fragrance. My experience is that the "goat soaps" seconds purchased from a friend, were the best re: outcome (ease of felting, fragrance, long lasting) and I did use a nice slightly oval shaped French milled soap made in Seattle by Truescents which was comparable to the homemade soaps. I liked the more rounded edges of the oval bars for working the felting with my hands. It was as smooth to felt as washing hands with a bar of soap!!! While making felt soaps at a relatives in Nevada, (to leave with them) I had to rely on store bought soap and used Oil of Olay and Camay as they were shaped nicely. Neither felted as fast using the same fibers, and I think that they just didn't lather the same. I thought perhaps the pH differed or something. They were not as impressive to felt nor as fragrant.
*Becky replies: I use the Ivory, but let it completely dry out (cure?) before using it. Soap that is unwrapped and left this way lasts longer than freshly unwrapped soap.
*Chris White answers: Your questions and comments about the soaps are right on target. In my opinion, hardness is the key not only to their duration but also in time spent felting them. I make hundreds of these soaps, they pay the bills for me. I started out by working with a local soapmaker and we've enjoyed a good long relationship, but she can no longer keep up with my orders, so I'm trying to find additional sources. (The problem is quality control when you begin to use more than one person). Anyway, she used 100% olive oil and kept the bars a month a and a half to cure before allowing me to pick them up. I found that I was happier adding one or two months curing time onto that. We worked together to create some essential oil blends and also used some of her best-selling scents. As mentioned by Ann, lavender is probably the best seller. Peppermint does well in the winter around the holidays. And as you foresee, having the leftover soap chips is great - a constant source of gel for felting. I think that a hard soap with less lather is easier to full. Too much froth and the fibers are just floating around, it's difficult to get the felt tight. My very first soaps and some others I see have a spongy covering of felt around them, but I like to make sure the felt is as tight and hard as possible because they always fluff up a little as they sit on display. The downside to this is that they don't produce a huge amount of detergent-like lather which some people expect, so I explain the high lather vs. good for your skin trade off on the tag. Like Monica, I include a tag explaining what it is and how to set the bar on its side if you don't have a soap dish to keep it from drying out. I would say that talking about the soaps is the key to selling them. When I did art fairs, I sold them there and I always sold a lot of them because I could demonstrate it. Now I have a few devoted galleries where the sales people know how to explain what they are and talk them up. This has made all the difference. (One well known place that carried them didn't move many because they just sat on a shelf without much explanation other than the attached card.) And yes, they do continue to shrink. I tell people to use the scented bit of leftover felt for sachets, cat toys, ornaments and little finger puppets.
Swartz replies and asks: Just an e-mail to say that I have covered all
kinds of soaps and never had a bar to go soft with use. Homemade, Ivory and
glycerin soaps all work well but my problem is not with the felt nor with the
soap getting soft but with the dyes coming off in the soap tray between uses.
Not that it bothers me but acid dyes should not do that but they do!!
Especially the red ones. My bars are solid as a rock until used in their
entirety. I hard felt the bars as was mentioned using the nylon hose feet to
begin and then hard felt the bars after taking them out of the socks. They
peal off because they actually felt to the nylon knitted material.
The soap works so well feet, elbows and such. Some teenagers told me they help remove oil and subcutaneous cells from their face making their skin softer and free of pimples. I love them and have not had any complaints about them even the dye leaching. I am now using the natural colored wool with no loss of color in the soap dish. I have put some strips on the soap for decoration with no problems with a small additional stripe of acid dyed wool.
If someone knows the secret of using a dye for the wool to prevent the color loss in the soap dish after the bar has been wetted, I would love to hear from you. Thanks in advance.