Felted Vessels

I usually have my students make felt vessels in their second session of feltmaking, and they always have success with Outback Fibers merino wool. We usually start with a quart size canning jar -- preferably a straight-sided wide-mouth jar. The end result is usually something along the line of a canned-drink cooler caddy or (if stiffened) a pen/pencil holder.


Turn the jar upside down and "grease" it with a little hand soap or soap gel.

Take a couple of feet of merino roving and split it lengthwise in half. Then take one of the two pieces and "thin" it by holding the end with one hand (palm down on the table) and gently pulling until the fibers begin to slide away from each other.... but not all the way until it separates. More thin layers are better than fewer thick fat layers. Once you have "thinned" your length, drape a piece over the jar so it touches the table on either side. Place another piece crosswise, and then fill in the spaces with shorter pieces going just from top to bottom.

For the second layer, take a thinned length, and wrap it horizontally, spiraling down slightly as you go from the top of the jar to the bottom. Repeat first and second layers two more times (or once if thinner vessel is required). I would recommend twice the first time to ensure no holes. Pat layers gently to help them grip each other. At this point some decorative fibers can be added if desired.


Take a piece of panty hose leg with a knot tied in one end and stretch it (better with help of another pair of hands) over the jar fairly firmly. Pull it all the way down and over the lip of the jar. Replace jar on work surface and drizzle hot soapy water until well soaked in. Press with hands to ensure water penetrates all layers. It is vital that the fibers are wet all the way through to the jar. If fiber feels spongy and soft, more water is needed as air pockets are still separating the layers of fibers from one another.

Put a little soap on hands and begin to rub gently without shifting the fibers under the hose. Continue with increasing pressure until bits of wool begin to appear on the outside of the hose. At this point you must remove the hose or they will felt to the vessel.  Add a bit more soap if needed and rub now directly on the surface of the merino.

When it appears to have a good "skin", gently slide it off the jar and carefully turn it inside out. Replace it on the jar and (if needed) replace the hose over this side. You should be able to rub directly on the surface at this point, but if the fiber seems dry and loose, put the hose on for a while first.


Once both sides have a good skin on them, slide the felt vessel from the jar and with your hand inside, begin the fulling process by rubbing the felt on any gently ridged surface such as a washboard, a bamboo mat, or a piece of bubble wrap or shelf liner. Rub all surfaces evenly to ensure a smooth finish. An alternative to this is to roll it in the bamboo mat or inside a piece of rubber carpet underlay after you remove it from the jar, changing directions and turning inside out various times until you reach desired stiffness. You may wish to tuck a plastic bag inside the vessel while rolling to ensure it does not stick to itself.

Rinse and re-stretch over a smaller jar to dry. If it is tight and well-fulled, your vessel should be almost 1/2 the original size.

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