This is an activity that is easy to do with young kids, though they might get a tiny bit wet! These would be cute gifts to make for grandparents.
To get started you need:
-A bar of soap
-1-2 ounces of wool-a soft fiber such as merino
(avoid superwash which won’t wet felt)
-A ziploc bag
-Dish soap, or another bar of soap
If your soap is rectangular, first take a vegetable peeler and to round the edges a bit. This will make it easier to cover the soap bar completely without any corners peeking out.
Now you can begin wrapping the bar of soap with wool. I usually start with a base layer of plain white fiber, though any color is fine. Pull off pieces of wool roving that are about one inch thick and two feet long to make this easier. Try to wrap tightly without twisting the fibers to help keep the surface as smooth as possible.
Once you have wrapped the soap going in one direction (vertically), flip it to the side and wrap it in the opposite direction (horizontally).
Now wrap it vertically again, make sure to cover the narrow sides too. This makes for three layers so far and should be good enough for the base layer.
The fun part is adding your design layer. Layer on any colors you want and any direction-just try to keep the layers as smooth as possible.
Here you can see just how much bigger the wrapped soap looks before it is felted. It will have shrunk quite a bit when you are done.
Carefully place the wrapped soap inside a ziploc bag. Add some dish soap to a few cups of warm water and pour some water into the bag to fully wet the wool. Let the excess water run out and seal the bag closed. With the bag on the counter, gently rub your hand back and forth over the surface, turning to get all sides of the wrapped soap. Then gently toss the bag bag and for between your two hands, left to right, right to left for about 20 tosses.
Open the bag, and add more hot soapy water, let the extra drain and seal it again. Now begin to roll the bagged soap in your hands, like you do with a regular bar of soap when washing your hands.
Change directions frequently, roll the soap lengthwise. Do this for a few minutes. The wool should be starting to shrink now.
Remove the soap from the bag and do the pinch test. Does the top layer of fibers lift up, or does it seem attached to the base as one layer? If the fibers lift up you need to work a little bit more. You can put the soap back in the bag with more hot soapy water, or you can suds up your hands and roll it around in all directions. Surface friction is the goal. For wool to wet felt it needs friction, and hot soapy water.
When the felt passes the pinch test, rinse it as best as you can with cold water, You will never get all of the soap out, as by this point the bar of soap will have started to suds up inside the wool. Roll the felted soap inside a towel to get as much water out as possible and dry on a rack.
If you want to make something fancier you can try needle felting a design on some layers of loose wool. Lay this design over the base layer of the soap, wrapping the edges of the wool to the back before felting.
Posted by Kerstin Of Chimera Fibers