I've been wanting to make felt for a while now. I took a needlefelting class a few years ago, and enjoyed it, but I haven't played with it since then. (Needlefelting is making felt by using a small hooked needle -- stabbing the needle into the fibers enmeshes them, so you are making "dry" felt.) I'm participating in an ArtFiberFest swap of fabric charms, and thought handmade felt would make an interesting base for my charms.
Following instructions from a Cloth Paper Scissors article by Sarah Lawrence (issue 2), Ross and I made felt yesterday. (I'm providing an basic overview here -- if you want to make felt, please get this article, or check out some of the great feltmaking books that are out there.) We bought some wool roving (fleece that's been cleaned and carded, and in this case, dyed) at our local yarn shop. We pulled apart the roving and laid it out on top of bubble wrap.
After we put down a couple of layers of roving, we covered the piece with window screen, and wet it down with warm water and olive oil soap. As you rub in the soap, the fibers begin to enmesh and shrink. Then you remove the window screen, roll up the piece in the bubble wrap, and begin rolling it back and forth, shrinking it further. The more you roll, the more your piece shrinks and the firmer the felt gets.
Ross got tired of rolling sooner than I did, so his piece didn't felt as much as mine. But it still came out really neat, and he's proudly hung it on his bed.
The front of my piece has some snippets of yarn and ribbon in it, but they aren't as enmeshed in the piece as I would like. (I'll try putting a bit of roving on top of these next time, so that they're more attached.)
On the back, I used mostly off white (undyed) roving. Next time I think I'll add some bits of yarn or whatever to the bottom, as well.
Now I can cut out my charms (I'm not sure what shape they'll be), and figure out what beads or buttons or whatever else I'll be adding to them. This'll be a nice portable project to bring with me on vacation to New Hampshire, mostly for keeping me occupied on flights or in airports. (Of course, I'll be toting my journals, too, but I like to have a variety available!)