Sheep’s wool makes lovely felt but there are many breeds of sheep and the felting qualities vary enormously. There are many websites that will give you advice on the type of wool which felts best for your needs and the best will be happy to discuss with you either by email or by a telephone call. Just because a wool fibre spins beautifully it doesn’t mean that it will felt, or at least felt easily.
Wool is bought either in tops or in batts, both will work the same way. In the USA tops are called rovings while in the UK rovings are a much finer extrusion.
Most feltmakers use bubblewrap plastic to make felt on, some use sheeting or reed mats but whatever you use the method is the same.
Bamboo mats help to shrink the felt when the fibres have reached the felting stage. These can be bought in charity shops or DIY stores as bamboo blinds. For making small pieces such as sample felt or jewellery you can use a bamboo sushi mat. These are available in most major supermarkets or in the specialist Asian food suppliers. Towels can be used for the same purpose.
A felting solution is necessary for the opening up of the scales on the fibres. The manipulation of the fibres causes the scales to lock together to make the dense felted fabric. This solution is made up of soap dissolved in warm water. The best soap to use is un-perfumed olive oil soap or another low lather natural soap making sure that the soap you use has not moisturizing properties in it.. Some feltmakers use a washing-up liquid but I feel this makes too much foam and is too harsh for the fibres. You will also need a felting solution dispenser, either a spray bottle or a empty plastic milk bottle with holes punched in the lid.
Needle felting or dry felting as it’s also called uses special needles with barbs on to knit the fibre together to make a solid piece of felt or structure.
The needles can be bought through many websites such as the ones already mentioned, Ebay and also at the various craft fairs around the country. They come in various sizes and also as wooden or metal handles with three or more needles in.
Needle felting can be done with a whole myriad of different fibres. The wool that you should use should be a shorter staple or lock length and have more crimp than a wool such as merino which is a fine and smooth fibre.
The felting needles have to be used with a foam block. This needs to be of a firm construction and upholstery foam is ideal and can be bought cheaply as off-cuts from many small upholstery companies.
There are many available products advertised to help with the felting process but it is a personal choice to use them as the basic items I have mentioned here do the job very well and are very inexpensive to buy.