Friday, May 11, 2012

Make Wool News and Felted Soap

Maria has asked to pretend we are at Maker Faire so she can practice what she wants to say and do when she is sharing her wool demonstration. She wrote step-by-step instructions for making felted wool bracelets, and yesterday we practiced felting, by felting bracelets, and bars of soap. I am so impressed by her desire to be prepared, her eagerness to have everything ready... skills, as an adult, I am still trying to fine tune. So, yesterday I was a visitor to Maker Faire, asking questions and inquiring about the bracelet making project. She managed her answers quite nicely, and then together we made bracelets. Actually there is one question we don't have an answer to: Why doesn't the sheep's fleece felt and shrink when the sheep are out in the meadow, getting damp, and rubbing itchy backs on a post?
The package from Sandie, of Wild Rivers Wool Factory, arrived and in it were at least twenty unique samples of different wools. Each sample was labeled, in a clear, sealed bag. Sandie also sent copies of "Sheep Reader," for young readers, from the American Sheep Industry Association. Maria and I read every article, and then we studied all the different wool samples from the different sheep breeds. They are so beautiful! We were loving the textures, and colors, even the smell! It was Maria that first made us realize that natural roving has a sweet-sheepy-woolly scent.
Did you know... there are more than 1,000 different sheep breeds in the world?!
Did you know... there are 40 different sheep breeds in the United States!
Did you know...some mother ewes can have as many as five lambs at once!
Did you know... the fleece from one sheep can make a full suit!
Did you know... one pound of wool can be spun into 20 miles of yarn!
Did you know... wool is flame resistant, and will not catch fire!
I did not know, until Maria read me the Sheep Reporter!
The second package to arrive from Oregon... wool roving! Maria's Grandma was visiting Wild Rivers Wool Factory, where she met Sandie, and she chose three beautifully dyed bundles of roving for Maria to share at Maker Faire.
Just look how big these few ounces of wool roving is... and it feels so light and soft and huggable!
A little wool roving goes a long way. We will have plenty to share, thanks to Delia.
Okay. At Maker Faire, Maria is going to demonstrate felting wool roving to make bracelets. But today, we are going to show how we felted these bars of soap. The process is similar... it's about measuring fibers larger than the finished project, gently pulling them apart from the whole roving, submerging them in water and then using friction to get the fibers to bind and shrink to size... that's felting!

We had some nice smelling bars of soap handy.
Do not bring out scissors!
No scissors!
Gently pull the amount of wool desired. The roving will separate, easily, with a tug and a pull.
Now, wrap the roving around the soap, trying to keep the roving taut, and covering as much of the soap as possible. This is not a mathematical-precision exercise, but just be aware: too much roving and it will be really hard to get it all to stick. Too little roving and the soap will not be covered. Don't get too preoccupied with making a specific pattern... things are going to get sloppy and random, when the felting gets started. This is more of a groovy-free-stylin' kind of art. It's cool.
With your hands gently cradling the soap and its blanket of roving, hold everything together and submerge your creation in water. Warm water feels better.
Everything at this point is pretty wibbly-wobbly. Be gentle, and keep your hands over as much of the surface as possible. Rubbing too vigorously will slip the roving off. Just keep moving the soap under the constant, gentle pressure of your hands, turning and squeezing as you go.
This gets slippery, sudsy, wet 'n' woolly. Every so often, when the suds were overtaking everything, I carried the bar into the kitchen and ran fresh water over the whole operation. The fibers are binding, by now, and as they cling to each other you will feel that you can rub more vigorously, now. And, yes... it's kind of weird, because the very thing you are making is kind of disappearing on you... going all to bubbles. Don't lose faith! Plenty of lovely felted soap will remain when you are done.
I made a blue and pink one, too. This is the part where you feel glad you chose a fragrance you really enjoy. Your hands are going to smell good, and feel really soft and clean!
Whenever too many suds make it impossible to see or feel what you are doing, give the bar a rinse. Soon, you reach the point where you feel the wool fits snuggly around the soap, so you rinse one last time, let it drip dry, then take it to a place where it can rest and dry completely.
This is a fun project, and honestly... a bit much for our seven year old. She loves it, in theory, but Maria did need help getting the soap wrapped, because in the beginning when the wool is loose, it's not too easy to manage with small hands. Gentle guidance at this step is all that is required. Then there is the time spent felting... she was a bit impatient about her slow progress. Again, small hands are a disadvantage. We traded bars, so I could get hers caught up with mine, and she could more easily manage the one I had felted already. When I can recognize the challenges she's facing, it's easy to find solutions, and offer encouragement. The important thing is she does not feel defeated, and has not lost interest. We kept it fun.
We love how good it feels, how many suds we made, and we didn't get frustrated by loose bits and clumpy parts. In the end, taking our time, and having fun, we found this to be a project we could get our hands on, and enjoy!
Maria wants to bring her soap samples to show at Maker Faire. Then she wants to give this orange and aqua bar to her buddy, Suki... shhhhh, it's a surprise!
Well, that's our latest Wool News and Make project all wrapped up! Good, clean fun!


Janece said...

Lovely! I smiled all the way through!

Annie said...

Well done, Maria! I love the idea of felted soap and these are gorgeous examples. Your step by step guidance will be invaluable when I get a chance to make some with Romy one day. Axxx

Stephanie Barrett said...

This would be fun to do in my 4-H club. What if you use small bars, or cut large bars in half? It might make it easier for little hands!