People who make handmade felt usually work with wool or cotton, but the felting process works with polyester batting as well. Polyester batting is less expensive, and is more readily available for most people than rough wool or cotton. Polyester batting is sold at all craft stores and many retail department stores. Polyester batting is used to make flat sheets of felt or three-dimensional objects. Making hand felted or needle felted projects using polyester batting is simple, fast and inexpensive.
Hand Felting Pieces of Felt
Place the cookie sheet on the flat surface in front of you. It doesn’t matter which direction the cookie sheet is facing.
Pull the polyester batting apart into wispy thin pieces. Make a vertical row of thin pieces on the right side of the cookie sheet with each piece slightly overlapping the next piece.
Make a second row with the edge overlapping the first row by at least half an inch. Continue layering rows across the cookie sheet until it is full.
Start a second layer of polyester across the bottom edge of the cookie sheet. Place horizontal layers from the bottom to the top. You want these fibers crossing the first layer of fibers. Make sure you overlap the layers neatly and uniformly. Don’t make any thick, bulky areas. Make four or five thin layers of polyester batting, alternating horizontal and vertical layers of polyester batting. If you make one thick layer, it makes the felt look messy, so keep the layers thin and uniform.
Press the layers down with your fingertips. Push down all of the fibers. This begins the felting process.
Mix two cups of water with one cup of hand soap. Stir the soap mixture together using the ladle.
Pour a small amount of the soap mixture over the polyester batting on the cookie sheet. Lay a piece of parchment paper that covers the whole pan on top, and rub your fingers back and forth over the parchment paper with one hand while holding the parchment paper in place with your other hand. Make sure you rub over all of the parchment paper several times.
Lift the parchment paper and press your fingertips around the material. If it is still slightly dry, add more of the soapy water. Put the parchment paper back on top of the batting and rub it some more.
Continue wetting and rubbing the batting until the material bonds together. It takes several minutes before the fibers start bonding together.
Wet a sponge in the soapy water mix and squeeze it out. Press the sponge onto the felted material, remove the sponge and squeeze the excess soapy water mix from the sponge back into the bowl. Continue pressing the sponge onto the felted material, and squeezing excess water from the sponge into the bowl until all excess water is removed from the felt.
Pinch the fibers on top, and pull upward. If the felt stays together it is at the soft-felt stage. If the felt doesn't stay together, keep adding the soapy water mix, rubbing the felt and removing excess soapy water with the sponge until the fibers hold together when pinched up.
Pick up the felt and hold it between your two palms. Rub your palms together with the felt between them. Keep doing this until the whole piece of felt is rubbed. This fulls (bonds) the material together, making it stronger.
Rinse the material in hot water, and lay it on a flat surface. Use a clean wet sponge to remove excess water by pressing the sponge into the felt and squeezing the excess water into a bowl.
Lay a piece of thin cotton material over the felt, and iron with a warm iron while the material is damp. Let the felt dry on a flat surface.
Needle Felting Three-Dimensional Animals
Pull off a piece of polyester batting about 1 inch-by-2 inches, and roll it into a ball. Squish the batting into more of an oval shape.
Start pushing the felting needle tool in and out of the oval wad of polyester batting until it starts getting harder. The needle pushing in and out of the batting makes felting occur. This will be the animal's body.
Pull off a 1/2 inch-by-1inch piece of polyester batting, and roll it into a tube that is half an inch tall. Poke the wad with the felting needle tool until it hardens. This will be the animal's neck.
Put one of the round ends of the tube against the body. Pull off a little bit of polyester batting, and wrap it around the part of the tube touching the body. Poke the material into the body and tube until it hardens. This attaches the neck to the body.
Place the head on the other end of the neck tube (the end protruding away from the body.) Pull a little bit of polyester batting off, and wrap it around the neck where it touches the head. Poke the material with the felting needle tool until it hardens.
Pull off small pieces of polyester batting, and roll it into tubes for the legs and tail. Felt the pieces by poking with the needle tool until they harden.
Attach the legs and tail by wrapping a small piece of polyester batting around each leg and the tail, next to the body. Felt each leg and tail by poking it with the felting needle tool. Add ears, nose and other details using the needle tool and small wads of polyester batting.