“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING?!”
By the tone of my husband’s question I knew he’d thought I’d finally gone completely batty!
“You think I’ve gone batty don’t you?” I inquired with a chuckle.
“Well I’m not completely batty but technically I am crafting with mini batts…” He loves a good pun you see. He didn’t get it because he doesn’t know/remember what a batt of fibre is. Sigh.
I was of course making the subject of today’s tutorial; Felted soap. Even after explaining what they were he responded with a grunt and said they look like something rude. Well ok, I did have it sagging in a skin-colour stocking over the sink at the time. Fair point.
For anyone (like my husband) who needs to be convinced of the awesomeness of felted soap here are the easy-to-digest benefits in dot point:
Plus you can do whatever design you like! WIN WIN WIN... PLUS I did rather enjoy stirring my hubby up with them.
You’re itching to have a go now aren’t you? Ok, so here is what you need:
The best way to get a large selection of coloured fibres for this project is to grab Corriedale Fibre Sample Packs. I used the 'Bright' box and pictured here is the 'Light' pack. Check the range out here.
Choose your base/main colour. We need to pull off a chunk of roving and create multiple layers in different directions. This is important as the fibres need to criss-cross in order to interlock in the felting process and make a nice tight felt around the soap. I make a square laying the fibre down horizontally in the first layer, vertical in the second layer, at a 90 degree angle the 3rd layer and the opposite 90 degree angle (270 degrees if you like to be technical).
Now you could start the felting process before applying some contrasting colours for decoration however, I found that contrast layers don’t felt as well after you’ve started felting the base colour. I carefully wrap bits of contrasting colour around now before any felting. If you would like a solid colour and then to needle felt decoration on then you can do so after an initial felting of the base colour. See bonus tip at the end of these steps.
Once you have wrapped your soap in the desired fibre colours, grab your stocking and put your hand in down to the toe, firmly grab your soap and pull it into the stocking toe. At this stage some people like to tie the stocking or use a rubber band, I don’t because it is so easy to catch a bit of fibre when doing this and you’ll end up with a blob of fibre or section that isn’t felted properly.
The fun part! Now you fill 2 bowls or 2 sinks with water; one with hot water comfortable enough for you to stick your hands in without burning yourself and the other with cold water. Take your wrapped soap and place it in the hot water. Gently squeeze to saturate the fibres.
Once saturated, start rolling the soap around in your hands, gently at first and then as you start to feel the fibres tightening around the soap you can rub a bit harder. Make sure you get those corners and ends too. After a couple of minutes rubbing you will have worked up a lather. Dunk the soap in the cold water, give it a minute or two rub and then dunk back into the hot water again and continue rubbing.
Continue alternating between the hot and cold water every couple of minutes. The reason we do this is that it helps felt the fibres together. The heat and soap itself opens up the scales on the fibres, the friction from rubbing pushes them into one another and the cold water closes the scales back up again locking and therefore felting them together.
Your soap should be sufficiently felted after about 10 to 15 minutes. To check, take it out of the stocking and give some fibre a little pull. If they pull away from the base colour it needs more felting, pop back in the stocking and keep working on it for a few more minutes. If there’s little to no give then you are done!
The red soap was felted properly when I pulled it out but here is an example of another soap demonstrating that the contrasting brown fibre hasn't finished felting in to the base colour properly as it pulls up.
Place your soap on a plate or tray to dry away from humidity if possible. In dry warm weather they take about 2 days to completely dry, in winter perhaps leave them under a heater vent and they’ll be done in 4 days. After the first day of drying, remember to turn your bar over to let the underside dry too.
Once dry you can package and label with the original soap details and give them as gifts, or just horde them because they look pretty. I always make some for my kids, it stops them squishing cakes of soap into tiny unusable pieces at the bottom of the shower…ah…once again craft saves my sanity!!!
BONUS DECORATION TIP
Remember I mentioned earlier that you can needle felt designs in them too? Well work up to step 9, do an initial felt for 5 minutes which will help soften the soap bar and then you can pull it out and felt patterns right into it with a coarse felting needle. Just be careful as the soap is firm and it is easy to snap your needle. You can grab a set of felting needles here. Once you have needle felted your surface design just enough to stay in place, pop your soap bar back in the stocking and work it for 5 minutes in the water baths. TA DA! So easy!
We hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and would love to see your results if you have try it!