Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wonders of Wool

When I took up cloth diapering with my third child I discovered some of the interesting properties of wool:

1. Wool is naturally antibacterial

2. Wool absorbs moisture while remaining dry (one of the reasons why wool makes amazing diaper covers)

3. Helps regulate temperature (especially Merino wool which works with your body’s natural heating and cooling system – I had to explain this to many people when they questioned why my baby was still wearing wool in the warmer months)

I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about wool until I started researching ways to use it for crafting. Knitting and crocheting wool yarn were obvious choices but I soon learned there are countless other possibilities for this wonderful material.

What sparked my initial interest was a tutorial I found here. The wooden play food we had for my oldest two children left many a dent in our hardwood floors and I was looking for a softer alternative. The technique used in making the wooly tarts is called needle felting. Felting is the term used to describe the matting of the wool fibers using heat, moisture and/or agitation. If you have ever accidentally put a favorite wool sweater through a regular washing machine cycle then you know what felting is.

In needle felting, the wool fibers are compacted by repeatedly stabbing the wool with a sharp, barbed needle. The only tools you need are: felting needle, foam pad, and some wool roving in your desired colors. For my first project I picked up a needle felting kit from a wonderful etsy seller which contained all of the needed materials.

Following the Fig and Me tutorial I created this yummy looking tart:

Needle felting is a surprisingly soothing activity. I found I couldn’t stop with one tart and went on to make a few macaroons as well.

While searching the web for felt food inspiration, I came across several sites with examples of felted soaps. Most were in bright cheery colors and they immediately caught my eye but I was confused as to how it actually worked. Was the soap still useable or just decorative? Turns out they are both decorative AND practical - and very easy to make!

The process used in making the soaps is called wet felting. By using hot water and rubbing (agitation) you shrink and compact the wool around the soap. This YouTube video serves as a great how-to. It is not only fun to make but so easy even my kids (including the 2 year old) were able to make their own soaps.

Here are some of the little hand soaps we made:

While I don’t have photos of them, we went on to make bath bar sized felted soaps. It is like having a permanent washcloth attached to your soap. Simply get the wool felted soap wet, rub to lather it up and you are good to go. Unlike normal soaps, the felted variety doesn’t slip so easily out of little hands. While my children love to play in the bath, I think this is the first time they actually enjoyed the “getting clean” part of it.

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