Felted coasters are not only useful, but also a fun and creative way to add individual expression to your home decor. You can change them with your mood, the season, or the occasion, and they make great gifts. There is also something really satisfying about taming a fluffy ball of wool into something with shape and limitless color and design potential. All it takes is a little bit of wool, a felting needle, and a very basic understanding of how felting works, so let’s start there.
What is wool felt?
Wool felt is a dense fabric, created by agitating wool fibers until they stick to each other. The fibers stick because they have many, very, very tiny barbs on them that get caught on each other when rubbed together. Continuous agitation during the felting process causes the barbs to get caught in many places, pulling the fibers closer and closer together until they can’t move anymore and we get felt.
How does the felting process work?
There are several methods for making felt, but needle felting, sometimes known as dry felting, and wet felting are the two main ones. Needle felting works by stabbing bits of wool with a barbed needle that draws the fibers past each other so their barbs catch and felting happens. Wet felting works by agitating wool fibers soaked in water, and usually soap, so that the fibers rub together, the barbs get caught, and felting happens.
Why aren’t sheep felted?
That’s a good question, since they certainly spend a lot of time rolling on the ground and rubbing against things like fences, or even other sheep. Part of the reason that sheep don’t felt is that their fleece is very oily, which both keeps them from getting wet and keeps the barbs slick and less likely to stick to each other.
In reality, a few parts of a sheep’s fleece do end up felted: maybe where they always lay down, or scratch against a post or something. Because it does take quite a bit of agitation to felt something, the felting that happens on a live sheep is usually pretty minimal, and can be undone during the carding phase of processing the fleece.
The main thing to understand in needle felting is that you are trying to draw the fibers past each other, by using a barbed needle, so that they catch and stick together. If something isn’t sticking, it’s because the fibers haven’t interacted with each other enough and more interaction (stabbing with the needle) is needed.
What you will need to make felted coasters:
- 100% wool batting or roving in the colors of your choice
- While both batting and roving have been put through a carding machine to remove knots, dirt, etc., the fibers in batting tend to be a little more random than in roving, where they all run in the same direction. Both will felt just fine.
- Sheet of felt for backing, minimum 1/8″ thick
- I used a 7″ square of felt backing to make four 3 1/2″ square coasters.
- If possible, make sure the backing felt is 100% wool. Many thick felts are blended with other materials, which will make the needle felting process a bit more difficult and take a little longer since the backing won’t grab the roving as readily as 100% wool will.
- Felting needle or multi-needle felting tool
- Pad for needle felting
- These come in several shapes and forms, but the most common are the brush-type and a pad that looks like felt but is not made from wool so it will not actually felt and become part of your work.
- I like the brush-type pad to start a new piece of batting and the pad-type for more detailed work since it offers a firmer surface.
- Tape and marker (optional)
How to make a felted wool coaster:
- Cut the sheet of wool felt for the backing of the coasters into coaster-size pieces.
- If your backing felt is dark and you are having trouble seeing the cutting guidelines, then you can use masking tape to help out:
- The felt will pull up a little when you remove the tape. Use that side for the ‘up’ side and your needle felted design will cover it.
- Thick felt is a bit difficult to cut, so your coasters might not be 100% symmetrical. Don’t worry too much about this because the design will distract from the slight lack of symmetry.
- Now add some wool and start designing your felted coasters:
- Start with a small amount of wool and use the needle to felt it into position.
- Be VERY CAREFUL of your fingers. The needles are really sharp and go pretty deep if you stab yourself (trust me). When I first started needle felting, I wore thimbles on all of my fingers for extra protection.
- Be sure to felt the edges of each coaster as well as the middle. This may be easier to do with just one needle because you can hold it at an angle and go really slowly at the edge:
- After your first bit of wool is mostly-attached, add another piece:
- The first piece doesn’t need to be fully-attached at this stage because anything that is put on top of it will help to felt it more fully.
- Keep adding wool and felting until you have the design that you like:
- Use scissors to trim the excess batting or roving around the edges:
- Make as many felted coasters as you like:
Tips and tricks:
- Although needle felting is all about ‘stabbing’, it’s really a gentle art. You don’t need to plunge the felting needle very hard into the wool for the barbs to catch, so be careful not to stab so far you go through the mat and into the substrate. Just a light, gentle motion will do the trick. It will also be safer for your fingers if you work more slowly and with greater control.
- Sometimes the wool will show through the opposite side of the backing felt, especially if you are using a deep mat, like a brush:Don’t worry about this: it’s the back!
- If you discover that there is something you don’t like in your design, you can either try to pull it out, or just cover it up. If you haven’t felted it too much, it should pull apart quite easily.
- The felted coasters should be reasonably flat when finished so that glasses don’t wobble when set down on them. If you find you have a lump somewhere, just felt that part a little more until it flattens out.
- Once you get the hang of it, you can use larger sheets of backing felt and make place mats (table mats), too!
- Your designs can be as figurative or as abstract as you like:
- Have fun with this project and let your inner creative genius loose. Literally anything goes, and nothing is wrong.
Feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, or send pictures of your needle felted coasters, and don’t forget to follow Creatorvox on Facebook and Twitter for more tips and tricks between posts. Thanks for reading, and happy making!