DIY Felted Soap
Felting is an easy and fun textile art. All that is needed is wool, moisture and agitation. Felted items can be strong, weather resistant and warm. Hats, socks, boots and tunics can all be made of felted wool. So why felted soap? The felting layer around the soap acts as an exfoliator and creates a low waste bar cover.
Felted soap is great for scrubbing your feet, elbows, calloused hands and other tough spots. Once the soap is all used up you’ll be left with a smaller felt pouch. You can cut a hole in that felt and stuff it with leftover soap bar bits, use it to hold potpourri, or an air plant or simply stuff it with catnip and give it to your furry friend.
Preparing your workspace:
Find some rough wool roving. The scratchier the roving the better as it will felt quickly and make an even better exfoliator. However, you can use whatever wool you have around- including bits of spun wool that you weren’t ecstatic about how it spun up. If you are working with a fiber you have not felted in the past, do a test sample in the sink to see if it will felt up. (Simply run the sample under water till it is saturated and then agitate between your hands with a bit of soap until the friction creates enough heat to begin felting.)
Once you have chosen your wool you’ll want to gather your bars of soap to be felted. I personally make my own goats milk soaps that are primarily olive oil, grapeseed and castor oil based. But any soap will do. Hard soaps like olive oil or castile soaps have less lather than glycerine soaps and will be easier to work with in the wet felting process. If your soaps are fully cured (store bought) you’ll want to use the wet felting method. However, I prefer to needle felt my soaps so I typically needle felt within two weeks of making the batch when they are partially cured so that I do not break needles needlessly.
Take your roving and pull off bits of multiple colors and lay your fibers on the table in different directions like a piece of paper about four times the size of your bar of soap. Having the roving in different directions will allow the fiber to felt up more quickly. Now place your soap on top of your roving layer and gently wrap the sides and top of the soap until it is fully covered.
Once the soap is nicely covered you can add bits of yarn around the soap and roving to keep the roving firmly in place. Now wet your covered soap and begin to vigorously rub the soap in your hands in different directions. To make this step easier you can also place the covered soap inside an old panty hose. Intermittently rewet the soap with hot and then cold water to shock the fibers into shrinking around the soap. When you are unable to pinch fibers away from the soap then your felt is complete. Let the felted soap rest for a few days on a drying rack until it is completely dry.
Needle felting requires specific needles with notches along the shaft that catch and tangle the fibers onto one another.Needle felting allows you to create three dimensional shapes and intricate designs. This method embeds the wool deep within the soap and allows you to not lose any of your soap like you do in the wet felting process.
Begin by wrapping the roving from left to right, then go over it again from top to bottom and then diagonally to catch and cover your corners as well. Make sure your soap is fully covered. Once the wool covers your soap you can begin to embed the wool into the soap with your special needles. Make sure you enter the soap with your needle straight in and straight out to avoid bending or breaking the needle. You’ll want to stab the soap all over to ensure the felt is secure and will not come loose when using. I like to go in a grid like pattern of stabbing to ensure I have completely embedded the wool into the front, back and all sides. Once you have a foundation on your soap you can add decorative detail like flowers, scenery or animals.