How to Felt a Rainbow wall hanging

The rainbow window hanging originally displayed in shop window is now a wall hanging in our house.
You can see that wet felting is not an exact art like embroidery. Wonky lines and overlaps can occur, which usually add to its charm.
I added details in silk to each radiating arc using the colour of the adjacent arc. So, indigo circles were worked on the blue, green on the orange, yellow on the orange etc.
The colours are so vivid, they almost vibrate. Notice the thin inserts of pink and turquoise which add a ‘pop’ of colour.
Another rainbow layout – measuring approximately 70cm by 70 cm from top of sky canopy to tip of fringes. Here, I have added patterns using yellow, purple and green pencil yarns which felts really well.
The large rainbow kit contains 450 g of wools and silks.
Window hanging at Kennerleigh village stores

What you will need

A large table or work surface you can use for a few days at least
Large sheet of bubble wrap.
Old bath towel to lay on table.
Spray water bottle. Warm water. Soap.
A foam insulation pipe to use as a roller in the wet felting process.
Your imagination to run free!

Two sheets of bubble wrap

Tulle netting or a lace curtain to hold the design in place whilst it’s under construction and before the wetting down process.

A sheet of water soluble Art Felt paper at least one metre square on which to draw out the rainbow template denoting the coloured arcs. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Plenty of hot water in plastic spray bottle or braiser. Hand soap or liquid soap.

Laying out the colours of the Rainbow

Different shades of each colour add interest and vibrancy.

1. Divide your selection of all the hues into two equal piles before you start so you don’t run out before completing each arc. The picture below shows how I simply laid out the yarns in your pack so as to get an idea of possible design.

Seeing the possibilities by just laying out the unshingled fibres first.
Experimenting with how you can use the pencil yarns and embellishments is also a good idea at the outset.

2. Shingling and First Layout. I usually start by Shingling my chosen fibres and laying out these drafts of chosen colours by starting from the bottom left red grid and working up to the apex before working down to the other side as it helps ensure you don’t run out of fibre unexpectedly.

Lay out the shingled fibres using grid lines to help control the design.
My preference is to arrange the hues in a sequence within each colour to create a tonal vibrant effect, rather than a solid colour block. The solid colour block effect works really well with children’s rainbows as it is simpler to follow.
Shows fibres overlapping and interlocking so as to felt strongly and seamlessly. Notice also how different shades of reds, oranges, yellows and greens are arranged.
A colour ‘pop’ is achieved by interspersing shocking pink within the red arc, and turquoise in the blue arc.
Make sure each shingle overlaps with its neighbour. Notice how extra lengths are added at the ends for the tassels. I’ve used the purple and lilac batting initially in the inner arcs to add strength and cohesion.
After layout, check each layer of fibres overlaps its neighbour. Press down gently with hands to check there are no holes.

3. After the first layout, use remaining to fibres to lay down a second layer making sure to overlap adjacent colours. If you feel you are losing definition, use the pencil yarns to create an outline effect.

4. Add the extra details and silk embellishments rembering to use wisps of Merino wool to attach silks to the project.

Adding a Sky background

Adding sky is useful way of adding height and interest to your rainbow. More importantly, it provides a surface to hang it from.
Arranging the Sky batt in place. It could be extended or modified by using the additional wools from the sky pack. This sky probably needs widening to ‘square off’ the look of the piece.

Felting Process begins!

Felting process

  1. Place the netting down carefully on your rainbow layout.
  2. Sprinkle coolish warm water on to project using any of the suggested methods. Dampen it thoroughly without drowning it!
  3. Press down gently through the netting with palms of hand for 5 – 10 minutes all over in order to diffuse the wetness without disturbing the pattern. A chance to tidy up or tuck in any loose or steady fibres, too.
  4. Keep the netting on and add warmer, soapy water and massage gently downwards and then in a circular fashion for 10 – 15 minutes to circulate the warmth and soap needed to start the felting process. The water soluble paper will dissolve allowing the fibres to work their way through the cotton scrim backing.
  5. By now, you can see the effect of the water on the fibres through the net. At this stage, I sponge up excess moisture using a sponge to remove any excess ‘exhausted’ water.
  6. Carefully remove the layer of tulle netting and check over your project before sprinkling again afresh with hotter, soapy water.
  7. Carefully place the second sheet of bubble wrap bubble side down on to your project to make a sandwich. The bubbles serve to add extra friction necessary for felting.
  8. Palming stage. Squirt some more hot water on top of bubble wrap to help glide soapy hands over the surface as you now start to rub and massage the project more vigorously for as long as you can. You could also a palming tool to increase the friction. You can also flip the project over and massage it from the scrim side on the reverse.
  9. Inspect your piece from time to time by pulling back the top layer of bubblewrap and remember to pull and reshape as necessary.
  10. Ready to Roll. When you’ve had enough of this, sop up any tired excess moisture and add warm soapy water again and wrap the sandwich around the foam roller to make a sausage. Tie it with elastic to stop slippage. I also wrap it in a towel which stops the sausage slipping.
  11. Rolling rolling rolling. Roll 200 times in each direction. Work clockwise from North, East, South to West. Flip it over and repeat the rolls on the other side. You can sing or use a music tracks to help you give a fairly uniform number of rolls so that shrinkage rates are not uneven. Remember that your project can shrink by up to 25%during felting which is why the cotton scrim backing is useful to help maintain its shape and size. (Helpful to take an occasional peek to check on progress and to disentangle the tassels! )
  12. Take a break. It’s perfectly fine to leave your project at any time and return to it – even days later. Keep it rolled up damp: just squeeze out excess moisture gently and refresh with hot soapy water when you’re ready to start again.
  13. Pinch Test. Felting has taken place when you can pinch the piece without whiskers of fibre coming off.
  14. Fully felted? Unroll and inspect your project. Pull it back into the shape you want. Sort out the tassels with some extra rubbing and friction. Remember you can add extra embellishments afterwards by needle felting or embroidering.
  15. Rinse and Repeat! Rinse and squeeze repeatedly in clean water and leave to soak in final clean water rinse with a drop of spirit vinegar to neutralise the soap.
  16. Fulling. This is the final part of the felting process and is often omitted. Fulling will shrink your work further but it also makes it stronger and more compact. It’s up to you! In the sink, wearing rubber gloves, add very hot almost boiling water to the project and then roll it up and let it drop on to draining board a few times. You will notice the difference as it tightens and toughens. Don’t overdo it or it will become a coaster!
  17. Allow to dry flat in natural heat. About 24 hours usually.
  18. When it’s dry, embellish the tassels fringes and secure additional silk decorations with a felting or embroidery needle.
  19. Hanging. The versatility of sky background at the top allows it to be rolled so that a wooden or iron pole can be inserted for hanging. Sometimes, I just use a large twig or small branch to good effect.
  20. My blog has lots of free tutorials on interesting techniques and ideas you can incorporate into your designs.
  21. I’m a teacher and these instructions are a just a substitute for personal tuition. If you want to buy any material, I can customise a kit just for you and post it to you. I am happy to assist with your queries and help any time. Judi Binks
Lay down the pieces of tulle netting to secure the fibres of design in place.
Spraying water onto project through the tulle netting.
Gently sponge up excess stale moisture.
Roll sandwich around the roller.
Wrap towel around sausage sandwich.

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