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What is felted soap?
Felted soap is a bar of soap encased in a wool cover. It is soap in a jacket. It is soap with a sweater. It is a built-in washcloth, poof, or scrubbie. And the real magic is that the wool continues to felt up smaller and smaller as the soap shrinks, staying tight around the ever diminishing bar. Cool? Very. And at the end all that remains is a wee scrap of wool that you can toss into the compost. I love that.
It sounds complicated.
No. Not really. As homeschoolers, my family is always looking for a project that is easy enough to satisfy our children but fun enough to be enjoyable for all. Wet felting is one such project. Quick, easy, and affordable, my children and I wet felt beads, paperweights, balls, vessels, soap, and more. Heck, you can wet felt a rock to make a paperweight Martha Stewart would be proud of. All you need is wool (roving), hot and cold water, a little time, and in this case a bar of soap. Each bar takes under five minutes, so you can make dozens in an afternoon.
Ready to get started?
Good. Me, too.
To create felted soap you will need a few ounces of colorful 100% wool roving. Ask at your local yarn shop for a roving that wet felts well, or visit a website like Etsy and search for “roving”. Choose a few coordinating colors.
Begin by filling a soup pot with very cold water (toss in a few ice cubes for good measure). Set the pot aside by your sink.
Roughly measure the width of your soap bar. Tear off a piece of roving that is approximately three times this measurement. This will give you enough wool to wrap your soap with some overlap of the ends. (Don’t cut your roving. Tear with your hands. You may need to tease the roving apart a bit to make it thin enough to tear.) Tease apart the wool until it is a fairly thin and uniform layer. You should be able to see your fingers through the fibers. It if becomes much wider than your soap, pull away the excess and set aside.
Wrap the bar of soap tightly in the wool, overlapping the ends. Set aside your soap, weighting down the wool with another bar if necessary to keep the wool tight.
Measure the height of your bar and triple it. Working in the same color or a new color, again tear off a length of wool to wrap your soap in the opposite (vertical) direction. Tease the wool into a thin layer. Repeat vertically the wrapping process on your soap. You should now have a bar of soap completely covered in two layers of wool. Look it over. If there are holes move the wool around a bit to cover any exposed soap.
Holding the wrapped bar carefully, move to the sink. Turn on your hot water tap. When the water is very hot (as hot as you can comfortable place your hands in), set the faucet to a trickle. Take a dab of liquid soap or dish soap and place it in the palm of your hand. Using your fingers on the opposite hand, pick up a small amount of soap and gently work it into the wool on the top of the soap. Repeat on the bottom of the bar.
Move the wool-covered soap under the trickle of water to just moisten the fibers. (Do not soak the bar). Using a very gentle touch, massage the soap with your fingertips to lather up the liquid soap. Flip the bar over and repeat. When the wool is lathery, move under the hot water again and continue to gently massage the wool. This time the wool will become thoroughly saturated and the bar of soap will begin to lather.. The wool will be squishy and loose on the soap. This is normal. Be gentle. Use patience, a light touch, and go slow.
Continue to massage and lather the soap very gently in your hands. Alternate between the hot tap and gently massaging, then the cold tap and massaging ever minute or so. The combination of friction, hot water, and cold water will case the wool to transform into a dense felt, encasing the soap.
As the wool very gradually becomes more densely felted, you can apply more pressure to speed the felting process. Within a few minutes you will be gently flipping the felted soap in your hands like you are washing up. Continue to alternate between hot, cold, and friction until the wool is fairly tightly felted around the bar. When you are satisfied with the tightness fo the wool, rinse the bar, squeeze out excess moisture and set aside to dry. (The wool will be soapy. Don’t fret. It’ll dry up beautifully.)
Experiment with single colors, multiple colors, and even needle felted embellishments added after the soap and wool are dry. Happy felting!