Over the winter my gardening business goes dormant so I have some time to try out new things. This year I’ve been working on a project I’ve been wanting to do for a while; making felted fleece rugs. These are what I call “sheep friendly rugs”. They look and feel just like sheepskin rugs, but are actually made by “wet felting” individual locks of fleece onto a wool base. You may think this sounds labour intensive and time consuming, and you would be right! However it is also a highly enjoyable and weirdly meditative process. These days Adrian cannot find me for love or money as I spend my days beavering away in my “girl shed”, (actually, the summer house which mysteriously transformed into my workshop overnight). The only time I make an appearance is to pop into the kitchen to grab the kettle off the aga (wet felting involves copious amounts of hot water). This also gives me the chance to have a much needed cup of tea. In fact, thinking about it, you could say that each rug is made up of wool, water, elbow grease and cups of tea! So, armed with this basic equipment, here’s what I do:
I take layers of “batts” (wool which has been washed, carded and teased out) and place them onto a frame to whichever shape and size I would like the rug to be. Then I take my fleece and start selecting nice looking locks and place these onto the layer of batts. This can take several hours as before I lay out the locks, I tease out any hay, seeds and bits of girt or dirt. Then I stand the locks side by side to form what will eventually become the fluffy top of the rug. Once all the locks are in place the fun can begin – the wet felting! I drizzle very hot water all over the locks, taking care not to dislodge any. This will start the magical felting process – the hot water will run down into the fibres and make the base of the locks start to join up with the layer of batts underneath. Then, to really get the fibres to bond, I wrap the whole rug up and roll it using a giant rolling pin, over 200 times! After this, I turn the rug over and rub soap and hot water over the base to make sure the bottom of the rug is nicely felted. Finally, I take the now felted rug and place it into a tub of warm, soapy water to wash out any remaining lanolin and dirt. Then, last but not least, I rinse it out and lay it flat to dry. Magically, after several hours, this dripping wet bundle of wool will somehow have transformed into a big fluffy thing of beauty! If you wish to purchase one of these fluffy delights you can find them here: Browse felted fleece rugs
You can read up more on by going to handmade felted fleece rugs.