Today I’m going back to basics and I’m talking about SOAP.
As you know, there’s a lot of information around the right one for felting. In fact, different felters have different preferences. But the truth is, from olive oil soap, to dishwashing liquid, or hand soap, all of them produce felt.
If you don’t mind, I’ll be geeky for a while. It might sound strange to you, but I actually find this interesting ?
Now, if you read anything about felting in Mongolia, you’ll see they traditionally used animal urine to felt. The reason is that changing the pH of the wool causes the scales of the fibers to open. Apparently, if your felting solution is pH4 or below and pH8 or above, the felting is faster. But I don’t want to go much deeper into this. The point I’m trying to make is kinda “All roads lead to Rome”. Generally speaking, as long as you change your wool’s pH enough, it’ll produce felt.
Of course, instead of animal urine, we now use soap for this effect. Soap also has the important function of helping lubrication during agitation and making your hands slide easily over the wool. But, be warned, it has to be used in the right amount. If you have too much of it, the foam will get between the fibers and prevent them from contacting with each other. And this slows down the felting process.
If you’ve had a situation where your felt wasn’t advancing because the wool was too soapy, you know exactly what I mean. That’s why you’ll often hear me saying in my videos you should get rid of some soap, when your felting is stuck.
So, now that you know WHY you’re using soap and that ANY soap produces felt, how do you decide which one to buy? Instead of answering that question, let me tell you how I make my choices and maybe this can help you decide by yourself.
One of the most frequent complaints you hear from felters is that the skin of their hands gets very dry or that they have some sort of allergic reaction. A way to avoid this might be to choose a “softer” soap. Detergents and low quality soaps can be too aggressive for your skin, as well as for the wool.
Olive oil soap is a high-quality product, so it can be a good option. But it can also be really expensive. So, my choice is usually a good quality laundry soap. It’s considerably cheaper and my skin is actually hydrated after felting.
Then, there’s the question of liquid versus solid soap. I’d say most felters work with a solution of water and soap. That’s how I’ve started too. But I kept having problems with finding the right soap to water ratio. After experimenting for some time, I realized the amount of soap was much easier to control if I was using the solid version.
So, now I work with laundry bar soap, I get the right amount of water on the wool, get my hands soapy and gently press the piece I’m felting. If it’s necessary, I then rub the soap onto the wool (check out the GIF below!).
But, as always, I recommend you EXPERIMENT and find YOUR right way.
Hope this helps! ?