How to use prefelts

May 11, 2024

I think the importance of prefelts in wet felting is sometimes underestimated. Prefelts are extremely useful and there’s no end to how you can apply them in your wet felting projects. So, mastering how to make them exactly as you want for a particular piece can massively improve your work.

Let’s have a look at some of the many ways prefelts can be used, as well as a couple of tips to apply them successfully.

 

PREFELTS FOR NUNO FELTING

In most cases, nuno felted pieces decorated with crisp designs are created with prefelts. But prefelts are a bit more difficult to attach to silk than unfelted wool.

So, to make it work, you need to:

  • use thin prefelts,
  • felt slowly and gently,
  • and work with cold water,

to give the wool fibers time to migrate into the silk.

The most effective felting technique in this case is sanding, since it creates a lot of pressure, that accelerates the fiber migration through the fabric.

If you run into issues, and some parts of your prefelts aren’t attaching, you can stitch them to the silk. After felting, remove the stitches if they’re still visible.

 

PREFELTS ON A WOOL BASE

This is probably the most common way to use prefelts. Just off the top of my head, I can think of 4 frequently used techniques, in which you apply prefelt on a wool base.

On small areas to create a flat pattern

This is the easiest of the 4 examples. My tips for this technique are:

  • Use thin prefelts. If possible, use industrial/commercial prefelts.
  • If you’re using handmade prefelts, don’t make them too soft or the pattern won’t be as crisp.
  • Place them on the base wool as soon as you’ve finished the layout and added water and soap. Press them down onto the base wool. The soap in the fiber will help the prefelt attach.
  • Rub or sand the areas with the prefelts before you do anything else. This will guarantee the prefelts will attach completely.

If you have any issues with the prefelts attaching to the base, needle felting is the best way to solve this.

 

On a small area to create reliefs

If you want to create reliefs, you’ll need to work with handmade prefelts, since industrial prefelts are too thin for this.

This technique can be difficult and requires some patience. Your prefelts need to be thick and not too soft. That means they’ll be hard to attach to each other. So, be prepared for a lot of rubbing.

If you run into trouble, use a felting needle to help.

 

To create a pattern that covers the whole surface

Whether it’s a straight pattern like mine or something more detailed and rounder, think of this technique as if you were making a puzzle. Cut the shapes you need and place them side-by-side.

Rub very gently until everything has started to attach. Only then can you use the rolling method.

 

To create differential shrinkage

Differential shrinkage happens when you use a thick pre-felt on a thin wool layout. The bigger the difference between the thickness of the prefelt and the base wool, the bigger the difference in shrinkage.

Here are my recommendations for this technique:

  • Use thick prefelts. These should be handmade, since industrial/ commercial prefelts are too thin for this technique.
  • If you’re planning a bigger project and aren’t sure how thick your prefelt should be, make a sample. I find it’s not always easy to calculate the right thickness for a successful differential shrinkage project. So, I really recommend sampling.
  • Place the prefelts on the base wool as soon as you’ve finished the layout and added water and soap. Press them down onto the base wool. The soap in the fiber will help the prefelt attach.
  • Rub or sand the areas with the prefelts before you do anything else. This will guarantee the prefelts will attach completely.

 

PREFELT ON PREFELT

It’s also possible to use prefelts on prefelts, like I did in these cushions. In this case, strips of prefelt are woven and fulled to create a piece of flat felt.

The trick to get this technique right is to stop the felting process in the right moment, so that the prefelt strips still attach to each other.

Sanding is probably the best option for this technique.

 

MAIN TAKEAWAYS

  • If you’re working with handmade prefelts, spend time doing a good, even layout. This will enhance the quality of your work.
  • If your prefelts are more advanced, let them dry, and brush them with a metal brush to lift the fibers and help them attach to the background wool.
  • Don’t add your prefelts to a dry base. Wet and add soap to your base wool before you add your prefelts. Then, press them down onto the base wool. This will help them stay in place.
  • Start by rubbing or sanding. These are the best techniques to guarantee the prefelts attach to the base wool, since you create more pressure, which is also particularly focused on the areas where the prefelts are.
  • Don’t start with rolling or you risk the prefelts moving. The rolling method should only be used after the prefelts have started to attach and you’re sure they won’t move any more.
  • If you run into trouble and parts of the prefelt aren’t attaching, apply a couple of stitches or needle felt these areas.
  • Do all this with room temperature water. Only use hot water for the final stage of the process, i.e. when you’re working on the final shrinkage.

And that’s it! I hope this series about prefelts was useful.

I’ll talk to you soon!

Vanda

 

P.S.: Missed the other posts from this series on prefelts? You can access them here:

Want to get inside the secrets of felting?

Join the mailing list to receive the latest news and updates.

Don't worry, your information is safe with me.

Yes, I'd love to join!
Close

50% Complete

I'll keep you updated

And let you know when there's a new blog post, tutorial or masterclass available.

Don't worry, I hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.