Let’s try a controlled experiment to see how temperature and fiber type impact feltability.
You will need…
- one to two ounces of commercially prepared wool (not superwash)
- one to two ounces of alpaca or another protein fiber beside wool
- A bar of soap, your preference
- A sharp knife
Begin by slicing your soap into 4 quarters.
With the first quarter…
- Wrap the soap in wool until it is covered entirely with roughly 1” thick of fiber.
- With hot tap water, or a bowl of hot water, submerge the soap and felt, keeping it in place with your hands.
- Use your hands to rub the soap and cause it to lather. Continue to rub for two minutes.
- Set aside to dry and label as “wool, hot.”
- Repeat these steps with the alpaca and label it “alpaca, hot.”
- Then repeat the experiment again, using cold water instead of hot.
- Once your soaps are fully dry, observe how well each one felted. Write down your observations.
- Is there a difference between the wool and the alpaca?
- Is there a difference between the ones treated with different temperature water?
- Which soap felted with the most success?
- Do you think increasing the amount of time would impact the success of different soaps?
- Now with experience intentionally making felt, do you have a feel for how much agitation it takes to felt your selected fibers?
- How does this apply to your spinning?
Challenge: Repeat this experiment with superwash wool or a down breed of wool, but increase the time indefinitely. How long, if ever, does it take for your superwash wool to show signs of felting? How long before you ran out of soap?