Do you have a passion for making things entirely by hand or appreciate it in other people? In my teens and twenties, I got a thrill out of being my own mechanic on my old '75 Mustang. Yep, I've changed a few water pumps and brake pads. I have sewn every stitch of handmade rag dolls with a needle and thread (no machine stitching), and I prefer to cook from scratch. Isn't it much more rewarding to gather family and friends to put in fence posts, and raise barns? So naturally for me, prepping the fleece, learning to spin, and then making things from the alpacas' luscious fiber is my idea of happiness! -Kaylen

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Felt Soap

Felted soap has become very popular.  It is easy to do and great for gifts!  It is a bar of soap with a washcloth-type covering.  I use them for decorating, drawer sachets, and washing.  Here is how I do it.

  • Small amount of roving or hand carded alpaca fleece or any wool that will felt
  • Bar of soap (a good lathering soap works best and rounded bars are easiest for beginners)
  • Hot water
  • Dish detergent
  • Rubber gloves (if needed)
  • Plastic baggie
  • Pie pan, pan, or shallow bowl
Alpaca fibers and other animal fleece and wool will felt because they have little scales that open in the hot water.  As you agitate and rub these scales start sticking together.  This is why you don't throw your alpaca sweater into the washing machine!

    You will need to make about 3 layers of fleece.  The first layer will be the part that shows on the finished product so this is where I put two colors side by side or however you want to lay it out.

    The second layer can be any color you like. Place it perpendicular to the first so the fibers lay in different directions.

    After the third layer, put your bar of soap in the middle.

    Wrap the fleece up around the soap so you have a nice little bundle of fleece all around the bar.  Turn it over to hold everything in place.

    Start to slowly pour HOT water on the bar.  You can wear rubber gloves if it is too hot to handle.  Start patting the fleece and adding the hot water until the fleece is thoroughly saturated.  Don't rub because you'll rub the fleece away from the soap at this point.  Just pat and push and squeeze and start to shape the fleece around the bar.  You can add a couple of drops of dish detergent to help it come together.  Once the soap begins to lather through the fleece you won't need any more dish detergent.  You can flip it over, too, to soak up some of the water in the pie pan.  Dump out extra water as you need to.  

    Another way to add hot water is with plastic soda bottles that have holes punched in the lid.  I used a hammer and nail to make about 4 holes. This is a great way to do it if you have a group.  Everyone can have their own water supply.

    It is now ready for some serious rubbing.

    Put your bar in a baggie.  Now you can take it anywhere you like!  Rub the bar gently at first and start to roll it and squeeze it.  As the fleece continues to firm up you will want to rub harder.  This step will take about 15 minutes.  You will feel it become nice and tight around the bar.  It will really lather up in the bag, too.  Sometimes I rinse it out part way through the rubbing process.

    When your bar is all done, rinse it in cold water.  This will help the fibers close.  Squeeze out as much extra water as you can.  Set your bars on a towel to dry.  It will take a day or two and you will need to turn them over occasionally to dry on all sides.

    All done!

    When using felted soap to wash with, it is important to thoroughly saturate the bar before rubbing.  This allows the soap to come through the covering.  A soap that really lathers well works best.

    If you need alpaca fleece or have any questions please feel free to contact me.  I sell raw, hand carded fleece for $4 an ounce plus shipping.  Two ounces is enough to felt about five bars.