I've been looking at felted soap at craft fairs for a year, and wasn't sure it was something I wanted to try. After speaking to one of the fiber artists who created felted soap, I decided to give it a try. I Googled "felted soap" to get some ideas, and decided I wasn't quite ready for the fancy stuff. Fortunately, there are some basic techniques to follow for simple felted soap.
Like everything else I've tried, I hope to get better at making felted soap. For now, I’m happy to learn that the basic process is super-easy. (“Super-easy” seems to be a theme for the projects I like.) The general idea is to wrap wool or alpaca around a bar of soap, get it wet, and rub/agitate it until the fiber attaches to itself, around the soap.
The key to felted soap is the soap. You can use homemade or store-bought soap. It takes a good amount of lather to work its way through the felt, so you want a soap that gets good and sudsy. I found Kirk’s Natural Soap at the grocery store at a cost of three bars for under $5. It suds up really well, and works great for felting!
What you need:
Colored felting fiber for decoration/design (optional)
Baking pan or shallow dish
Warm water with small amount of Dawn dishwashing liquid
A few weeks ago I dyed some alpaca fiber with turmeric. It made a really pretty yellow, and I used that for this project. (Check out how to dye with turmeric here.) I wanted a basic rainbow of color around the soap, so I used small fabric strips of other colors, also.
The first step is to lay out the fiber. The first layer will be the outermost layer on your soap. I set the bar of soap in the pan to get a look at how far across the fiber needs to be. Once the outer layer of colored fiber is laid out, add your main fiber on top of that, in the same direction.
Continue to lay out thin layers of fiber in opposite directions. Three layers works well.
Wet the fiber with warm, slightly soapy water, and lay the bar soap on top. Then, wrap the fiber around the soap, as tightly as possible.
Gently rub the “design” on your soap, in order to get it to felt, without moving it around too much.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the outer design will be attached enough to hold into place. Now, you can rub the whole bar, gently at first to get it loosely attached. Once the fiber doesn’t lift up, you can rub it vigorously, just like lathering up in the shower. I spin it in one hand, while resting the end in the other hand, for about 10 turns, then flip it and spin in the other direction. This takes about another 10 minutes. The soap will start working through the fiber and gets lathery enough that I stand over the sink so I can fling the excess soap off my hands as I work.
The fiber will form itself around the soap and become like a solid piece of fabric. Once everything is sticking together, set the bar aside for a day or two to dry.
The final product is soap, wrapped up in its own, natural fiber, washcloth! As you use the soap, the fiber will continue to shrink around it.
You can make your outer design whatever you want, or nothing at all.
Lots of people like using liquid body wash with a scrubby. This gives you the soap and scrubby in one.
Felted soap works great for traveling! No need to worry about getting liquid soap through airport security.