March 18, 2013

Felted Topper with Curly Hair Tutorial (Gwyn and Danny)

The best thing about making custom toppers is that each project allows me to try something new or different. That means there is a lot trial and error, doing research and generally just learning and testing throughout.  I would not consider myself a needle-felting expert yet and I know that I still have a lot more to learn.  So I'm grateful for the wealth of knowledge, expertise and tutorials on the interweb.  Many of my techniques are hybrids of other tutorials that fit my expertise and my purpose.  So what may work for me may not work for someone else.  

Custom Cake Topper
Gwyn and Danny

For Gwyn and Danny's topper, Gwyn's hairstyle was a romantic half up-half down with curls.  I was very experienced with felting updos but not with "down dos".  Down dos, that's a word, right??  For updos, I had previously cut thin strips from a flat felt sheet and then felted them to the back in little curls.  But I found that this method didn't really look realistic.  Since a felt sheet is only one thickness, the curls didn't quite have that dimension and they looked, well, flat.  Also, flat felt sheets are very limited in colour choices and therefore sometimes makes it impossible to colour match with my wool roving.  

So I played around with wet felting each strand to give them more dimension.  Since I didn't have a teeny little curling iron lying around, I had to "set" the strands in a miniature form of "rollers" and let them dry into shape.  So I did what I normally do, find something I already have lying around.  In this case, it was wooden BBQ skewers and chopsticks.  Check out my tutorial!    


Curly Felted Hair Tutorial

What You Need:
- wool roving in your colour choice
- hot soapy water (make sure the soap is a mild bar soap, dish detergent is too harsh)
- textured working surface (I used a silicone sushi mat)
- long round skewers (or chopsticks, or dowels or even pencils!)

There are 3 key elements to wet felting: water, heat and friction.  Wool fibres have microscopical scales (much like our own hair) that open up and then lock when they are rubbed together.  The hot water opens up the tiny microscopical scales and the friction forces the scales to lock together.  The soap helps lubricate the friction and the textured surface provides more friction. 

So I first gathered my wool roving in blond, light brown and medium brown colours.  I pulled out small tufts of each roving and dunked them in hot soapy water.

Wet felting strands
Just some felt strands soaking in a ha-tub of soapy water
Then I rolled each piece up and down my sushi mat until they became thinner and denser.  I rolled them like I would roll a teeny little rolling pin until I couldn't unravel or pull the strand apart.  

Wet felting hair
Felted strands sunbathing
While still wet, wrap the strands around your skewers or chopsticks.  I used both because I wanted to have tight and loose curls.  Make sure that the strands are wrapped tightly and securely around the sticks and add more water to any loose ends for better adhesion.  Let the strands fully dry and be patient!  If you're impatient like me, you'll learn quickly that if you pull the strands off when they're still wet, they won't hold their shape.  I put them in a dry warm place and then watched a marathon of Girls.

Drying Curly felt strands
Set strands for drying
After the strands are fully dry, carefully pull them off.  These strands were just freshly taken off, hence the tightly wound curls.  Don't they kinda look like instant noodles?  A little gentle pulling of each strand on both ends helped make them more like loose curls.

Curly Felted Hair
Curly hair strands
Now for the fun part, the hairstyling!  Felt the basic foundation of the hairstyle which you will slowly layer onto.  Attach the curls and then build onto it until you're satisfied.

Felted Hair

Now Gwyn is ready for her big day!  I'm really happy with how the topper turned out and now I have another technique to put in my tool belt.  





I hope you found my tutorial helpful.  I'll try to document and post more tutorials as I continue to navigate the world of felting!

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