Gatherers Wool Projects

Wool is a wonderful and versatile gift from nature. Here are a few wool projects that Gatherers can do while they are at Colony Ross. Gatherers groups that choose to do wool projects for their main project work at Colony Ross should plan on doing a couple of these projects. If there are wool enthusiasts in your Gatherers group, you can choose to do alternative wool projects such as knitting, spinning and weaving. If you have other wool projects in mind, please contact the ELP Manager to discuss and determine if the project can be done at Colony Ross. Please scroll to the bottom for an introduction on wool.

 

 


Wool Felting Project – This is a hands-on and somewhat messy project where you will take wool that has been washed and carded, and turn it into a piece of felt. Felt is a very useful material that can be used for warm, wool blankets; sweatshirts, hats, potholders and much more.

What you will need to bring –

  • Ice to make very cold water
  • Soap or detergent (Dawn is a popular choice)
  • A few hand towels
  • Aprons (optional)
  • Sewing needles and thread (optional if you wish to sew pieces of felt together to make a small bag)

What will be provided to you by Colony Ross –

  • Prepared wool (washed and carded)
  • A pot or kettle to heat up water over the fire
  • A bowl for hot water
  • A bowl for cold water
  • Surfaces to work your project on–without damaging the furniture!
  • Instructions from your ELP Instructor

How to make a coaster or one side of a small bag – 

  • Lay a thin sheet of wool with the fibers aimed all in one direction, about the size of a sandwich baggie.
  • Layer another thin sheet of wool at cross purposes to the first layer.
  • Lay a third sheet of wool over the second sheet, in the same directions the first layer.
  • Add hot soapy water and carefully poke at it without burning yourself and wiggle it around, while maintaining its shape.
  • When you are able, turn it over carefully, it is still fragile at this point.
  • Continue poking and wiggling it.  
  • Douse with some ice water and continue. It is the shock from hot to cold that REALLY helps the felting get going. 
  • Continue in this manner until it has enough integrity to easily lift from the work surface.
  • Now with it between your hands, rub it like you are washing your palms, while periodically adding hot or icy water.  Turn it frequently. Re-dip it into the soapy water on your work surface as needed.  
  • When it is the size and thickness you desire, let it rest, and if making a small purse or bag, then repeat to create a second side.

Felted Beads Project – This is a hands-on and somewhat messy project where you will take wool that has been washed and brushed, and turn it into pretty round felted beads. 

What you will need to bring – 

  • Ice to make very cold water
  • Soap or detergent (Dawn is a popular choice)
  • A few hand towels
  • Aprons (optional)
  • Sewing needles and thread (optional if you wish to thread some beads together to make a bracelet or necklace)

What will be provided to you by Colony Ross –

  • Prepared wool (washed and carded)
  • A pot or kettle to heat up water over the fire
  • A bowl for hot water
  • A bowl for cold water
  • Surfaces to work your project on–without damaging the furniture!
  • Instructions from your ELP Instructor

How to make felted beads –

  • Get a small amount of wool and place it into a puddle of hot soapy water. 
  • Poke and pinch it to get it to hold together.
  • Shock it in icy water
  • Continue poking and pinching until you can rub it between your palms as you might do to make a clay or playdough ball.
  • Continue dipping in hot, rubbing to shape, and dipping in cold, until your bead has integrity and is the size you want.  
  • Note – If you plan on sewing through the beads to string them later as a bracelet or necklace, don’t felt them so long that they become extremely hard.  It is very difficult if not impossible to push a needle through a hard felted bead.

Spun Wool Bracelets Project – This is a fun, easy project to make with a buddy. These bracelets are also known as friendship bracelets. During this project you will turn prepared wool into yarn and make the yarn into a bracelet.

What will be provided to you by Colony Ross – All materials provided by Colony Ross for this project

  • Prepared wool (washed and carded)
  • Instructions from your ELP Instructor

How to make wool bracelets – 

  • Strip a 16” length of roving into three narrow 16” strips.
  • Have one person hold one end of a strip of wool, while a buddy holds the other side.
  • Working together each person begins to twist the wool. Each person should twist in the opposite direction from each other. 
  • Twisting the wool in this way makes the wool fibers hold together which creates a strip that is strong and becomes difficult to pull apart.
  • Keep twisting, twisting, twisting until you have a very tight, hard twisted length.
  • Then one person grabs both ends of the twisted wool, to keep the twists from unravelling. Then fold the two ends together, holding firmly.
  • Then the other person places a finger in the middle between the two ends.  Then their buddy folds the two ends together, being careful not to let go of the twisted ends. 
  • Pinch the two twisted strands about an inch from the fold and remove finger that was there
  • After the first inch has a bit of twist in it, release the pinch near the fold, while still holding the other ends together, and watch it become yarn!
  • Then gently wrap it around your buddy’s wrist and tie the loose end into a twisted loop at the folded end and make a little knot to secure the bracelet in place.
  • Repeat the process so each person gets their own bracelet.

Wool –  A short introduction written by Midori Gunheim, Teacher, Knitter, Spinner, Fiber Arts enthusiast.  Feel free to print and use in a classroom setting with children, but please don’t use in other ways without permission. 

Wool grows on sheep.

The sheep is not killed or hurt when wool is harvested.  The sheep gets a HAIRCUT, and is held in a position that looks uncomfortable to us, but actually helps the sheep stay calm.  Ranchers care about their sheep and don’t do things to hurt them or frighten them purposefully. If they didn’t get their wool cut each year, it would grow too heavy for them to even walk, and that would hurt them. Shearing the fleece yearly is part of taking good care of sheep.

Wool can be many colors, from bright white, to cream, smokey gray, brown, medium to dark gray, or black. Some sheep are even spotted! Different kinds of sheep grow different kinds of wool, from harsh and strong–used to make carpets–to very soft and fine, that newborn babies are cozy wearing it next to their tender skin.  If you think you can’t wear wool, you have probably not worn fine wool without dye, which is great next to the skin. Since wool is made of the stuff our hair and skin are made with, true wool allergies are extremely rare.

Wool is an amazing fiber.  It stretches, and returns to shape.  It absorbs moisture but also repels water from its surface.  That’s why it is comfortable to wear in winter or summer. It is naturally antimicrobial–which means that germs can’t grow well in wool, or make it stinky. It is nature’s fire extinguisher.  When a flame is removed from the wool, it will smolder and go out. That’s why people are told to use a thick wool blanket if they have to protect themselves from a fire. 

When wool is freshly shorn it is dirty.  It has a year’s worth of dust and dirt and lanolin on it.  Sheep live in fields that have weeds and sometimes mud. Wool needs to be washed carefully so that the dirt and lanolin get removed, but the wool isn’t damaged. 

After it is washed, the wool needs to be combed, or sometimes carded, to prepare it to be spun into yarn.  If it has lots of weedy bits that spinners call VM (vegetable matter), then the best choice is to comb the wool, which helps those bits drop out. If it is quite weed-free, then it can be carded and spun.  Each preparation leads to a different kind of yarn. Combed wool lines up the fibers and creates a smooth strong yarn. Carded wool gets the fibers ready to be spun in a jumbled way that creates a fluffier yarn that traps lots of air. 

Depending upon what someone wants to make with the wool, the choice would be to prepare in a specific way, the exact kind of wool that is needed. What is perfect for socks that get walked on for hundreds of miles, is very different that what would be a perfect soft hat for a baby.  

If you were to look at wool under a powerful microscope, you would see that its surface is similar to the shingles on a roof.  When wool gets shocked between hot and cold water, particularly in the presence of soap and friction, these tiny shingles lift up and hook onto their neighbors.  This action is permanent and effectively “glues” the fibers to each other. A careful wash that triggers only a tiny bit of this is called fulling. If you do this purposefully with unspun fibers, then you are “felting” and creating a felted fabric or item. 

Humans have been felting wool and using the felt for hats and clothing for thousands of years.  Welcome to living history.