How to make a felt outdoor seat

19 February 2010 · 10 comments

in Art & Music Outdoors, Early Years Outdoors, Play Resources, Technologies

In 2001, on a Comenius outdoor learning course in Sweden, I had the opportunity to try felting. It was a disaster. I managed to dye my wool using fresh birch leaves and carded it reasonably well. But the felting process was my failing. Once I returned home, my enthusiasm was undaunted. I found a local person who was passionate about dyeing wool and roped her into a felting project. Alas the wool the children had collected from the fences and fields was unsuitable. The woman kindly brought along her own wool and plans were put in place to create seating mats…and then I transferred to another school!

So when I found a starter felting pack in a nearby craft shop, Touched By Scotland, it felt like a timely opportunity to have another go. And this is how I got on…

First I unravelled and untwisted the skein of wool…

I spread the wool out to a similar thickness, with all the fibres laid horizontally on a piece of bubble wrap, bubbles up.

The next layer of wool was added with the fibres placed vertically…

A third and final layer of horizontal fibres was added…

After that I moved the felting piece over to the kitchen sink and sprayed hot soapy water onto the felting wool, using a milk bottle with holes punched into the bottom.

Next the bubble wrap was placed onto a towel and a second piece of bubble wrap was placed, bubbles down on top of the felting wool…

More hot water and a little soap was put on top of the bubble wrap. For five minutes I rubbed the surface in circles. After that I rolled up the bubble wrap containing the felt and squeezed out the water. Next the top layer of bubble wrap was rolled up and put on one side of the felt…

The felt was rolled up into a sausage shape with the roll of bubble wrap inside…

The bubble wrap sausage was wrapped up inside a towel and kneaded for a couple of minutes. After that, it was unwrapped and the felt rotated ninety degrees before being wrapped up in the bubble wrap and the towel once more. Again I kneaded the sausage repeated the process two more times to make the wool shrink in an even direction.

Then the felt square was unwrapped and rinsed a couple of time with a little warm water. The excess water was squeezed out and the felt left to dry on a towel…

As you can see, it’s not the tidiest of seats, but the colours are lovely. The seat provides a layer of insulation even when wet between the ground and one’s rear. However you do need to be wearing over trousers if the ground is wet because the felt does absorb water. Alternatively, put the mat inside a plastic bag.

For children of all ages making felt outdoor seats is a very satisfying art project with a practical outcome. With a little adult help for the kneading and rubbing, pre-school children can manage this activity. The whole project is quite wet. This makes it an ideal outdoor water art activity for a warm day. Once the seats wear out, they can be composted too!

Rather than buy merino wool tops through an education catalogue, it’s worth searching online for better deals. The World of Wool has a great range of colours and mixes at very competitive prices. Just bear in mind that the wool will shrink considerably so experiment to find the size you want first. My attempt is a little on the small side.

So I’m interested to know if anyone else out there has tried this activity before or used felted seats on a regular basis with children. The seats are incredibly warm and light. They are easily rolled up or folded and make a beautiful addition to the whole excitement of taking children outdoors.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Teacher Tom February 20, 2010 at 18:11

I’ve never felted myself, but I remember visiting a school several years ago where a parent had taught the kids how to do it.

The part that has stuck with me is that his version of felting involved driving over it with his car in the parking lot several times! I don’t think he let the kids do the driving . . .

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CreativeSTAR February 20, 2010 at 18:18

What a novel idea using a car.

I reckon felting is one of those activities, like painting that suits all ages. It’a also possible to make so many different objects too.

I’m now hooked on wool outdoors!

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Kierna C February 20, 2011 at 10:57

What a fun idea – we have a local resource centre that businesses donate unwanted materials to & I have a box of wool lying waiting to be used. Now I know what to do – watch out for some photos in the future! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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Kim C September 23, 2011 at 11:14

Haha! I love the car idea. Wondering how I can run a biking session and felt at the same time….!

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Juliet Robertson September 23, 2011 at 11:26

Use a zip-lock plastic bag – put the wool in this with hot water and soap. Then attach it to the seat and pedal hard!

I’m going to be messing about with making felt slippers in a similar manner!

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sian roberts August 3, 2016 at 17:45

this looks beautiful BUT it is very expensive.

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Juliet Robertson August 3, 2016 at 23:49

It is more expensive than other seating options – there’s no doubt. However there’s some good deals online for merino tops – buy white and use this as the base layers, adding colours on top of this. Also, the way I got into this was through my parents who are friends with people who have heritage breeds of sheep – ones like blue-faced leicester have great fleece for felting – so this also reduces costs.

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