How to Make Magic Wet Felted Roses

It’s amazing what all you can craft out of wool! These roses are created with a specific method that allows much of the forming to be done all at once. I’m so happy to be able to share this tutorial; how to make magic, wet felted roses!

There are a variety of ways to work with wool fibres; needle felting (2D & 3D), wet felting, Nuno felting, and then combinations of those. This special technique was discovered by a textile artist (Judith Shaw) and therefore called Judith’s roses. It’s a pretty simple but ingenious technique that allows the forming of the rose petals and leaves to be completely attached all at the same time. I’ve added a bit of optional finishing steps to further refine the final shapes.

Materials Needed:

  1. Wool roving (merino wool or other fibre) in various colours (rose petals, leaves)
  2. Dowel center (wooden dowel, PVC pipe, or other cylinder)
  3. Olive Oil soap or other Liquid soap & Rubber bulb sprayer
  4. Fulling tool
  5. Scissors
  6. Elastics or elastic strips
  7. Water
  8. Plastic sheet or waterproof table cover
  9. Bubble wrap or other nubbly surface
  10. Towels
  11. PVA glue, water, paint brush
  12. Felting Needles (optional)
  13. Plastic from Vinegar Bottle or similar (optional)

Prepare the centre core form:

I have adjusted the technique a bit further to include some extra texture on the centre core shape (dowel or tube) to be able to help in fulling the wool. In the art of feltmaking it is essential to agitate, rub, and work on pieces to bind the fibres.

Wrap the centre form with the textured material and secure with elastic.

Step-by-Step Guide:

Prepare Your Workspace:

Lay down a plastic sheet or waterproof table cover to protect your work surface. Have easy access to water, soap, and towels.

Prepare some soapy water by shaving some olive oil soap into hot water to dissolve.

Select Wool Colors:

Choose wool roving in the colors you want for the rose petals and leaves. Consider traditional rose colours like red or pink. Merino Wool top or other roving will work as well as some embellishment fibres. Different colours can be mixed by hand or with a couple carding brushes (or even dog grooming brushes)

Prepare Your Workspace:

Lay down a plastic sheet or waterproof table cover to protect your work surface. Have easy access to water, soap, and towels.

This magical rose felting process is very similar to basic wet felting. To create the rose form the roving shapes will be placed on a narrow but long (long enough to place all the needed petals) strip of plastic, wetted with soapy water, another layer of plastic over top.

Create and Place the leaf & Flower Petal shapes

Pull little tufts of the smallest amount of wool and lay down. The roving is shaped along the edge of the plastic sheet with some of the loose bottom fibres protruding beyond the edge. That is key to allow all the petals will be attached once it’s felted; that’s the ‘Magic’!

The direction of the petals starts with the outside leaves (on the right) and then works toward the centre, gradually making smaller flower petal shapes. Since you have full control of colour choices, varying the colours will give the rose so much more interest.

This is very similar to how you would layout fibre for making a wet felted piece. It’s your choice to work with wetted fibre or dry. To envision; imagine that you have plucked off rose petals and leaves and laid them in a line…

Add the top Layer

Once you are satisfied with the shapes, sizes and placement place another sheet of plastic overtop after wetting with olive oil soapy water. (shaving some into hot water)

Start the Fulling Process

The fulling process on this ‘sandwich’ can now start. I made a fulling tool from a found handle to which I added some stick-on bumps. (see my nuno felting post) The sandwich is placed on a bubble wrap (or other nubbly surface) to facilitate the vibration and agitation that makes the wool fibres interlock. Add soapy water to make the tool glide.

Work over the piece being careful not disturb the placement too much. I would say about 20 minutes is enough, depending how quick and aggressive you are. Sneak a peek at the last leaf if you would like to see how anchored the fibres are.

(See the video for full action & voice over)

Roll onto Centre Form

Starting from the centre rose petals roll the ‘sandwich’ onto the form making sure to line up the plastic with the end of the dowel. Secure with elastic.

The Magic Key to the Rose Form

Once rolled up it is important that the loose fibres that were hanging over the plastic edge will felt together.

Rub the fibres on the dne on the bubble wrap or other bumpy surface to bind them.

Spend some time agitating tha rolling the bundle on the bubble wrap. Back & forth, over and over… Perhaps during some TV watching. Some instructions suggest using devices like tumbling in a dryer etc but I find this type of bundle is more fragile. The suggested time is one hour…

Unwrapping to Find the Magic Rose

Squeeze as much of the water out as possible. After the agitation remove the elastic and start to form the rose. The outermost shapes were the leaves, pull those outward and snip if some fibres are not allowing them. Feel free to firmly pull into shape.

Pulling the plastic off the core dowel will unwrap the petals as a spiral; one leaf/petal at a time towards the centre. The petals are quite open weave fabric and featherweight. They are however still quite strong.

The Larger petals of the rose are next and can be pulled & tugged into shape. Aren’t you quite surprised how this unique technique creates such a complete form?! I did have quite the disbelief when I started!

There may be some stray fibres that can be massaged into the edges or further finished in the next steps.

Forming the Rose:

Once the core dowel is out further shaping can be done. If need be, rinse the rose and blot with a towel. Fold or tuck as you like, add some twisting in the centre to represent the small inner petals. Since the fine wool fibres are still wet and soft you can manipulate as much as you like.

‘How lovely the combination of colours shows in the form! Once you do one, you will have an idea how you would like to adjust colour change or size/shape of petals. This is not limited to just roses, as many flowers are similarly formed. Perhaps adding some centres stamens will suggest another flower specie.

Defining the Petal Edges:

Judith Shaw was an innovative designer. During my recent needle felting adventures I discovered how to create clean dense edges! Using a couple handmade ‘shields’ I could poke the edges to scallop or get rid of the loose fibres without just cutting them off. Cut a couple shape out of a transparent plastic material. Use these to squeeze the edges and poke easily with the felting needle. You will notice how the fibres become quite dense at the edges – perfect!

Another step of shaping can be some heat pressing but an iron is too large. Since Wool is similar to hair you can use a flat iron or curling iron to press the petals.

Stiffening the Rose

Since these are quite delicate in nature you will probably like to set & shape the rose with some stiffening. There are commercial products that be used but a simple and inexpensive way to make your own is by watering down some PVA glue. Make sure it is thin enough to soak into the fibres. I mix it to approximately the consistency of whole milk. Whenever painting on something it’s best to go slow as you can always add more.

If you feel that need further anchoring or stability you can also consider some use of felting needles as they can change or tighten form. The bottom of the rose does have a finished centre.

Enjoy Your Wet Felted Roses!

Such a lovely way to combine colours and be able to sculpt the petals! So many ideas are floating in my head… Perhaps some other plant shapes can be formed with this technique?! Imagine a full bouquet or a few on a hat! Make some stems or add a pin to make a brooch.

I especially love the way that the fibre colours blend to create interesting texture.

Perhaps some roses can adorn a Nuno Scarf. Making wearable art is very gratifying, as these blooms will not fade or wilt!

Many of the feltmaking processes use a fair amount of roving but these can use a very small amount of wool. Such joyful explorations!

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2 Comments

  1. Beautiful roses, thank you! Video crashed four times, gave up and just used the written tutorial. Love working with wool, the colors, blending, great idea for flowers. You can do so much with wool.