Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good Clean Fun

Last year (or maybe it was two – yikkes!), a wonderful beadmaker – Bethany Adams - Gwacie Beads – gave me a little present at the Winter Wonders Bead Show. She’s a gem of a person and fantastic artist. Without her I would not have the banner I so wanted for my Etsy site (as she was the wonder woman who fixed my flaws!). What Bethany gave me was a treat for my shower and something that has been fun to do with the kids I work with and to give as gifts over the holidays.

Everyone likes to have a little “somethin’ somethin’’ for the shower or bath. The winter’s here in Michigan are cold and skin drying. Instead of using a scrubbie to exfoliate, I now use a felt covered soap bar. I thought you might enjoy the directions for this fun project.

It’s really very easy and even young children enjoy making them with help (you have to be careful with the hot water). For a young child I cut the bar in half and round the edges with a butter knife so the felt goes on smoothly. It also makes it a lot easier for youngsters to hold the bar while attaching the felt. Bonus, it’s also easier for them to use in the tub….smaller size and doesn’t slip away!

For this project you'll need:
1. A bar of lathery soap (I’ve used just plain old Ivory with great success!)
2. Some raw wool - often called "roving" (available on or Google Roving)
3. Hot water
4. A washboard, or ribbed mat of some sort (optional) - I used a sushi-rolling mat.
5. I've heard other people use the ribbed top of a Tupperware-type container. It's not required, but it does seem to help speed the process.
6. The bottom of an old pair of pantyhose or knee-highs (likewise, optional) - These too aren't required, but they do seem to help keep the wool more evenly distributed around the soap. I use this constantly and it is the easiest way to keep the wool in position as you scrub the wool down to size.

Making a Felted Bar of Soap

Pull some wool from your package and fluff it up – lay the pull pieces together so you have a rectangle that it is about as thick as a normal washcloth (not the “Martha” thick kind – you know the kind, those cheapie Walmart 2 dozens in a package). It will take some experimentation to find the right amount of wool to use to make the thickness of felt that you like.

You’ll need a least two lengths and often more. Each layer doesn’t have to be super thick or cover the bar completely. As long as the layers alternate and eventually cover the entire bar. Wrap the wool around the soap, both lengthwise and widthwise so that the bar is completely covered. I wrap mine as tight as I can because once you wet it down it’s going to become temporarily loose.

Yes, it's going to feel baggy and loose and you'll wonder how this is EVER going to work! You can layer colors together, or just add a stripe of a contrasting color. Experiment! I have used all kinds of colors and they all look great.

Wet the Bar

When the bar is completely wrapped, begin to slowly dribble hot water onto the bar. Get it completely wet, but not drenched.

At this point, the soap and wool will look like a wet cat. Gently begin to massage the soap and wool together. Be careful not to be too rough at this stage or you'll expose the soap underneath. I am very careful at this point and I kind of pat the felt down to the bar and squeeze out any excess water.

Note: If you are going to use the stocking (I use knee high panty hose) this is where I carefully put the soap into the toe of the panty hose. I take the excess stocking and pull it all up tight to bar and tie it in a removable slip knot so I can use the knew high over and over.

Wool Shrinking - Soap Lathering

As you massage the bar, dribble more hot water onto it. (I often have a bowl of very hot water and I dip the bar - stocking and all - with a slotted spoon into the hot water). Using very hot water seems to speed things along. The soap will start to lather up through the wool, and the wool will begin to shrink and form to the bar of soap.

Keep gently massaging the bar, dribbling (or dipping and squeezing) more water onto it every once in a while. I also gentling roll the bar in my hands as if I were washing them with the soap.

Rub a Dub Dub

Once the wool has started to shrink and conform to the soap, you can really start rubbing. This is where to use your washboard, sushi mat, felting mat or other ribbed surface. Rub the soap on the mat - making sure that you get all sides, including the edges. This will really get the wool fibers to knit together. Wool fibers actually have little barbs on them and you are literally linking and catching them together.

Note: The ribbed surface is not required - it just speeds things up - you can get the wool to felt just by hand, it will just take a while.

Check the Felting Process

After you've rubbed for a while, check the progress of the felting by dribbling some more hot water on it to wash off the lather. You'll notice that the wool has really tightened up and formed a case around the soap.

Blot - Let it Dry - Use It!

Once the wool has completely formed around the bar of soap and isn't shrinking any more, you're done. Gently rinse (this where being in that stocking really helps) and blot the bar of soap on a washcloth and set it up to dry. I remove it from the stocking at this point and usually leave mine to dry on a piece of plastic by the heat register. I also find that the soap will last longer if I let it dry out very thoroughly before I use it.

Note: Don't be disappointed by the lathering of the felted bar the first time you use it in the shower. After the felting process is done and you've let the bar dry, it takes a little while for the lather to come back through the felt. But once it does, it's wonderful.

Make a ton of soapy fun this winter and keep clean and warm : - )

Disclaimer: And, so sorry folks – that’s not my hand. My mat looks like that though. Strickly ‘Martha Stewart’ from Kmart, hahaha. This is a repurposed and rewritten piece from a ton of sources and experience. Way to much like college and I ought to have a bibliography at the end. But, it’s soap...and it’s good clean fun!


rosebud101 said...

Wow! Thanks, Sharon, for the information! That would be a fun project for a cold, snowy day!

angelinabeadalina said...

Yes, thanks for the step-by-step information! Sounds like a fun project.

Janel said...

I have all of the supplies, except for the sushi mat. Looks like a fun project.