The other day I saw a really cool video on FaceBook of rugs that looked like river rocks. I love river rocks. I have five medium sized ones that sit on top of my woodstove in our living room. They act as heat sinks as well as looking pretty. A heat sink is a solid or liquid filled object that retains heat and slowly releases it as the air around it cools. Occasionally I put one of my river rocks in a thick cotton towel to warm my feet on when the temperatures really drop up here on the mountain.
The rugs in the video were made with felted wool rocks by the artist/designer Martina Schuhmann from Vienna, Austria (you can see the video on YouTube here). I was very intrigued since I’ve been playing with needle-felting so much. I decided to find out as much as I could about felting wool rocks or “stones”. I first went to the artist’s Etsy shop to see if there was more information. You can check her shop out at: FlussDesign
In the video there is a close-up of one of her rocks being squeezed and it bounced right back. That made me wonder how she was felting her rocks, were they solid wool or was there something else? Looking at Martina’s shop got me part of the answer. She stated that her rocks were made with a foam core.
I had the video on my facebook page and stated that I was wondering how she felted her rocks. My friend Angela sent me a link to a video on YouTube where they were felting around actual rocks. That got me wandering around YouTube looking at a variety of felted rock and other wet felting videos. I decided it was time to try felting my own wool river rock.
I dug out this piece of 1 inch thick foam that I had leftover from another project. It was a little dusty, so I gave it a good wash and hung it up to dry overnight. You can see in the photo above where it was clipped to my drying line. It wasn’t a very pretty piece of foam, but it was going to be enclosed in wool anyway. I drew an ovoid shape for my rock.
Once I had cut out the foam rock I trimmed up the edges to soften them. I figured wrapping the wool fibers and felting them around it would likely soften any hard edges, but I wanted to make this first rock as easy as possible.
Remember when I purchased that wool fiber from the Brown Sheep Company at the Loveland Yarn Fest last April? There was some interesting striped fiber in one of the bags. I had taken it out and placed it aside in another bag because I knew it would be great for a “special” project someday. It’s day had come, I thought it would be ideal for giving some “rock” texture to my felted faux river rock.
Before I started with that fiber though, I wanted to add a bit of my plain wool to the flat sides of my foam rock. Of course, my handy felting needle came out for this part of the project. I used the felting needle to tack the wool to the foam, just enough that it wouldn’t come loose.
I then did the same to the opposite side of my foam shape.
Now I had a little wool and foam sandwich to wrap with my special fiber. I set that aside for the moment.
It was time to lay out my fiber that would be the outside of my rock. I first pulled out drafts of fiber laying them out lengthwise on my work surface.
Next I laid out a second layer perpendicular to the first layer.
I was ready to wrap my little foam sandwich. If I do this again I will make my strip of wool fibers wider, I ran into some small challenges getting the core wrapped well.
I rolled the core up as snugly as possible with my strip of loose fibers. Then I was ready to use my felting needle to tack the fiber down well to the core.
At this point I had covered the entire core with the fiber and secured it well using the felting needle.
It was time to submerge the rock in my bowl of hot soapy water.
Now it was just all about working the wet felt to shrink it snugly around the foam core. This is the really wet and messy stage of this project. I also think I had a bit too much soap in my water. I alternated going to my kitchen sink and rinsing my rock with cold water to shock the fibers further, and working with the hot soapy water.
I also used my felting stone when I started getting the rock closer to the shape I wanted. The felting stone helped me smooth the surface of my “rock”.
I had finally gotten it felted well and I set it out to dry overnight. It was still a bit furry looking and had some odd shaping issues on the “bottom” side. I knew I would be doing a little “fixing” with my felting needle once it was dry again.
The next afternoon my rock was dry and I was happy with the squish factor of it. I wanted to correct some shaping issues on the bottom and ends. Especially this odd little flap that had formed at one end. Of course, real river rocks do sometimes have cracks and little protuberances, but I wanted my rock to be an “ideal” river rock.
Fortunately this was easy to fix, I just added some bits of fiber and needle felted them until they were smooth. No more flap. I continued shaping and smoothing my rock with my various needle felting tools. All of them joined the party; single, 3 and 5 needle tools. The 3 needle tool was especially useful for smoothing the surface of my rock with lots of shallow needling.
I am pretty pleased with how this rock came out. You can see how much the fiber shrank from the starting size to the finished size in the Before and After photos above.
The finished rock is only a little bit bigger than the foam core. You can get an idea of the relative sizes by looking at the shape in the remaining foam.
The patterning on the rock from the “special” fiber actually came out very well. I definitely have a side I consider the “top” of my rock.
This is my finished rock from the bottom.
And the side. Any way you look at it is pretty “rock like”.
I learned so much making this rock, one of the most important things was how much work it is felting a rock. I’m sure with practice I would get faster and have better results. But I would say it would be worth every penny to purchase a rug or other item from Martina. There is an incredible amount of labor in her pieces.
I may make some more rocks, but I think they will become a pillow for the sofa and not a rug. I was thinking that I could crochet the backing for the rocks to be sewn to, or I might even needle felt the rocks to my crocheted fabric. That would be the ideal marriage of both my current favorite crafts.