Making a wet felted wool play mat is one of those really soothing activities that only sounds complicated! Wool felting is all about getting the wool fibers to mesh together and make a sturdy mat. Once you’ve made one, you can easily make loads but this first time I’m going to give you every single detailed step. Don’t panic – you and your kids will love this!
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert, nor am I particularly artistic. However, the results are always beautiful and this is a craft that turns out great no matter how unskilled you are. You should definitely add it to your to-do list.
The best place I’ve found to make these is in the bathtub. Let the child wear their swimsuit for extra fun (I don’t know why this makes it more enjoyable for them, but in my experience it always does!)
How to make your Hibernation Felted Play Mat
Materials needed for your Wet Felted Wool Play Mat
Wool roving in your choice of colors for the top (the bottom layers can be scraps of whatever you have left from other projects. I used unbleached wool roving from our own sheep.)
Mild soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s castile soap because it rinses so well and it’s eco-friendly, but any will do)
Bubble wrap, 2 pieces, big enough to cover the size of mat you want top and bottom
Duct tape to close off your bubble wrap for rolling
Hot (not boiling) water
Optional but helpful: a dryer
Step by step to create your DIY Wet Felted Wool Hibernation Play Mat
Start by placing your first piece of bubble wrap, bubble side up, on the bottom of the tub. Make your first layer of wool roving all in one direction, like this:
Make the next layer in the opposite direction. Repeat with layers 3 and 4, alternating directions. You want these pieces pretty close together because they’ll stretch out a bit during the process and you don’t want holes in your play mat.
Now add your top layer with the colours you’ve chosen. I was going for a hibernation themed wet felted wool play mat (find our free hibernation unit study to go along with it here), so I went with grass, dirt and fall leaf colours, plus a small stream for fun. Around here the bears are scooping out salmon like crazy right now, so we figured it made sense!
Add some hot (not boiling) water with a few tbsp of soap into a spray bottle and have your child spray it carefully. You want it wet enough that the top layer won’t move too much when you roll it, but not sopping.
Now gently pour the rest of your soapy water over it, trying to cover all of the mat.
Add your top layer of bubble wrap, bubble side down, and roll it up. Use your tape to hold it rolled.
Roll it back and forth across the tub, stretching as far as arms will reach. Do this 40-50 times. Yes, really. Practice counting to kill the time!
Unroll your mat. Does it look slightly shrunk and like the fibers are weaving together? Can you pinch it without pulling up fluffy tufts? If so, go to the next step. If not, roll it back up and do another 20 or so rolls first.
With your mat lying flat again, place the bubble wrap back on top bubble side down. Use your hands to gently rub (NOT PUSH!) in circles over the whole surface. Flip it over carefully and do that side too. Repeat a few times.
Take your bubble wrap off the top and repeat the gentle circular rubbing.
Rinse your mat to get the rest of the soapy water off. Get a towel and gently press out any extra moisture.
Now you can either leave it in the sunshine to air dry, or if you’re impatient like we are you can put it into the dryer for 10 minutes.If you want it fairly flat and smooth I would go with the air drying option.
I wanted my mat to be a little thick and bumpy like real leaves and earth would be, so I included a pair of clean tennis shoes to fluff it back up a bit. You can see that it puffed up and is a bit smaller again after some shrinking in the dryer. We also made a second piece exactly the same way but smaller and turned it into a bear cave, hot-gluing it to the main wet felted wool play mat when it was done. Ta-dah! Enjoy your hours of play.
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