Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Felted Wool Solstice Lanterns

Nov 16, 2012 note: There is a new post about making felted wool lanterns with more of a how-to here.  Maybe between the two I've said something helpful!! Happy lantern making...

One of the families in choir invited us to make felted wool lanterns with them and a few other families, so yesterday we gathered in the community center that we meet in for choir (so close to our house), and did just that.  It sounded chaotic and frenzied, but really, it was just 10 children and their big people crafting and gabbing...This is going to be my own interpretation of what we did - we were following instructions that someone had from the current issue of the Living Crafts magazine, which would be much more precise than these, but here goes!

We all had some light color of wool roving or batting, which we pulled apart in long strips, teasing the fibers apart a bit. 
(Listening to instructions...)
We then lightly sprayed our smallish balloons with cold water, and began to wrap our wool strands around the balloon, making sure to cross the fibers of each strand with the others.
This was tricky, 'cause just when you thought you'd gotten your balloon pretty well covered, there would appear a bald spot, and you'd start fussing with that area, only to uncover another. The trick was really to get it just about right and stop touching it!
The next step was taking a piece of wool yarn about 3 yards long and wrapping it all around the balloon, again criss-crossing it over itself.   Aha! This held the wool in place! (This is where I moved from frustration to seeing a bit further ahead. Mind you, I wasn't even making one, I was just helping the kids...)
Now we filled our tubs with hot, soapy water and started to scoop out handfuls of the water and drizzle it over the wool. Then we would pat the wool, helping it to stick to the balloon and to itself. Drizzle, pat pat. Drizzle, pat pat. Repeat for a very long time. We found that adding a bit more soap, even a drop to the wool itself, was really helpful.
We kept at it until the wool felt thick and sturdy, as if it wouldn't easily tear apart. Then we agitated the wool a bit on the balloon, which just looked like rolling the balloon between our hands for a while, then rubbing it against or with a piece of small-bubble bubble wrap.
Finally, when it felt really sturdy, we rinsed the wool-covered balloon quite well (we had used a lot of soap, it turns out), and then it's time to pop the balloon! The lantern sagged, which is all right; the next step is rubbing the top to the bottom, gently at first, then gradually more vigorously, until you are rolling it on itself and massaging it steadily.  The last thing before drying was to run it under hot-as-you-can-stand-it water, continuing to squeeze it together - it will shrink and become even sturdier. They're done! Fill with a new balloon, some leftover bubble wrap, towels or rags - anything to help it hold its shape until dry (oh, at this point you have also cut a hole in the top if you didn't already have one).
We put metal lids in the bottoms of ours and placed a tea candle on that, and lit them in the dark this morning.
We thought they looked like ice caves...igloos...beautiful.
 ps - I wondered about putting a live flame in these lanterns - when they felt tightly, they shrink down considerably, and I was a bit skeptical about the candles being safe in there! But I learned that wool is fire-resistant, meaning that it is hard to ignite and slow to burn. If you are still uncertain, a small LED candle from the dollar store would look pretty too!

15 comments:

sarah in the woods said...

Oh lovely!

Reba said...

Those are awesome! I would never have thought of wool and candles being a good idea together but they look lovely!

merry said...

WOW! These are gorgeous! I had a hard time wondering why they wouldn't catch fire, but it looks like the candle is far enough away from the sides of the lantern. I love them! Sounds like they were pretty time intensive - would the girls consider making more or are they OK with just one each? What a lovely, homey table!

Stephanie said...

Oh, they're so pretty!! I love this idea!

Melissa said...

These are beautiful!

Annie said...

So incredibly beautiful!!

Jaime said...

Such a great project. Your table looks so very pretty.

Kelly said...

What a lovely, warm idea. Happy solstice!

Debbie said...

Oh...I love these. They are soooo pretty. And I knew that about wool and fire - nice to be able to put them together on purpose. :)

April's Homemaking said...

Your lanterns turned out beautifully!! I so enjoy the wonderful crafts in Living Crafts!! Looks like a very fun project!!

The Monko said...

I have pinned this. I love how they turned out, so beautiful

Carrie said...

These are beautiful!! I would love it if you would share them at my sharing party at http://craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/2011/12/merry-christmas-sharing-saturday-11.html. Thank you!

Sunshine Mama said...

So beautiful, thanks for sharing how to make it!

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering how long this took?

slim pickins said...

Hi! This first attempt took about an hour and a half, but we made them for solstice gifts this year (see this post for more information: http://plotfiftyfive.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-nitty-gritty-on-felting-lanterns.html)and I got the process down to 20 minutes - 1/2 hour per lantern.