To make your own goat’s milk felted soap bars, follow along with me!
Gather your supplies:
Choose a bar of soap without additives, clays, or herbs. Make sure your soap doesn’t contain oatmeal as it will become rancid and get all bunched inside as you begin to use the bar.
Wool – I use Blue-Faced Leicester sheep wool
A clean plastic tub or your kitchen sink. Dish detergent – I use Seventh Generation or Ivory Clear dish soap. You can find both at your local grocery store.
Separating the Wool and Planning the Design:
1. Undo a ball of Blue-Faced Leicester Sheep wool. (I buy it from my fiber-artist friend, Rachel, but you can purchase it at any fiber mill, or other reputable fiber source.
2. Separate the roving (Roving is a long and narrow bundle of fiber that has been prepared for spinning or other textile arts.) with your fingers into two, 14” strips. Put the ball of wool away.
3. Separate those two strips into two more strips. You will now have four strips of wool.
4. Carefully study them. Decide which of the four layers is going to be the outside layer for design purposes.
Line them up side-by-side with the final layer on the right side. Decide which way you’re going to felt them. Is the last piece going to sit vertically or horizontally?
1. Lay the soap on the end of one strip and begin rolling, keeping the wool taut as you roll.
2. Hold down the end, then turn the soap and place it on the second strip. Begin rolling to the end of the strip and then hold down the end of the strip.
3. Turn the soap and lay it back down on one side of the third strip. Begin rolling and roll to the end of the strip. Again, hold down the end.
4. Spread out the last wool strip to the width of your bar of soap, place it on the end and begin wrapping and hold it at the end.
You are now ready to begin the felting process.
Clean your sink or use a clean plastic tub. (Glass or stainless steel will work also). Fill the tub with very warm water. Wrap soap in nylon material (like an old sheer curtain) and hold snug.
1. Dunk your soap in the water while holding it in both hands. Press out all the bubbles by loosening and tightening the grip on the soap.
2. Pour a bit of dishwashing detergent on the wool covered bar. Begin massaging the wool.
3. Keep adding detergent to make sure it’s really slick, while applying very light pressure. (This is felting.)
4. Repeat on each side, including the sides of the soap.
5. Undo the nylon, turn the soap 90 degrees, rewrap and follow the above steps. Be sure to keep the bar wet and slippery. Press a little bit harder this time, keep felting. The fiber will start to bind up and shrink a little bit. When it feels right, remove the nylon cloth from the bar of soap and continue felting.
Finally, rub the soap on something rough like a Tupperware marinating tray. The roughness will felt it even tighter up through all four layers.
Rinse under fresh running warm water.
Place the bar on a cotton dishtowel. Press and fold. This step helps to mold the shape and will take two to three dishtowels to draw out all of the water.
Repeat until the wool holds together really well and covers the soap evenly. Set on a drying rack for 24 hours, turn periodically.
To felt one bar of goat’s milk soap, allow 10 minutes (for an experienced felter). Fifteen to twenty minutes is more reasonable for a new felter.
Be aware that you only have a certain amount of time to felt the bar. If you’re not careful, the soap will become too wet underneath the wool and you’ll dissolve the soap. You will want to quickly work the fiber in order to leave as much soap as possible inside.
The next time I felt soap, I’ll post a video. Until then, give it a try and let me know how it goes! If you get stuck, just email me and I’ll try to guide you through the process.
**A special thanks to my super-talented daughter, Jennifer, for taking the beautiful photographs!
Check out her site at Jenuinely Captured Photography.