tutorial

Twelve inexpensive felt studio tools by Shana Kohnstamm

I regularly find myself on the look-out for items that can be used in the studio, that aren't necessarily intended for studio use. While I don't mind spending more on quality materials, sometimes my most useful tools came to me free or for under $10. Thrift stores, discount stores, hardware stores and yard sales are often a treasure trove of ideas.

For agitation, I was tickled to find this pet food tray. Not only is it a great surface for wet felting smaller objects, but it can be used as a washboard. Same with the soap dish (Thank you, Dollar Store!). It bends easy to go around smooth rounded surfaces. The exercise ball is heavier than it looks. I use it for fulling only.

Ribbed surface (pet food tray), exercise ball, soap dish
Ribbed surface (pet food tray), exercise ball, soap dish

I don't often need to blend my own colored wool, so spending $60-$100 on carders simply didn't make sense. So, when I saw these grooming brushes at my local pet store for $4 a piece, I couldn't resist. Perfect for rolags and small batches. The pink shiny fingerguards have saved my little fingertips more often than I'd like to admit. I've only seen them offered by FiberInfusion on Etsy. Eyebrow & bikini razors are fabulous for shaving finished pieces.

"Blenders", small razors, finger protectors
"Blenders", small razors, finger protectors

One of my favorite "cheap" tools is this salad spinner from a store that rhymes with Shmig Shmots. For quick drying pre-felts or smaller objects that simply won't towel dry easily.  The shelf liner is ribbed and make for a great alternative to bubble wrap.

Salad spinner, ribbed shelf liner
Salad spinner, ribbed shelf liner

I can't tell you how often I use tulle in my practice. It's great for laying out delicate designs. It's great bundled up as a 'scrubber', although it creates a lot of soap foam. Most importantly, its fabulous for blocking (shaping wet wool.) A friend of mine gave me oodles of tulle leftover from her fabric stores. The smaller the weave the better, but even the larger stiffer tulle can be useful in stuffing & shaping a vessel.

Tulle
Tulle

Speaking of shaping, binder clips are a great tool for creasing/pinching felt. I have them in all sizes.  Foam-covered wire comes in handy for stabilizing and hanging wet felt. Some are from New England Felting Supply & some from a leftover kid's toy called Toobers & Zots.

Binder clips, Foam-padded wire, hanger clips, rubber bands
Binder clips, Foam-padded wire, hanger clips, rubber bands

Workspace ergonomics is essential for good studio health. I grabbed some inexpensive PVC pipe and a hacksaw to raise my wet table to a comfortable height. And the padded flooring was the best $15 investment! Before finding it in my price range (Costco), a doubled-up yoga mat worked well for standing on for long periods.

PVC table riser, padded flooring
PVC table riser, padded flooring

I think that was more than twelve, but I hope this has been helpful for both newbies and experienced felters & crafters alike. Did I miss anything? What are your favorite non-traditional tools? Please share!

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How-to: Simple, cost-effective, olive oil soap gel for wet-felting by Shana Kohnstamm

During my first wet-felting course a couple of years ago, my instructor squirted dish soap in a sprayer filled with hot water and sent us to work. I wasn't even paying attention so I have no idea how much soap she used. What I know now is, through trial and error, olive oil soap is the best for my hands and for most of my projects. Some wools require more soap than others, and the olive oil variety usually fits the bill. Except the liquid stuff isn't cheap! So, here's a simple "how-to". All you need is a bar of olive oil soap (I get mine at my local grocery for $3-$4), a standard kitchen grater, a container, water, elbow grease and a little patience. One 8oz bar will make over a 1.5 liters of soft-gel!

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See? Nothing to it and now you have a nice, inexpensive, olive oil soap gel. Happy felting!

Shana's Edit 7/6/14 - Ok, I've learned a couple of things since I first posted this. 

1. Forget the grater! If you have a food processor, you can skip the elbow grease altogether and clean your blades at the same time.

2. In a rush for soap gel one day, I put the soap flakes in a glass bowl and slowly added boiling water until I got the consistency I desired. 

Hooray for laziness efficiency!!

**If you liked this post, you might really enjoy this one: 12 inexpensive felt studio tools.**

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