Time to come clean. And nothing does the trick better than a handmade soap bar wrapped in softly spun and felted natural wool. Upon completion of this practical project, you will have a novel and crafty washcloth/soap combo guaranteed to tempt even the most stubborn grimy kid into a tub. In fact, you and your crafty little team will be inclined to make oodles of these for deserving friends, dedicated teachers, or for yourself—yes, even you are entitled to a complete body exfoliation with relaxing aromatic organically-derived essential oils and spicy touch-of-citrus scent to draw out impurities, replace minerals, improve circulation, and ahhh! getting carried away….
Point being, you might consider keeping one for yourself.
For this project, you will need the following: cheese grater, bowl of hot water, old stocking (tights/pantyhose), wool roving (carded wool), soap scraps (if you are in a hurry, simply use a solid soap bar), and hands willing to get wet and sudsy. As mentioned in previous projects, wool roving may be purchased online from Halcyon Yarn—check out their “Babooshka Soup”—a random mix of remnant wool batts and pencil roving. If you plan to use a solid soap bar, a good quality medium-milled round/oval soap bar is ideal for the job. Too hard (like French milled soap), and it will not lather. Too soft, and it will be squashy. Too rectangular, and it will have weak points in the felting. I mostly use soaps made with lavender or lemongrass oils, but recently I felted a soap made by my friend Jen Kovach labeled “Oatmeal Cookie.” Yum. Jen makes a well-air-cured goat milk soap that is just perfect for felting. I have found that goat milk soaps are the best—easy to felt, fragrant, long-lasting, natural—but I’m not picky. I’ll felt just about anything.
Before starting, remind everyone that soap can sting eyes and that it smells yummy but tastes horrible. Yuck! If you plan to use soap scraps, or you plan to smooth the edges of a rectangular bar, shred the soap with a cheese grater. Collect the shavings in your hand and press together, forming a ball, oval, or organicy rock-like shape.
Tightly wrap thin, even layers of wool roving around the soap until all surfaces are covered. Criss-cross three layers of wool (as in the Felted Wool Ball project) so that the fibers will lock together during the felting process. Different colors of wool may be used to create different patterns. I’m partial to bright, vivid colors for this one—luminous greens and blues, shameless oranges and reds—although, somber grays can make powerful stone soap. Beware of browns—nothing worse than washing with something damp, mudlike and wooly. I often add a narrow piece of thin (pencil) roving or wool yarn to create a natural sediment strip in the stone and to hold it tightly. Alternatively, a design can be needle felted with contrasting colors (see previous post on Dry Felting).
Carefully place your wooly bar into the toe of your old stocking. Tie the stocking, cutting away extra fabric. Dip your stockinged wooly soap into the bowl of hot water until it is thoroughly soaked. Gently roll it between your hands to build lather. Continue to agitate the wool fibers, re-wetting and squeezing and lathering the soap. Pay attention to the tiny sides of the soap—they need attention too.
When the fibers become entangled and the wool becomes firmer, roll and press harder. If you have a washboard or a bubble wrap sheet, rub all sides of the wooly soap on this. When is it done? When the wool is completely felted, it should form a semi-snug casing around the soap. The entire process should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Kids love this project. It’s messy, requires little elbow grease, and is somewhat magical. To increase the soap’s lifespan, rinse it quickly under tap water and allow it to dry thoroughly between uses.
As the soap dissolves, the wool will shrink slightly. When the soap is no longer, dry the pouf. Make a small incision and use as a funky fragrant coin purse, cat toy, ornament, finger puppet, or herb-filled sachet for your prized collection of unmentionables.