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50 Cove St
Portland, ME, 04101
United States

(207) 780-1345

Located in the East Bayside area of Portland, Maine, we strive to provide an encouraging community for fellow fiber-lovers by offering classes and carrying supplies for weavers, spinners, wet felters, needle felters, and dyers.  Stop in and let us help you on your merry fiber way!  

Felted Soaps Gone Awry

PortFiber Blogginess

Casey and Julie's ramblings on spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing, and of life in Portland, Maine.

Felted Soaps Gone Awry

Casey Ryder

My good friend Dee Clements, proprietress of Herron Clothier, invited me to be a part of a pop-up shop she's putting together in her home in Chicago this April.  "Oh heck yes!  I'm in!" I told her.  Now, what to make?  What to make?  What is something lovely that is not too time consuming to make that people would like to have in their homes?  Felted soaps!  Of course!

So yesterday, before I closed up shop for the weekend, I packed a bag of Jacob locks [from Janet Beardsley at Catawampus Farm] that I had recently scoured, some Sugar Tree Soap, and some Howard Hand Cards and stuffed them in my bike panniers.  I thought, "Yes!  I'm going to card this Maine-grown fiber with these Maine-made hand cards and lovingly wrap this Maine-made soap in a wooly coat!"  For those of you unfamiliar with felted soap, the basic gist is soap + wool = awesome loofa action.  So I got home, unpacked my materials and set to work!

Jacob Wool & Howard Hand Cards

Jacob Wool & Howard Hand Cards

First up was carding.  I decided I'd separate the dark wool from the light wool so I could make cool patterns on the soaps.  Jacob is a breed of sheep that has both dark and light colored fibers in their fleeces... kinda like Dalmatians!  Carding is quite relaxing.  I watched some Daily Show and Colbert episodes that were backlogged in my Hulu queue and pretty soon had this lovely pile o' rolags.

Lovely pile o' rolags.

Lovely pile o' rolags.

Next came the felting part.  I carefully wrapped the lighter wool around a bar of soap, making sure to wrap in multiple directions to help the felting process along.  Then I added a bit of the darker wool on top to make a nice little contrasting design.  Then I carefully placed the wool encased soap in a nylon sock and plunged it into some hot water.  Next, some sudsing action.  And some more vigorous sudsing action.  And then.  Failure.  I took the soap out of the sock and found that the wool wasn't really felting much.  I've done this before and whatever was supposed to be happening in that nylon sock [felting] was not happening.  

Hmm... maybe I should try without the sock?  Nope!  That didn't work either.  So now I've got two bars of slightly felted soap that will not be going to Chicago anytime soon.  These two bars of soap may need to live out their lives here in the apartment.  

Shabbily felted soaps.  They will look nice in the shower.

Shabbily felted soaps.  They will look nice in the shower.

I wasn't going to let all of those fluffy rolags go to waste, though!  Oh no, no, no!  I spun those little babies up this morning whilst watching Star Trek and sipping coffee.  It's been a long time since I've trekked the stars.  It was nice to get back to Captain Picard and the gang.  And it was nice to spin this local fiber up into some lovely yarn.  Methinks these will become handwoven coasters.  But alas, I did not bring the Zoom Loom home this weekend.  They will have to wait.

Handspun + USS Enterprise 

Handspun + USS Enterprise 

One thing I'm taking away from this experience is that if Jacob is a wool that takes some work to felt, it will make for some excellent socks.  I just so happen to be working on a blend at the shop, hand-combing this Jacob with some Maine alpaca and a hint of Maine Mohair for what will be some rockin' sock yarn!  All is not lost...  But what will I send to Dee?!  Maybe I'll stick with hand-dyed yarn.

Plied Jacob awaits the Zoom Loom.

Plied Jacob awaits the Zoom Loom.