Last weekend I attended a felting workshop to make a Waldorf/Steiner birthday placemat and birthday crown. I loved the process (and outcome) so much I couldn't wait to try felting again. I wanted to make an ocean/beach theme play mat for Otto (3yrs) like the ones I'd seen on Etsy (here and here).
There is something powerful about making toys and playthings by hand. They are made with love and intention and made specific to the child. The child can see the time and effort that goes into it. It can also show the child how we can work with our hands to create with raw materials and possibly with local materials. What a wonderful lesson for the child to experience.
This isn't a tutorial, I barely knew what I was doing. But I want to share, offer encouragement and perhaps get you thinking about making playthings by hand. There is a useful wet felting play mat tutorial at The Wandering Woods Blog.
I enjoy felting and working with wool. I chose wool which has been hand-dyed, it's soft to touch and is comforting to use. I pulled out all the colours I wanted to use inspired by our coastline, which is bright turquoise.
I layered the wool to create the coastline. I needle felted a little at this stage to keep it all together and in place. I've read the work will shrink by about 20% after felting so this is important to keep in mind while laying out the wool.
I put some tulle on top and gently poured some hot soapy water over it. You give it a gentle rub, check to make sure it's all in place and then roll the play mat up and roll it back and forth many times (again this tutorial is useful). I made this on our back deck, somewhere outside is good as the soapy water will run off the table. Otto was playing around me the whole time I was making it but this is about the only time he was able to help. Then we rinsed it and let it dry. I also put the play mat in the dryer for a few minutes just to finish it off.
It's difficult not to be super critical of the things we make ourselves. Making the play mat or any wet felting materials is a process of letting go and accepting.
I've presented the play mat with some shells, a little dried seaweed, and lots of ocean model animals.
It's satisfying to see Otto enjoy using the play mat. I can't wait to make more. I'm also starting to think of other felting activities the older children might be able to help with.
The play mat turned out thicker than I had expected and it's so nice and soft to touch.
This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.