How to Make a Wet Felted Memorial Urn with Dog Hair
Honor the Life of a Pet with a Memorial Urn
Losing a Pet is always traumatic! Thinking of how one can best celebrate the life a much-loved pet is difficult. You may like the idea of making something from his or her own hair! If so, you will need to prepare for that sad day ahead of time.
Brushing a cat or dog is probably one of the things which both dog and cat enjoy on a regular basis. Not only is it enjoyable and therapeutic but it offers a unique opportunity for the owner of the animal to harvest the hair from his or her weekly brush. Store the hair in a sealed cardboard box until you have sufficient to try out this project. Don't keep it in a plastic bag as moisture and warmth in the bag can cause the hair to felt on its own.
Not all hair will be suitable for this project but I can attest to the fact that even short hair can be used with a mixture of other fibers including Merino or Alpaca wool. Some Purists might say that they would like only the hair of their own dog or cat to be used. My experience is limited to this one project, I think that it would be difficult to felt the hair on its own and get a satisfactory result. I can attest that this project is definitely not for the faint-hearted!
This project is definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Dog hair appears not to felt as easily as Alpaca or Merino Fibers. My advice is that you should use the other fibers where it cannot be seen. The pet hairs used should be put on the top layer of the Memorial Urn for decorative purposes only.
Things You Will Need for This Tutorial
A Quantity of Pet Hair (How much will depend on the size of the urn you wish to make. I would err on the side of having too much rather than too little.
A household item which has a shape which you like and around which the project can be shaped. ( After 2 attempts I finally chose a Yoghurt Maker as my final choice)
A quantity of grey Merino wool roving
Alpaca wool (raw or processed) I used raw unwashed Alpaca) fiber
A pair of rubber or latex gloves
A bamboo window blind
A felting tool plus felting needles
A foam bolster pillow cut to the desired size. A smaller foam object can be cut to size. Please see images below. The foam should be about 30% larger than the completed Urn you intend making.
An electric carving knife to cut the foam
Liquid Soap (I used Lavender Bubble Bath Foam) This was to make the fur smell better. The smell of wet dog was apparent throughout this project. I can say that the final project when complete had a faint whiff of Lavender and the wool was very clean.
Make a Test Swatch with the Pet Hair
Do a test swatch first to see if the pet hair you have has the potential to felt!
I found that some of the dog hairs I used felted a lot better than others. Longer hair seems to work best but if you have two thick layers of wool beneath the dog hair short cat or dog hair should attach itself to the longer hairs of the Alpaca or Merino Wool below.
Place a small quantity of dog hair onto a bamboo blind and wet it well with hot soapy water to test its ability to felt.
The wool which appeared to work best came from a Spaniel.
The fibers I used were cut from several dogs. A far better option would have been to use the fur from a dog which had been brushed rather than one which had been cut or trimmed.
Cut through a Foam Bolster Cushion to make a cylindrical shape as shown below. You could use a smaller piece of foam and roll it into a cylinder! The size will depend very much on how big or how little you want the completed Urn to be.
Lavender Bubble Bath Soap!
Cover the foam bolster cushion with a layer of raw or processed Alpaca fibers and/or Merino wool roving. This should be done one layer at a time.
All three layers should be fairly thick. This is so that the Urn will be self-supporting when it is completed.
Wet the foam, add the wool which can be done one layer and one section at a time. Wet the fibers with hot soapy water before moving to the next area.
Once the foam cushion has been covered rub the layer with hot soapy water to ensure that the wool sticks to the foam and then use the wool roving to complete Layer 2 and 3. Layer 3 will be completed using the dog hair
Please see my note on needle felting the wool to the foam. I strongly advise against doing this. It makes removing the project from the foam difficult and is very time-consuming:)
I used Lavender bubble bath soap to make working with the dog hair a lot more palatable. There is no getting away from it, there was a distinctive dog smell, so much so that I worked outdoors with gloves throughout the whole of the project, this in spite of the dogs having been washed three times before they were shorn!
The project also shed hairs during the felting process. I am happy to say that in the final shaping of the project this had become a distant memory.
I have to say that the Lavender perfume made working with the dog hair a whole lot 'sweeter'.
A Cautionary Note on Using the Needle Felting Tool
I needle felted the Alpaca and the Wool Roving to the foam but I should have remembered that it is an unnecessary. It makes removing the wool from the foam cylinder exceedingly difficult. I would suggest that you begin by wetting the foam and then add the fibres in stages. Wet each section, rub the wet fibres until smooth and then move onto the next area. The fibers should cling very nicely to the foam.
Alpaca Fibers 1st Layer
Add a 2nd Layer of Wool Fibers
Add a second layer of Wool Roving to the wet layer below. It should stick easily. Rub the wool until it is smooth all over, but not enough to felt the layers below. You want to be able to add the dog hairs while the fibers are still fairly loose so that they have every chance of firmly attaching themselves to the Alpaca or Wool below.
Add the Merino as shown below. No need to pluck off the wool as is generally done just spread the fibers apart with your fingers to made a wide strip of roving which can be rolled around the foam. Please see image below.
Add A Thick Layer of Dog Hair
Add a thick layer of Dog hair. If the hair you have is very short you may like to add it to foam one small area at a time, wet it and then move onto the next area. Do this until the whole of the foam cylinder is completely covered.
A lot of hair will be shed during this process especially if the hairs were cut off the dog or cat. Hairs which are combed rather than cut will have a better chance of attaching themselves to the layers of wool below.
Add Hot Soapy Water
Add more hot soapy water and begin rubbing hard all over until you begin to feel the wool beneath your fingers start tightening against the foam cylinder.
Use the Tumble Dryer
Tie the project inside a plastic bag and insert into a Tumble Dryer. Felting in a Tumble Dryer produces a much firmer felt which is exactly what is required for this project.
After about fifteen minutes in the Tumble Dryer, remove the cylinder and take it out of the plastic bag so that you can check the stability of the fibres
Continue doing this until you are quite satisfied that the fibers are sufficiently felted to make them stable.
Bag it Up!
Don't put the project into the tumble dryer without a bag covering all the hairs.
The dryer will clog up and make the dryer unhygienic.
Use an Electric Carving Knife!
Cut right through the top of the Project as shown below. The smaller section will become the lid. Make it bigger than you think it should be. There will be a lot of shrinkage in the final stages of this project.
The layers should be thick layers, this is partly because of the amount of shedding of hair which will take place and also the need to keep the layers even whilst maintaining a good strong base.
The difficulties were caused when I needle felted the foam to the Project:)
This is Where the Hard Graft Really Begins!
Once you have removed the project from the foam cylinder, take care to handle it gently.
The layers should be thick. They will still need a lot of rubbing to felt all of the layers together. The tumble dryer will have done quite a lot of the hard work but it is now time to shape the Urn. The wool should be fairly clean now but you will need access to some hot tap water and lots of soap and plenty of muscle power. Continue using the Lavender Bath Soap or use some Dish Washing Liquid,
The tumble dryer will have done quite a lot of the hard work but it is now time to shape the Urn. The wool should be fairly clean too but you will need access to some hot tap water and lots of soap and plenty of muscle power. Continue using the Lavender Bath Soap or use some Dish Washing Liquid,
The wool should be fairly clean too but you will need access to some hot tap water and lots of soap and plenty of muscle power. Continue using the Lavender Bath Soap or use some Dish Washing Liquid,
Put the yoghurt maker or vessel you have decided to use inside the project and rub until so much shrinkage has taken place that the project is self-supporting if taken off the Yoghurt Maker.
Use elastic bands to help you hold the Project onto the Vessel.
Use hot and then cold water to help with the shrinkage process and when nearly all the shrinkage has taken place, trim the edges and shape the top and bottom over the vessel.
Give a final rinse in a solution of vinegar and water.
Needle felt some paw marks or the name of your Dog onto the Project. Alternatively hang a collar name tag around the neck of Project.
No dogs were harmed to create this Project.
The techniques used above can be used to create a variety of felt vessels using Merino Wool Roving or Alpaca on their own.This project was created at the request of a Dog Owner and was not something I had ever considered doing prior to that. it has been an interesting project and I welcome your comments and feedback.
This project was created at the request of a Dog Owner whose Pet is reaching its final years. I feel privileged to be part of this experiment. It has been an interesting project and one which I was part of.
Your comments, questions, and feedback are always welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.
Is This Project Something You Would Try!
Does this Project have any appeal for you or do you think it just plain Bizarre?
© 2016 Sally Gulbrandsen