Felted Soap Designs: Two Best Methods + Design Tips

Several bars of colorfully felted soaps.

Many people are amazed when they first glimpse the intricate, whimsical designs on a felted bar of soap.

How exactly those designs are created, however, often remains a mystery to those not familiar with the craft.

How do I add designs to felted soap? To add designs to felted soaps, either place strips of colored wool roving on top of the base wool before felting or felt the soap completely first and needle felt a design on top. The needle felting method allows for more detailed work, but the wet felting method is easier.

You can easily learn the secrets behind those fanciful felted soaps and create your own at home.

The process is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine, and best of all, you can let your creativity run wild.

Method #1 for Adding Designs to Felted Soap – Wet Felting

Wet felting is perhaps the most used method to add decorations and designs to home-felted soap.

It is also the easier and less time consuming of the two methods, but it does have its limitations.

While simple decorations such as strips of bright color or polka dots are easy enough to achieve, more detailed designs such as a blooming flower, a person’s initials, or other designs that call for crisp, defined edges won’t work here.

Still, adding creative elements during the wet felting process is so easy, it’s almost a shame not to try it at least once.

First, you’ll need to prepare your soap to be wet felted (instructions provided below).

Once the soap is completely covered in the base covering of wool, carefully lay additional pieces of wool in the colors of your choosing on top to form whatever design you’re trying to achieve.

Most people choose to add brightly colored stripes or tiny polka dots, but you can go a step further and position thin strips of roving to make wavy lines, zig zags, or even swirls if you like. 

After you’re satisfied with your design, wet felt the soap bar as you normally would. Just use extra care when wrapping with nylon to avoid shifting the wool. 

Tip: To create additional detail when felting soap, try using wool yarn to add decorative touches.

Still a bit unsure of the process? The following video will help.

Method #2 for Adding Designs to Felted Soap – Needle Felting

If you are wanting to add finely detailed designs to your felted soaps, this method is for you.

Basically, the soap is wet felted first to provide you with a canvas on which to design, then you needle felt your design on top. 

It does require additional time compared to the wet felting method, but I think you’ll find that the results are well worth the effort.

To begin, wet felt the soap as normal and allow it to dry. Now for the fun part – needle felting the design!

You have two options here. You can plan out your design and assemble the wool on the bar piece by piece, needle felting it in place as you go.

Alternatively, you could place various stencil shapes on the bar to guide you as you needle felt the design.

You’ll be amazed at the details you can create using this method. Watch the following video to see exactly how this method is done.

Design Ideas for Inspiration

  • Tic-tac-toe pattern.
  • Hearts, sun and moon, stars, etc.
  • Swirls.
  • Rainbows.
  • Silhouettes.
  • Stripes.
  • Polkadots.
  • Smiley faces.
  • Snowflakes.
  • Flowers.
  • Sunsets.
  • Initials or short words like soap or love.
  • Holiday images such as Easter eggs or Christmas trees and wreaths.

Felting Soap Basics

From start to finish, basic felting of a bar of soap (or multiple bars) can be done in less than thirty minutes.

If you’ve never tried it before, it’s easier than you may think and can produce really fun bars of soap that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Benefits of Felting Soap

A bar of felted soap not only looks adorable on your sink or in your shower, but it is also great for gentle exfoliation.

The softly textured wool lightly scrubs away dead skin cells and rough patches to keep your skin looking fresh, soft, and clean. Other advantages to felting soap include:

  • Soap will last longer.
  • Felted soap produces a creamy lather.
  • Soap is easy to hold.
  • Wool is naturally antibacterial.
  • Felting effectively covers up any not-so-pretty handmade soaps.
  • Scent of soap is not affected.

When you finally use up all of the soap in your felted bar, don’t throw the felted pocket away! You can reuse it in several ways:

  • Cut a slit in the top and add a fresh bar of soap.
  • Use it as a washcloth in the shower.
  • Repurpose it as a scrubbing sponge for cleaning sinks, countertops, etc.

What You Need to Felt Soap

Obviously, you’ll need a bar of soap. Since you’ll have all your supplies out anyway, you might want to have a few bars ready to go because you won’t want to stop after completing just one.

Additionally, you’ll need:

  • Two bowls of water – one for hot water and one for cold water.
  • Wool roving – multiple colors if desired (I like my 100 color pack by Habbi for felting soaps). Two ounces is enough to felt four bars of soap.
  • Nylon stocking – used, but clean, is fine. Measure up from the foot and cut a length of about 8 inches.
  • Yarn – for designing if desired.
  • Felting needles – optional.

The Process

  1. Pull off a portion of roving large enough to completely wrap around your bar. Thin it out until you can almost see through it, and begin tightly wrapping it lengthwise around the soap. 
  2. Take another piece of roving and wrap it tightly widthwise around the soap. Use more roving if any part of the soap is still visible. The more that you use, the longer your soap will last. Don’t go overboard though, as too much will not felt correctly.
  3. If you wish to add designs using the wet felting method, do so now.
  4. Dribble hot water onto the bar and press gently.
  5. Carefully insert the bar into the foot of the nylon stocking without disturbing the design elements and wrap the remaining length of nylon tightly around the bar.
  6. Dip the bar into the bowl of hot water and squeeze gently. Repeat until the bar is evenly wet.
  7. Once the bar is wet, begin to lightly massage all around, periodically re-wetting as you go. Alternate between the hot and cold water to help the fibers shrink and mesh faster. Expect to see lots of lather during this process.
  8. After 10 minutes or so of massaging and dunking, carefully remove the soap from the nylon, rinse in cold water, and check to see if fibers can be easily pulled away at this point. If fibers are still loose, resume the dunking and rubbing until the wool covering is nice and tight.
  9. Pat dry with a clean towel and allow to dry completely (one or two days). That’s all there is to it! Your felted soap is ready for use or to be given away as a thoughtful gift.

Tips for Felting Soap

Bevel

Before you begin the felting process, use a vegetable peeler to trim away the sharp corners and edges of the soap.

Handmade soaps especially will benefit from a bit of beveling as they usually have well-defined edges from the soap mold.

Draft the Wool

Drafting wool simply means to thin out the wool by gently and slowly pulling away small portions at a time.

It is preferable to gently pull away portions of wool roving rather than to cut off sections. 

Cut edges may not felt evenly, and when you cut off portions, you’ll often find that they are too thick to felt with and need to be pulled to thin them out.

Massage Gently

While friction is, of course, necessary to turn the wool into felt, really aggressive rubbing of the soap when felting can shift the wool and ruin any design elements that you put in place. 

To prevent this from occurring, gently massage the wool and soap, and take your time