In this project we are going to show you how to make an E-Felt Fantastic Mushroom – an E-Textile sculpture that includes needle felting and electronics. The project deliberately explores a slow and contemplative manufacturing approach that takes into account the life cycle and sustainability of materials. By felting soft wool to create a fantastic shape that lights up, we can calm the mind, promote mindfulness, and express feelings of affection and connectedness with our communities and the natural surroundings.
$ 40– $ 50: $ 25 and up for needle felting
Kits and $ 17 for electronic components
With a few tips from organic manufacturers to keep them sustainable:
- Wool roving or splinters, 30 cm long, in 4 colors We use 100% pure New Zealand Corriedale wool splinters. Merino wool top is too fine for this project. Try to source local, sustainably produced wool without a mule. You can dye your own woolen and felt items using environmentally friendly natural dyeing methods.
- LED sequins
- Uncoated wire, bare silver or copper, 50 cm long, 0.2 mm – 0.25 mm (32–30 gauge) You can use copper wire that was stripped from an old audio cable.
- 3 V battery We use a 3.7 V lithium polymer (LiPo) battery. You can use coin, AA, or AAA batteries, but rechargeable is ideal.
- Matching battery holder with switch
- Alligator clips (optional) for connecting the cables to the battery
- Felt foam or mat Use felt mats made from 100% wool or plant-based foams (corn or soy).
- Felting needle, 38 gauge, star or triangular shape. Both needles are good for mass sculptures and finer details.
- Sewing needle
- Single needle holder (optional) Try a holder made from biodegradable and sustainably harvested materials such as wood.
- Finger beds / protectors (optional) You can make your own finger beds by upcycling old rubber or leather gloves.
1. Separate the fibers
To split a piece of roving or sliver, hold your hands about 6 inches apart and gently pull on them. The fibers separate easily without breaking. If your hands are too close together, the fibers will not separate and are likely
2. Felt the mushroom cap
Place your sliver on the felt mat. Roll the sliver tightly (above). Tuck both ends in (bottom) when rolling.
Before you reach the end about 2 inches away, prick the surface several times with your needle to secure the fibers (see below).
Felt gently through the fiber and only touched the surface of the mat to prevent the cap from felting into the mat.
Roll and fold the end of the sliver. Felt the surface a few times to secure the fibers.
Fold in half to form a round shape (above).
Poke the surface from all directions by rotating the form (top, horizontally around the edges, and bottom). The cap becomes denser and smaller.
Continue the process to form a cap shape. You can vary the size of the cap by wrapping more wool and felting around the cap. To measure proper compression and strength, gently press down on the surface to make sure the fibers don’t peel off easily. Then squeeze the form and compare its strength with the “finger / thumb test”.
3. Felt handle
Arrange some splinters four fingers wide.
Firmly roll the sliver into a log. Tuck in the ends as you roll.
Prick your needle across the surface of the stem to secure the fibers.
You can gently roll the stem between your fingers to further tangle the fibers. Keep felting around the stem. Leave one end a little softer. When you’re done, apply the finger / thumb test to the rest of the stem.
Attach the softer end of the stem to the mushroom cap. Tuck under the cap to the stem and from above to secure the cap. Gently pull on to make sure the cap is secure.
4. Felt the moss floor
Arrange the fibers in an organic shape. Prick up with your needle to secure the fibers. Rotate the shape and work on the back.
Add a second color. Felt the layers together and secure the base. Strengthen the edges to the desired shape.
Attach the mushroom stem to the moss. Work on the sides and bottom to secure the mushroom. Gently pull on to make sure the mushroom is firmly in place.
5. Sew on electronics
First, wire up your LED sequins. These LEDs can be sewn onto soft fabric. They come with two holes for sewing. One is the positive (+) terminal and the other is the negative (-) terminal.
For this project we will be sewing with bare wire – do not use pearl wire or magnet wire for this. Cut two lengths of wire, each 10 to 12 cm. Feed a wire about 2 cm through a hole, then loop the end back around and twist it around the standing part of the wire and wrap it tightly.
Repeat with the wire in the other hole.
At this point you can check your connections. The LED sequin has a positive (+) mark and a negative (-) mark next to the holes. Connect your cables to the battery with your alligator clips: positive to positive, negative to negative. The LED lights up. If not, check your connections.
Now decide where you want to place the LED on your felt mushroom. Thread your wire through a sewing needle and sew the wire onto the mushroom. Make sure the wires aren’t touching. Sew the negative and positive wires on opposite sides of the mushroom stem.
Sew the wires through to the base with each end sticking out on opposite sides.
Connect the cables to your battery. You can make a more secure connection by sewing your wires directly to a battery holder and attaching the holder to the base of the mushroom.
A mushroom in your room
Place your E-Felt in your work area or in your living room or take it with you to a special place in your garden at night to create a magical space for contemplation and mindfulness. Make one for a friend to show your affection and connection during this time of physical distancing.
Add sensors, switches or an Arduino to the circuit and transform your E-Filzpilz into a sensor-controlled night light or a programmable veranda light. Add a small 3v solar panel to charge your battery and make this project even greener.