In this project, we show you how to create an E-Felted Fantastical Mushroom — an e-textile sculpture that involves needle-felting and electronics. The project deliberately explores a slow and contemplative approach to creating that takes into account the life-cycle and sustainability of materials. By felting soft wool to create a fantastical form that lights up, we can calm the mind, encourage mindfulness, and express feelings of affection and connectivity with our communities and the natural environment.
$40–$50: $25 and up for needle felting
kits, and $17 for electronic components
With some eco-maker tips on getting them sustainably:
- Wool roving or sliver, 12″ (30cm) lengths, in 4 colors We’re using 100% pure New Zealand Corriedale wool sliver; merino wool top is too fine for this project. Try to source local, sustainably produced, non-mulesed wool. You can dye your own wool and felted objects using eco-friendly natural dye processes.
- LED sequin
- Uncoated wire, bare silver or copper, 50cm length, 32–30 gauge (0.2mm–0.25mm) You can use copper wire stripped from an old audio cable.
- 3V battery We’re using a 3.7V lithium polymer (LiPo) battery. You can use coin, AA, or AAA batteries, but rechargeable is ideal.
- Matching battery holder with a switch
- Alligator clips (optional) to connect wires to battery
- Felting foam or mat Use 100% wool felted mats or plant-based (corn or soy) foams.
- Felting needle, 38 gauge, star or triangle shape Both needles work well for bulk sculpting work and finer detail.
- Sewing needle
- Single needle holder (optional) Try a holder made from biodegradable and sustainably harvested materials, such as wood.
- Finger cots/protectors (optional) You can make your own finger cots by upcycling old rubber or leather gloves.
1. Separate the fibers
To divide a length of roving or sliver, hold your hands apart about 6″ (15cm) and gently pull. The fibers will separate easily without breaking. If your hands are too close together the fibers will not separate, and they are likely
2. Felt the mushroom cap
Place your sliver on the felting mat. Roll the sliver tightly (above). As you roll, tuck in both ends (below ).
Before you reach the end, about 2″ (5cm) away, poke across the surface with your needle several times to secure the fibers (below).
Felt gently through the fiber, just touching 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 form (above ).
Poke the surface from all directions by rotating the form (on the top, horizontally around the edges, and underneath). The cap will become 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 it around the cap . To measure for appropriate compression and firmness, gently pinch the surface to make sure that the fibers do not come away easily. Then, squeeze the form and compare its firmness using the “fingers/thumb test.”
3. Felt the mushroom stem
Arrange some sliver into a four-finger width.
Roll the sliver tightly into a log. As you roll, tuck in the ends.
Poke across the surface of the stem with your needle to secure the fibers.
You can roll the stem gently between your fingers to tangle the fibers further. Continue to felt around the stem. Leave one end a little bit softer. When ready, apply the fingers/thumb test to the rest of the stem.
Attach the softer end of the stem to the mushroom cap. Poke underneath the cap, around the stem, and from the top to secure the cap. Tug gently to make sure the cap is firmly attached.
4. Felt the moss ground
Arrange the fibers into an organic shape. Poke on top with your needle to secure the fibers. Turn the shape and work on the back.
Add a second color. Felt the layers together and make the base firm. Firm up the edges to a desired shape.
Attach the mushroom stem to the moss. Work around the sides and from underneath to secure the mushroom. Tug gently to ensure that the mushroom is firmly attached.
5. Sew on the electronics
Start by wiring up your LED sequin. These LEDs are designed to 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 sew with uncoated wire — don’t use beading wire or magnet wire for this. Cut two lengths of wire, each about 4″ (10–12cm) long. Thread a wire about ¾” (2cm) through one hole, bring the end back around and twist it around the standing part of the wire, and wrap 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 wires to the battery using your alligator clips: positive to positive, negative to negative. The LED will light up. If not, check your connections.
Now decide where you’d like to put the LED on your felted mushroom. Thread your wire through a sewing needle and sew the wire onto the mushroom. Make sure the wires don’t touch each other. Sew the negative and positive wires at opposite sides of the mushroom stem.
Sew the wires through to the base, with each end poking out at opposite sides.
Connect the wires to your battery. You can create a more secure connection by sewing your wires directly to a battery holder and attaching the holder to the base of the mushroom.
A Shroom in Your Room
Place your e-felted mushroom in your workspace or your living room, or take it with you to a special spot in your garden at night to create a magical space for contemplation and mindfulness. Make one for a friend to express your affection and connection at this time of physical distancing.
Add sensors, switches, or an Arduino to the circuit and turn your e-felted mushroom into a sensor-triggered nightlight or a programmable porch light. Add a small 3V solar panel to recharge your battery to make this project even more eco-friendly.