Glue for sheep's wool?
August 1, 2009 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to glue raw sheep's wool to a felt surface. I'm not sure what type of glue to use. I did spot tests with Elmer's Glue-All and wood glue to no avail. Is there a type of fabric glue that will work for this? The issue seems to be that nothing bonds to the sheep's wool, or that the wool sort of just separates and falls off the bonded area. Thanks!

I am making a big puppet. I want to add a removable beard that won't fall off. It needs to be removable because the wool stinks!
posted by davidriley to Media & Arts (14 answers total)
Have you tried a glue gun? If a run-of-the mill craft store glue gun doesn't work, you could try one that melts the glue to a hotter temperature I'm guessing that the lanolin in the wool is preventing it from bonding.

Your puppet looks amazing!
posted by corey flood at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2009

Hairspray on the wool so it holds together in one piece, then glue?
posted by slateyness at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2009

Glue gun: smooth out a thick layer of glue and kind of press the ends of the wool into it, to make sure it's in there good. You would probably have to work a small section at a time to make sure the glue doesn't cool and harden. I am picturing pressing the wool in lengthwise in small tufts, to simulate how hair grows out of a follicle.

Also maybe a stronger glue like E-6000? You might not have to use as thick a layer, this could get expensive though since your area to glue is large.
posted by illenion at 7:11 AM on August 1, 2009

contact cement might be worth a try
posted by Redhush at 7:27 AM on August 1, 2009

How about getting a big sheet of the prickly velcro side (the barbs, not the loops--also, I can't guarantee this exists), and attaching the velcro to the monster dude? Velcro and wool definitely will stick to one another.

Alternatively, sew strips of barby velcro to the felt, and go from there. No glue involved!
posted by that girl at 7:32 AM on August 1, 2009

Have you considered washing the wool to remove the lanolin (and much of the stink)? I don't mean in a washing machine. My wife, who spins and knits, suggests putting the wool in mesh lingerie bags and washing it gently in the kitchen sink with a mild soap and minimal agitation, and drying it on a flat rack. She also says that if this seems too complicated, you can easily buy prewashed wool by the pound, on Etsy.
posted by jon1270 at 7:34 AM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't think washed wool would match the look of the puppet as well, jon1270. I think it would look too clean against mister glofin here.
posted by that girl at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2009

Yeah, I think the lanolin is your problem. Don't use raw wool cause it's covered in grease that will stymie most any glue. Wash it, or use some more processed fibre.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The wool's repelling the glues cos it's full of lanolin grease and dirt (which is sheepy euphemism for powdered manure.) A thick gel glue like the E6000 or the hot glue could be more successful by physically encasing the hairs. Thing is, that's a raw fleece and congealed lanolin & dirt & habit are all that are maintaining the fleece's structure as a whole (as a spinner I spend a lot of time & water overcoming these to wash fleece & make yarn out of it.) So just smearing the back with glue is gonna miss a lot of hairs. Best way would be to separate the locks, dip each into the glue like a paintbrush, & apply systematically to the backing.

A bath in a strong hot tea on the stovetop or bathtub would knock some of the filth & stink out of the fleece & dye in some yellowish shade you mention on Flickr. Dawn dish detergent afterwards would get it even cleaner, but I don't know how committed you are to the clumpy filth look. I think it looks neat, but I also know the smell! FYI moths know the smell too. They'll come after a dirty fleece.
posted by Lou Stuells at 8:16 AM on August 1, 2009

It's not glue but it sidesteps the lanolin problem - could you just roughly stitch through onto backing material (I'm guessing the felt is for this?) to secure it? A matching thread and a good number of stitches, and it's not going to go anywhere.
posted by carbide at 8:37 AM on August 1, 2009

A few more non-glue alternatives for you:

Needle felting. It'll work with roving (clean combed unspun wool) to felt, but it's typically done with only a few needles at a time, loaded into a pouncer like this. Then you just stab the wool into the felt.

A hair rooting tool, could be useful as well, but again very time consuming.

Sewing or stapling could work as well.
posted by fontophilic at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2009

The lanolin is your problem here. It is why your wool sounds like butt, well that and all the poop and dirt in the raw fleece. It's also likely why no glue is sticking, lanolin is waxy. You can wash the fleece without losing the structure or look of the locks. You can even then add dirt and grime back in once the lanolin and poop has been removed to make it look more like the puppet's style if that's your concern.

Even locks pulled apart can be cleaned. Fill up your tub with as hot water as you can get and add quite a bit of dish detergent like Sunlight, put the locks into a netted bag such as a lingerie bag, place the bags on top of the hot soapy water and gently push them under the water surface. Leave them for half an hour, drain the water and very lightly squeeze the locks to get some more water out, then either rewash with more hot soapy water or rinse off with hot water by the same means (gently submerging the locks in the hot water then leaving them for half an hour).

Or a giant velcro hook mask would certainly do the job, just make sure you don't move the fleeces around a lot cause they certainly will lose their lock structure pulling on velcro hooks.
posted by Meagan at 10:14 AM on August 1, 2009

Smells, not sounds like butt :)
posted by Meagan at 10:14 AM on August 1, 2009

fontophilic has it: needle felting is the classic fiber arts way of doing this. It's time consuming, but not THAT bad.
posted by JMOZ at 10:58 AM on August 1, 2009

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