I love the feel of immersing my hands in the hot, soapy water (especially in the winter!) and feeling the wool fibers bind together. It's so magical and meditative, and I recommend you try the hand method at least once.
Supplies you will need:
A few ounces of wool roving
Soap (I use dishwashing liquid, though I've read it's a no-no. (Shrug!) It works for me.)
Hot water (I use hot tap water rather than boiling water since I immerse my hands in it)
Step 1: Gently tear off two to six strips of wool roving. These should be long enough to wrap around the rock once.
Step 2: Gently separate each piece of roving until it is thin and airy.
Step 3: Wrap the wispy roving once around the rock.
Step 4: Wrap another layer of roving around the stone in the direction perpendicular to the first layer.
Step 5: Repeat Step 4 until you are satisfied with the thickness.
Four layers is usually sufficient, though my youngest seems to only have patience for two quick layers, and his felted rocks always turn out fine.
I usually give the wrapped layers a gentle squeeze at this point. If you can feel a thick enough layer of compressed wool between your fingers and the rock, then you have enough layers. If you feel too much rock, add another two layers. At a recent wet-felting class I attended the teacher suggested adding an even number of layers to make the wool shrink more evenly.
Step 6: Fill up a large bowl in the sink with hot, soapy water. I use dishwashing liquid, and that seems to work just fine. I have also used a handmade felting soap, and that works as well.
Step 7: Immerse the wool-wrapped stone in the hot, soapy water.
Step 8: This step is my favorite part. You will be melding wool to stone, and it involves some delicacy and maybe even a little finesse. Cup the stone in your palms and gently pat the wet roving until the wet mass of roving starts to solidify. Do this for several minutes until the roving shrinks to fit the stone. Once the roving stops slipping around on the stone, then you can start felting the roving more vigorously.
Step 9: At this point I usually add a big squirt of dishwashing liquid directly to the roving.
Step 10: Then I rub the roving in a circular motion with both hands, dipping the stone into the hot, soapy water until the roving is tight on the stone and has reached the desired texture. If you're really patient and work the wool, it should attain a fairly smooth texture.
Step 11: Rinse the felted stone in hot water alternating with cold water until all of the suds are gone.
Step 12: In the winter, dry the felted stone overnight on a heater. If it's summer time, set the stone outside in a sunny spot until it dries. This step usually takes a few hours, depending on how thick of a layer you have made.