Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Need To Work On Subtle

Considering the fact that there has been an explosion of wool around our house, I thought I'd like to try my hand at some wet wool felting. I've been admiring the wool felt backgrounds that a lot of embroiders work on, the stitches seems to nestle into it ever so nicely, so I skipped into the craft room and gathered handfuls of the many colours of wool roving Meshell and I seem to have spent all our pocket money on recently.

First, lay out 3 layers of base roving, horizontal then vertical then horizontal again (for strength I believe). As we have masses of bright green roving I thought I'd use that. Then it's a case of placing wisps/stripes/blobs of whatever colour takes your fancy to produce a layout you are happy with. I need to work on my subtle side, I don't do subtle very well at all.... :-)

I thought I'd be a smarty pants and added some novelty yarn to the blue piece, it's a sort of feather acrylic yarn, and you need to add wisps of wool over the top of anything acrylic so it become part of the felt. As it turned out I later removed these feathery acrylic bits cos it ended up looking like some soggy dead thing - put it down to experience and next time just stitch it on afterwards!

Then, cover the wool with a piece of old net curtain, then pour on hot water and gently rub with a bar of soap. Then gradually work the water and soap in with your fingertips, moving from the middle outwards and gradually increasing in pressure. Then you change to rubbing with the palms of your hands, sort of in a circular polishing motion, until it starts to felt together (for me it was about 7 minutes).

Then (when it's holding together enough to move) you place your wool onto a piece of bamboo blind or mat (I used one of those bamboo mats you make sushi with), gently pull it into shape, then roll it up in the bamboo. Gently squeeze the bamboo roll to remove excess water, then wrap the roll in a piece of sheet and roll it back and forth like you are using a rolling pin. After a minute or two unroll it and turn the piece 90 degrees on the bamboo and repeat, gradually rolling more tightly and strongly each time. Keep doing this until you are satisfied with the amount of felting. You'll find each time you unroll it that it has shrunk in one direction - that's the felting process at work. I think I changed direction 6 or 7 times and rolled for a minute or so each time.

Edit: PS, I forgot this bit... then when you are finished felting, rinse the piece in cold then hot water a couple of times, which gets rid of the soap and also shocks the fibres and strengthens and settles them a bit more.

I was surprised to find that the very wispy bits I'd used actually looked even more distinct in the end, but I guess if you think about it, because the felting brings all the fibres closer together and shrinks the piece, that intensifies the colours even more. Which, I must say, my colour choice didn't actually need! This was a good learning experience, firstly in how felting works (so cool!), and that next time I must put my subtle and sensible hat on when choosing colour

The other thing that surprised me was the lack of movement of the wispy bits that I'd laid on the top. I thought with all the rub-a-dub-dubbing that any patterning would move about and get distorted, but that wasn't the case at all. Interesting...

I think I'll cut these pieces up into something smaller, and embroider on them. My mission with wool felt is to make a teapot cosy, but I'll need to hunt down a bigger piece of bamboo mat as the mats I have now make pieces that are a bit too small.

End result: A fun hour playing with a new craft, and learned lots of things along the way. Wool is amazing stuff, it's sort of 'alive'.


Miss Dot said...

well done! it must have be fun to watch it happen. There is a great course at Freo Art centre on felting, they were in the studio opposite to me when I did a jewelry course, they looked like they were having heaps of fun. Oh, and what about one of those cheapy blinds that are made of the same bamboo stuff? Bunnings maybe or a cane place? keep felting!

Papoosue said...

What fun you must have had! I've yet to try wet felting despite having lots of roving I've 'collected'. I like your results, they came out very well. I do know quite a few people who use a big sheet of bubblewrap instead of the bamboo mats, if that helps? It seems to work fine.

Sue in western WA said...

I LOVE that green piece! Don't put on your subtle and sensible hat for me!! My fingers are just itching to do some beading on that green job... how big did it turn out to be anyway?

Dy said...

The pieces are 17-18cm (~7 inches) square finished, although the green one has now been cut up into 2 inch squares - I'm having a go at making a little open box with them!

jude said...

i have to try this.

Fel said...

Hm, we did some felting at my first year in high school, but we made shoes from it. They were grey. How boring is that?
I think I would love to try again and make something as lovely and colourful as you did! Maybe in autumn... :)

Dianne said...

That green piece is yummy!! Love the whispy bits added.

Lindi said...

I love your felted pieces, Dy, particularly the green. And thanks for the really clear instructions. I can't wait to have a go myself!