Saturday, 9 August 2008


I've never made felt before but have always wanted to try my hand at it and although there are some great books on the market showing you step by step photos of what you need and how to actually felt, I'm the sort of person who learns better from guidance and tuition. If someone's there in front of me demonstrating the technique (whatever it may be) then I learn better.

So, a couple of weeks ago, my good friend Amanda announced that she and her daughter Hannah were holding a felt-making class at their place and they'd invited a couple of their friends who are long time felters to come along and teach us some techniques.

These are some of the materials needed to get started.
These skeins of wool are called wool tops and that's the basic
material to make felt. you can then add various fibres to
enhance your felted piece.
We started by choosing the colours we wanted to work with - there would be 3 layers in this first flat piece of felt we were making. I chose a bright fuschia pink wool top and Amanda had real alpaca hair in soft creams and browns and I chose the cream as my middle layer. The middle layer doesn't show - well it did in our case - read on to find out!!

We began by laying a tea towel onto our work surface and then laying a sheet of bubble wrap on top. Then we gently teased the wool tops into strands that we laid across the bubble wrap - we worked to whatever size we wanted but at the same time had to take into account that this would shrink by about a third by the time we got to felting it. So, basically whatever you decide to make initially, the overall size you start with will considerably shrink at the end of the process.

So, you have a first layer - for which I used the fuscia pink wool top, a middle layer - for which I used the alpaca hair, and then the third layer - which I used the pink again. After the third layer this is the time you can play around with your fibres or other colour wool tops to create a design on top. I laid some different colours and some fibres till I was happy with the design and then laid a piece of net (like net curtain material) over the top - this was to keep everything in place.

teasing of the wool tops and laying them into 3 layers.

laying the final design layer of fibres and wool

Now came the messy bit - we sprinkled hot water over the entire surface of our piece and with with a scrunched up plastic bag we scrubbed gently in circular motions at the net to meld the fibres together. We also rubbed soap over the net to create some lather and then scrubbed over the net making sure we were working into all the fibres. We made sure to scrub the other side too.

scrubbing away at the wool and checking to see if the fibres have felted.

After a few minutes we checked to see whether the fibres had all felted together and when we were satisfied that they were, we removed the net and then put our felted piece along with bubble wrap onto a bamboo mat and put that on top of the tea-towel and then rolled the whole thing up and this is where the hard work of shrinking the felt began. We rolled and rolled and rolled. We were told that rolling the felted piece about 100 times each way was a good method to ensure an evenly shaped and shrunk piece. So once I'd rolled it 100 times one way, I carefully unrolled it all and turned it round the otherway and rolled it back again and worked on it more. You basically stopped when you were happy with the size.

rolling rolling rolling, shrinking shrinking shrinking

This is my felted and shrunk piece of felt - oh the joy! Look at all the yummy colours!

So, that folks, was my first attempt at felting and I can't tell you how pleased I felt - ok, ok, that's corny I know, but I just couldn't help myself :-O But seriously though, I was really pleased with what I made and after letting it dry naturally in the sun I folded it into a purse and it looked really good - see for yourselves.............

all I have to do is sew it up and add a nice big button in the middle

We then went on to felt a 3D piece and I decided to make a vase. Making a 3D form is slightly more technical in that you have to make careful measurements and make a plastic template to work onto. I followed the same technique for felting the first piece, except this time I had to work both sides onto the template. Once all the fibres had felted over the plastic template, I cut a slit at the top and pulled out the template. This left me with a bag form which I had to shrink down considerably so that the jar (I was using as mould) could slip inside. Then I had to further shrink and mould the felted bag around the glass jar. It was amazing how it shrank before my eyes and fitted the jar perfectly and I folded and shaped a rim that turned over so that the inner colour of the vase was displayed.

One lesson Amanda and I learnt was that alpaca hair though lovely and soft to start with, becomes very coarse when felted and actually comes through the layers to create a hairy whatever you've made and not only that, it actually moults like an animal and gets everywhere! I know I shan't be using that material in my felting again - unless I want to create a felted alpaca! :-O

My hairy felted vase. I actually had to give this a hair cut - the alpaca hair was just moulting so badly. It also dulls the colour of the wool - this was meant to be bright red with ochre and olive designs in but the alpaca dilutes the colour and it's hairyness takes over :-D By the way, the glass jar is inside so I can fill it with water and arrange flowers inside.

Here endeth our lesson in felt-making :-)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Double-sided Frame Book

This is a book I started at my bookmaking class run by our expert teacher Annalise. It took us over the course of two classses as well as working on at home to make. It measures 10cm x 8cm on it's outer frame and 7.5cm x 5.5cm on it's inside frame. There are 9 frames back to back, making 18 frames in total.

This is the front of the book when closed. You can see the folds of mull

on the edges. I laid a torso covered in red raw silk on top of red

glittery mesh and embellished with sequins and rhinetsones.

The frames were cut from grey board (which is basically just a denser quality cardboard). This is where precise meauring and a sharp cutting blade came into play. Once all the frames were cut I covered each one with a decorative paper - in this case Annalise had kindly given us a selection of papers to use including this precious one from Venice which depicted the drawings of Leornado Da Vinci - it has drawings and script on and is quite beautiful. Covering these frames was a laborious task but once I started I just got into production line mode and a logical order to things just took over.

After covering the boards the next step took place in class and that was sandwiching the chosen material between the pairs of frames. There is a wide choice of materials that would be suitable for this, but I wouldn't recommend paper as you have to take into account the folding and opening action of this book and the wear and tear it's going to take. So a material that is flexible as well as long standing is better. You could use, mesh, net, wire mesh, calico, hessian, muslin, acetate, vellum just to mention a few. In this instance we chose mull, which a is bookbinders material - used to strengthen covers of books before the actual book cover goes on. It's a very fine mesh and is quite stiff yet soft and has the added advantage of being sheer.

This is the back of the book when closed. I made the blue

ceramic buttons from paperclay which is then fired

and becomes like porcelain.

Before we could glue our frames onto the mull we had to make ourselves spacers to put between each row and column of frames - for this we simply cut long, thin strips of card o.5cm in width, and lay them in between the rows and columns of frames. This would give the grid layout, prevent the frames from touching each other and would provide the folds when closing this book.

Now came the tricky part and that was glueing the mull to the frames. You could either work across or down and after gluing the first frame right to the edge of the mull, another frame had to be glued underneath to match it, thereby sandwiching the mull between them. This is when the spacers came into play - one spacer had to be laid horizontally under the frane and the other vertically by the frame - this would give you the position to lay your next frame in a grid formation. After laying the first pair of frames and spacers everything else just fell into place.

This is the front of the frame book open - the red torso

in the top left hand corner is the cover when closed.

You can see where the two cuts in the mull are that

provide the opening and folding of the book.

I actually made a mistake in trimming the excess mull

when the book was closed, which is why you see an

open channel. There is only meant to be a cut at

the top and bottom so that when you view the open

book the material appears as a whole piece with

only slits at the top and bottom. I'll remember next time:-)

After all the frames were glued with the mull sandwiched between them it was left to dry thoroughly before the fun part of embellishing the mull could be done. At this stage you could coordinate a theme according to whatever print or pattern your frames are covered in - for instance, I had a Leorando Da Vinci print on my frames, therefore I could've run with that theme on my frames and portray each frame with an image and words relating to that. In this case I decided not to and just made each one different.

This is the back of the book open. The bottom left corner

with the blue buttons is the back cover of the book when closed.

It was like creating a whole load of ATCs really - that's the way it felt when I was creating each one. It also occured to me that you could indeed create framed ATCs like this but separate not attached or if you did attach them in pairs or three's they'd be diptychs or triptychs. The possibilities of making this framed book and altering into something else is quite exciting and I shall be playing with those possibilities and sharing them with you all as I progress - so watch this space folks!