Saturday, 9 August 2008

FELT-MAKING DAY

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 :-)

3 comments:

Anart Island Studio said...

Hi Lubna,
I just read about your blog in the Artfully blogging...and of course i had to chek it out....how very funny that we always meet again in such different locations...;-))
Hugs
Anke

Lubna said...

Hi Anke
So good to see you here:-) Thanks for taking the time to drop in and leave your comments - I really appreciate it. By the way please make note that I've changed my blog name to "Looby Ruby" - the blog address stays the same, it's only the name tha's changed:-)

Iowa Sunshine said...

I love that felt piece you made! It would be a perfect journal cover! Such nice bright colors. That looks like fun.