An amazing coincidence happended the other evening (was going to say occurred but not sure that the spelling is correct!). Just before I checked out my account on Ravelry, an online fibre artist community, I happened to pick up a glass bracelet that I bought myself on Murano two years ago. My sisters and I took my mother to Venice for her 70th birthday present and we spent a great few days marvelling at the beautiful buildings, art and glass. Anyway, one day we took the vaporetto to Murano, probably the most famous place in the world for handmade glass. I treated myself to a lampwork bracelet but strangely enough have only worn it about twice in the last year. When I picked it up the other evening it immediately hit me that if I took it apart I could then incorporate the glass beads into one of my felted designs, what a revelation! This is probably what I will do this afternoon, still plotting and planning my series of wallhangings and still a bit unsure how to progress so any diversion is a diversion worth taking! The coincidence occurred (using the word anyway, spelling or not!!) when I checked out some of my groups on Raverly. One of the people in a felting forum had actually been in Venice and her husband bought her a glass and felt necklace for a Christmas present, I was absolutely amazed since it was probably only 5 minutes previously that I had thought of my brainwave. This really goes to show that no idea is a new idea!
Following on from some comments in relation to felting I thought that some of you might be wondering what the difference between felting and fulling is. Christine White in her book ‘Uniquely Felt’ describes the process of wet felting as a two stage process. Firstly there is the laying out of the loose wool fibres, the wetting and massaging in order to make a piece of non-woven fabric that holds together and this is called confusingly, felting. If you were to stop the process now this would be called prefelt. The second process to get a stable, strong fabric is the fulling. This process is the rolling and/or throwing in order to toughen the fabric and cause it to shrink. Combining the two processes is wet felting, sometimes called traditional felting or just felting, confused yet?? Fulling can also be done with knitted wool or crochet, usually be bunging it into the washing machine with the intention of shrinking the piece in order to make it more sturdy and hardwearing. This is why when you are ordering any books about felting you need to be sure that they are actually about wet felting and not just fulling knitting as this seems to be a craft gaining in popularity all the time, especially in England and the USA. Another area of felting that appears to vary from region to region is the actual equipment that people use so I am just going to state the basic felting process that I use on a daily basis.
For 99% of my work I lay out my wool on a piece of bubble wrap, bubbles facing up.
I lay my wool in thin layers overlapping the fibres like roof slates or shingles.
Using a mixture of grated olive oil soap mixed in warm water I wet out the piece making sure that all the wool is fully wet.
I place another piece of bubble wrap on top and with wet soapy hands massage the package gently all over. Massaging gently ensures that any surface design you may have laid does not shift, I can’t emphasise enough how much quicker the next stage is if you spend about 5 to 10 minutes massaging. I NEVER use netting to encase the wool as when I tried it I found that the fibres got caught in the net and I prefer working just with bubble wrap and later in the process using my hands directly on the felt. Also, it saves a lot of time that otherwise would be spent sewing the netting together!
I lift up a piece of the bubble wrap to make sure that all the wool is wet and when I am happy that it is I start the rolling process.
I roll my work in all directions and with both sides facing up, the length of time spent rolling just depends on the actual finish I want to achieve. For flat felt like cobweb felt scarves it might take 45 minutes, for nuno felt I also throw the work and this process is actually pretty quick once you are sure that the wool fibres are working through your silk or cotton. Wallhangings take hours or days depending on size and slippers in my experience take about 6 hours!
This is felting at its simplest, when the piece has shrunk to your desired size just rinse (you may add vinegar to the last rinse), stretch into shape and dry.
Summary The basic equipment that you will need to create a piece of felt is bubble wrap, olive oil soap and water, towels help to mop up any excess water!
Tomorrow I will talk about the Osman technique and the use of prefelts to get a specific shape and a clear outline in your work. Happy felting!