Following on from yesterday’s post the shaping and fulling of the vessel takes a lot of time once the opening is cut and sealed. The steps that I go through are as follows …..
- Insert one hand inside the ‘package’ and pressing around the outside where the resist meets the seam work the felt from both sides to even out any potential ridges
- Once this is done I then turn the vessel right side out and check the design for loose pieces
- For the smaller vessels I had no problems with the design not integrating into the white merino but for the larger ones it seems to be necessary to check each prefelt design and then using a Clover needle felting tool (5 needles in a spring loaded holder) go over each design element to ensure everything is felting together well
- Once I am happy that all the elements are cominging together it is time to apply some pressure and start to rub, roll and felt strongly using whatever method I fancy as I work on different parts of the vessel. At this stage I might roll or rub on bubble wrap, the table or an excellent ridged mat I brought home from America (fridge shelf liner I think!), a great present from one of my students. You could also use a car floor mat although I do find that sometimes they turn pure white merino a nasty grey colour!
- I still have soap in the felt at this stage and soon I will blow up a balloon inside the vessel to try and work it into as round a shape as possible. Pouring HOT water from the kettle over the vessel I work it with soapy hands over my washing up bowl in the sink
- After a while I take it out of the sink and upend it over a large glass salad bowl. Now I start to stiffen the felt by banging repeatedly all over the surface with a long handled wooden spoon
- Periodically I roll the whole balloon encased package on top of the ridged mat and spot full with a felting mouse before plunging it into HOT water again and doing some more rubbing in the sink
- Next I rinse it thoroughly in HOT water before turning the vessel inside out, inserting another balloon and repeating the rolling, banging and rubbing process on the other side
- I keep alternating between banging the vessel into shape now, stretching it with my mouse from the inside and rewetting with extremely HOT water. When I am happy that the vessel is almost shrunk to size I turn it right side out for a last rinse before putting it in my washing machine and turning on the drain and spin cycle. Now I don’t have any balloon inside the vessel as I want to spin out as much water as possible using the machine
- Once the vessel comes out of the machine I inflate another balloon inside it before the final session of banging and stiffening
- When I am finally happy with the strength of the felt and the final shape I leave the vessel on the balloon to dry fully sitting once more inside my large glass salad bowl
Today I have spent about 4 hours banging and rolling this latest vessel and at last it is resting around its balloon to dry. As soon as I am happy that the felt is totally dry (probably a few days because it is a big piece) I will burst the balloon and take some pictures. I don’t like my surface decoration as much as the last vessel I felted but I was concentrating more on the size and shape of the piece and wanted to use up the prefelt I had from a previous one last week. Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday so I am having a felt free day but on Wednesday morning I will start my largest vessel hopefully using Cathy’s yoga ball for the shaping and shrinking, watch this space!
As you can read from the process above I am stiffening these vessels by shrinking and fulling the felt to the degree that they are strong and hold their shape without the use of any additional stiffeners. My next post will examine some of the ways in which to add different solutions (PVA, artists medium etc.) to aid the stiffening process and it would be great to stimulate debate about this process, thanks to all of you who have already commented on the topic here and on Facebook!