I have spent a LOT of today making a large felt vessel using some of my new Icelandic wool and thankfully the weather improved enough in the afternoon for photographing so I am at last starting to put it up for sale on Etsy. In order to have less shrinkage than normal I used Anna Gunnersdottir’s method of felting with loads of soap and hardly any water, it takes a bit of getting used to but it definitely seems to work! I used a resist that I had cut out ages ago using my dustbin (garbage can!) for a template and weighed the wool to make sure that both sides had the same amount of wool. The batts are exceptionally easy to lay out, just seperate the bigger pile into layers and then place the wool wherever you want it! I used a gorgeous natural dark brown wool with chestnut highlights for the base of the vessel and white for the upper part to provide a nice bit of contrast. When felting with the cold water it is best to use a liquid soap. I had some Ecover floor cleaner that worked well, it’s a bit harsher on your hands than olive oil soap but not to bad in the overall scheme of things. You need to rub and rub the wool for AGES before you can start any rolling or fulling. Because of the amount of soap you really need to be quite sure with the pinch test (pinch some wool in your fingers and if it lifts up like fabric instead of fibre you can proceed to the next stage) before cutting the hole to remove the resist. Then you need to seal the cut edges of the felt before running your hand inside the package and felting a bit around where the edge of the resist is. Once you are happy that everything is holding well together remove the resist and proceed to full. I still find it absolutely amazing that a pile of loose fluffy fibres can form a strong and structural vessel, it never ceases to fascinate me how simple the process is and how complex the result may be! I used just under 300g for this large vessel, the same amount could easily make 3 smaller ones or a very nice bag.
The second felt workshop that I participated in at ‘Felt in Focus’ was fairly large felt sculptures with Anna Gunnarsdottir from Iceland. This was a brilliant experience and taught me a totally new way of looking at resists! As with Lyda’s complex bag workshop I am going to cover what we did over several posts and this is also a good way for me to revisit all that I learnt over the 2 days. (Please bear with me as I am having computer problems, it keeps closing and I think that I need to get it ‘attended’ to by an expert or else I will go potty!)
Anna’s large sculptural pieces are amazing and it was very exciting to learn the technique of felting large objects, my head is now full of shapes and I am just waiting for the arrival of Icelandic wool to really go crazy experimenting at home. Once everyone had introduced themselves and explained what they hoped to get out of the workshop Anna explained and demonstrated how she stitches layers of plastic resist together to form the template for her felt objects. I was lucky that reknowned Irish felter Elizabeth Bonner had participated in the first workshop so I had the advantage of watching her work progress and learn from any observations and tips. The biggest help to me was knowing that creating a symmetrical template was easiest and then stitching straight up the central line as opposed to joining the layers with a curved line would be the simplest option. Anna encouraged everyone to think outside the box when deciding on our shape and I although I had toyed with the idea of using my backpack template this proved too large to deal with in the two days allocated. My choice therefore was a bit like a rounded figure of eight on it’s side, complete with two bumps on each surface that I intended embellishing with horse hair. This workshop was also a great opportunity to experiment with new fibres and fishskin. Anna had a great selection of horse hair and dyed salmon, wolf fish and cod skin, other participants had brought raw fleece and various found objects to play around with. To be cont …. including pictures of my template and work in progress!