Felting techniques and swap update

It is amazing how many ways there are to felt a ball.  Today I needed to make a couple of felt balls and although they are always trotted out as a beginners project for me they are far from it!  I always seem to have difficulty starting them off without getting creases but no more, Australian feltmaker Anita Larkin’s way worked a treat.  You lay a few very light layers of wool down on a bamboo blind (I used merino) at right angles to each other and then dry felt for a few seconds.  This dry felting is done by placing the palm of your hand of the fibres and moving it gently away from you and back towards you, then do the same from a 90 degree angle.  You now have a flattish square of fibres which you fold over at the corner to make an angle, exactly like folding a won ton.  Starting from this angle now fold and roll the whole wad of fibres into a ball making sure that the last wisps are as smooth as possible on the outside.  Dunk very quickly and very gently into hot soapy water (I use natural olive oil soap) and start to rotate LIGHTLY in your hand.  Almost immediately you will feel a skin forming on the outside of the ball, the inside will still be dry and any small creases can now be covered with a light wisp of wool.  Work the ball in your hand and on the mat dunking it a couple of times in the hot water as you progress to start working the inside as well.  Before you can say ‘felt’ you will have a great ball, amazing!  Make sure to rinse it out in hot water and there you go.

Speaking of Australia I mentioned before a great Australian website for felting and sewing supplies, Essential Textile Art.  Today I placed another order for various types of sari fabric to incorporate in my nuno felting.  I am going away on a felting course to Wollknoll in a weeks time and hope that the fibres will be here on my return.  My new Etsy shop is now set up and I will be frantically making some nice pieces to sell as Christmas presents, as soon as I have the items up I will post a link here on the blog!  Remember, sign up to Buy Handmade if you want to support artists and craftspeople from around the world.

Swap update: We now have swap participants from Ireland, Germany, Spain and Denmark to join in the upcoming exchange that I am organising.  To keep it simple for the first swap the theme will be Autumn and the deadline to join will be 21st September.  Swap buddies will be allocated then and your package needs to be posted to your buddy by the 14th October.  We will exchange one handmade accessory, one seasonal receipe and a little something extra.  Obviously everyone is into different forms of craft so you may make your handmade item anything that you would like to recieve yourself using Autumn at the theme.  If you don’t work with textiles there is no problem, just let me know if you would prefer to exchange a piece of art (hand made cards, wall hanging etc.) or some hand made edible goodies and I will pair you up with someone who would like to receive there items.  To sign up and for those of you already signed up please email me with your likes and dislikes and let me know if you would be happy to receive gifts other that textiles if necessary and I can forward your preferences on to your swap buddy when the draw is made.  If this swap goes according to plan we might consider Christmas as our next theme!  To check out other current swaps visit SwapDex, be careful you don’t get hooked.

Australian versus European wet felting techniques

Thanks very much to all of you who are sending me emails and posting such nice comments on my blog, it is really nice to get feedback from my peers so please keep it up!

As promised I am going to write several posts over the next week or so about the various different aspects of sculptural feltmaking that I learnt at the Anita Larkin workshop last weekend.  I was a bit physically tired when I got to Dublin and probably that made certain things seem very difficult to master.  Day 1 was actually more successful for me than day 2 but obviously mistakes and disasters are also informative so hopefully I can learn something from them as well!

We started the first day by making felt balls, a TOTALLY different method than any I have ever used or heard of to date.  Using merino roving we laid out a square shape using several thin layers of wool (approx 5) on a bamboo blind and then ‘dry’ felted it for a few seconds.  This was done by placing the palm of our hand on the pile of fibres and slightly moving our hand in a circular motion.  Next we folded up the corner of two sides to form an angle and lifted the pile in our hands.  The rest of the wool was shaped into a ball by rotating the fibres around this angle, a bit like wrapping or rolling a wan ton.  Careful attention was paid to the last fibres completing the ball making sure that they did not form any ridges.  The resulting ball was then held VERY LIGHTLY in one hand and dunked into hot water for no more that a second.  When lifted out of the water we then used our other hand to very carefully stroke the ball with soapy fingers.  The idea was to form a skin on the ball but to have the inside fibres basically almost totally dry and unfelted.  At this pre pre felt stage the balls were amazingly light and spongy.  Anita explained to us that at this stage if we kept lightly wetting, soaping and rolling or working the ball by hand the fibres would always move to the centre and form a ball.  HOWEVER, because the outside skin was barely formed and the inside was not felted at all we now had the option of forming any shape we wanted, amazing!  By manipulating the ball in various ways an almost infinite number of shapes can be made.  I made a star fruit shape by placing the ball between my two index and middle fingers and squeezing and working it into shape.  If I cut it into a cross section it would look like an X, hope you can visualise this from my explanation.  As the shape is forming you can suspend work and decide to attach it to another piece of felt aided by a wire brush.  Why not try making a shape for yourself and we can learn more on the next post tomorrow!!