Thanks everyone for your comments and emails in relation to my last post, it has been really interesting studying your replies so please keep them coming! Not having a tumble dryer myself I didn’t even know that there was a ‘fluff or air only’ option but this definitely sounds like an interesting avenue to explore, thanks Dawn for that tip. I also emphathise with Liz when she says that she feels guilty if fulling in a machine. This is something that I ask myself many times every week, is an item handmade if one uses electronic equipment in the process, ie. a sander or in this instance the tumble dryer? The answer I keep coming up with is that other artists and craftspeople use tools so why should we not?? Looking at things from this angle seems reasonable but I STILL have that niggling doubt in my mind! Any thoughts? As you all know I do use my washing machine for part of the process when making felt rugs, this is as a result of Mehmet’s advice and I don’t feel a bit guilty here since he gave me the go ahead.
Now to respond to Deb’s two comments ……. I didn’t use a dryer for the felted seascape, the white fibres that crinkled nicely were either spun wool or mohair (suitable for knitting) and I just laid them on top of my wool and felted by hand as normal. If anything I didn’t roll for quite as long as normal as I wanted to keep a lot of texture in the finished piece. I also used some very fine white mohair (thanks Dawn, it was some of the great yarn from our destash swap!) in an extremely light piece of cobweb felt last week and it felted in beautifully but I did do a LOT of rolling between thin plastic sheeting to deep the felt very smooth and fine. In relation to rolling in a bamboo blind, I find them great. Usually I place my bubble wrap on the blind (bubbles facing up) and lay out my work as normal, wet out and cover with more wrap (bubbles down) and start the rubbing and rolling process. I then roll the whole lot up together as in the image below (have used laminate underlay in this piece but I am sure you get the picture) until the felt is
starting to hold together. At this stage I remove the bubble wrap and roll the felt directly in the blind, everything starts to come together much more quickly at this stage as the friction is greater with the bamboo than with the bubble wrap. I have also tried laying out the fibres directly on the blind as many people actually prefer but I find that using this method I need to unroll the package much more often. For me I find that the fibres have a habit of migrating through the rolled up layers and sticking together a bit before a surface skin has formed on the felt which is really annoying so this is why I prefer starting on plastic and then changing to the blind. Hope this makes sense! You do need to roll the blind quite firmly but once the felt starts to shrink it happens much faster than with bubble wrap alone.
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!!