Almost finished fulling the rug …….

Pictures speaking louder than words again, hope to finish the fulling process later this afternoon!  Please excuse the poor quality of the photos taken inside but I did want to share the various stages of this project and it has proved difficult to get clear pictures depending on what time of day the images were taken.

Ironing to heat, flatten and work the rug

Felting mouse and wash board for spot fulling

 

Rex guarding the almost finished rug

Almost there fulling the rug!

At last I feel as if I am starting to get somewhere fulling Sylvia’s large felt rug.  Measurements as of this afternoon are 1.67m X 2.67m so 17cm width ways and 17cm lengthways and finally the rug will be the required size!!!  No time to write any more but picturers to follow tomorrow morning and answers to some of the questions people have been asking me here and on Facebook.

My new felt hat and a couple of book recommendations if you are interested in hats!

Inspired by fellow Feltmakers Ireland member Sharon Wells, I decided to have another go at making myself a soft but structured felt hat that actually fits my very small head.  Sharon posted about making the origami hat from Christine White’s book Uniquely Felt on Feltcreative and since this project has always been on my ‘to do’ list and I had a pile of prefelt waiting to be used I decided the time had come to just give it a go!  In addition to Uniquely Felt the books that I would recommend for anyone wanting a bit more info about felting hats are ‘Fabulous Felt Hats’ by Chad Alice Hagen, ‘Filtning, Nunofilt & Nalefiltflor’ by Grete Lottrup and ‘Felting Fashion’ by Lizzie Houghton.  While Chad Alice’s book is the only one totally dedicated to hats all of them to my mind have helped me work out the various steps necessary to create stylish headgear that actually fits and is wearable. 

Laying out the prefelt shapes

Like Sharon I decided to work with a square resist 47cm wide.  One of my friends actually has my copy of Uniquely Felt so I just had to estimate how much wool I would need for each side, excluding the prefelt I used a total of 84g short fibred merino for the hat but have no idea if that is a lot or a little!  I laid out the wool extremely finely on both sides of the resist and then laid my prefelt shapes randomly on top making sure to overlap the edges in some places.  Because I originally intended having a brim that would turn back to reveal hand dyed silk fibres from the bottom of the other side, I chose not to position any prefelt overlapping the fourth edge as I was afraid I would forget exactly where the silk was once I started working the felt!

Due to my golf club commitments over the last few days (and I STILL have another golfing engagment tomorrow) I had to felt the hat over several different sessions and this afternoon I was able to finish fulling and shaping it over one of my cooking bowls.  Unfortunately, although I do have a hat block it is just too huge for my own head but the bowl worked perfectly so nothing ventured nothing gained. 

Blocked and drying

 It did take a long time to shrink this hat enough to fit my head so the next one that I make (and there will be another one!) will have a wedge shaped template, not a square.  The other outcome with fulling as much as I did is that the clarity of the prefelt gets muted and the silk almost disappears into the wool, not a problem but definitely something to consider.  In the end I decided that I liked the brim folded inside of the hat instead of outside as initially intended, it would of course be possible to wear it both ways anyway!  If you are interested in seeing any more views of the hat in progress I have uploaded them to Flickr and as soon as the hat is dry I might ask Alan to take a picture of me wearing it!  Tomorrow is another day and I hope to crystalise plans for my American workshops and spend some time answering emails and generally catching up with things.

The last day of our wonderful complex bag workshop

Sunday was the second and final day of our complex bag workshop and the end of three brilliant days felting with Lyda Rump.  Because Cristina and I had worked well into Sunday morning to complete our bags we had a great opportunity to try something else whilst watching Elaine and Carmen’s bags taking shape as they felted and fulled.  I decided to make a small felt vessel which had been in my mind for a while and Lyda showed me how to design the template to give me the result I was aiming for.  Sometimes another brain or a bit of lateral thinking makes all the difference because I would have used a round resist myself and cut the opening down the middle in a wave, Lyda suggested an oval resist with a wavy top edge and this proved to be an entirely better option.  What it is to have artistic ability combined with years of experience! 

Vessel in progress

Carmen and Elaine worked on the various parts of their bags by rolling, pulling, stretching and spot fulling with a felting mouse.  When the bags were almost finished they were rinsed thoroughly in clear water and then put to drain in my washing machine with a towel to add a bit of friction and weight.  Doing this does not shrink the felt any further but it does remove a significiant amount of water and then you can work the felt further if you want or just stretch to shape and leave it to dry if you are happy that it is fulled enough. 

Elaine, Lyda and Cristina showing off the felt bags!

I don’t have a picture yet of Carmen’s finished bag as she decided to do the final shaping at home and felt a beautiful scarf during the last hour or so of the afternoon.  More about this in my next post and also some discussion about the various handle options when creating a felt bag. 

I would like to say a really big thank you all for leaving such lovely comments about my own complex bag!  It is great to be able to feel so connected to everyone through the medium of the internet and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your thoughts, tips and advice!! 

I’ll leave you with an image Lyda took as I was preparing my small vessel on the gravel for a photo, it gives a good overhead view of the scalloped edges of the opening.

Positioning the vessel for photography

Variations on a felt slipper (another tutorial) and announcing felting workshop for Mullingar!

Ok, I actually have water again since last night so this morning I was able to complete another felt slipper project and this time incorporate some wet felting to finish!  The pictures really are self explainatory but it’s important to note that the rectangle of felt I started with was NOT fulled well (an early experiment using batts) and this is how I was able to wet felt hard to finish the slippers.  

Cutting in thirds and one third in half

This time I cut the rectange into three and then divided one third in two again, doing this ensured that I would never have ‘two right feet’ again! 

Adjusting the length

I sliced a bit off the back of the slippers as when I tried them on before stitching the back I realised that they were going to be VERY long!

I dunked the slippers (one at a time) into really hot water and soaked them before adding plenty of nice unscented soap.  Working them in my hands for a minute or two I paid particular attention to the cut edges.  Next I rolled them in my bamboo blind before working them on a washboard to shrink and set the shape.

One stitched, one half way through felting

It’s easy to see from this image that the cut edges really needed to be worked well to seal the felt.

Once I was happy that the slippers had shrunk almost to size I rinsed the soap out and and spun them in my washing machine.  To finish the shape nicely I put my feet in plastic bags (didn’t want to have to take of my tights, STILL no heat!!) and worked them for a minute or two more on the washboard and banged the edges with a wooden spoon to full them properly. 

Finished felt slip ons

Voila, my finished felt slip ons!  I am actually very happy with these as although I didn’t want to scrap one of my earliest flat felt experiments I had no idea what to do with the piece and it was languishing in my cupboard.  Now I can keep my feet warm and wear the felt with pride!  NB Check how the wool that I used to stitch the seams has also felted during the process, more pictures of the process on Flickr.

I am delighted to be invited by Anna Browne to facilitate a BEGINNERS and IMPROVERS FELTING WORKSHOP in Mullingar on Sunday 31st Janurary at the Educate Together National School in Mullingar.  If you live in the midlands and would like to attend this fun day please book directly with Anna through her blog by clicking here!  You can also see what Anna and her boys have been up to with some of my spare felt, gorgeous gifts and inventive ideas abound on her blog Anna Paints.

Thanks for all the comments on fulling in a tumble dryer and a few replies!

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 isStarting the rolling process in a bamboo blind

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.

Has anyone fulled felt in a tumble dryer?

I don’t have a tumble dryer but Carmen does!  People sometimes post on the internet about zapping felt in a tumble dryer for a short while but this is not something that I have ever done myself.    Anyway, Carmen was telling me that she tried it out for the first time the other day and put a rug in her dryer for approx 10 minutes and it worked out amazingly well.  I would be really interested to get any comments and feedback from those of you who have tried this out before, did it work, was it a disaster, would you do it again???

Our beautiful felt rugs (and bag!)

A happy group of felters!

A happy group of felters!

At last my internet connection is working again and I can show you the beautiful results of our first rug making workshop with Mehmet Girgic.  We spent a fantastic weekend working and learning the Osman technique and I am sure you will agree from the accompanying photo that all our effort was time well spent.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the workshop was that you can give everyone the same raw materials, in this case a 2100mm X 1900mm rug base and different coloured carded wool, but no two people end up with remotely similar pieces.  Traditional rug making motifs did come through in several different people’s work but due to all the various colour permutations each of these rugs had a totally individual style.  Matthew, who had no previous experience made a fantastic rug and really everybody regardless of how long they had been felting left the weekend with a great sense of achievement. 

Because of the space constraints with 8 others working on such a large scale I decided to make a smaller piece at the weekend workshop and a bigger rug this week.  In actual fact this proved to be a great choice as Mehmet showed me how to convert my smaller piece of flat felt into a strong and attractive seamless carpet bag.  I will explain the process over the course of my next couple of posts, now I am off to upload a few more images to flickr and prepare myself for tomorrows felting and fulling of my bigger rug!!

Felt jewellery, lampwork, felting process/equipment …..

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!

Finished the sign and bartering

Well, I am delighted to announce that I have completed the road sign, all be it not quite in the way that I blogged about yesterday!  Before starting the rolling and fulling again (dreaming of another 52 minutes rolling X 2 or 3) I asked myself why I didn’t do a little experiment and try out my sander and my washing machine to speed up the process.  I debated with my conscience for about ten minutes, hand made versus machine assisted and finally decided that it was only a road sign, not a beautiful commissioned scarf or wall hanging.  What was I sweating it out for, time = money and if my idea worked I could get started on my nuno mosaic series of wall hangings, these will not have any mechanical assistance!  Well, I sanded the whole sign for a couple of minutes until I was absolutely sure that there were no loose fibres, bundled it into a duvet and stuck it into my machine on a quick 40 degree wash cycle.  The result was pretty good after the first go, I trimmed the edges a little and stuck it in again for a further cycle at the same temperature.  Once this was completed I pulled and stretched the edges using a pliers and then rolled the sign in my bamboo blind again for a few minutes, rotating it every now and again until I was satisfied with the shape.  Although I know that the felting process was not exactly purist I have to say that the result is just what I need for the end of the lane, a tough and hardwearing (hopefully!) sign that will alert visitors to where my studio is.  It did seem pointless when I thought things over, spending hours more slaving over the thing when I could really be starting on the series of mosaic wallhangings that I have been dreaming and plotting about over the whole holiday season!  I will take some images of the sign in the morning (writting this post in the early hours!) and also measure the exact amount that it shrunk in the making.

Bartering is fun!

Bartering is fun!

One other thing that I have done today is to sign up to the Barter Bunch.  This is a great idea for trading hand made goodies that Malissa has started on her blog, check it out and see if you might like to join. 

The things that I can make and trade are my own felt designs and include scarves, jewellery, vessels, small bags and wallhangings.  The type of items that I might be interested in trading these for include one off silver or ceramic beads, handmade cards, bags, sewing (possibly sewing my nuno fabrics into gorgeous clothes to my design!!), handmade toiletries with no artificial colours or scents ….. the list is open ended, surprise me!