Latex soles for felt slippers, cold spell continues and Happy New Year!

Last night I decided not to light my wood burning stove first thing this morning and try to get some household chores out of the way as a less expensive way of keeping myself warm!  Needless to say it wasn’t long before I decided on a little textile diversion and in the continuing absense of water had a go at painting latex on the soles of some warm felt slippers which I had made for myself earlier in the year.  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will realise it is these little finishing touches that I find very difficult to get out of the way, add in a touch of sewing and they really are my worst nightmare come to life!  Anyway, I made the slippers last spring using some gorgeous gotland (which someone has now told me might shrink further as I wear them) and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t wear them until I had added a latex sole for extra durability and waterproofing qualities. 

Painting latex on the soles of felt slippers

They also need one stitch at the back of each heel, this is to hold the tongue of felt (just visible in the picture) into a nice decorative curl, somewhat Turkish looking is what I am aiming for.  I havn’t used latex before but believe that I need to paint about 5 layers to achieve a really good sole, Tone from Ullform in Norway also said that she sprinkles a layer of ground maize (hope I have that right!) over the final coat and that this adds quite a bit of grip to the bottom of the sole. 

The heavy wind and rain from yesterday has finally abated, now we just have sleet here and snow on the mountains surrounding Clasheen.  Thankfully I managed to speak to the friend who services my Rayburn and he gave me a couple of tests to carry out which indicates that my central heating system is actually working.  I still don’t have any heat in the rads however but have now got a man organised to check the pump in the well tomorrow morning so hopefully if we can get the water going and the pressure tank up and running things might get back to normal soon.  I can only keep my fingers crossed!  Obviously from all the messages that I am receiving many of you from all over the world have your own weather difficulties, some actually having drought and excessive temperatures, the exact opposite to what we are having here.  It is nice to feel part of a wider community although obviously I would prefer if no-one had any problems in the weather department at all!

Finally I would like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year.  Enjoy any festivities that you have planned for this evening and hopefully we will all have a fantastic time felting and enjoying our various art practices throughout 2010!

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!

Fun felting afternoon

Yesterday afternoon Carmen, Polly, Joan (a New Zeland friend) and I got stuck in to some serious activity.  Joan and I had been working on the Irish Green Gathering all morning and felting was just the way to spend the afternoon.  Carmen brought along a gorgeous selection of felt beads that she has been working on and decided to string a couple of necklaces, very funky.  The rest of us were working with resists and I was showing the girls how to proceed as neither had actually done a seamless piece before.  In fact Joan has only felted one flat piece with me before and she made an amazing quality vessel which I hope she will allow me to photograph.  Polly fell in love with the idea of felt slippers as soon as she saw a pair that I had make a couple of weeks ago.  Obviously they take a lot more work so things were progressing nicely when she had to take them home with her.  Hopefully Polly will have time to work on them today or tomorrow and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product!

I decided to make a vessel and incorporate some of the scrim that I waxed and dyed last week at the batik course in Grennan Craft Mill.  The fabric had taken the dye really well and was a pleasure to work with yesterday.  Later in the week I am going to try nuno felting a larger piece of this scrim and use less wool, I expect to get a highly textured fabric for my end result.