Yesterday I experimented with two new felt-making techniques: braiding and using an electric sander.
I followed the instructions in Fabulous Felted Scarves to make a sample braid, but just using two colours. I found this quite easy – maybe the recent experience of making woven baskets in class has helped! I used shorter and narrower strands of wool than recommended, as it was only a sample and I didn’t want to waste too much wool.
After plaiting the wool, the book says you should lay it on bubble wrap, wet it, cover it with polyester net and then iron with a steam iron to increase the moisture and temperature of the wool. Given that I make lots of products from fusing bubble wrap and plastic using an iron, I wasn’t really sure that I could do this without melting the bubble wrap! So I put a really thick folded towel underneath the braid instead to absorb the moisture and heat from the iron.
After ironing, I left the net curtain on top of the wool and applied the electric sander. I applied it horizontally for three seconds first, then vertically for five seconds, and diagonally in each direction for another five seconds each. I did this along the whole length of the sample, then turned it over and repeated on the other side. I was a bit worried about damaging the wool and the net at first – it doesn’t seem right using a heavy piece of vibrating machinery on material so soft and apparently delicate – but everything seemed to survive.
After sanding, I rubbed for a bit, then rolled in bubble wrap as usual before kneading in hot water and rinsing.
1. The piece hasn’t felted very evenly – you can still see individual strands of the pink wool, whereas the green wool has felted quite well. Both wools were merino from the same supplier – World of Wool – so it was probably my fault: I was worried about applying too much pressure with the sander, and should have rubbed and rolled for longer.
2. If I’m honest, I couldn’t see much difference in the sample after ironing the wool and after sanding it. Again, maybe I didn’t sand for long enough or didn’t apply enough pressure.
3. I’m not sure that braided felt appeals to me that much – it’s a little too regular. Maybe I should have used more colours. But I think I prefer my felt to be more ‘free form’.
4. Sounds obvious, but make sure your sander is scrupulously clean before you start. Mine had been down in the cellar for a few years, and although I did give it a good wipe over, small bits of dust and dirt managed to embed themselves in the sample!
I think I will give sanding another go, maybe with nuno felt, where it can take quite an effort to get the wool to push through the fabric. But the jury’s still out.