One of my new year’s resolutions was to try to get to grips with machine embroidery. I still haven’t found a way to drop the feed dogs on my ancient sewing machine, so for now I’m restricted to practising at college.
At the moment I’m making mostly 3D felt, such as pots, Kindle covers and slippers – and it’s not very easy to machine embroider these items once they’re complete. Therefore I was interested in this post by Ruth Lane on The Felting and Fiber Studio blog about stitching on dissolvable fabric and then felting it onto the fibre as part of the felting process.
So yesterday I stitched a pattern like a flower – a circle with radiating narrow petals in black thread on plastic water-soluble film. I made a pot using a flat resist in the usual way, adding the stitching on top of one side as the final layer, and started rubbing.
The film dissolved without any problems, but because the stitching was quite fine (single rows of straight stitch, except the circle), the “petals” soon started moving around. Not a problem – the original petals were of irregular sizes, so there was no beautiful pattern to spoil.
More of a problem was that the single lines of stitching didn’t really want to felt into the wool. I suspect the thread was probably polyester rather than cotton (it didn’t say on the reel), and that there wasn’t enough for the wool fibres to grip onto. The circle of stitches around the rim of the pot did felt in better.
In the end I laid some fine wisps of wool over the stitching, but at too late a stage for it to felt properly onto the wool beneath. Final result below:
In the afternoon I decided to try again, with another new technique – honeycomb felt. I tried making honeycomb felt once before, not long after I started felting, and it was fairly disastrous: not having any marbles, I used styrofoam pellets, which flattened and stuck to the felt.
This time I used proper marbles, trapped between four layers of wool and overlaid with more stitching (thicker lines this time!). I had to rub very well between the marbles, and did manage to roll it a bit, though it was rather bumpy! The washboard was much easier to use and more effective.
The piece provoked various unflattering comparisons from my tutor and fellow students, mostly centring around boils and pustules! Personally, I prefer to liken it to volcanoes and lava flows.
Finally, after a long day at college, I got home to find an entire sheep’s fleece in my front garden, delivered by a friend from Ireland. As I’m not sure what breed it is, Chrissie has suggested that I make it into a raw sheepskin rug.
However, I would like to have a go at cleaning, carding and even dyeing at least part of it – so expect some future posts on this!