Not quite nautilus

Inspired by a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History a couple of weeks ago, I set myself the challenge of trying to create a nautilus shell in felt.

With multiple resists stacked on top of each other, I wasn’t sure how many layers it would be possible to felt in one go, so I restricted it to six chambers to start with.  Once the layers separating the chambers were firmly bonded to the  external “walls”, I removed the resists and rubbed the internal layers with bubble wrap.

However, the real problem lay in the distance between the separating walls. I couldn’t spiral the first shell I made because the width of the chambers on the outer edge was too short.

Soon the second shell I increased the width of the chambers, but the felt was too floppy and still didn’t spiral very well.

Nice organic shapes, but back to the drawing board as far as nautilus is concerned!

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

11 thoughts on “Not quite nautilus”

  1. Wow Kim, so much more complicated than my Argonaut Shell which is often referred to as a Nautilus. Well done for trying to tackle such a difficult project. What was your initial shape? How would it go if you made the outside shape one long piece, narrowing as you go – as if you had unfurled the spiral of the shell? Then you could rewind it at the prefelt stage back into a spiral.
    I think I have lost myself there as I am not sure how you would then add all the spines.
    Good Luck!

    1. Hi Liz,

      I looked for the argonaut shell on your blog but couldn’t find it – you need a search function. 😉

      The problem with doing the outside shape in one piece is – as you point out – that it would be tricky to add the inner dividing walls later. For me, that was the point of this exercise – to try to construct a series of connected chambers. I planned to stitch them together as a spiral at the end rather than felt them – that would be too ambitious, even for me!

      So I used a series of resists, each the same shape (sort of quarter of a circle) but increasing in width. For the first shell the difference in width between the resists was 2cm; for the second shell it was 4cm. I felted around the smallest resist first, then put the second resist on top and felted around both resists, then the third and so on.

      Difficult to explain – next time I’ll take some photos as I go along!

  2. Sorry Kim, I forgot it is on my Etsy Shop – LizButcher. You are right about it being too difficult and it would be great to see your process in pics.
    PS. I am hopeless at this blogging thing and will try to add a search function. Ta!

      1. I am really amazed by your experience in felting. I am a student in University Collage of London and I am exploring how can felt be used in architectural projects. If you can share farther felt tricks such as how to make felt very stiff that can carry weight and the logic of the resist layers in the 3d applications that would be amazing and I will be very grateful.

      2. Hello Hameda,

        Are you an experienced felter? Felting with one resist is fairly simple but felting with multiple resists is trickier and requires more experience. Probably the best thing to do is make a model using paper or interfacing of the structure you want to create, fold it flat and work out where the resists need to go and what shape they need to be to prevent the layers sticking together. Then you have to allow for shrinkage!

        You can buy felt stiffener or shellac from specialist millinery suppliers and paint it on to felt. But I’m not sure how much weight it would be able to support – it will depend on how thick it is. I’ve heard of felt being used for insulation but not structurally, so your research could be very interesting!

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