Why felting is like sex

Phew! After three focused but fun days at Atelier Fiberfusing near Amsterdam with Lisa Klakulak of Strong Felt, I’m buzzing with ideas. It made me realise just how much I miss my one day a week at Morley College, working and watching other textile artists, learning and sharing with each other.

group photo resized

Lisa is a real stickler for detail, working with precise amounts of wool to precise measurements to achieve precise shrinkages – and this shows in her work: extraordinarily intricate earrings and neckpieces and beautifully finished scarves. It sounds intimidating – many of us gravitate to felt not just because of its tactility but because of its forgiving qualities. 😉

But Lisa made the mathematics easy to understand, and personally I like to know about the principles behind what I do – probably because of my scientific training. So I found it very interesting.

We started by practising circumferential fulling – using partial felts to create a 3D form from a 2D plane.

amsterdam form

Then we moved on to applying similar principles to a more complex vessel, using a 10-inch plastic circular resist. It was fascinating to see the variety of forms we ended up with starting with the same basic shape!

Vessel by Daniela Peterova
Vessel by Konni Sswat-Mollwitz


Then we moved on to finishing the vessels by shaving, stitching, steaming, blocking and painting with shellac. The photos below show my vessel before and after – you can see what a difference it makes.


Finally, we made another vessel by changing the shape of the resist any way we liked, but keeping the same area. Here’s my second vessel, which Lisa described as looking like a bloated frog! 😉

amsterdam-blue-back amsterdam-blue-top

And here’s a photo of the vessel on top of the resist I used – you can see how drastic the shrinkage was!


There are so many ways that these principles can be applied, so I’m really looking forward to experimenting further.

I also learnt:

  • it’s possible to make felt using very little fibre (some layers of fibre that Lisa uses are so thin she calls it “felting by faith”)
  • a “deck of cards” or series of felted sample squares is incredibly useful for helping plan what thickness you want and how much fibre you need
  • I don’t need to rub (yay! – I don’t mind rolling but I hate rubbing!)
  • black olive oil soap, which is more like a paste, is very good for felting
  • why felting is like sex!

If you want to find out for yourself, there’s a list of Lisa’s workshops on her website. She has provisional plans to come to the UK in autumn 2014 – let’s hope it happens.

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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%.

14 thoughts on “Why felting is like sex”

  1. Kim that looks like so much fun.

    I know what you mean about being with other people at Morley, so much that I’ve signed up for the Tuesday course from September.

  2. … and we have been great participants and we had a very great teacher from the feltuniversity :-))
    ngs from Konni

    1. The black olive oil soap is called beldi and is like a thick gel rather than a solid bar – it comes in jars. Apparently they use it Moroccan bath houses.

      As for why felting is like sex – you’ll have to go on one of Lisa’s courses. 😉 But basically you need to start gently and build up to a climax. And she uses the word “juicy” a lot.

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