Felted yarn

As I haven’t bought any wool tops or merino yet, I tried felting yarn at home. I have a stash of very old Rowan wool – so old, in fact, that I can pull lengths of wool off without needing scissors. As it obviously wouldn’t be any use for knitting, I thought it would be fine to use it in felting experiments.

Getting the yarn to felt took longer than the wool tops or merino. I’m not sure whether this is because there’s less surface area to felt, or whether the wool has been treated in some way to prevent it from felting or bobbling.

Felting it in a grid resulted in a woven tweed effect (below), which I quite like.

Felted yarn grid
Felted yarn grid

Felting the yarn in the shape of a star, or flower, was less successful. My ever-supportive partner said it looked ‘like something you’d find if you lifted up the rug when you were hoovering’. Huh! As if he ever hoovers…

Felted yarn web
'Like something you'd find under the rug when hoovering'

Maybe it would look better when dry-felted with an embellisher onto something else? I’ll have to think about it.

Embroidery sampler

When we started learning embroidery last term, we each made a sampler as a record of different stitches.

Using a sewing machine, we sewed two pieces of cotton muslin together, and then divided it into sections. We then stuffed some sections individually with a small amount of wadding, before embroidering. The wadding helps stretch out the fabric and maintain tension without using an embroidery hoop. It also adds a third dimension and textural interest.

Embroidery sampler
Embroidery sampler

I find my sampler a very useful reminder of the different stitches and combinations without having to constantly refer to books or notes.

My first felt

Last night was the first creative and experimental textiles class of the new term at Morley College, and it was good to see familiar faces from last term, along with a clutch of new students. This term we’re covering felt and cooked cloth, and hopefully will be able to build on some of the work we did last term, combining felt and embroidery.

We started by experimenting with wool tops, which is wool that has been washed, combed and dyed ready for spinning. They come in long, smooth bundles of fibres, which you pull apart into thinner and/or shorter wisps.

Silk, angora, merino mix and fine wool tops (photo by Sarah Dewfall)

To make the felt, we put a layer of bubble wrap (bubble side down) on top of a wet towel, wet the strands of wool tops and arranged them on top of the bubble wrap. When we were happy with the arrangement, we wet the whole thing with soapy water, then put another layer of bubble wrap on top and rolled it up horizontally into a sausage. We rolled it back and forth (like using a rolling pin) for a few minutes, then unrolled it and rerolled it up vertically, and rolled again. We repeated this twice more, rolling it up on both diagonals. When it was ready, we rinsed it in clean water to remove the soap, and dried it off.

When wool felts, it shrinks. So we made our first pieces as grids, leaving spaces, to see how the wool shrank and how the gaps became smaller. We used merino, which is beautifully fine and soft to work with, and came in a stunning range of colours.

Felt web
This felt 'spider web' was originally about a third larger, with bigger gaps
Felt sample
Some parts of this composition are very loosely connected after the wool shrank during fulling
Blue and green felt
Again, shrinkage during felting results in interesting holes!

The piece in the third photo above was felted for slightly less time than the other two. More pressure, rubbing and moisture leads to fulling, which results in a more stable fabric with a harder texture and more shrinkage.

Then we moved on to working with wool tops that were slightly coarser, making felt balls and sausages. Balls are built up layer by layer, adding different coloured strands wetted with water and soap, and rolling them between the palms of your hands. You don’t need bubble wrap or much space, and you can embroider them and string them together to make a pretty necklace. Or you can cut them in half or slices to show the layers of different colours and make a brooch.

Felt sausages work on the same principle, except that you construct all the layers in one go. Each layer must be at right angles to the layer beneath. So if the first layer of red fibres is vertical, the next layer of, say, white fibres is horizontal. Then the next layer is vertical again. Once you have enough layers, wet them all with water and soap, and roll them up like a sausage in a J-cloth as tightly as you can. Then roll. And roll. And roll.

This is quite hard work, as it takes a lot of rolling – several of us got itchy palms from the constant friction! But it is important to ensure that the sausage is as firm as possible – if it isn’t felted properly, the layers will come apart when you slice into them.

Felt sausage
This 'green bean' is my felt sausage, drying out!

One tip to give the layers more stability  is to dip felt beads or sausages into a solution of 50% PVA glue and 50% water. Squeeze out the excess, and leave to dry before slicing.

We will be slicing our balls and sausages in next week’s class – come back then to see the results! 🙂