Begonia pot

This pot was inspired by the colours and markings of a begonia leaf. I wanted to make the inside a dark bottle green, but didn’t have enough wool in that colour. But as the creative urge was on me, I couldn’t wait!


Nuno shibori scarf

A few weeks ago I tried nuno felting on nylon net. Last night in class I used a shibori technique to add texture.

nuno net scarf
Nuno net scarf before shibori

We rolled the scarf around a piece of sawn-off drainpipe, about 18 inches high. This was fine, because I wanted the ridges to run vertically along the length of the scarf. If I had wanted horizontal ridges across the width, the scarf would have to be rolled vertically, which would have needed a much longer drainpipe!

After rolling, we secured one edge of the scarf with an elastic band, then tied some string to this and rolled it in a spiral down the rest of the scarf, leaving gaps of about half an inch between each  round. About halfway, we squashed the part of the scarf that had been tied down to the bottom so that the ridges became more pronounced, then finished tying the other half. Finally, we put another elastic band on the top edge of the scarf, tied off the string, and pushed the whole scarf down as far as it would go. (Sorry I don’t have any pictures of this – would be much easier to show!)

We heated some water in a tea urn and placed the drainpipe inside with the scarf at the top, so that no water was touching it. (The idea is to use the steam to set the pleats, not to wet the fabric.) We put a towel on top to seal in the steam, and then the lid. I guess you could do this at home in a tall stockpot or similar, but obviously this limits the width of fabric you can use, which is why a tea urn is ideal.

After steaming for about an hour, we removed the drainpipe and scarf, cut off the elastic bands and string, and admired the end result.

Nuno net scarf after shibori

The tying/steaming process didn’t just produce the pleasing pleats – it also softened the cheap scratchy nylon net into something much more pleasant to handle.

My tutor says that the scarf can be dry cleaned or washed without damaging the pleats, though obviously in cool rather than boiling water.


Grow your own frock

Well, not quite. Not yet, anyway.

But Suzanne Lee at Central St Martins, along with collaborators at Imperial College London, is cultivating bacteria in baths of yeast and sweetened green tea. As the bacteria grow, they produce cellulose, which forms a thick mat over two to three weeks. When dried off, this material can be cut into shapes and sewn into garments, or moulded to fit a 3D form such as a mannequin.

Advantages: It dyes more easily than cotton and is biodegradable.

Disadvantages: It’s not easy to get a consistent quality of material at the moment. And it’s not water resistant. In fact, it absorbs about 100 times its own weight in liquid. If you get caught in the rain wearing a bacterial cellulose garment, it will get really heavy, swell and probably fall apart. Best keep a plastic mac handy.

…one step back

Buoyed by my success with the ridgeless felt eyeglass case, I thought I’d try making a bag with a handle. Following the instructions in Lizzie Houghton’s Creative Felting, I made the handle first by rolling and wetting strands of wool to form a long cord, leaving the ends dry so that I could felt them on to the bag itself.

Then I made the bag as before, enclosing a bubble wrap template with two layers of wool plus decoration, rubbing and rolling it before cutting it open. At this stage I tried to felt the handle to the inside of the bag, wetting the dry ends of the cord and rubbing them to attach them to the bag. However, I think the bag had gone too far in the felting process, as I couldn’t get the handle to stick.

Felt bag
First felt bag - with separate handle!
Back of bag
Back of bag

It seems that if I am using an enclosed template I will have to attach the handle to the outside of the bag at an earlier stage. I don’t think I can cut through the wool to felt the handle to the inside of the bag any earlier, as it won’t be stable enough.

One step forward…

My first attempt at using a plastic template to make a felt fan case wasn’t a huge success. The case had unattractive ridges along the sides where the wool on each side had felted together.

So I thought I’d have another go, this time making an eyeglass case. This time I used three layers of merino rather than two, partly to make a thicker case to better protect the spectacles, and partly so that the outer layer would be a horizontal layer that wrapped around the sides, thus avoiding ridges.

I also completely enclosed the bubble wrap template. Then after the pre-felting stage and a bit of rolling, when the wool had started to shrink and the template inside started to wrinkle up,  I cut through the top edge of the package and continued rolling and rubbing.

Purple eyeglass case - no ridges!

Finished case with embroidery
Finished case with embroidery
Back of case
Back of case

This case shrank noticeably more than the fan case, which hardly shrank at all. I think this must be due to the extra layer of merino – the more layers of wool, the more it shrinks.

I’d also like to find a way of neatening the cut edges. Particularly when making felt with different coloured layers, the edges can look a bit ragged.