3D textured felt

So, what form to use as a textured sample? I decided to do a basic ribbed vessel, using the partial felt technique I learnt at Lisa Klakulak’s workshop last year.

First I had to revise the technique, as it’s been a while since I used it. The result was interesting for a couple of reasons.

ribbed vessel

I’d envisaged the vessel as being fairly spherical. However, when it was fulled, the partial felt ribs prevented full longitudinal shrinkage, so the final vessel is taller than it is wide – more of a pod shape. For the same reason, the felt is more flexible and less sturdy than previous samples I’ve made of the same size – so it can be gently compressed to produce a rounder vessel if wanted, though this is not as stable.

ribbed vessel flatter

I’d made the ribs slightly curved to try to get more of a spiral effect, but in the final tall vessel this is barely apparent. It’s more obvious in the slightly flattened version.

ribbed vessel spiral

So then I made another vessel, to test out different textures. It’s not very pretty, but it’s intended to be a reference sample.

ribbed vessel textures

Clockwise from the top, these are: silk chiffon, silk habotai, polyster organza, pencil roving, silk chiffon with wool nepps, silk habotai with wool nepps, polyester with wool nepps, silk chiffon with felt offcuts.

Polyester organza with wool nepps gave the “wartiest” texture (managed to get a bit of red fibre caught in there as well).

ribbed vessel nepps

I also liked the effect of the pencil roving (without chiffon) and the felt offcuts covered with chiffon.

ribbed vessel rovingribbed vessel felt offcutsThe extra layers of silk and nepps haven’t increased the robustness of the felt very much – if anything, it feels less rather than more robust. So for future vessels I need to make the felt wall thicker or the ribs smaller (or dispense with them altogether).

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.

Felt in Amsterdam

I’m very excited to be going off to Amsterdam for a few days for a felting workshop with Lisa Klakulak of Strong Felt.

Lisa makes impressive sculptural felt, most notably a whole vertebral column! You can see more photos on her Facebook page.

lisa klakulak
I don’t think I’ll manage a whole spine in three days, but I’m really looking forward to learning from such an experienced and imaginative felter.