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).

Origami felt

Whew! What a week it’s been – a road trip up to Edinburgh via the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bradford and Newcastle, zipping round various events at the Edinburgh Festival, including a performance of The Tempest on a beach on the Firth of Forth, and visits to the Yorkshire Moors and Burghley House on the way back.

But amid all this activity I had two days in Edinburgh learning how to make origami felt with Andrea Noeske-Parada at Hat in the Cat Textiles. This was a great opportunity to build on the technique of using partial felts that I learned with Lisa Klakulak earlier this year, as well as my interest in origami sparked off by the pleating workshop I did with Bridget Bailey last year.

Our aim was to make a kaleidocycle, a ring structure where you can change the colours by constantly turning it inside out. We started by trying to make a paper version to learn the principles of the folding technique. But of course with paper it’s simply a case of folding. With felt you have to allow for shrinkage and joining as well as folding and colour blends.

It’s a pretty labour-intensive technique that involves making partial felts, cutting out lots of triangles (I remember now why I never took to patchwork!) and trying to lay them out as precisely as possible. But the end result is extremely satisfying – and it was very interesting to see the effects of different colour combinations chosen by different students (below).

felt kaleidocycles

I also worked with short-fibre merino for the first time, and met Chrissie Day. Chrissie has been very supportive to me in the past but we only know each other online – so it was interesting to meet in real life at last! 😉

kaleidocycle1 kaleidocycle2 kaleidocycle3 kaleidocycle4 kaleidocycle5

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.