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).


Felting with velvet

I had a couple of comments earlier this year about felting with velvet. Lord knows I’m hardly an expert – my only previous experience of felting with velvet was a dismal failure: I ended up using machine embroidery to attach the velvet to my nuno scarf!

Looking back, I concluded that the failure was probably due to two factors:

  • there wasn’t enough wool underneath the velvet to help it stick
  • it was probably synthetic velvet rather than silk (I just dug it out of the Morley scraps box, so didn’t know what it was made from).

However, after seeing Lisa Hawthorne‘s work at the Chelsea College MA Textiles Show, which included some lovely velvet felting, I decided to have another go. So I bought some silk velvet. As felting pots inside out seemed to help the wool slubs felt in more effectively, I thought it might work for velvet as well. And this was not nuno,  so there would be more wool that would also encourage felting.

Just to be sure, I checked in Lizzie Houghton’s Creative Felting, which suggested laying “a few wisps” of wool over the top of the velvet to help anchor the velvet. Of course, as I was felting inside out, this meant laying the woolly wisps underneath the velvet, which I laid out face down.

Unfortunately, in my excitement that it might actually work this time, I forgot about the wisps when I laid out the wool on the top half of the resist! What this means is that I ended up with a controlled test pot, the top half of which had no wool on top of the velvet, while the bottom half did.

The results, however, are inconclusive. Most of the velvet did felt successfully, whether anchored by wool on top or not. But the three places where it didn’t felt were on the top half or middle of the pot. So it seems that adding a few strands of wool on top of the velvet is useful but not always necessary for successful felting.

These “anchor” strands may also be useful to prevent the velvet from moving around – as you can see from the photos, the strips of velvet on the top half of the pot moved quite a lot from their initial positions (which I couldn’t see because they were on the inside layer).

However, I do find them a bit intrusive – they tend to obscure the lovely crinkled effect of the velvet that I’m aiming for.

Verdict: Better than my first attempt, but not there yet!

Edited to add that Nicola Brown of Clasheen has also been experimenting with felting velvet – rather more successfully!

Felt vessel with flat resist

I’ve tried making 3D felt vessels before using 3D resists, like a rolled-up piece of bubble wrap and a balloon. Neither method was hugely successful – it was quite difficult to get the wool to hold together firmly enough around the resist while felting.

I realise that I’m beginning to sound a bit like a Nicola Brown groupie, but her book From Felt to Friendship really is a great source of inspiration. And it includes a technique for making a round felt pot using a flat circular resist. It worked beautifully – much easier and quicker than trying to felt around a 3D object.

The other useful technique was felting inside out. As you can see from the photo, I incorporated some wool slubs on the outside. Previously I’ve had problems getting these to felt in successfully, but by laying out the felt from the outside in, they were no trouble at all!

So I started by laying out the slubs on one half of the resist and covering them with dark blue merino. I turned the resist over and covered it with brown Icelandic wool. The middle layer on both sides was a dark wine-coloured merino, and the final layer (which would eventually be the inside of the pot) was white Icelandic wool. I rubbed and rolled, cut a small hole to remove the resist, turned it inside out and blew up a balloon inside the pot to keep it nice and round. The slubs had felted in beautifully, so I firmed up the outside by rubbing against a washboard until it was all even and smooth.

The disadvantage is that you can’t see the pattern on the inside layer while you’re working, so you need to remember which is the top and which is the bottom to avoid cutting the hole at the wrong end! I did this by adding a small tuft of blue wool to the top layer to indicate the bottom side.

Felting on a balloon

I guess one of the advantages of not having sold anything at Spitalfields is that I don’t have to work like mad making new stock for the Tip Top Table Sale on 1 May.  I did feel like a one-woman scarf production line at times, which takes the fun out of it a bit. That would be the other advantage of selling online – you just put stuff up as it’s ready and don’t have to worry about having a half-empty stall.

Anyway, inspired by the gorgeous felt vessels made by Nicola and Zedster01, I thought I’d try making a rounded pot, using a balloon. I’ve made small felt pots before, using a cylinder of rolled-up bubble wrap, and Tess said that felting on a balloon is quite easy, as long as you thoroughly wet it with soapy water.

So I basically followed Zedster’s tutorial, using a balloon instead of a ball. I used two layers of fuschia merino, with an outer layer of grey Icelandic wool. Although I did wet the balloon well, and the first layer of wool stuck reasonably OK, I had more problems getting subsequent layers to stick. In the end, I would add a few strands, wet them, and then cover them with net and rub gently – not to felt, but just so that they stayed in place. This worked better. I also folded back the excess wool around the lip of the vessel before felting so that some of the fuschia showed on the outside (some also worked its way through the outer layer of Icelandic wool anyway).

I removed the balloon by bursting it before fulling, and after fulling I blew up another balloon inside the pot and hung it up to dry so that it retained the round shape. I love the result, and I love working with Icelandic wool – it seems to felt almost instantly!

Hanging up to dry

Blue resist pot

Discovery of the day: Styrofoam felts. Unfortunately.

I’ve mentioned Creative Felting by Lizzie Houghton before as a great source of ideas and inspiration. One of the techniques she includes is for making honeycomb felt, where you trap marbles between layers of wool when you make the felt. Then when the felt is dry, you cut the marbles out, creating a series of cells that look a bit like honeycomb (left).

Lizzie notes: ‘It can be difficult to roll the felt because it has such a lumpy texture, and this is where a washboard can be very useful for applying friction.’

Well, I don’t have a washboard at home, so I wondered whether there was something else I could use as a resist instead of marbles. I thought I had hit on the perfect solution – polystyrene foam pellets. I knew that foam is often used as a flat resist when making felt bags, so I assumed they wouldn’t stick. And the pellets were squashy enough not to make it too difficult to roll the felt.

So I made another two-tone pot as before, but between the two layers of green wool and two layers of blue wool I incorporated five polystyrene pellets, folded in half. Then I rolled and rubbed as normal.

The rolling and rubbing flattened the pellets completely, so I realised that I wasn’t going to end up with 3D cells. Also, because they were now flat, it was quite difficult to feel where they were through the felt, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find them!

However, when the pot dried, the foam had gone very hard, and I could feel the flat discs very clearly through the felt. So I thought that I could easily cut them out, allowing the inner green layer of felt to show through the outer blue layer.

This was when I made the dreadful discovery that Styrofoam felts. Both the blue and the green wool surrounding the foam was stuck very firmly, and it was a real struggle to remove the discs. Luckily, I had made the felt quite thick, so cutting away part of the felt with the foam still left a thin layer of green felt intact.

Time to buy a washboard.

Foam pellets
Foam pellets - before
Felt resists removed
Foam pellets - after
Blue felt pot
Finished pot

Red felt pot

To keep motivated during the long scarf production process, I made another felt pot. This time I decorated the outside with some woollen yarn, looping it in an elegant pattern.

Of course, lesson 2 kicked in again – the yarn moved during the felt-making process to settle in its own random design. Despite being a self-confessed control freak, I’m surprisingly relaxed about this. Want to feel mellow? Make felt.

red and green felt pot

red and green felt pot