Felt and kantha

I love the results of my kantha stitching experiments, but it’s quite hard on the fingers stitching through four layers of fabric. So I thought I’d see if I could produce similar results on something softer, like felt.

I stitched a couple of circles made out of prefelt, and then felted these onto a piece of flat felt along with two plain unstitched circles of prefelt. After felting, I stitched the two plain circles. This let me compare the results of stitching before and after felting.

kantha prefeltkantha felt sample

As you can see, the prefelt circles that were stitched before felting flattened out and distorted during the felting process, and the thread started to hang loose in places because the felt shrank. The circles that were stitched after felting were much more distinct.

Circle stitched before felting
Circle stitched before felting
Circle stitched after felting
Circle stitched after felting

So I felted some grey prefelt onto a piece of silk crinkle chiffon to make a sample nuno felt scarf. As I hope you can see, the ruched texture caused by the felt shrinking onto the silk is enhanced by the stitching afterwards. I call it my limpet scarf!

kantha felt scarfkantha felt scarf detail

It’s a lot of stitching, but at least it’s easier on the fingers. 🙂

Wool packaging

A friend of mine used to get deliveries of fruit and veg boxes from Abel & Cole, but then stopped. Some of the items she ordered were kept chilled using insulated packaging made from layers of lightly needle felted wool encased in plastic, made by the Wool Packaging Company. She wasn’t sure what to do with them but felt guilty about throwing them away, so she asked me if I’d like them.

According to the company’s website, after washing and scouring the wool is garneted and then needle felted. When I removed it from the plastic cover, it looked like a fairly delicate prefelt made from various different fibres running in different directions. Some of the fibres were fairly coarse, a bit like Icelandic but not as long, and the colours included the whole range of natural shades, from cream to brown, but mostly shades of grey.

It was also fairly thick, so I tried to separate it into two layers so that I could felt only half the thickness. And because it hadn’t been carded for making textiles, there were still a few burrs and other bits of vegetation present, which I picked out.

After wetting down and adding soap, I rubbed and rolled as normal, and it started to felt quite well. When I rubbed it on the washboard, many of the coarser fibres dropped out – similar to felting with Icelandic and Norwegian wool. In the end it shrank by around 20%.

Left: before felting; right: after felting

The final felt is quite coarse and hairy, and even when it’s dry it tends to shed a lot of fibres. However, the colours are lovely and organic. It’s too rough to use as a scarf or anything wearable, but I think that small areas could add some interesting texture with other fibres. Some judicious shaving might be required though!

Here’s a sample of white merino with some patches of prefelt.

Nautilus cross section

You may remember my previous experiments with nautilus, trying to create a cross section showing the chambered innards in felt. I thought I had cracked the basic technique, so went off to focus on whole shells rather than cross sections.

However, I was determined to include a cross section in the end-of-year exhibition at Morley Gallery,  so a few weeks ago I returned to the challenge – and got very frustrated. No matter how much I varied the lengths of the resists or the distance between them, I always ended up with something that looked more like a rosebud, with the outer chambers refusing to open out. I’d reached a dead end.

Then after some “I’m ready to give up” conversations with my tutor Mary and with Chrissie, I decided to try another approach. This involved stitching a long strip of prefelt around the resists in the shape I wanted, and then felting into shape.

It took me a while to figure out the best way of doing this, using calico and a tape measure. But finally I thought I had it and summoned up the courage to cut into my precious prefelt.

I was quite pleased with the stitched version before felting – but boy was it difficult to felt. Because I was paranoid about the felt shrinking too much, leading to the problems I’d had before, I packed the spaces with bubble wrap to keep them opened out, which made felting even trickier.

Although some felting did occur, the piece was still pretty fragile. So I sewed the plastic resists back in, took another deep breath – and put it in the washing machine.

Thankfully, the gamble paid off. The final piece didn’t shrink as much as I expected, but it is a bit sturdier and didn’t fall apart.

Now all I have to do is find some way to keep its shape when hanging it. 🙂