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).

Adding texture

Happy new year!

My felting up till now has largely focused on form, whether vessels or origami structures. I’m not intending to abandon this, but ESP brought home a few gourds from the market (“the sort of thing you like”), which got me thinking about how to combine form and texture.


beyond-nuno-70-perc-fits-a6I was inspired by a couple of books I acquired recently. One was my Christmas present to myself, an electronic download called Beyond Nuno: A Guide to Using Fabrics in Wet Felting by Felt by Zed. As well as having her own blog, Felt by Zed, or Zedster, also contributes to the wonderful Felting and Fiber Studio.

The book eschews the usual project-based format, instead going for a systematic investigation of how different types of fabric react when felted, including silk, synthetics and cotton. Even better, there are great photos (including supermacro close-ups) of felt samples clearly showing the differences, and discussions about how the different properties might be used to create different effects in your felt.

Perhaps it’s my scientific background, but I like this approach – it’s like having a pre-prepared sketchbook of samples. 🙂 But it also made me want to go and experiment with different fabrics myself.

felt fabric designsThe other book is Felt Fabric Designs by Sheila Smith. It’s slightly more conventional, covering the basics of making felt before moving on to nuno and lamination, openwork and shaping edges.

There are a few projects, including scarves and waistcoats, but most of the emphasis (and photographs) is on sample swatches. I found the chapters on “Sumptuous surfaces” and “Hardwearing functional felt” particularly inspiring.

And there are some useful tips, such as how to make a nuno scarf when your working space is limited (ie less than 3 metres long!). I once made a vow never to felt a scarf again at home until I got a longer table – but I might be tempted to try again now.

Anyway, inspired by Zed, I did my own layered sample of different fibres and fabrics sandwiched between merino and silk chiffon.

The thing about nuno felting with chiffon, unlike other kinds of silk, is that it doesn’t produce much texture on its own, instead sinking into the felt. However, it’s useful for trapping other items on the surface of the felt.

So here is a quick set of layered samples trapped beneath a layer of chiffon (apologies for poor quality of the image – it’s astonishingly difficult to photograph).

texture samples

Top to bottom: wool nepps, synthetic slubbed yarn, pencil roving, stitched hem from silk scarf, rolled cotton muslin, felt offcut from iPad case. And in the bottom left-hand corner is a piece of jute scrim.

Of course, some of these items, such as the nepps, pencil roving and jute scrim, might be expected to felt in anyway, without being held in position by the chiffon (though I have had problems with nepps in the past). But the silk adds a little bit of extra texture, especially as this is a crinkle chiffon (which you can’t tell from the picture).

Now to try this in 3D format – to be continued…

Tonal screenprinting, monoprinting – whatever goes

Experiment, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is one of my favourite words, along with the phrase “What happens if…?”

This week at Morley College I built on some of the work I did last week, trying to blend colours in screenprinting without getting regimented stripes, adding new items under the fabric to produce different textures, doing “clean pulls” across the screen to make a kind of monoprint, transferring whatever pigment was left onto a clean piece of fabric (or overprinting it onto another piece).

Because I didn’t have time to stitch any pleated fabric this week, I simply used whatever came to hand – it was much quicker, and I produced an awful lot of prints! So there’s not a lot of commentary on the pics below – just brief explanations in the captions.

The first set of prints was based on the texture of this unknown plastic object I found in a drawer. I have no idea what the original function of this thing was, but it does produce some lovely printed textures!

Various monoprints made from the screen afterwards
On this one I deliberately creased the fabric when I pinned it out (honest!)
Time to try some different colours – but the front of this piece felt rather “heavy”, with a lot of binder
I actually preferred the reverse side of the print
Monoprint in second colour over first monoprint
Here I actually put the original print face down on top of the blue monoprint and ran the squeegee over them before peeling them apart

Next I tried printing over some strips of loosely interwoven cartridge paper.

Then on bits of jute and string, sometimes with creased fabric.

Again, I preferred the back of this print

Monoprints from these:

Finally, I did some more pulls on the previous pieces I pleated by ironing last week.

So what have I learned from all this experimental fun?

1. For the colours to blend properly, you need to put them really close together (or even in two rows touching each other). It also helps to move the squeegee from side to side before pulling to start the blending. Even then, the first couple of pulls are likely to result in discrete stripes – the colours don’t really start blending until later.

2. If you like what’s left on the screen, do a clean pull onto a blank piece of fabric or overprint – you can get some interesting effects. You can even use the print you’ve just made, if there’s a lot of binder on it, to produce another print.

3. Turn your pieces over – sometimes they look better from behind!