felt luminary

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wet Felting 101

 I've been emailing with a gal who really wants to learn wet felting and was asking me about some of the how's and why's so I told her I would try to do a photo/blog on some of the steps.  This is my first try at this so go easy on me....just email me if I get confusing.  I took pics while I was making a Christmas stocking.
  First start with some merino or corriedale roving, pictured right.  Then make a template from some plastic tarp or I use flooring underlayment, found at a home improvement

store.  Make it 1/3 larger than desired finished size. Place your template on a piece of netting larger than your stocking. You are going to be laying down thin layers of wool, pull gently out of your roving a thin "shingle" of wool and lay them horizontally across your template, being sure to slightly overlap the template; light pic at left. Cover the template then go back over the horizontal layer and lay another layer crosswise. 

 The fibers will be making a cross-hatch, pictured right.... Cover the template the same way with this second layer, again, slightly overlapping.
Now lay another piece of netting gently over the whole stocking lay out and using a scrunched up plastic bag,  apply some room temp. water with just a light amount of liquid soap dissolved in it.  Just press the wet bag onto the netting . You just want to wet the two layers so don't be too over anxious with the water at first.  Once 
it's wet, leave the netting on and using the netting it's laying on carefully flip the whole thing over, right.  Remove to netting.  Fold over the excess wool, right, this will help create a solid piece.  Now you are going to lay two layers of wool, as above, to fill in.  Layer the wool slightly overlapping the red already on the template, wet as directed above.  Now you have one layer completely  wrapping the template.  Now you need to lay the beginning of your second layer.  Lay two layers of wool over the template and have it over lap the edge of the template like you did at first. 
This is the layer you get to decorate.  After you have laid out your wool put down a design.  I used green wool yarn and white swirls of white merino roving to make this design.  Use any color of roving or wool yarns to decorate.  During the felting process they will fuse with the wool, it's very cool.  Be sure not to overlap the edge with your design.  Lay the netting over the whole thing and wet.  Carefully flip this over....

Now you're going to fold the overlap over the edge of the template again and finish adding the rest of your second layer, filling in.  Are you getting how this will all become a solid piece? 
Now you are going to get a sheet of bubble wrap that is at least 24" inches wide and 5-6' feet long and either a pool noodle or pvc pipe(we felters are very inventive) and put your stocking on the flat side of

wrap  and roll the wrap around the noodle so the bubbles are going to roll on top of your stocking (or if you have 10' of wrap like I do you fold it in half and have bubbles on both sides....) Pic left. Roll it all the way up and tie it with 3-4  strips of nylons or t-shirt strips in evenly spaced intervals, below.  Roll it back and forth, pressing lightly at first then getting to a medium pressure, 150 times-back once and forward once is one time! 

Unroll it, flip it over.  If you started it rolling up the sides, now you start rolling it up with the top or bottom.  Alter that way each change. Lightly wet it with the soapy water, roll it and tie it back up and roll 150 times medium firm pressure from now on.  Unroll, flip and alter side or top/bottom, wet, tie and roll 150 times.  Unroll, flip and alter, wet, tie and roll 150 times.  After doing this 4 times, rolling it 600 times, it's time to do the fulling, or shrinking.  What you just did was to compact the layers of fibers, now your going to make the fibers integrate-the ends of the fibers will move closer together- and form a solid piece of fabric, this is fulling. 
First cut a slit along the top and gently remove the template. Place your stocking on a solid surface that you can get wet...  Don't pick at the decorations to see if they stuck!!
Lightly wet the piece, take some bar soap and lightly  put some soap in your hands and pat it on the stocking.  Now start at the top and roll all the way down, jellyroll fashion, and using a light touch roll it back and forth on itself, about to the count of 20, unroll.  Put your hand in to see if it's sticking to itself and pry it apart.(you'll have to do this after each rolling-don't forget to do this!)  Now roll from the bottom, 20 times, unroll and put your hand inside.  You should notice some movement in the fibers, shrinking up just a little.  The decorations will start to grab now too and shrink.  Now re-wet and soap it, then roll from each side, 20 times each.  Then repeat from the top.  You will do this cycle until your stocking has shrunk about 1/3 of it's original size, above. The felt should be firm and solid, pinch the fibers on the surface and if they are loose at all keep fulling it.  See how the yarn and the berries have totally integrated into the wool.  By wrapping and overlapping the wool you have made a solid form.  Isn't it magical!
Now thoroughly rinse your stocking of all soap.  If you like you can soak it in a vinegar bath to neutralize the ph of the soap, about 1TBS per 2 gallons of water, for 15 minutes.  Rinse well.  Squeeze out water and then roll it in a towel to remove excess water. Reshape and dry flat-NEVER in the dryer!
Add a loop and you have a lovely Christmas stocking to hold all kinds of goodies!

Please don't hesitate to email me if you have questions about absolutely anything!
A few after thoughts:
I use a mild liquid dish washing soap to wet out the wool
My favorite bar soap is a pure olive oil soap
Have towels around to control the water, especially when rolling
Hope this helped...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Making of A Pair of Boots

  I just completed the finishing touches on a this pair of felt boots I made a few weeks ago.  The finished picture of the boots is here at the bottom, I think they turned out amazing!
  The picture up at the top was the very beginning for this pair of boots.  Here is the templates wrapped with a natural colored fleece and some wool yarn on the side flaps for a simple design.  To give you some idea of scale, they started out being about 20" inches tall and 18" inches wide along the foot area.  After rolling them about 800 times I removed the templates and begun the fulling process-that's where you get all those little fibers to come together and create a strong piece of felt-that took about an hour.  When you think they are
close to being the size you want, you get to
put them on your bare feet, yep, all cold, wet and soapy, and rub them until they fit your feet.  I actually made these bigger than my foot because I was going to be dyeing them and was afraid they would shrink up during that process...and they did!  I made up a natural dye solution using Brazil wood-this makes a good solid red color.  Since the wool I used was naturally a light brown I was hoping they would turn out a dark red/rust color...and
again, they did-as you can see.
  To finish them off I stitched around the yarn design on the flap to help it stand out since it got a bit washed out in the dye process and added some brass steam punk buttons.  The last step was to sew on the soles.  These are great soles that you can get from a web site called Simple Shoe Making.  You give her the length of your foot and pick out the soles you want from a number of different styles and colors, and she sends you custom soles and the material needed to sew them on-waxed linen thread and a leather needle.  Mind you, sewing them on is a bit challenging.  Just reserve a few hours and gather your patience.  Once on though they really make the look of your boot stunning!  But...are they comfortable and functional?  Absolutely.  I love wearing them.  Now I have to find the perfect, long denim skirt to wear them with so you can see the whole boot.