felt luminary

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This is one fuzzy bag !
 I suppose I could only write posts where I show my best work and have lovely photos of it, then you might believe I am such an amazing craftswoman.  Well, lets be honest, not every piece I or anyone else makes turns out perfect all the time.  There is a reason some sayings have been around a long time, like "we learn from our mistakes", "practice makes perfect"..... Both apply here so lets go with it.  Here is what happened and what you can do to make it better.

I wanted to try out a new shape for a purse that's been dancing around my head for a bit.  I will use Corriedale wool for the bag, it is a more durable choice for purses and boots or clogs - it felts up strong and sturdy and it doesn't tend to pill up on the surface like Merino can. I am in love with a new color way my dear friend has created: PANSY by Carin Engen Fiber Arts.  Well, I only had one ounce of it.  I had loads in a natural grey. But I really wanted it Pansy......once my mind is set on something.  So I decided I would use the grey on all the inner layers and for the last outer layer I would use the Pansy........I knew that some of the grey would work their way to the surface during the felting and fulling process, thus lightening the colors of the Pansy outer layer.  Ok, it was a test bag.......it would be cool if it turned out to be something I could use or sell in the end...not.  The giant top photo is the back side of the finished bag taken in the sunlight to show ALL the grey fuzzies

that came through the top layer.  The next one down was taken out of the sun, still fuzzy but not as dramatic in the photo but it still looked horrible in real life.

What to do, what to do?!?  I am going to point out here just one of the many benefits of taking felting classes......you learn great little techniques to make your felt look more polished-well finished.  If you can, take a felting class!!

 Well, when we get kind of fuzzy and unruly in the areas we don't want excess hair, what do we do........get out the razor!  Think about it, felt is wool which is essentially hair.  Now this is important!  Go buy a cheep-o single edge razor with NO moisture strip on it.  Double/triple edged razors just increase your risk of gouging your felt, and the moisture strip........that's for your skin.......it just gunks up the felt.  The picture above here on the left shows the flap of the bag, the right side and the center have been shaved, the left has not.  Before shaving you honestly could not distinguish the center horizontal yarns or the yarns creating the center band! 
A small chunk of wool taken off by pressing to hard


- your felt should have been rinsed clean then rolled in a towel and most of the moisture blotted out.
- put one hand under the area you are going to shave for support or you can lay it on a hard surface, I prefer my hand because I can tell the amount of pressure I'm using.
- use a short, repetitive motion, don't press down hard, a bit lighter than you would press down on your own skin.  start out in an area that's a bit more out of the way, better yet practice on the inside or back of the piece.  Once you're confident and have a feel of the needed pressure begin on the main area.
- go either horizontal or vertical and stick with that direction and do your shaving in blocks.  It is alright to gently go over yarns or silk fibers-fibers, not silk fabric,  as long as they have felted into the wool correctly.  If they aren't fused to the wool well shaving may just pull them off.
- pull the fuzzies off as you go.  You should only need to go over an area once.
-  here on the right is most of the fuzz I got off this bag and the razor I used, just a cheep bic razor with just one blade, no more!
- take your time, don't try to rush it.  The picture above on the right shows an area where I over shaved, spent too much time in an area.  If there had been multiple layers of the Pansy it wouldn't have been so noticeable.  If it's really obvious you could go in and with a thin felting needle and some wool of the same color, fill the hole by gently needle felting it in.  I would then wet around it and with a dab of soap gently wet felt that area so you can't tell it was needle felted.

A few side notes about shaving your felt:
*any piece of felt can be shaved to give it a neater, cleaner look
*all types of pure wool felt will handle a shave, this doesn't include locks
*NOT so with blends of wool and silk or bamboo or tencell or hemp.  If you feel it truly
   needs it, experiment on a practice piece or where it won't be seen or matter it if
   makes a gouge or even a hole.
*silk fabric that has been nuno felted into your work should never be shaved! ! !
   a razor and silk should not come in contact, it's never good-yep-I made that mistake

Below are the before (on top) and after (on bottom) photos.  Honestly, the camera didn't do justice to the dramatic difference.  I made the photos as large as I could so you can see the change, hopefully.  After shaving the richness of the colors came through and the bag had, well-a much smoother surface, much more appealing.
I will end up just using this bag as a practice surface to do free motion embroidery on but it was a good lesson in patience or lack there of!  Next time I hope I will have more patience before I go through all the time and effort it takes to make a good piece of felt.  It ended up being a well felted & fulled bag, I like the shape, inner pocket placement, on my next bag of the same shape I will change the flap design.....so I did learn a few things and hopefully my flop taught you a thing or two.  It is rare that I don't learn something new with each piece I felt, good or bad......and sometimes ugly. 


I mentioned that I used a hand dyed wool called Pansy in Corriedale created by Carin Engen.  I want to give her a bit of a plug here........her hand dyed wool really is beautiful and very well crafted.  I have been using it for years in my work and always love the results.......unless I mess it up with grey wool that is!
She has a shop site on Etsy called CarinEngenFiberArts where you can purchase her hand dyed wool.  She sells nuno scarf kits and also, she found an artisan to make the most amazing felting tool, it's called a felting stone and it works wonderfully!  I use mine constantly, I even wrote a post about it earlier on.  Carin teaches throughout the country, mostly in California though, and you can check her blog site, listed on her Etsy shop to find out where she is teaching next.