Monday, August 06, 2007


A few years ago, if you had invited me to learn something about making felt, I would probably not have been interested. To me, felt was bland and uninteresting, like clay. It was an era when those who worked with wool tended to breed all different sorts of sheep to get a variety of colours, but they were still stuck with just whites, creams, greys and browns. Some adventurous spinners and weavers used natural dyes, which were also too subdued for my taste. It did not seem to occur to anyone to just dye it with some of the wonderful dyes that you can get today.

A year or two ago, Holly from Western Australia showed me how to make felt in my kitchen. It took about five minutes to make a piece big enough to make a bag. I was very tempted to explore further.....

Then I started to read about silk paper. I love anything silk! Silk paper is like felt, but because the fibres do not have the little hooks that wool fibres have, you need to bind them together with a textile medium.

So I was off on a journey to find the silk fibres I needed - via the Internet of course. I came down to land at The Thread Studio, a fabulous company in Perth, Western Australia. There I found not only a wonderful array of both silk and wool fibres in an absolute rainbow of colours, but all sorts of other fabulous goodies for the textile artist.

As if that was not enough, someone then told me about embellishing or needlefelting machines. They are like a sewing machine, but do not use thread. Instead they have a group of barbed needles that felts your fabrics and fibres together. There were enormous possibilities for creating!!

So I asked son Charles if he would order me one of these machines through his business, figuring that a new toy would be as good as a holiday - and I have not taken one of those for three years now!

The machine arrived last Monday - right on my birthday, as luck would have it. With a newly acquired stash of silk and wool fibres, I was ready to play!Although I sat down and experimented with the techniques for a while last week, and got used to the workings of my new toy, today was the first time I actually sat down to produce something.

I made a background of silk paper, and then applied mainly silk fibres with the machine. But because I seem to have every colour imaginable except for the all-important dark green, I used a few of the wool fibres. Actually, the wool seems to work a bit better than the silk. I tried using some exotic acrylic yarns for the stalks, but they would not "grab" well at all. Next time I will raid my stash of tapestry and crewel wools.

The picture is definitely not finished. It needs some surface embroidery and/or some beads. A suggestion of some seed heads or Queen Anne's lace perhaps, to give it some liveliness.

For the past couple of years I have been on the lookout for old pure wool jumpers at the Op shop. They make wonderful "felt" if you throw them in the washing machine and break all the rules about washing wool. I believe the process is called "fulling" rather than felting. I think they are going to make an ideal base for some embellishing work, and will be better than the pellon I used for today's project.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

So,you are a Cancer also!(or near enough)
Mary I have found that silk fibres do not "meshh" or "dry felt" as well as does wool.
(something to do with the structure of the fibre.......smoother than wool?)
Have you tried using silk organza ribbons?
Have you dared switch from the five needle "thingie" to the single needle (very technical terms I must admit :-) )

Try using a piece of denim (old jeans) or a piece of WSS like DISSOLVE-4X as your foundation for "felting" into.
If you use some WSS,when you dissolve the stabiliser,if you leave it to dry over a teaspoon ,for instance,you can introduce another dimension to your work.

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