Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Latest Obsession

I've discovered felting, a process of taking unspun wool and making felt out of it. My first project (at a class at a local to-die-for yarn store) was a hat. We started with unspun wool which we laid out in tufts across our template, first vertical then horizontal, in any layers since we wanted this to felt fairly thickly. Once I had my wool laid out, I had about 1" of fluffy wool sitting there looking distinctly like a bad wig or a very black yeti. I couldn't believe it would ever turn into anything much less a hat.

Once the wool is laid you, it is wetted with warm soapy water and then agitated by rubbing, VERY gently. Wool is like our own hair. It has small scales along the shaft. The soap makes it "happy" and the scales open up. As the fibers are agitated, they essentially start to tangle together. The warm water also helps the fibers to shrink. After a lot of time gently agitating, adding more soap and water, agitating somemore, over and over, you end up with thick, stiff felt. For hats, the last part of the process is to shape them over a mold and
then to continue the agitation process so that the fibers shrink and "harden" in the shape of the mold.

So first, a photo of my hat. The brim is still untrimmed and unfinished.

I have made another sheet of felt that I plan to cut with a rotary cutter into long strips and then to make into napkin rings. This one has random pieces of yarns, strings and sparkly things felted into it. I am also working on a piece that will be fashioned into a small handbag.
Another method of felting is called dry felting. With dry felting, you also use unspun wool. Using a long barbed needle, you bind the wool together. You can use this method to put designs onto felt you've already made or you can make three-dimensional items. Levi made this adorable owl and I am at work on a cat. I think his body and head look pretty good but I'm having a lot of trouble getting the shape and proportion of his legs right. Perhaps he'll turn into a lounging vs. standing cat!