HOW TO MAKE A STUNNING PIECE OF FLAT FELT USING ICELANDIC WOOL BATTS
Follow these step by step instructions and create a gorgeous piece of flat felt from Icelandic wool batts to frame, use as a table decoration, pot stand, sew into a book cover or make into a clutch bag. Icelandic wool batts and felting kits are now available from my new Etsy store.
- Lay a rectangle of bubble wrap on your table, bubble side up. Tip – you need the bubble wrap to be at least one third bigger than the required finished dimensions of your felt to allow for shrinkage plus approx 3” extra all round.
- Decide whether to have a plain background or a mixture of colours. If you want a marbled effect lay out your wool as below mixing colours as you go. Two contrasting or complimentary colours work well for a background and then you can add surface decoration on the top.
- Carefully separate your wool batt into layers and then sub-divide into pieces approx 2” X 1”. As you pull each piece from the main bundle lay it down on the bubble wrap in a rectangle overlapping the pieces slightly as if you were laying roof slates. Note that the fibres are in one general direction. Lay all the fibres for this layer vertically in a rectangle approx the size of an A4 piece of paper – make sure that your wool does not go out to the edge of the bubble wrap. You should not be able to see any bubble wrap through the wool, it is better to have more thin layers of wool than one thick one!
- Lay a second layer of wool on top of the first in a horizontal direction overlapping like roof slates as before.
- Looking down on your bundle of wool check to see if there are any thin areas. You can also lightly lay your hands directly on the wool to do this, patch with more wool if there are areas needing to be topped up.
- Now is the time to add any surface decoration. Using different colours lay your design as required on top of the bundle of wool. Please note that as the wool starts to shrink your colours will mix together, this adds to the painterly effect of your finished felt! Wool batts or tops, coloured knitting wool (not machine washable!), silk fibres, silk fabric, pre-felt shapes, cotton muslin or gauze and scraps of any open weave natural fabric may all be used to create design and colour on this layer. I find that swirls and circles of wool or knitting yarn look great when felted, use your imagination!
- Sprinkle the wool carefully with hot soapy water. I like to grate olive oil soap into hot water as it is very good for your hands but you can use any natural soap bar or even liquid soap if you have nothing else. You need the water to be soapy but not too sudsy! If you don’t have a sprinkler just punch small holes in the lid of a plastic milk bottle and fill, this works perfectly.
- Place your rectangle of bubble wrap over the wet wool, bubbles facing down.
- Press your hands down on top of this wool sandwich and allow the soapy water to work through the wool. Sprinkle some of the hot water onto the plastic and run your hands lightly over the whole package for about 5 minutes. If there are any spongy areas visible through the plastic you will need to add a little more water. Sometimes it can help to have a towel handy in case you use a little too much water at the beginning.
- When you are happy that all the wool is wet and soapy roll the whole sandwich into a sausage shape from one end. Roll the bundle back and forwards 100 times, open up and roll from the other end. Now turn the bundle upside down, rotate a quarter turn and roll 100 times from each end.
- After 200 rolls from each side and in each direction lift up your top layer of bubble wrap and have a look at what is happening! You will start to see the wool fibres and the surface decoration felting together, now we just need to roll some more and shrink the felt.
- Continue rolling from each direction and with the surface uppermost and then face down. As the wool felts you will find that your loose fibres have become a piece of fabric, congratulations, this is felt!
- Stop when you are happy that the felt has shrunk by approx one third. If you are using it for decoration it does not need to have shrunk as much as if you are going to stitch it into a clutch bag, felt also is a wonderful background material for stitching, beading and embellishing!
- Rinse all the soap out of your felt with warm water, stretch to shape and dry.
Enjoy your masterpiece!
HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE AND BEAUTIFUL NUNO FELTED SCARF
This simple tutorial takes you step by step through the process of creating a beautifully textured nuno felt scarf like the bronze nuno felted scarf in my scarf set on Flickr. I like to use either silk chiffon or ponge silk scarves from Wollknoll that already have their edges rolled but you can use any 100% silk scarf or piece of silk fabric and just cut it to size. For nuno felting any natural fibre works well as long as the weave is not too tight, muslin, scrim and jute all create very interesting effects and textures but for this scarf we will stick to silk. Even if you have never tried nuno felting before if you stick to this tutorial I promise a beautiful creation at the end of the process! You can experiment with a shorter length of silk and create a beautiful nuno neck wrap or go for a glamorous full length scarf. Just remember how much the fibres will shrink when felted so for all measurements allow approx 30% – 40% shrinkage, the scarves that I felt with usually start out measuring 180cm X 45cm.
To begin with gather all your equipment …….
· Two lengths of bubble wrap about 30cms longer than the length of your silk
· A sprinkler bottle with fine holes or a plastic drinks bottle with punched holes in the lid
· Olive oil soap available from the health food store or whatever soap you usually use
· A bowl to mix the soap and water in
· Some old towels
· White vinegar to rinse the scarf with if wished
and materials ……
· Silk scarf or piece of silk chiffon in a colour of your choice
· Merino tops in either a contrasting or complementary colour approx 20g – 30g for a large scarf
· Mulberry or tussah silk tops if desired in matching or contrasting colours
· Shave some olive oil soap and mix with hot water, use just enough soap to form light suds, put aside.
· Lay your silk on one piece of the bubble wrap, bubbles facing down to start with.
· Pull off really fine wisps of merino and lay randomly over the silk. I like to work from one end to the other and then check to see if most of the scarf is covered lightly with wool. Leave the silk uncovered in spots and just have a very fine wool layer everywhere else, where you leave the silk uncovered is where the texture will be the greatest!
· If you are using some silk to add sheen to the wool fibres now is the time to add it to your scarf. I love using contrasting colours for this but often with these nuno scarves I want the textured silk side to be the one on display when I wear them so the silk tops will be just be wasted in the design. If you do want to use the silk drop large teased out pieces of silk fibres randomly over the top of your wool.
· Sprinkle the whole scarf lightly and gently with the cooled soapy water, it is important that the water is only slightly warm otherwise the wool will felt to itself and not form a bond with the silk.
· Place the other piece of bubble wrap on top of your scarf with the bubbles face down.
· Run your hands all over the package to make sure that the fibres and silk are wet through but not soaking. I find it easier to do this step if I sprinkle some soapy water on top of the bubble wrap and just ‘glide’ my hands all over the package. Keep rubbing all over the package now for about 5 minutes making sure to work everywhere and then check that all the wool and silk is wet before progressing to the next step.
· Roll up the fibre encased package tightly from one end, you might find it easiest to wrap it all around a wooden pole or something like a pool noodle. Have a saucepan or bowl handy and if you were a bit heavy handed with the water hold the rolled package over the vessel and drain the excess liquid away. Don’t squeeze.
· Roll the wrapped package backwards and forwards on your table for 200 rolls.
· Unroll and wrap from the opposite end, roll another 200 times.
· Unroll and then lift up a corner of the bubble wrap. At this stage you can check to see if the wool fibres are migrating through the silk and visible on the other side. It can be difficult to tell if this has happened but I find that it is pretty obvious when you bend down and look at the silk at an angle, can you see tiny fibres on the surface of the silk? It is important to roll some more if you are not sure and often I roll a little more anyway!
· If you are rolling again turn the package over and then place the second piece of bubble wrap with the bubbles against the scarf as well. Now the scarf is touching the bubbles everywhere and you can roll 100 times in each direction. Check again to see if the fibres are coming through the silk and continue rolling and checking until you are absolutely sure.
· Once you know that the fibres are through the silk you can pick up your wet scarf gently and place it over your washing up sink. I like to run the tap until the water gets hot and then fill the sink a little bit with the warm water. Place the scarf in the sink and GENTLY squeeze it a few times and swish it around in the hot water a little bit as if you were washing something VERY delicate. Take it out of the water; rub with olive oil soap and squeeze the excess water out. Now for the fun part ……
· Throw your scarf onto the bubble wrap about 10 times and open it up to check what is happening. Sometimes the wool starts to felt to itself so you need to just open out the scarf and make sure this is not happening. Scrunch up the scarf again and throw 10 times more.
· Keep repeating the swirling in hot water, soaping the scarf and throwing on the table. REALLY quickly you will see the wool felting and marvellous textures developing on the surface of the silk.
· Keep refolding the scarf and working in this way and stop throwing when you are happy with the end result. Rinse the scarf in cool water and if you have added silk fibres it helps with the colours to add a dash of vinegar to the final rinse.
· Leave the scarf flat to dry. Enjoy wearing your beautiful creation!
I have never found felt cords and balls as simple and easy to make as everyone else! When Sigrid and Ingrid Bannier were in Ireland at the end of November I asked Sigrid how she was able to make her cords so strong and even, here is the method that she uses as I understand it. It certainly works for me!! Lay out a horizontal line of wool to whatever depth you want (depending on the thickness of cord required) with all the fibres running in a vertical direction, as most of us would do anyway when making cords. The big difference is in the rolling, if you are right handed start at the left hand end, if left handed start at the right hand side. Roll the fibres on the diagonal instead of in the normal straight line. It is a tiny bit more difficult when visualising it but quite simple to do, rolling in this way really allows the fibres to form a tight cord. Dry roll for a minute or so, wet lightly with warm water and olive oil soap, roll some more and then wet out as required. Keep rolling and dunking in hot soapy water until the cords are to your satisfaction then rinse and leave to dry. If you want to have curly cords just shape the wet rolls around a metal knitting needle, tie with cotton thread to secure and place in the oven on low to dry. If you check out my Flickr images I have a blue necklace in the necklace set that I curled using this method.