The felting of wool using water, soap and a wee bit of elbow grease !
What is Wet Felting?
Wet felting is a technique that uses olive oil soap, water, wool and friction to interlock and combine the fibres of your project. You roll, rub and use textured surfaces like bamboo mats or bubble wrap to help create a piece of felt. The repetitive movement of your hands and tools create agitation of the fibres so that they in time become one.
You can create a flat or 2D piece such as a scarf or wall hanging or move into 3D with a vase or sculpture. It is also possible to design and create clothing with wet felting so opening up a whole area of possibilities. Then you could make tops, dresses, anything that you can dream up!
In nuno felting you also can combine fabrics with your chosen wool, moving and agitating them together with the movement of your hands and tools. I have used this process with various silks. lace and cheesecloth fabrics.
The beauty of felting is that you can choose your design, colours and textures of fibres and fabric and bring them together over a lovely period of time to make something unique, special to you. I can lose many happy hours in the studio working on a project and it becomes a mediation of sorts connecting you to your own heart of creativity. In that moment you are captured and released into a soapy, woolly rhythm of felting. It is so much fun!!
The felting of wool using very sharp pointy needles with barbs!
What is Needle Felting?
You use very sharp, barbed needles to stab into the wool. The barbs at the end of the needle travel in the one direction. Repeated stabbing entangles the wool fibres together forming a progressively firmer felt. The individual fibres are pulled into the shape by the barbs.
There are holders that have multiple needles rather just the one that are used for quicker felting. I have a Clover pen style felting tool but I don’t use it that often. You will feel the action of the needle on your wool as you work and will gather a feel for what needle feels better for a job. I prefer not to use a needle holder as I can really feel this needling action clearly as I work and I can feel the wool changing through my fingers. A holder separates you from this knowing and feeling and can increase the frequency of needle breakages. It is a personal choice.
When you are needle felting you must protect the surface that you are working on by using a foam pad or rice filled hessian or cotton pad. The needle will then pass through the wool and safely into the pad or cushion that your are using. It is not a good idea to needle felt directly on your lap without a pad or holding your wool in the air as you will cause injury to your limbs and cry, not to mention mingle your DNA with your creation.
I use carded lambswool as my base. To start I gather the fibres up in a general sphere and begin to needle the wool together, moving around my shape as i go along. You must decide how firm you want your shape. In the past I have felted to quite a firm shape but more recently i like to leave it more soft and squidgy. You can also construct an armature for figures that you would need to give inner form and strength to. Wool is then wrapped around the wire and needle felted as normally, making sure to avoid hitting the internal wires!
Natural Printing & Dyeing Methods
I have been taught how to use my printing pot as the mordant for my fabrics. This means that I do not use synthetic mordants such as aluminium potassium sulphate (ALUM) or aluminium acetate to help fix the leaf prints on to my fabrics. This makes the whole process more environmentally conscious and makes clothing behave more sympathetically next to your skin. You get a gentler print at times using this process but I love just how natural it feels. It keeps you closer and more aware of nature I feel.
This is not to say that I will not use traditional mordants in future dye projects and clothing but I hope to manage and keep my use of synthetic products to a minimum. It will always be stated if traditional, synthetic mordants have been used.