I only had time for a short felting session this weekend; and, in the first of the samples for my ‘textile piece’ assignment, I started with this digital image:
This has elements of marbling, ripples distorting the original stripes, creating movement and asymmetry, forming new relationships between the lines.
Influenced by the way shibori captures the stitches into the surface of the fabric visually, even though the thread has been removed and even when the fabric is flat, I thought, what if the effect of stitching into fleece before felting could be captured in a final flat surface?
I laid out 3 gossamer layers of merino – white, then stripes of colour, then a soft pale pinky brown. I intended the top colour just to tone down the layer beneath it but it actually enhanced the surface in a way I didn’t anticipate.
I needled the layers of fleece lightly, just enough to keep them together while I put in the gathering stitches. I have a wonderful little multi-needle tool made by Dianne Stott called the Fabulous Felt-O-Matic which was invaluable for that job; otherwise I’d have wet prefelted the layers as minimally as possible before stitching. This piece started off about 60 x 50cm; shrank to 11 ~ 22cm x 40cm. On a larger scale, it would have to be needled more tightly or wet prefelted before stitching because of the difficulties of handling a very lightly needled fleece in large pieces.
Here’s the stitched and gathered fleece:
To stitch, I used crewel wool in blending shades, and left it in; I could also try a synthetic yarn that would pull out after prefelting, or else a more dramatic yarn that draws attention to itself. I then went though the normal wetting out, felting and fulling process, and this was what happened.
Held up to the light, you can see the way the gathers form thicker and thinner areas of felt – it would be interesting to try with undyed fleece, to maximise this effect. The whole piece is thin but strong; even where there is more fleece it isn’t bulky, because the layers were so thin to start with. If you run your fingers over it you can just feel slight indentations where the gathers were, but against the light the ghosts of the folds appear.
I was very pleased with how the stripes distorted; and interested in the way the top layer moved with the gathers, forming a netted pattern over the surface. I have new ‘what ifs’ now. What if I use wider stripes? What if the top layer contrasts more strongly with the one below. What if I pull up the gathers more tightly, make them closer together, or further apart? What if I start with a grid? What if a larger piece was made up of several smaller pieces, and what if the gathers ran in different directions from one piece to the next? if I want to explore any of my other design ideas before settling on one for the textile piece, I’ll need to keep most of these questions till after the course is finished!