Drawing with fibres

I haven’t worked much with prefelt but I recently got some different kinds to try (from Wingham Wool Work) and these are some exercises I’ve been doing with lines and marks using different prefelts and different fibres.

This is Blue-faced Leicester on black Merino prefelt, before and after felting. Some of the fibres were wetted before laying them down, or laid onto wetted prefelt, and these retain more definition, I think.

preparing handmade felt

handmade felt

Update: I realised when I looked again at the notes I made for this next one that I had mixed up the order of the first two – it’s Shetland on the left and BFL next (now corrected).

This is the same prefelt, but exploring different fibres. Each group of three lines shows: untwisted fibres, dry twisted fibres, wet twisted fibres. From left to right the fibre is: Blue-faced Leicester, Shetland Shetland, Blue-faced Leicester, Merino, Teeswater, Massam. I love using Merino for felting but to be more sustainable I would prefer to find a UK alternative, the more local the better, and only use Merino when nothing else will do. Of these fibres the Shetland BFL has a lovely quality of line and is much less ‘hairy’ than the Teeswater and the Massam, almost as smooth as the Merino. The BFL Shetland is somewhere in between.

handmade felt

This is Merino on white Merino prefelt, I do love these lines.

handmade felt

This is Shetland fibre on Norwegian prefelt. It’s a much coarser prefelt but I like it more than I expected.

handmade felt

Here I made the prefelt first myself from Merino fibres (because I wanted the colours), laying out the fibres in random directions and then using a version of the dry rolling method described by Treetops Colour Harmonies in Australia. I used Merino for the lines too, dampened and twisted by rolling a little between my fingers. It’s just a small experiment in drawing with felt. I really enjoy the way the line crinkles as the felt shrinks.

handmade felt

One of the advantages of Merino, apart from softness and sheen, is the huge range of ready dyed colours. Does anyone have a source for dyed Shetland (and BFL!) tops in more than a few colours? And/or any other breeds to try? Bowmont?  I do have some lovely Shetland cross fleece grown here on Tiree, in a couple of natural colours which I’m going to try dyeing myself as well.

a few felt mats…

I’ve been working on a big project – big  for  me anyway – felt mats to form part of the centrepieces at a wedding reception. The mats are around 41 x 68 cm each and there are 13 of them! The colour scheme is purple and turquoise with gold so I enjoyed working with those.

felt mats

I’ve managed a rate of about two mats every three days over the last few weeks, fitting them in round other things and I couldn’t have done it without the generous instructions for tumble dryer felting provided by Treetops Colour Harmonies on their web site. I added a couple of notes to myself regarding the process. One is to use  the biggest heaviest towels that will fit in your tumble dryer for the fastest felting. Another is that when smoothing out the plastic layers between tumbles, if you use the backs of your hands and not the palms the plastic doesn’t drag. I started off using painter’s dustsheet plastic but found it not very durable and quite difficult to handle. For the size I was working on, cut up kitchen bin liners worked fine and one liner did all the mats and is still going strong. Plastic dustsheets come in huge sizes though so they would be a better option for bigger projects.

felt mats

To keep the size and shape uniform I made samples beforehand and kept notes of the amount of fibre to use for each layer – a good discipline for me. The mats have three plain layers and then the decoration. Each one is decorated slightly differently. I decided early on that it would be good to have something lasting at the end, so the mats are only lightly fulled and still have plenty of shrinkage in them. After the wedding I’ll bring them home and finish fulling them to produce smaller table mats for the bride and groom to keep.

felt mats

I’m committing them to the postal system shortly – wish me luck!

a quick one

I realise how often I don’t post here because I take so long to write a post and get images together; and how counter productive that is.

So just a note about a couple of things I’m doing.

The latest in the withdrawn warp experiments, this is bigger than the previous one, 36cm long, and was woven on the tail end of the first warp on my new Saori loom. The fibre was combed top, with an assortment of frayed fabric strips. I’m beginning to get an idea of how this could develop.

wool. fabric

This is the first length of fabric I wove on the loom using the pre-wound warp that came with it. It’s mostly handspun yarns and the warp is cotton. Apologies that I haven’t yet trimmed the ends on the back.

length of fabricOffset Warehouse, while looking for a heavy organic fairtrade cotton. I sent for their sample set and it arrived yesterday. I love the range… They sell reclaimed fabric as well.

fabric samples

yardage, felted weaving and a step forward

This was on my Ashford Knitter’s loom a couple of weeks ago – a length of fabric using handspun yarn and handdyed and recycled cloth, with some ribbon and embroidery threads. I haven’t decided how to use it yet, my loom’s only 12 inches wide so this is just over 2m of 25cm width fabric, not enough for clothing on its own but I could mix it with something else, maybe. Or do something else entirely. Still thinking…

weaving in progress

weaving yardage

I’ve also done a couple more samples with the withdrawn warp idea.

This one could perhaps be called nuno weaving? It’s carded merino interwoven with dyed muslin. I used monofilament fishing line for the warp and withdrew it after felting by hand. Not very pleasant to work with the fishing line and it wasn’t much easier to withdraw than the hemp yarn I tried first of all.

felted weaving

This one is handspun yarn woven with sari ribbon and silk organza on a cotton warp, felted and the warp withdrawn. Felted using the tumbler dryer, using this method from Treetops Colour Harmonies, then fulled by hand.

felted weaving

I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I’ll just keep playing and see what happens. I’m also thinking about weaving something very open and using it in nuno felt in the usual way. Or in a different way… I got a lovely book in the post yesterday – From Felt to Fabric by Catherine O’Leary. She uses a very inspiring nuno felt technique with what she calls ‘nuno prefelts’. It fits right into my current preoccupation with ways of combining wool and cloth.

This week’s biggest achievement was to get my shop on Etsy up and running. I’ve been letting my perfectionism stop me doing this since January, and I’m so glad to have made a start now.

We have another Tiree Tapestry Group workshop tomorrow, finishing work on the backgrounds (twelve of them, in the colours of a Tiree day) and starting working on the main images. I’m helping with the images, so I’d better go and start getting ready!

pieced fabrics