Russian Felt Costumes

This is a guest post by my friend Penny Peters. Penny is a wonderful stitcher who travels extensively so I have asked her to do a guest post for us. Penny recently visited Russia and saw some interesting uses of felt that I thought you might all be interested in. She did see the Pazyryk burial felt which I have posted about before

During a recent visit to St Petersburg I was fortunate to be able to visit the famous ethnographic collections at the Kunstkamera and the Russian Ethnographic Museums as well as archeological collections at the Hermitage. I was not permitted to photograph any of the items in the Hermitage from the Altai Burial Mounds (Pazyryk Burials) so famous for the ancient, well-preserved felt horse trappings and canopies. Good photographic images of those can easily be found online. You can search under “Pazyryk burial felt”.

I was able to photograph a unique felt wedding cloak on display at the Kunstkamera Museum. Felt cloaks once were a common item of Afghan male clothing, diverse in cut and decoration. They varied from simple cloaks worn by herdsmen to works of art signifying the owner’s social status. The most elaborate is a wedding cloak decorated with delicate embroidery and cutwork. The embroidery is comprised of tiny, uniform back stitch or knotted stitches in bands in natural wool threads. The bridegroom’s costume pictured is completed by a felt hat and luxurious shawl in gold brocade to cover the head or shoulders.

The other two felted wool costumes were located in the Russian Ethnography Museum. Unfortunately the signage was in Russian using the Cyrillic alphabet, and I was unable to understand the documentation. Having said that, both items of male attire are probably from central Russia— a very cold climate region. The coat-like garment is very plain, decorated only with a belt buckle featuring deer or reindeer and patterned knitted mittens at the waist. The short jacket is again decorated with tiny back stitches in natural wool threads.

These 19th century garments are of such classic design they could probably be worn on the street today without attracting much attention, except from us textile enthusiasts. If you have a chance to visit St Petersburg, the Kunstkamera and Russian Ethnography Museums shouldn’t be missed. The Kunstkamera houses a marvelous costume collection from around the world—especially the Northwest Coast and Alaskan indigenous people since Russian explorers were trading in that region long before other Europeans reached it. The Russian Ethnography Museum displays mostly 19th century costumes of the dozens of distinctly different people who inhabit their enormous country.

Thanks Penny! I enjoyed seeing these felt costumes and reading your explanations. Thanks for taking us on a short trip to Russia!

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This and That

While I haven’t been very active on the forum, I have been busy with small felt projects and traveling.

Everyone had been interested in what I would do with my “denim paper.”  Well, I tore some of it up in pieces and placed them on a piece of black prefelt.  I put wisps of fiber over the larger pieces, just in case.  It felted beautifully.  I doubt I needed the fibers.  I added sides from some black felt and stitched it together to make a glass case.  I added a snap as a closure.

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Rummaging thru my UFOs I found a couple of spikes I had made in Fiona Duthie’s class last year.  I decided to make a ring holder with one attaching the fluffy end of the spike to a felt circle, covering with additional fiber, felting then forming a star shape while wet and adding beads when dry.

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I also made another clutch for my Florida daughter in law.  Yes, the Nelson women love all things teal. This has three layers using batts of merino Corriedale blend and decorated with yarn, silk hankies, silk roving and silk gauze.  The last pic is the inside lined with silk habatoi.

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What little projects have you completed lately?


Posted in Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Experiments with Coarse Wool and Embellishments

Today we have a Guest Post From Cathy ‘Luvswool’

Zed and I were chatting about coarse wool fibers–which we both enjoy–and the end result of our chat was my agreement to try some wet-felting experiments with some “exotic” coarse wool she had just got from Woolknoll.  And even though I have tried many different types of wool fibers over the past couple of years, Zed’s package of fibers was quite a surprise.  Okay, how many of you have heard of Fox Sheep wool, Milk Sheep wool, Russian camel and Chubut.  The latter name is what my siblings used to call me in our “anything goes” name-calling childhood.

While in Colorado, I had gifted my four colorful pods (above) to the Breckenridge Arts Council for their silent auction. And I missed them.  So I decided to make four more pods, this time in neutrals, using the same resist I had used previously.

I also planned to add embellishment fibers, which were also contained in Zed’s package.  Although I was familiar with Bamboo and Viscose, I did not know how they might react with coarse wool fibers, so I decided to use Zed’s new e-book, The Right Fibre as my guide.  In the e-guide on fibers,  Zed clearly explains how one can go about blending fibers with each other, but also tips on which fibers might go better together.  The photos–some of them macro–clearly show the effects one might be able to achieve.
I decided to work with 4 coarse fibers I had never before felted, which were Fox Sheep wool, Karakul, Milk Sheep wool and Chubut.  As embellishments, I chose Viscose, Bamboo, Russian camel and Schappe (a type of silk fiber).
First up was the mysterious fox sheep wool, which has nothing to do with foxes and everything to do with coarse, hairy wool.  As an embellishment, I used black viscose.

Next was the Karakul, which I had heard about but really didn’t want to think about too much or too long.  This wool fiber–of course–was not the dreaded karakul you might be thinking about…phew!  I used black bamboo, which actually looks grey in the photos.

The Milk Sheep wool was a surprisingly lovely brown color and quite coarse; and I paired it with Schappe, a type of white silk.

Last but not least was the Chubut, which was very white, and I used Russian Camel as the embellishment.

To keep it all scientific, I used the same sized resist, felted for the same amount of time, and likewise with the fulling; but I did change up the size of the openings for variety.  Here is the order of most coarse to least coarse (and hairy!):  Karakul, Milk Sheep, Fox Sheep and Chubut.
Here’s what surprised me:  The Schappe, which has looked so soft and silky, turned out to be lumpy as an embellishment on the Milk Sheep wool, and I would use it again, but strictly for the build up of texture underneath other fibers. It could react differently on a softer, lower micron fiber, such as Merino wool. The Karakul shrunk the most and retained its very hairy quality, which I do like for this particular pod.  The Fox Sheep wool (white with the black viscose) turned out well, and I like the way the Viscose retained its waviness.

I did add some green wool yarn I had lying around, just for fun.

fox sheep yarn carrierThe Chubut seemed to be slightly taken over with the Russian camel, but perhaps I used too much camel as an embellishment.  It would be useful to try all four base fibers again and pair them with different types of embellishment fibers.
Here are all four pods standing nicely together.  I have even decided their fate:  a bud vase, yarn carrier, cat bomb (you may notice I added a felted cord for the wick), and gnome’s cap.  I’m not serious about the cat bomb, as I do love my kitties, but perhaps our readers will have a suggestion for use of the final unnamed pod?

Posted in Experiments, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

A Trip to Visit a Felting Friend

This week I spent some time visiting my friend Maureen of Dreamspin Fibres.  It’s nice to felt with a friend.

I decided to make a project bag for a spindle, so long and thin. I used this lovely rust, terracotta and brown variegated wool.

wool for spindle bag

Here I am laying out the wool. I did 4 layers.

spindle bag laying out wool

After 3 layers I added some thick felt for some texture.

spindle bag laying texturespindle bag laying texture plus wool

Then some leaves in various colours of prefelt. One was a solid colour and 2 were multicoloured off cuts from some prefelt that Maureen dyed. I cut the handle and flap out of the top and cut the bottom off so I can make the bottom nice and flat. I will sew in another piece of matching felt.

spindle bag leaf embelishments spindle bag cut open

And here it is drying. I think it will make a great spindle bag.

finished bag

Next time I will have more pictures of what we made, but for now its late on Thursday night and it has been a long day with driving home so I am off to bed.


Posted in Design, Experiments, Felt bags, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

3rd Quarter Challenge Entry from Teri Berry

This is a guest post by one of our forum members ‘Teri Berry’. Teri has a wonderful blog if you’d like to see more of her work. Teri has completed the 3rd Quarter challenge in record time and tells us about it here:

Marilyn posted the 3rd quarter challenge a couple of weeks ago, initially I was disappointed because this meant I had been mulling over the 2nd quarter challenge for so long I had missed the end of Q2 (shame on me). Determined not to let the same happen again I was spurred into action. I already had an idea from Q2 that I wanted to use silk cocoons to add some three-dimensional impact, a little bit like this sample:

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Added to this, I have been wanting to interpret a favourite photo taken by my better half on a diving trip into felt for far too many years so this seemed the ideal opportunity. Isn’t this fish a beauty?

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As per Marilyn’s challenge instructions, I ran this photo through 2 programs, Colour Adobe and Palette Fx.

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I much preferred the wider range of colours provided by Palette FX so set about dyeing some cocoons, yarn and silk while blending some previously hand dyed Norwegian and Merino wools (with a little bit of dyed trilobal nylon for some sparkle – I’m a sucker for a bit of sparkle!).

Considering the materials were all dyed in the same bath, I was surprised by the range of colours that came out of the orangey brown bath, everything from bright orange to a lovely chestnut brown. These are the carded batts:

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I started by laying out two tones of purple, when the piece is fulled, these different tones will create subtle areas of light and dark on the face of the hanging.

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Then laying out the batts, I love working with batts, they are so quick and easy to lay out.

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I like to think about movement and the balance of colours and tones when laying out my wall hangings, I find repetition of shapes and colours works well. Here I have laid out 3 deeper colours and added splashes of a bright colour to create movement. I think it is important to keep stepping back and looking at your piece, if it doesn’t feel right now, it’s unlikely to feel right as you add more layers and detail.

Next I added my dyed cocoons, ponge 5 silk and felt ropes for extra texture before wetting it out to regain some control over the growing pile of fluff.

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Then some of my dyed yarn, I was thinking about how to lead the viewer’s eye around the hanging when laying these out.

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Looking at it again, I felt it was too dark and needed more contrast and the large bumps from the cocoons needed to be balanced by something, the solution, to add some yellow chiffon with felt pebbles underneath.

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I made some prefelts with the left over batts, I love working with prefelts and silk papers, they permit a far wider range of shapes than I can create with loose wool tops.

From these I started cutting out shapes, laying them on the base. For me, this stage is very much trial and error; placing piece of felt, deciding I don’t like it, cutting them into smaller pieces, swapping them out for other colours, moving them around. After some time I finally settled on this.

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And started rubbing, and rubbing, and rubbing…. I quite like the look of the plastic covered in suds with the design showing through.

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More rubbing, and finally a bit of throwing (the large bumps created by the cocoons made this a difficult piece to roll).

Here is the fulled piece after opening up the cocoons to reveal their dyed innards, contrasting with the wool wrapped over their surface. I’m really pleased with the one that spilled out a trail of silk as I opened it up.

I was a little bit disappointed with how the edges of the orange prefelts had gone fuzzy (I should have used a firmer prefelt) so added some machine embroidery to visually sharpen the edges again.

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Letting me loose with a sewing machine on a piece of felt is a risky move, I couldn’t stop a just “fixing” one area :)

After looking at it the next morning, some more embroidery was needed…

Unlike most of my hangings the felt on this one is relatively fine so instead of hanging from a sleeve or wooden rod I decided to mount it on a canvas frame. To ensure the felt doesn’t stretch and go baggy over time I fixed it to a sheet of poplin cotton with running stitch before stretching it over the frame and stapling it into place.

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Thank you Ruth, Zed, Ann and Marilyn for inviting me to post on the forum, this has been a real pleasure. If anyone would like to see some of my other work, please feel free to visit my blog at

Thanks Teri for sharing your work with us!


Posted in Challenges, Guest Writer | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

Trunk Show

My sister Lorraine is a quilter and has been involved with the Seams Like Fun Quilt Group for more than ten  years. She recently asked me to do a “trunk show” for the group.

The meetings are held at the Quilt Merchant in Winfield.  When we arrived there was a rectangle of tables.  Rather than rearrange the tables and group, we arranged a round about to let everyone have a chance to look at the pieces I brought as they were passed around.  Peggy Benzin introduced me and so the show and tell started.

I wanted to share a variety of pieces to show the versatility of felt.  First, I explained what felting was and how it’s achieved.

I brought about 35 items, a sample of most everything I’ve done. Many items have been given as gifts so they weren’t available.  The ladies were very gracious and asked a lot of questions.  I tried to give them an overview of each piece and the process and the differences in creating them.  Most of you have seen all of these so this is Marilyn’s felting journey in review for you.

My sister is next to me and is hiding behind the pieces as she showed and passed them. These were last year’s studio challenges.  The quilt group also has challenges.

Monet 2

Monet Pollack Painting with wool.

apopkaroostermoyThree dimensional big and small.

vase wine bottle pod grapes bootiefish - CopyThe ladies really enjoyed the fish.

Nuno felting.

teal gold scarf

Class project at The Fold.

placematChallenges and a variety of embellishments.


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I enjoyed sharing my work and think I enlightened quilters to the wonders of felt.

Thank you Seams Like Fun Quilt Group for giving me the opportunity to share my felting journey! A special thanks to Peggy for taking the photos and sending them to me. And, of course, to my sister for inviting me.


Posted in Fairs and Shows, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Art Therapy

I mentioned on the Forum a few weeks ago that I’m going to be doing some wet felting as art therapy at a well-being centre in about a month or two. The budget for supplies isn’t huge and will mostly go on wool tops, so I asked if any of our UK felters had any spare bits of wool or fibres they could donate so we had a nice variety of supplies. I was looking for anything really, especially those last little bits of wool tops that end up a half felted at the bottom of a bag. Teri, Galina and Lyn all kindly said they had a few bits they could spare. They weren’t really telling the truth though, they had a lot to spare! In fact, they were so unbelievably generous, I just had to show everyone! There were a few small odds and ends of wool tops and I had a few small bits too, so I carded up a few colourful and variegated batts:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were also some nice blended tops:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of natural and neutral wool tops, some of which I carded into batts too:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of gorgeous natural fleeces and locks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd lots of beautifully dyed (by hand, I think) locks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn unbelievable amount of embellishment fibres:


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd last, but not least, lots of yarn:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was talking to the others involved about what direction the group may take long term after the initial learning and exploring and expressing stages. Maybe being part of some local or national project or initiative, or taking part in some kind of exhibition, something that would give the group a theme to work on and an aim. I don’t have any previous experience of anything like that, and don’t even know where to start looking, I see events ‘featuring local community art groups’ all the time, but never see the initial invitation for groups to take part, so if anyone has any info that might help, even if it’s just where or how to start looking, I’d be really grateful :) You can contact me on the forum or using the Contact Form here, or even on Facebook. Thanks so much to Teri, Galina and Lyn for being so generous :)

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