Our Guest Artist/Writer is Leonor Calaca from Felt Buddies
A while back, I saw a blog post written by Marilyn, aka Pandagirl, about how some fibres merged (felted) together by using the wet felting process. You can read that post by clicking here. https://feltingandfiberstudio.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/sample-fibers/?preview=true&preview_id=7469&preview_nonce=af58dd7ec7&post_format=standard
Being someone who knows only about needle felting (and believes to have much, much more to learn), and who had never before tried some of the fibres mentioned, I was very curious as to how they would perform under the barbed needle. I asked Marilyn about it, and she was generous enough to send me some samples to try myself.
There were nine samples to try, and some of them were fibre blends. I decided to go about this by analysing each sample by touch and sight, then taking a small portion out and needle felting a little ball; a round form would allow me to see whether the fibres would take a 3D format well, and easily (or not).
I also used The Field Guide to Fleece book, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, to help me understand a little more about each fibre. This book referred to some fibres being curly (having ‘crimp’), but all my samples were straight, which has to do with the way they were commercially processed (this is the reason so many of our fibres shrink when wet felted).
This sample was a dream to touch and smell! It is so soft and the colour is absolutely lovely, too. The Yak needle felted very easily, and the resulting ball was springy and so very soft. This might be my new favourite fibre!
This sample arrived slightly felted in its bag, which tells me Gotland might be one of those fibres that need careful storage and not too much friction or weight on it. It is a soft, shiny fibre. My ball was a little fuzzy, with a slightly scratchy finish. It smelt wonderfully sheepy!
This sample was also a new-to-me fibre, and I was very curious to see how it would behave. It is much coarser than what I’m used to (merino being my main source), but I find coarse fibres to be much nicer for needle felting.
My first thought when looking at this fibre was that it would make great mock bird nests, it mimics the materials and branches really well! Navajo Churro needle felted really easily, as expected, and I got a fuzzy ball as a result of the coarse nature of the fibres.
This is a very shiny and, obviously, silky blend. I’d say it’s a 50/50 blend. I’ve yet to work with Polwarth wool alone but this blend made both a very nice combo to the touch. It felted easily, although it took a little for me to get that ball shape, which I suspect is the silk’s doing, being the slippery fibre that it is.
Although Merino is possibly one of the most used fibres in felting, and well known for its softness, this blend isn’t as soft as I’d expect, nor as soft as the Polwarth/silk blend I mentioned above. It is, however, very shiny due to the silk content.
Again, due to its long staple length, it’s harder to make a circular shape. The shine ended up a bit muted because the fibres are randomly pulled together when needle felting – I’d say one would keep the shine best with the wet felting technique. As you can see, the colours came out rather muted due to this type of blending.
A very soft and shiny blend, possibly a 50/50, it took a bit to felt and the shine was a bit lost with this technique.
If you like spinning, chances are, you love BFL. This is a very lofty fibre, although this particular sample wasn’t as soft as alpaca or merino. It needle felted very easily and retained its shine very well.
This blend has a long staple, is very soft and has a lovely sheepy smell. It needle felted very easily and I was able to make a ball very quickly, despite the staple length.
Although it’s a curly fibre, this sample was straight. It’s got a lovely lustre, and is softer than Gotland (which is, incidentally, something my reference book disagrees on). This was, by far, the fibre with the longest staple length I’d ever tried! The Teeswater doesn’t felt very easily and it took me a while to get it into a ball. Also, because it’s a long staple, it was harder to get a smooth finish on the size I did it in.
Another curly fibre that was processed to be straight . It’s a longish staple, very soft (but less so than Yak) Although it felted, it resisted my needle a bit. Some strands wouldn’t blend in with the rest.
So there you have it, my little experiment. Feel free to ask any questions you might have, and tell me all about your own experiences with different fibres!
Thanks Leonor for this informative experiment with needle felting!