Sample Fibers

Sample Fibers

Our guest post today is from Marilyn.


I’ve recently purchased seven different types of fiber and decided to do a sample test to understand the feel of the fiber, how each fiber felted, shrinkage and possible uses based on the end result. Since most of them were similar in color in order to identify each fiber when it was laid out, I put a piece of different colored yarn on each one and cataloged it on a chart of the layout and taped a sample on the bag of fiber. I also made notes as to the feel of the fiber laying it out, approximately how long the staple was and the size of the sample before felting.

Variety of Wool

I wasn’t concerned about exact shapes, in fact, I left some of the layers wispy on purpose to see how they would act. Ruth has an excellent reference in her Felting book on some of these same fibers, but I wanted to see how these fibers reacted here with my water, a cold work room, my felting style, etc. I used 4 layers each at 90 degree angles for all except the Teeswater 2 , Wensleydale and Merino/silk. I just teased out one layer. I was looking for that curl I was missing.

Wool Laid Out to Felt

From top to bottom, left to right:

Blue Leicester                                                                     Teeswater
Very soft, 3-3 1/2 “ staple                                                    Soft with sheen, Long staple 5-6”
8 ½ x 5 ½” 8 x 6”

Wensleydale                                  Teeswater 2           Wensleydale 2
Coarse 10 x 4”                                   9 x 7.5”                      9 x 7.5”

Organic Polworth/silk                                                POY Corriedale
Very soft                                                                             Fuzzy feel
5 – 6 “ staple                                                                     4 – 5” staple
9 x 5 ¾”                                                                             9 x 5 ½”

Alpaca/Silk                        Merino/silk                    Gotland
Luxurious soft/sheen           Soft w sheen                   Thicker fiber but silky
3” staple                                 8 x 5”                                 3” staple
10 x 6 ¼’                                                                           10 x 6”

I covered them with mosquito netting, sprayed with warm water and rubbed olive oil soap and gently rubbed until slippery, then rolled them on bubble wrap, turning 90 degrees each time, then flipping them over for a few more turns, then fulled with the bead board and Plexiglas. Rinsed in hot (throwing in sink) and cold water then a vinegar rinse. I spun them in the salad spinner and laid them on screens to dry.

Felted Samples

After felting in the same order:

Blue Leicester – soft with a bumpy textures. There is a tight curl on the wispy ends. 8 ½ x 5 ½” no shrinkage other than the wisps formed an edge.

Teeswater – Curl obvious, coarser than before felted. 8 x 6 ½” the wisps spread out but the body of the sample stayed the same.

Wensleydale – Curl is obvious, coarse and fuzzy. 7 x 6” Slight shrinkage in length, again the wisps gathered to form an edge.

Teeswater 2 — Definite curl, slightly coarse. 3 ¼ x 8 ½” 15% shrinkage in length and 12.5% in width.

Wensleydale 2 – Some larger curl, coarse and fuzzy. 8 x 8 “ disregarding one tail. 11% shrinkage in length. Width spread out during felting/fulling.

Organic Polworth/silk – Very soft cotton puff feel. The most interesting thing about this sample was it took longer to felt and did not grasp the mohair fiber hardly at all that I used as an identifier. It actually felted at first in layers. I had to work harder to put more pressure and moisture to get the fibers to bond. At first it seemed like it was water proof. Perhaps more silk than Polworth?

Merino/silk – soft and cobweb like. 5 ½ x 5 ½” 32% shrinkage in length, spread out in process but not surprising since it was only one layer.

POY Corriedale – Surprisingly soft and airy. I had used brown Corriedale for my trees in the Autumn challenge it had a much different feel and texture. 9 x 5” 9% shrinkage in width.

Alpaca/silk – very sift and light. 8 ¼ x 5” 18% shrinkage in length, 20% shrinkage in width. With all the discussion of the difficulty of felting alpaca was surprised when it wasn’t as difficult as the Polwarth. It had the most shrinkage in both direction and. There was also some small curl evident.

Gotland – slightly coarse. This was marketed as the official “Lord of the Rings” cloak fiber. I can see why. It had the same 4 layers but is thicker and denser than the rest. This fiber would probably make an excellent cat cave or door mat. Definitely not for nuno but would be useful for coarse texture in a picture.

Close Up Felted Sample

This is a close-up of the Gotland. Pretty hairy! I have close-ups of the other fibers if anyone is interested.

This was a great experiment especially since I felted and fulled them together and used the same process for each. I was surprised at some of the results particularly the low shrinkage rates. I really recommend doing this for any new fiber so that you can get the most out of the fibers you have and understand what they can and can’t do in your environment.


I hope everyone has a lovely Valentines’ Day!

32 thoughts on “Sample Fibers

  1. Interesting experiment and useful for anyone using these types of fiber. I am also surprised that shrinkage doesn’t occur with some fibres.

  2. The second picture is upside down — the Gotland is the dark fiber so the descriptions start from the bottom right to left then up. Sorry.

    Thanks Nada, I was surprised, too, there wasn’t more shrinkage.

  3. Are you planning on doing the same with these fibres but with needle felting? I’m a needle felter but haven’t used some of these wools, would love to know how they reacted to the needle 🙂

  4. Leonor, I’m not a needle felter but I could give it a go. That might an interesting experiment. 😉

    1. Oh thanks, Marilyn! I wish I could do it myself (if I could get my hands on such fibres) but I am sure you would be fantastic at it!

    2. Leonor, how would you suggest I proceed? Start the same way with four layers and then needle felt them together like prefelt?

    3. Here’s my reply on another comment, Marilyn (because wordpress doesn’t allow multiple replies):

      You can indeed try to pre-felt some wool, that would be interesting!
      I’d also try to make some sort of 3D figure (a ball, of example) to see how it holds up, whether fibres tend to resist the needle and lose shape, how much needling is asked for until we get the result we’re after, etc.

      Mind you, being a needle felter, I use roving and batts and needles, not prefelt, so my preference would always be this method 🙂

    4. Leonor, I can try a small sample both ways, but can’t guarantee the results would be what you would find being an experienced needle felter. Just give me some time. I’m traveling now and will tackle this project when I return. 🙂

    5. I look forward to your comments. And welcome to the forum! I hope to see some of your work there as well. We love to share and learn.

  5. Marilyn, that’s quite a bit of work you did, but it’s so useful! I also did a few samples the other day from sheep’s wool purchased in Scotland and was pleased with the results.

    1. Thanks Luvswool. I’d love to hear about your samples from Scotland. Do you know now how you’ll use the wool?

  6. Very interesting experiment Marilyn. Thanks for sharing, you’ve certainly saved us all a lot of work! 🙂 I love Blue faced Leicester for both felting and knitting, but I haven’t used Polwarth or Gotland, so it’s good to have your comments.

    I did some experiments with yak, cashmere/silk mix, and baby camel a while ago, but true to form, didn’t take any pics. They all felted well, but apart from the cashmere mix, took a bit more work than say, merino. However, they are all beautiful, soft fibres and I would recommend them for something like scarves where you need something extra soft. Perhaps not for the boys though, could be a too delicate to stand up to a bit of stubble!! 🙂

    Thanks again. Judith

    1. Thanks Judith. It was fun, but more importantly I hopefully won’t waste time, energy and wool using the wrong wool for a project. I’ve felted cashmere silk and it’s a lovely blend as you pointed out — so soft. If it’s used on both sides of a thin prefelt it is sturdier.

    1. Thanks Lyn. I did have fun. Now Leonor has challenged me to needle felt some samples which should be interesting since I’m not a needle felter! But I’m always open to learning new thing. 🙂

  7. I was going to say the same as Lyn, it sounds like you really enjoyed it, Marilyn! I’ve never had trouble with Huacaya Alpaca, but Suri alpaca just looks like loosely connected curls after felting! Could pe perfect for something, though. I did a needlefleted piece a few years ago with about 38 different wools/animal fibres
    The lines are too narrow to see any character really, and I needled them all flat. And it took absolutely ages, maybe if you did a piece where you did 1 inch squares or 2 x 1/2 inch rectangles it would be big enough to see the character without using all your wool and taking a lifetime? 🙂

    1. Zed, I saw a photo of your mixed fiber needle-felted piece in a book photo (I think Ruth’s felting book) and absolutely marveled at it. Now being a fellow needle-felter as well, I cannot imagine how many hours that took, but what a great idea and such a fantastic result.

    2. Zed, that’s a really interesting piece. Did you use the fibers individually or did you blend them? Did you use a neutral base? I’m intrigued. I don’t know what kind of alpaca I have. Any needle felting I do will definitely be in smaller sections. 🙂

    3. I used them all individually. I think I used a base I’d wet felted. I mostly used tops, so had to do a fair bit of ‘messing up’ of the fibres so they weren’t neat. I had a hard time with dyed mohair tops, but the rest were alright.

  8. I just thought of something else, re:shrinkage, I often get no measurable shrinkage, especially if there are many layers. Maybe working out shrinkage rate needs to be a 3-D formula 🙂

    1. I meant taking into account the depth of the fibres aswell as the side measurements, like we’re measuring a box instead of a rectangle 🙂

  9. Marilyn, My Scottish fibers are Ronaldsay, Shropshire and Hebridean obtained from crofters in the Orkney Isles and Isle of Harris. I have no idea of how I will use them! But I did do some samples, as suggested by Ruth, to see how they felt. I will get some photos taken later today, as the sun is actually shining in Chicago! Yeah! I only have 4 ounces of each fiber, so it’s not a lot to play with.
    More later!

    1. I’ve never heard of any if these fibers so I’ll be interested in seeing your pictures.

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