The Base Makes a Difference

The Base Makes a Difference

In my Monet Challenge blog post this past quarter, I pointed out I had used a Domestic 56 base without pre-felting it. The domestic fiber is coarser than merino, approximately a 29.5 micron compared to a 19 of the merino. I had a lot of hairiness migrate through the merino and had to shave the piece a couple of times.  I wanted to try a pre-felted base with the same fiber. So, I set out to do another Monet.

I chose Monet’s Water Lillies 3.  Water lillys conjur wonderful memories for me from my childhood summers at my Grandmother’s cottage on a channel off a lake.


Using two layers for the base, I wet felted it and let it dry. I was surprised at the shrinkage even though I did light rolling in all directions before drying. A rectangle turned into a square.

I laid out my design.  I wasn’t terribly happy with it.  I did some needle felting to give the lilly pads more definition.  Here it is before wet felting.

monet 2 before

After wet felting it, I still wasn’t enamored  with it.  I did some more needle felting and it seemed to take on a better life.

Monet 2 layout

The one thing I did learn was that using a pre-felted base of the Domestic 56 made it less hairy.  I didn’t need to shave it at all.  Even though I fulled it the same way I did the first Monet, it wasn’t as stiff.  Both methods had advantages. So, I will continue to experiment depending on the results I want to achieve.

What is your experience with using a pre-felted base of a coarser fiber?

22 thoughts on “The Base Makes a Difference

    1. Thanks Lyn! I certainly won’t tell. 🙂 Yes, I will hang it at home. I just have to find the right spot and frame it.

  1. I like the way it turned out, too, Marilyn 🙂 I’ve very rarely used a pre-felt base, I tend to stick to Merino for coloured felted things and use coarser wools for surface texture.

    1. Thanks Zed! I’ve usually used merino prefelts or merino as a base. These were my first experiments with the coarser base. I often use coarser fibers in the design depending on what look I’m trying to achieve. Like trees, I’d use a heavier fiber to get more texture.

  2. Your finished piece looks lovely, Marilyn! I can’t really answer your question in regards to wet felting, but I can say I like coarser fibres for my needle felting, things just get done so much quicker. If I’m completely honest, I’d say I love coarser fibres for needle felting and merino for spinning – to each its own, huh?

    1. Thanks Leonor! I’ve heard merino isn’t the best for needle felting, so I would imagine the coarser fibers work best. Just knowing how fine and flyaway merino is it’s understandable.

  3. Your Water Lillies 3 turned out very well, Marilyn! Love the rich detail and colors you achieved.
    My landscapes always begin with a handmade pre-felted base now, and after drying, I then add needle-felting and sometimes hand-embroidery. And I am rather fond of the Domestic 56’s we both use from the same supplier for the base. However, I have never had a rectangle become a square, so I am puzzled about that.

    I have needle-felted with both merino and coarser fibers, such as Romney and Hand-dyed domestic 56’s; and I do prefer the coarser fibers–it’s quicker, as Leonor said.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I never experienced the rectangle to square either. I always do a quarter turn in each direction when felting and fulling. Perhaps I had laid out fewer fibers in the base in one direction. I’m not sure, but the outcome was fine, just unexpected.

  4. Beautiful water lilies! I use the domestic 56’s quite a lot and probably less merino than everyone else. Usually if a rectangle turns to a square in my experiences it is because of layout. When you’re doing layers do you usually split your wool into equal sections for each layer? Then you know you are putting the same amount on each layer.

    1. Thanks Ruth! I believe I used domestic 56 batts that I made on my drum carder. So, perhaps there wasn’t an even amount of fiber in each.

  5. Very nice picture, Marilyn. Thanks for your suggestion re making prefelted base beforehand. You say that you rolled it slightly and that it started shrinking which means that you already started fulling it. My questions is: did the merino wool adhere well to the surface?

    1. Thanks Nada! The merino felted very well into the base. Those coarser fibers just pull in the merino.

  6. I agree with Lyn, I prefer yours Marilyn. I thinks thats very interesting that pre felting the coarse wool a bit before adding the coloured merino means you dont get that hairiness. I have not done much prefelt and always unsure as to how far to take it? I like coarser wool for texture, I love Gotland lambs curls, they felt in fast. I am attempting some slippers at the moment and am layering merino for softness and colour, and what I call crossbreed ( might be similar to your domestic 56?) for strength.
    I like hearing all the different methods that everyone uses, no two pieces of felt are the same and not two felters felt the same way!

    1. Thanks Jane! I’ve used commercial prefelt a lot which doesn’t shrink as much, but is expensive. Yes, the coarser wool adds a lot of texture for sure. I haven’t tried Gotland locks yet although I love the look of locks especially long ones. The domestic 56 is a mix of breeds. You’re absolutely right, we all find our own felting methods thru trial and error and our goals for projects! I live experimenting so I’m always interested in a new technique.

  7. Your water lillies are lovely Marilyn. I’ve only used my own prefelts in the same fibre as those I plan to use on top.
    I have seen some really coarse German prefelts in the local haberdashery and have been considering buying a little just as a trial. I’d only get a very small amount as it’s a ridiculous price for what it is. Always interesting to try out new things though. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judith! I also make my own Prefelt in small amounts when I need a small precise shape, but have used commercial prefelt as a base which makes the process quicker. I think you’d be wise to buy a small amount of the German prefelt. It is expensive and if doesn’t work out it could be an expensive mistake. I love to experiment, too!

  8. Great piece Marilyn. I haven’t really used anything but merino for prefelt. I have some Romney prefelt I made up but haven’t used them yet. I like the domestic 56 and Cordial for needle felting. fine merino takes for ever to needle felt, especially if you are doing 3D things.

    1. Thanks Ann! I’ve just started doing more needle felting before wet felting. I’d be curious about how well the Romney acts as a base. I found it hard to wet felt. Certainly the domestic and Corriedale work well for wet felting as well.

  9. One thing I learned in a 3-day workshop last week with the esteemed Lisa Klakulak is that it pays to make sample squares of any and all materials you are considering for a large art piece. She said she gives 8 workshops a year, I suppose in various locations. You might want to study with her a bit.

    1. Phyllis, Lisa’s classes are on my list to do for 2015. The timing didn’t work out for me this year. Samples are really important especially when using new or different wools and/or embellishments. It never hurts. Thanks for your response. Perhaps I’ll see you at one of Lisa’s classes!

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