Wool Experiment

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).

samples together

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).

Yak_Gotland_Navajo

Yak
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!

Gotland
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!

Navajo Churro
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.

Yak_Gotland_Navajo_balls
Organic Polwarth/Silk
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.

Merino/Silk
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.

Alpaca/Silk
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.

 

Pol_Merino_alpaca_Silkblends

 

Silk_blends_balls
Blue-Faced Leicester
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.

 

POY Corriedale

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.
Teeswater
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.

Wensleydale
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.

 

BFL_PolCorr_Tees_Wens

 

BFL_PolCorr_Tees_Wens_balls

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!

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23 Responses to Wool Experiment

  1. Sally says:

    I enjoyed this guest post. Beautifully written and very informative, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.

  2. koffipot says:

    An interesting exercise Leonor. I love Yak too, so incredibly soft. Thanks for sharing, though I only do a little needle felting where absolutely necessary as my fingers are not happy with my aim! 🙂

  3. zedster66 says:

    Great experiment, Leonor! I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was or how long it took you to try and needlefelt a ball with Teeswater. Or Wensleydale! 🙂 I like the way the characteristics of the different breeds ‘return’ once the processed tops are wet felted. Or dyed. You can hang them in a steamy bathroom too, to encourage the crimp back. Do you plan to use them any other ways?

    • Leonor says:

      Thanks, Zed 🙂 Those fibres did take longer, haha!
      I’ve never tried the steamy bathroom technique, that’s very interesting. Must do that!

      As for what to do with the rest of the fibres, I’m torn between using them as accents on a sculpture, or spinning small samples… Decisions, decisions 🙂

  4. Lyn says:

    Lovely blog post Leonor – thank you. Are you going to string all those balls together to make a Christmas garland?

  5. Nada says:

    I enjoyed reading this post even though I am not into needle felting. Testing new fibres is always exciting.

  6. Thanks for your post, it’s very useful to know the difference between types of wool, there are so many breeds and animals available it is often hard to know which is the best type to buy.

    • Leonor says:

      You’re very welcome 🙂 If you’re in the market for different types of wool, I highly suggest you get your hands on the book I mention in the post, it really helps to get to know the breeds a little better. Happy crafting!

  7. ruthlane says:

    Great experiment Leonor. I did some of these type of experiments for my book and you learn so much about the fiber using them in a controlled manner like this. Definitely the longer the staple, the more difficult it is to needle felt a fiber. You should definitely try Zed’s idea about trying to get a little of the crimp back with some of the longer fibers. Thanks for sharing.

    • Leonor says:

      Thanks, Ruth 🙂 You are absolutely sure, these little experiments teach us so much about the materials, I might get hooked on doing this every time I get a new-to-me fibre…

      I will definitely give Zed’s idea a try, that way I won’t feel so guilty for running very hot (and steamy) showers!

  8. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    Great experiment Leonor! When I did the needle felting test, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m so glad you were able to provide such detailed explanation for fellow felters. Thanks again!

  9. Leonor says:

    Reblogged this on Felt Buddies (and stuff) and commented:
    Here is my guest blogging on The Felt And Fiber Studio, about needle felting different wool breeds.

  10. luvswool says:

    So I see you have jumped on the experimental bandwagon…welcome! I was a needle-felter first, and then became a wet felter, and now i do both. Romney is actually my favorite wool fiber for needle-felting. It’s so lovely and crimpy and felts well and fast with needles!

    • Leonor says:

      I have indeed! I blame you lovely lot 😀

      Ooh, now I have to add Romney to my To Experiment With list… I have a feeling it’s going to be a never-ending one…

  11. Great post Leonor. what size need were you using for the samples. I wondered if different needles would change how they felted. There is so much variability in some of the less common fibers. I have some very course Gotland and a friend has some really soft stuff.

    • Leonor says:

      Thanks, Ann! I used a medium sized triangular needle – I don’t have the exact gauge, because it only came in three sizes when I bought this particular lot. Different needles would indeed change how the fibres felt, a thicker one would felt quicker, yet leave the outside looking coarser, finer ones would take longer but look smoother in the end.

      I know what you mean about the same breed having different characteristics. It all depends on the age of the animal, how they’re fed, if they’ve suffered any stress between shearings… That’s why, I believe, a lot of people rave on about organic wool, they say the fibres are softer and nicer! I have some I’ll be spinning soonish, I must test that out 🙂

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