Scruffy Felt

I’d inteded this post to be mostly pictures of some ‘scruffy’ felt pieces I’d made recently, but as I was editing the photos, I was thinking about how they came about, because they’re not my ‘usual’ kinds of pieces, but I really enjoy making them and teaching people to make them.

Last year at the Well Being centre we had a lady join us who only spoke French and Arabic, and even one of our regulars who spoke French well had trouble finding felting terms in French to help her understand, so we just muddled through. I thought the best way to go was to have her copy what I was doing, which was making a soft, cobwebby layered felt with lots of fancy yarns and embellishments. She made an absolutely beautiful piece, but was disappointed because when we first started, we only had some firm felt to show her what we were making, and because hers was nothing like that she felt like she’d failed.

Disappointment and feeling like a failure is not something you want people to feel when you’re doing a class at a Well Being centre, so when the classes changed and we did something more structured, I planned the classes so that they were more about ‘experimenting’ and trying things out and seeing how what we do in our layout and felting processes affect the end result. There’s no right or wrong, just process and outcome really.

I learned too that if the ‘expectation vs reality’ is close in outcome, it gives a lot of encouragement. So if we get some absolute beginners joining, I like to get them to try the soft, cobwebby pieces first (which I think of as ‘scruffy’ or ‘tatty’ felt) because there are no neat edges; it’s decorative not functional – so it doesn’t have to be firm, and the embellishments don’t have to be securely attached; and because it has many fine layers of wool and yarn, it still results in a well made piece even if the layers aren’t all even or have a few gaps.

This is a piece I made with mostly yarns and cotton scrim or gauze as the embellishments:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like to ‘deconstruct’ (pull apart!) some of the commercial art yarns, especially the loopy ones, this one looks like synthetic wool locks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of yarns converging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPurple isn’t the easiest colour to photograph, I’ve discovered, but it’s a great colour for using with blues and greens:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the textures from the many different embellishments, it doesn’t get lost because the pieces are softly felted/fulled:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is another ‘deconstructed’ loopy yarn, a smaller shiny one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a copper piece I made recently, I know many people don’t like browns, but I find them rich and warm, so matching them with shiny brown yarns and fibres gives a metallic look:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreys and pinks appear silver and coppery, this is silver soy staple, and coppery silk throwsters waste:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYarns, soy, silk throwsters, dyed gauze, deconstructed yarn and viscose fibre:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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15 Responses to Scruffy Felt

  1. Lyn says:

    When I’ve attended workshops, something in me decides that my effort has to end up looking very close to the tutor’s. I know this is daft but I still can’t help it, so I can understand how the french/arabic speaking lady felt.

    I like the textures and colours of all the pieces, but the copper one is the most dramatic and attractive.

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Lyn 🙂
      It’s not daft, you need some idea of what you’re doing, especially the first time. We weren’t very organised at first and I was certainly not prepared to speak so much French after almost 30 years since leaving school! She came back lots of times though and always enjoyed it.

  2. i love all these felts ❤ i have as many embellishment bits and bobs as i do wool, some i cant bear to deconstruct to use as they're so pretty, but i really must! such a shame that the French/Arabic speaking lady felt she had failed despite creating something beautiful, I have not done any workshops in felting but can imagine i would have feelings similar to Lyn above, that if my resulting piece didn't look like the test or teachers piece that somehow i had not fulfilled the brief, so experimenting sounds a much more gentle and freeing concept for a workshop, and sounds just the kind of thing i would love to partake in!

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Nikki 🙂
      I think once she’d felted a few times and made different things she appreciated how well her first try was, and even had her piece framed, so that was nice. Once we started the more structured/organised classes, I took some example pieces in to give an idea, just because sometimes it’s hard to visualise, but now we’re exploring natural wools and resists and texture, I just give some basic guidance. I think you’re right about it being freeing, there’s a general idea of what we’re aiming for but the actual results are down to the individual and not restricted to looking like ‘this’ or ‘that’. If you’re ever over this way, let me know and I’ll give you directions to the centre 🙂

  3. Leonor says:

    Zed, this is beautiful! I love all of them. The textures look so good, I think this is a great way to make a 2D piece look tridimensional.

    I have to relate to the French lady on the terminology, I often find myself looking for the right words in my mother tongue but end up resorting to English because I’ve no idea what the techniques are called!

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Leonor 🙂
      We used ‘fine’ and ‘gros’ a lot, and lots of hand gestures! We probably weren’t the best to teach her English it was a definite Manc version, but we had our French refreshed and learned a bit more.

  4. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    I love the textures in these pieces Zed. I’m probably opposite of Lyn and don’t expect to reproduce the teacher just hopefully learn the process.

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Marilyn 🙂
      I think the less people to teacher ratio generally helps , less distractions!

  5. ruthlane says:

    These are all very fun examples of textured felt. Scruffy makes it sound like a wet dog. 🙂 But I’m sure as you teach the classes, you also learn so much. I always do.

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Ruth 🙂
      Ha ha, luckily they don’t smell like wet dog! Yeah classes are great for learning, especially if you’re all just experimenting, you learn 4 or 5 times as much as you would on your own.

  6. They are great pieces and so much texture. I have a really hard time adding that many embellishments. When I do it I think it looks messy. When others do it I think it looks great.

    • zedster66 says:

      Thanks, Ann 🙂
      I think I just have so many ‘bits and bobs’ that it’s easy to find a good variety in matching colours, so there’s more blending in of colours and textures, and when you don’t have to consider functionality, it is a lot easier.

  7. Teri Berry says:

    Beautiful samples Zed, so much texture and lovely colour combinations I’m sure your students will find them inspirational to look at and feel.

  8. that sounds perfect Zed! id love to see the center, it sounds like a fantastic place.
    glad the lady kept coming back, yay! ❤

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