Natural Wools and First Quarter Challenge

Natural Wools and First Quarter Challenge

We made thick mats/placemats/coasters at the well being group last week. I took in some natural wools, partly to keep costs down, but also because I really like the combination of colours and textures they create when used together. I made my base out of some Portuguese Merino batts I’d put through the drumcarder. The fibre was really short and had tiny nepps in. This is how the back looked:

The edges were a lot thinner, I didn’t add the top ‘decorative’ layer of wools as thickly there, so I got what I can’t help thinking of as a ‘pie crust’ effect:

Some of the wools I used were raw so kept their character:

Close up:

The ‘pie crust’ edges reminded me of when I made another natural piece years ago. I used lots of different wools, with different shrinkage rates, which created a similar effect on the edge. I used my steam iron to firm up and shrink the edges before cutting it into pices for small placemats and coasters. It was alsmost 8 years ago, and the mat has sat on my computer desk ever since. I do use it as a placemat, so don’t look too closely because I noticed it needs a wipe! This is how it looks today:

I found an original photos of it, it was a bit dark so I brightened it, and the colours look a bit different on the white background, but here it is 8 years ago:

Those of you who read my last post will know I was asking about print-on-demand sites for t-shirts. I don’t have an update on that yet, but while I was asking around at local printing shops, one of them mentioned transfers, which reminded me that years ago (probably about 11 or 12) I bought a pack of transfer papers to make t-shirts at home. I found the pack, but had lost the instructions (typical!). I also found some prints I made and never used because of a tiny ink splash. I thought I’d combine experimenting with how long I need to iron the prints with trying them on different surfaces for the First Quarter Challenge. The first thing I tried a print on was a felt sample. I can’t remember what wool I used, but judging by the tiny crimp/texture, I’d guess it’s either 18.5 mic Merino, or one of the fine Swedish wools Zara sent me. This is how it turned out:

It felt crispy! I did get a nice imprint from the hem of the tea towel I used to protect the wool, though:

The next thing I tried was a transfer print onto Muslin. I used a print I’d just made which had turned out wrong. It looked ok in parts:

But in other parts I didn’t iron it long enough and part of the transfer paper came off, but some didn’t … still won’t even after soaking:

The last attempt on muslin was a bit better. I probably should have ironed the muslin first, so I could line the print up with the weave:

If I hold it up to let the light through you can see the weave still:

And here’s a close up of the edge, it doesn’t feel quite as ‘crispy’ as the wool, but is definitely stiff with texture:

Now, I just have to try the samples and see how they felt 🙂

21 thoughts on “Natural Wools and First Quarter Challenge

  1. What do you think is the first thing anyone’s going to do after reading about the coaster, then you saying ‘don’t look too close…’ ?
    Felted items really do stand the test of time though – great stuff.

    It will be interesting to see how the muslin prints turn out once felted.

    1. Ha ha! One thing I’ve learned from the mats I use in the kitchen, especially for making brews on, is that naturals hide a lot of spills and stains! 🙂 I’ll try and test the samples before too long.

  2. Interested to see how your transfer on muslin works in nuno felting. I tried something similar a few years ago with habouti and silk chiffon. I could not get the area with the transfer on it to felt at all, only the edges around the transfer felted and the image in the middle ballooned up as the wool behind it shrank. Might work better with small areas of transfer or something like text that you can cut around before ironing onto your fabric?

    1. That’s pretty much how I was expecting the small square one to felt 🙂 Maybe get a little bit of migration/attaching in the middle because of the open weave. The other one might get varied results, but I expect it won’t attach at all where the paper stayed stuck on. There should be enough info from the results to work out how it would work better. Hopefuly! 🙂

  3. Using transfers can be tricky. I’ve done some for a Fiona class and most of the transfers when felted puff up depending on the wool you’re using. I only used silk and cotton on Merino. So, it will be interesting to see how your next transfer projects turn out.

    1. Yeah, I suppose because these were just test/practice pieces for something else, I have less expectation than I might if I wanted it to work with wool, so it will be interesting 🙂

    1. Yeah, I tried putting the peeled off piece back, but nothing worked. It not rubbing off after soaking was surprising!

    1. Thanks Carole 🙂
      I think I might save my new mat for when I come back from the well being centre in the cold. I’ve taken my gloves off to sit on before now, but I think this would make a perfect seat warmer!

  4. Great experiments Zed! I would imagine they will felt in a similar manner as the paper fabric laminated pieces that I do. But it will be interesting to see.

  5. You’ve reminded me that I also bought a pack of the transfer papers years ago and have never opened them! I mightn’t have to have a play!

    1. If you do, let me know what the instructions say, I might get better results next time! 🙂

  6. Very interesting experiments. I’ll be watching to see how the images look once felted.
    After doing Ruth’s paper lamination course I felt inspired too. I experimented (at a tangent!) and used puff paint/felting with some fascinating results. Amazing what we all experiment with.
    Thank you for showing your natural wool mats….you’ve given me an idea as I have lots of natural fleece just waiting to be used.

    1. Thanks Antje 🙂
      I remember learning about paper transfers years ago, and trying lots of different things apart from the transfer medium, like PVA glue and acrylic paint. Maybe they’d work on fabric too? An idea for a play-day!

    1. Yeah, so many things to consider, I imagine having a photo printed onto silk could work well, if that’s even a thing?

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