Felt and basketry

Felt and basketry

This is a guest post by Kim Winter of Flextiles.

Some of you may know that as well as being a felter I have recently developed an interest in basketry. Given that I love making 3D vessels and sculptural felt, this is probably no great surprise!

My preferred method at the moment is random weaving, as I love the organic, freeform texture of this technique. After starting with cane, I moved on to work with paper yarn, which I like much better. I think my textile background has instilled a preference for softer materials! 😉

I can also dye the paper with indigo or other natural dyes, like this piece dyed with eucalyptus. And untwisting the ends of the paper produces some delicate feathery effects.

I had the idea of combining felting with random weaving after seeing a photo of a cape gooseberry.

cape gooseberry

I thought that if the orange fruit in the centre was made from felt, it would make an interesting contrast with the paper carapace. So I wove the paper case, leaving a hole at the top, and then inserted a small orange felt sphere and stitched the two together with very fine fishing line. I then finished the top with some twining and a little tassel.

felt and paper cape gooseberry
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

I decided to develop this further into a submission for an exhibition with the theme of “fragility”. With widespread concern about the human effects on our fragile environment, I read that scientists at Kew Gardens estimate that one in five plant species are in danger of extinction due to activities such as intensive farming, deforestation and construction.

So the idea for my piece, called “One in Five”, was to make five stylised seeds combining felt and paper yarn, to represent the fragility of the environment in general as well as their own precarious existence.

The second pod I made was based on a sycamore seed. I needlefelted the two seeds first before wet felting them, and then wove the paper wings around them.

felt and paper sycamore seed
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

I used a similar technique for the third seed, which was based on a bean pod.

felt and paper bean pod
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

The fourth seed was slightly different – no random weaving was involved. Instead, I wrapped several strands of paper yarn together, feathered the separate ends, and covered the wrapped ends with felt to resemble a dandelion seed.

It was a bit tricky to felt around the paper without making it soggy and droopy. So I ended up applying some matt varnish to the paper to protect it before felting, which worked a treat.

felt and paper dandelion seed
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

The fifth and last seed was the most difficult. I wanted to make a spiky seed case, a bit like a chestnut, but it was tricky to work out how. I eventually made a random weave sphere and then looped short lengths of paper yarn all over it. I started feathering all the ends, but then decided that the overall effect was too much and that I should just feather a few randomly. So I had to reloop quite a few bits of yarn!

felt and paper spiky seedcase
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

Having finished making the seeds, I had to decide on the best way to display them. They would obviously look better suspended rather than lying on a flat surface, but in one of the galleries where this exhibition will be displayed we cannot hang things from the ceiling.

One of the other advantages of felt and paper is that they are both very light materials – each of the seeds weighs only a few grams. So I thought I could somehow mount a branch on a wall and hang them from that.

I spent days looking for the perfect branch. Luckily, we’ve had a few blustery days recently, so there has been no shortage of branches, even on London pavements! I finally found one that’s not too heavy, is an interesting shape and has some lovely lichen.


So then it was off to a photographer friend, Owen Llewellyn, to take some pictures that would hopefully wow the selectors and persuade them to accept my submission. After experimenting with three different backdrops we finally went for a plain grey background, though there also some interesting experimental shadow pics!

five seeds on branch
Photo: Owen Llewellyn
dandelion seed with shadow
Photo: Owen Llewellyn
bean pod with shadow
Photo: Owen Llewellyn

Anyway, it clearly worked, as I have just heard that my submission has been accepted for the exhibition, which will be on display in London at the end of May and Birmingham in October. Phew!

47 thoughts on “Felt and basketry

  1. Wow that is fabulous how did you manage to weave the the paper so thinly to create such stunning and imaginative pieces.

    1. Thank you Sharon! I used very fine, highly twisted paper yarn that I ordered online from Paperphine in Austria, and a tapestry needle. Still had sore fingers by the end. ☺️

  2. Wow! Really beautiful and so nice to read your thoughts before and during the process, from inspiration to practical implementation. I’m sure they will be much admired at the exhibition.

  3. Great ideas, very well executed. I’m sure they will excite lots of interest and admiration at the exhibition.

  4. Fabulous! Thought-provoking theme and very cleverly executed. We hope the exhibition goes well.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Well Done YOU!! Please let us know about your place of honor in the show.

  6. This is just magical! I would love to see how this type of paper weaving starts out. Do you have any tutorials showing this. I’d just love to understand it’s beginnings as it just seems such a fantastic medium which you use to create this ‘magic’!

    1. I don’t have any tutorials Carol but basically I made a mould of rice wrapped in plastic and sticky tape and wove around that. When I finished weaving I made a hole in the plastic and emptied the rice and removed the plastic through one of the holes. Hope that helps!

  7. Beautiful, well executed pieces. Glad you got in the exhibition. One suggested change to your blog description though: the second one you describe, the two seeds with wings, look like maple seeds. Sycamore is is a spiky case, though more coarsely spiky than the chestnut. Lovely work. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Well done! Beautiful delicate work. Loved reading about the whole process, thank you.

  9. Stunning.
    The delicacy of the paper as the carapace and the endurance of the wool as the seed, the seed of hope.
    You have come a long way in a short time, your place in the exhibition is well deserved.
    Love Owen’s playful photos with the shadows….fun is always easy with a good subject.

    1. Thanks Antje! I’ll tell Owen – though the shadow pics weren’t that easy. He had to put the lights practically in the next room to get that effect. 😉

  10. Kim, thanks so much for this post. Obviously, your work has struck a chord with many people based on the responses you have received here. There are differences in plant/tree names in the US and England which definitely causes confusion at times.

    Congratulations on your work being accepted. I can see why it was. The paper and felt really work well together and your subject is expressed perfectly. The photographs are excellent and Owen is a master at lighting for sure.

    Well done!!

    1. Thanks Ruth – I’m extremely gratified by the positive responses I’ve had. I thought there might be a difference between tree names in the UK and US – two nations divided by a common language again. 😁

      I’ll tell Owen he has a whole new group of fans!

  11. Stunning work! Truly, I am in such awe. It isn’t a surprise that your work was accepted – thoughtful theme and divine execution. Very inspirational.

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