Influencing Shape with Fiber Layout – Part 1

Influencing Shape with Fiber Layout – Part 1

Several years ago, I saw a chart on a felt makers blog about using directional fiber layout to create a shape from flat felt. I can’t remember where I saw the information so thanks to the person who got me started investigating this idea.

When you first learn to felt, you are instructed to layout out your fiber in opposite directions to get even shrinkage. Shrinkage of wool occurs most in the direction of the fiber length. I think that we have a tendency to keep laying out this way because we want things to be even. But what if you took the principles of wool shrinkage and used that to your advantage when creating a more three-dimensional piece? I have used fiber layout to create dimension from flat felt.

I used Blue Face Leicester and used a round template to lay the wool out over. I laid out the fiber in a spiral direction.

I started with a small spiral and kept laying out the wool in a clockwise direction. I did two layers of wool and even though I don’t think it made any difference, I laid the second spiral counterclockwise.

I wet out the wool with soapy, cold water and then rubbed gently in the direction of the fiber. I kept rubbing on both sides of the circle moving always in a circular direction. You can see in the right photo that the felt is starting to rise up in the center of the circle.

You can see the cone really starting to form now. I hadn’t starting fulling at this point, I had just been rubbing with my hands. I do use a ridged rubber mat at all times under my felt projects. I never roll felt anymore. I just rub and felt by hand. I have not used any hot water at this point either.

I then started fulling by adding hot water to the felt and then rolling it against itself as you see in the left photo. I also used a wooden top of a meat tenderizer tool. I just used it to rub the felt over itself on the ridged rubber mat. All of the felting and fulling was always in the direction that the fiber was laid out to emphasize shrinkage in that direction. The photo on the right shows the finished cone shape.

This is the same cone that I have shaped differently. The photo on the left shows the cone with vertical folds which gives it a flower shape. The photo on the right shows the cone with concentric ring shapes folded in a concertina manner. This reminded me of a small hat but I didn’t use a resist to create the three-dimensional shape. All I used was the direction of wool layout and shaping through specific shrinkage along the length of the wool fiber.

Next time, I will show a different fiber layout that creates more of a rounded bowl shape.

25 thoughts on “Influencing Shape with Fiber Layout – Part 1

  1. Thank you! I use this for the bust area of garments, always comes out really well.

    1. You’re welcome, Anna. I don’t make garments often but I do think the direction of fiber layout would be very important for fitting.

  2. Fascinating Ruth. Thank you. I have seen diagrams on a Russian website where this layout has been used over the bust of garments, as Anna mentions, but not knowing the language I had never known the reason. Isn’t felt such a clever fabric?!

    1. Thanks! I do think I might have seen this on a Russian site. I wanted to try it out myself to see how it worked. And yes, felt is fascinating!

    1. Thanks Ann, I don’t know if the rubbing direction made a difference or not. I would have to try again and rub differently to know.

  3. Very cool, Ruth! I use a version of this layout for berets – spiral and starburst alternating.

    On the interwebs, there is a clip in Russian of feltmaker, Irina Spasskaya, explaining directional layout for hats. Very fascinating. Later, I purchased her class (dubbed in English), but have not actually made a hat using her methods.

    Oh! Have a question – where do you get your ridged black mat? When I look online very expensive and HUGE mats come up. (I already use a glass washboard, but you need tons of soap & to watch your knuckles when using it).

    1. Thanks, the next shape I am going to share uses a combination of starburst and a circle pattern. I do think these would work just fine for making hats.

      I got the black mat from Carol Cypher. It’s called a Turbo Felting Board. However, the last time I looked on her website, I didn’t see them anymore.

  4. Great explanatory post Ruth. Great idea using the tenderiser to ‘grip’ the felt. No doubt you have tried laying out the fibres in different directions in adjacent sections….fascinating to see how the shrinkage then creates ‘selfie’ patterns/shapes.
    I too am a fan of the Russian felt hat maker Irina Spasskaya and her creations.
    Looking forward to your next directional shrinkage post.

    1. Good idea Sally. I have been thinking about what other online classes I want to create. It takes a while though.

    2. Ruthlane
      I would also like a class just taking the same shape resists and by selective fulling create different forms. I’m pretty new to felting and am fascinated!

    3. Thank you Ruthlane. I wish I could help you in some way put it together!
      Your blog is wonderful! I have learned so much from it!

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