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.

About ruthlane

When I discovered felting in 2007, I finally found the creative outlet for which I had been searching. I love that the versatility of fiber allows me to “play” with a wide variety of materials including wool, silk, fabrics, yarns and threads. Creating one of a kind fiber art pieces to share with the world fulfills my creative passion.
This entry was posted in 3D, Wet Felting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Influencing Shape with Fiber Layout – Part 1

  1. Anna Hart says:

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

    • ruthlane says:

      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. RovingOne says:

    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?!

    • ruthlane says:

      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!

  3. Great explanation Ruth. Do you think it would have mattered much if you had not rubbed around and around but in small circles all over?

    • ruthlane says:

      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.

  4. felthappinesshats says:

    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).

    • ruthlane says:

      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.

    • I have seen them as shelf liner. I use boot tray with ridges and a floor mat for a car that works really well.

  5. Great outcome and process. Thanks for sharing.

  6. annielynrosie says:

    Very interesting process Ruth!

  7. ruthlane says:

    Thanks Lyn!

  8. Lise G says:

    Thank you, I love your posts. They encourage me to try new things!.

  9. Antje says:

    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.

  10. Sally K Stites says:

    How about an online class using wool layouts rather than resists?

    • ruthlane says:

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

    • Sally K Stites says:

      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!

    • ruthlane says:

      I think these ideas would work well all in one class.

    • Sally K Stites says:

      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!

    • ruthlane says:

      You’re welcome!

  11. Pingback: Influencing Shape with Fiber Layout and Prefelt | feltingandfiberstudio

  12. Pingback: Felt Pod with Differential Shrinkage and Machine Lace | feltingandfiberstudio

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.