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.