Experimenting and challenging myself

Experimenting and challenging myself

Intrigued (and often intoxicated) with different fibres and yarns that just dazzle me on the shelves to the point that I can’t walk past them (tripping over my storage boxes of yarn is testimony to this fact!) I thought I’d read Zed’s pdf book – The Right Fibre A guide to using embellishment fibres in wet felting – which I devoured from cover to cover. Since discovering the Felting & Fibre Studio I have long been fascinated particularly by Zed’s experiments which have given me the confidence to say ‘anything is possible’.

For those of you not familiar with The Right Fibre….


Zed’s book is really for those wanting to know what a fibre such as silk, viscose, jute, milk protein etc will look like when wet felted. It is not a fancy colourful ‘how to’ book. She splits her fibres into 3 groups Cellulose, Protein, and Synthetic and then with almost laboratory precision undertakes three different experiments with each one. Zed’s photographs are very professional showing both the overall look and, where appropriate, the texture, and she describes how each fibre reacts. Whilst the latter can be a bit repetitive, she is ensuring consistency – again quite a scientific approach!


In terms of the layout I am at odds with myself. Zed works her way through each fibre in its totality before moving on to the next, which means if I want to compare fibres directly I have to keep scrolling back several pdf pages. I love ‘books’ so perhaps in paper format I wouldn’t struggle so much. Now this is where I am conflicted – ideally I’d love to have all the fibres in a comparative table….

BUT…. to do that I wouldn’t be able to study and enjoy the photographic detail that Zed has captured! Also on the plus side for the pdf format I can enlarge the photos to my hearts content. Paper v computer….my dilemma continues.

For me this is a great reference book – Thank you Zed for producing it.

As I’ve already mentioned I’ve seen many of Zed’s posted trial and error ‘learning’ experiments, which has fed my ‘what if’ mentality and stopped EPH (Ever Patient Husband) (and friends for that matter), throwing anything away until it has been cleared with me – thus adding to my storage situation! They all just shake their heads, speechless and smile benignly at me. Here, I must admit that I have been a gatherer but have not yet put into practice the ‘what if’ – they are in my head but, as we all experience, life seems to swallow up my time.



Recently on the forum a member asked a question about templates needed to make a short-sided basket/tray posting a picture of what she had in mind.



Several suggestions were made for a ‘U’ shaped template, but I went against the crowd (what a surprise!) and suggested a circular template. Then I thought I’d better put my mouth and money in the same place! So, sacrificing the finding and restoration of my garden I set to….

I had it all in my head and decided that I would create a large flat vessel using two colours of wool with decoration on the inside and outside. I created the circular template, gathered two lovely silky yarns newly purchased on my travels, and set out the decoration.

Using the upturned bowl in the centre I created a ring of radiating shingles of Merino wool onto which I laid some dark Norwegian and white Shetland wools. The reason for this is twofold. First – Merino wool is so expensive and this vessel would need a considerable amount of wool considering its size, so I decided to use the merino to simply ‘face’ the core wool. Second – I wouldn’t actually have had enough Merino wool to undertake this project. The Shetland wool is what I’ve drumcarded myself and is the skirting rather than the back wool staples, so I tend to keep it for core or hidden bulk. The commercially carded Norwegian I’ve used quite often in its own right but in this instance it was a good match to the grey colour.

I don’t work totally conventionally (!!!) placing any felt work within a plastic sandwich. This allows me to flip my pieces over. So with the open side half completed and wetted down it was flipped over, where I could then finish the yarn design, add the ‘face’ Merino in the pattern I wanted and again add the Norwegian and Shetland wools.



A spoon helps tuck under any fibres so that the circular edge remains visible and tight.





More core wool was added paying heed each time to the alternating direction of the wool, in total 5 layers starting and ending with radiating shingles. However on the open side only one layer was laid in concentric circles to help the differential shrinkage – to shorten the height of the side rather than narrow the opening.

On the final layer of face Merino I added the decoration using viscose fibre, handmade wool nepps (bits from drumcarding), tiny offcuts of synthetic fabric and some synthetic fibre that I salvaged when the end fell off my dusting mop.

Wetted and back under the plastic, the air was paddled out gently, before flipping over. A top face of Merino was applied, the edges flapped over and the decoration continued. Spoons come in very useful as the fibre tends to stick to my fingers!

Following the felting, which I start with sanding and rubbing through the plastic (I don’t use netting at all, or bubble wrap and as my plastic sits on a ridged surface, I only need to use enough soapy water to work the wool – I don’t lose it between the wrap bubbles) I continue with the usual rolling to full the piece, obviously paying particular attention to what was the template edge.

During the fulling stage the thin silky thread totally gave up the ghost (right photo) so I cut it off – note to self – this will need to be held down with wisps of fibre, similar to how the green mop fibres were being held in place.

Fulling continued with stretching the opening and rubbing the ‘tyre’ curved sides. At this point everything was going well except that the Norwegian and Shetland wools are slow to shrink tight (which in this case I needed) so the vessel was still larger than I wanted and it was getting late….solution – it went into the washing machine! At 10.15pm out from the machine, although shrunk, it was definitely not the carefully manipulated shape anymore ☹ (I should have taken a photo).

But some specific rubbing on the sides, stretching over a spring-form cake tin, and steam ironing with my new dinky steam iron, soon beat it into submission! Still damp I wrapped the sides with cling film allowing it to slowly dry over night with the sides supported. With the base measuring 24cm it now had a healthy shrinkage of 35%.

The following morning….Tadaaa! The sides are slightly undulating but I like that, and the decoration has carried through well with the integration of the main colour wools just softening the edges.

So I’ve experimented with different fibres and produced a straight sided tray vessel. I might add some hand stitching to it and then perhaps stiffen it just a little more.

What have you challenged yourself to lately?

9 thoughts on “Experimenting and challenging myself

  1. What a beautiful bowl Antje! The lovely colours and layout have given it a hint of ‘marble’.

    It was an interesting post to read, with great photos, and we agree that Zed’s pdf is a valuable resource.

  2. That turned out great Antje. It was you and me with the circular realists. I couldn’t envision the right U shaped resist for this basket. You don’t work strange to me. I don’t like sanders but otherwise we work much the same.

    1. Thanks Ann. I’m so glad I’m not alone with my working method/thinking….that’s quite reassuring.

    1. Thanks Marilyn. I am happy with the result and glad it worked first time, particularly considering the size and that each side had a design.

  3. Love your flat, short sided bowl. I guess I will have to try one with my method and see if it works 🙂 I love Zed’s experiments too and the textures achieved are wonderful. Glad you challenged yourself, you should post a link to this in the thread on the forum.

  4. Thank you Ruth. I’d be interested in seeing your results.
    Re posting a link in the thread….now that is a challenge beyond my skills! But I’ll give it a try if you’ll check it!

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