An interesting felt sample
I’ve been running a felt study group and I wanted to share one of the more interesting samples I did in the group. I had some white welsh mountain sheep wool. I have no idea where I got it it was raw and I have had it for years because I didn’t know what to do with it.
This is the description from Wikipedia with them giving credit to Morris, Jan (2014). Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 53–57. ISBN 978-0-241-97024-9.
The Welsh Mountain sheep is usually white with a white face with no wool on forehead or cheeks and white legs with no wool below the joint. Females are polled but rams usually have curved horns, although some are polled. The fleece is thick and moderately long and the tails are not normally docked.
Breeders give a high priority to hardiness, milking ability, mothering quality and lamb survival. (Lambing percentage can be 130%, which rises to 180% under favourable conditions on improved pastures.) It was not always thus; the 18th-century English agriculturist Arthur Young described the Welsh Mountain sheep as “the most despicable of all types” and a judge at an agricultural show in the 1880s described it as “a diminutive ill-shapen animal with its shaggy coat more reminiscent of hair than of wool”
I had a shoebox sized amount. As you can see not the nicest looking stuff, a bit like a horse’s mane.
I washed it in a laundry bag with some dish soap.
It took 2 washes but it came out a lovely white, white horse but white.
The locks average about 10 inches long.
I weighed out 25 grams and divided it into 4 and carded it into little batts. Each batt would be one layer of the sample.
The samples were all laid out 10×10 inches for easy calculation of shrinkage. At this point, I was skeptical that it would felt at all, it is so much like stong, straight hair
The piece was rubbed and rolled to felt and then rolled on a textured mat and scrunched for the fulling. Throwing doesn’t work well with such a small piece.
Much to my surprise, this is the final result. It’s a bit wonky but that’s down to my hand carding
It’s about 40% shrinkage and it is rock solid. The most I got of any of my samples. It is rock solid. I tried to felt it more but it wouldn’t budge. All the samples were made with 25grams of wool. It makes me wonder about people that say they get 50% shrinkage on their felt protects. Are they measuring differently or are they using very thin layouts? I could see this felting more if I used half the amount of wool. so if I made a sample 20inches by 20 inches with the same wool I would get a higher shrinkage rate. What do you think?
19 thoughts on “An interesting felt sample”
I have to confess the initial photos in your post left me wondering if the wool could be rescued but seeing the individual locks piqued my interest 🙂 The final sample looks lovely, I imagine it would be a fabulous, hard-wearing felt good for bags and slippers?
40% shrinkage sounds pretty good to me, especially for a 4 (generous) layer layout – I find the finer / fewer layers I use, the more I can persuade the felt to shrink. Layouts of 4-6 layers I can usually get 30-40% shrinkage (and a nice sturdy felt). Thanks for sharing. I have a box full of different breeds I need to sample but there is always something more exciting to make!
I was very skeptical. I wanted sturdy enough pieces for comparison. we did a merino and a corriedale sample to start so we would have 2 of the most common ones to start with. I don’t think I would use it for bags or slippers. It is very course and hairy. I was thinking maybe a rough rug for near the door. you could hose it off or beat it or run it through a machine without causing harm to it.
The Welsh Mountain sheep were very feisty. You bring back memories of childhood holidays at my Aunt and Uncle’s home in Nant-y-Moel where the sheep would wander round the streets eating what they could find before going back up the mountains for courser fodder. My mam would love retellng the tale of how she was chased down the street by one when she was a girl.
My sister, who was was evacuated to my Uncle’s home during the war, taught herself how to spindle spin bits of their wool snagged on hedges and wire using a stick and a potato.
They look like no nonsense sheep, that wouldn’t take any guff. She was probably picking tasty flowers it wanted to eat. LOL She was enterprising. People are always on about a balance spindle but you can spin with just about anything.
What an awful critic that judge was – just look at that pretty face! I just want to run my hands through that fleece – shaggy indeed! I just checked Mr. Young out. He was not a successful farmer in his own right but he became a very influential social and political observer. All around the time of the French Revolution which triggered immense societal changes across Europe and further afield.
Anyway, enough of history and back to woolly business. What a great result on a surprising fibre – it certainly delivered in your sample. Good shrinkage at 40%. I undertook a course recently as part of training up to become a course mentor and one of the participants managed shrinkage of 35% on a 10gram sample made up on a 20cm grid. She worked with the Black Welsh Mountain breed – I am assuming here that they are related but I could be wrong. The fibre was described as “quite a coarse fibre and can take a bit more work to full than some of the finer fibres”. She mentioned ‘hairyness’ as well – does any of this ring a bell Ann?
It does look solid. I suspect a pair of slippers or shoes made with this fibre would last a very very long time. It would also be great for insoles in your harsh winters maybe …..
It would be an interesting exercise to determine the shrinkage rate using half the volume over the same area.
He did sound very grumpy. I can imagine him as a scowling judge. They were a favourite on the table of Queen Victoria I believe.
Yes there are related. There are 3 that make up the welsh mountain breads. I didn’t find it hard to felt but it is hairy alright. It would probably work for those slippers people put on over their boots/shoes to go into the house without taking your boots off. but I think it would be itchy/scratch right though a layer of clothing.
I went to World of Wool in pre-Covid times and bought 28 samples of English wool (barely a quarter of what was available🤣) to do a comparative test. Nothing scientific about it, no weights or measurements or even notes involved, just wanted to see how each one felted. When I read this post I remembered a sample which I thought would be perfect for a needlefelted horse’s tail but when I pulled them out it was not the Welsh but the Devon. Anyone out there familiar with this breed? I wanted to post pictures of my samples but couldn’t figure that out☹️
Oh how i envy you. I would love to make a trip to World of Wool. They might never get me out. I seem to remember having some Devon at one time but I don’t remember anything about it.
We were working on a way to have people share pictures. I will ask how that is progressing. It’s not always as simple to set things up as we think it will be when we get a good idea.
Great sample study and it really shows that you can’t judge how wool will felt by how it looks. I agree that a lesser amount of wool over the same surface area should have greater shrinkage. Next sample…
Thanks Ruth. you really cant judge it without trying it. It’s been fun doing the samples with a group. I may make another sample later. The wool has been packed in a box for now and I don’t know witch one.
You are so right when you describe it looking like a horse’s mane! As it’s so firm, would it make a good base for a needle felted picture?
I made tail hair Braids for hats when the kids were small and this felt a lot like that. It might if you gave it a good shave first, it is very hairy.
Remember when everyone was paying $$$ for imported Wensleydale to make cobweb felt? It was felted very thin very quickly and not much shrinkage.
So many wool characteristics are involved in making felt. As a shepherd, I test by fleece. Even twin ewes may have slightly different felting qualities.
The Welsh looks like a great wool for making waterproof boots that would wear forever.
There is a lot of variability with in many of the breeds. For many years the wool of many breeds was ignored. Looking at the descriptions, most breeds get about 2 sentences about their wool. it would make very sturdy over boots. you would need something thick inside them.
Pretty sheep 🐑
What a interesting sample Ann, great to see how different wools felt up. I have been doing something similar a “Focus on Fleece” study with my local Spinners and Weavers group here in New Zealand. I’m the only felter taking part. I usually do two sample squares 20×20 cm straight from the raw fleece, one laid out with 2 layers and one with 4, I don’t weigh the amount of wool that I use just go by feel. With doing two samples I get to compare the hand feel and see the different shrinkage, and yes the lighter layout usually shrinks more than the heavier. This months breed is Polwarth and it looks a beautiful fleece, I am really looking forward to seeing how it felts.
it was a really cool sample that was so surprising. It has been really fun to do the samples with a group. I don’t think I would have done it on my own. our sampler found it to be spongy when done. I would love to hear how yours turns out.
When I glanced at the photo, before reading your post, I thought what a cute face! Then I read what that awful man said about the breed. It is very interesting how the different wools look and perform. I have a CVM (California Variegated Mutant) fleece that I had ethically cleaned by the person who sold lovely fleeces at Michigan Fiber Festival. If anyone wants some please let me know. I also have (World of Wool) Parendale, Polworth, and lots of different unique fibers in my shop. If anyone wants anything please contact me directly. I’m happy to extend a friendly discount.
I know the poor sheep. I am sure it is a wonderful weatherproof coat for her. The Lady who did CVM did not have much luck with it. it would be interesting to see if yours felted. perhaps do a sample so you can let your customers know.