Using up supplies: investigating a new fibre

Using up supplies: investigating a new fibre

I was looking around my studio wondering what to write about in this blog. I was remembered Ruth Lane’s recent comment in her blog here about using up supplies. I have a carded batt of merino / A grade mulberry silk from World of Wool that’s been kicking around for a while. I can’t remember if I bought it for something specific that didn’t get made or if I bought it on spec. I was interested to find out how it felted and what I might do with it so I decided to make a small test vessel.

I cut out a circular resist using a small mat as a template then started laying out the fibre outwards towards the edge. Apologies that these pictures are mostly white on light colours – I was thinking more about the making than the photography. I laid the second layer in a circular pattern before flipping it over to smooth the overlap onto side 2. After 2 layers on the second side, I flipped back and laid 2 more layers on side 1, followed by 2 more on side 2. 

After wetting it down I spent a lot of my time working the edge by pulling the voile over the edge so I wouldn’t get a ridge around the middle of the finished vessel. It felted quickly and I was soon able to start fulling – initially without removing the resist.

Once I’d cut out the resist I found, in my vast collection of miscellaneous wooden objects, that the handle of a wooden pestle (as in mortar & pestle) was the perfect size for getting inside the vessel and working it from the inside.

I spent a while fulling it as I wanted it to be smooth and very firm.

I packed the vessel with strips of recycled bubble wrap that I keep for this purpose – you can see it green inside.  Looking at this green bubble wrap made me wonder if I could make a vessel with a coloured interior but retaining the pale colour outside.  I thought maybe if I used silk rather than wool to add colour I’d get less colour transfer, so I thought I’d give it a go.

While pondering this, I decided to try using the same resist as the test vessel but to make 2 small bowls rather than one vessel: so, cutting it in two around the middle rather than making a hole at the top to remove the resist. I dipped into my big boxes full of second-hand silk scarves bought in charity shops and chose a plain turquoise and a patterned blue one.

Supplies for making two small wet felted bowls on a single resist: merino wool and mulberry silk carded batt with two second hand blue patterned silk scarves: one dark blue patterned, one plain turquoise
Carded merino / mulberry silk batt & two silk scarves ready for recycling

I put a circle of silk on the resist and decided to run a small line of coloured merino tops around the edge: partly as I was interested to see how it would look and partly as I thought I might not know where to cut when I was ready to remove the resist and separate the little bowls – I’ve made that mistake before!

I put a circle of the blue patterned silk on the second side. The merino and silk fibre layout was the same as the previous vessel. This time I also remembered to do the circular layer first followed by the radiating layer – I’ve learned that one before and obviously temporarily forgot for the previous vessel. It makes following the resist with the circular layers much easier and I prefer to try not to overlap that layer if possible – again it reduces potential ridges and produces a better join if you only overlap the radiating layer, in my opinion.  I’m sure some of you will disagree but that’s one of the many things I love about wet felting: with experience everyone works out the techniques and tools that work best for them.

I was interested that I could see quite a lot of the inner colour throughout. I quickly began to suspect this was more about the amount of dye bleeding from the turquoise silk as about seeing the silk through the wool. I was getting a lot of turquoise in the felting water.

Again, I fulled them thoroughly. During the fulling, I decided I liked the silk on the outside better than the inside so here they are, still wet.

And here are the 3 items. You can see how green the wool of the little bowls is compared with the vessel. I’m pleased with the bowls’ blue rims  – I like this effect – but the vessel is my favourite. In each of the test pieces the fibre has felted beautifully: it’s very firm and extremely light – it has an almost papery quality about it that I find really appealing.

My imagination is now firing about what I could make next with this fibre. I have a dried poppy seed head sitting in a vase next to my desk. The felt reminded me of the texture and colour of the seed head. I’ve felted poppy seed heads before – one of my favourites. Another thing I have in the studio is some vintage cotton lace I was unable to resist when I saw it in a local second-hand shop.

I thought maybe that the lace would add a subtle surface texture so why not have a try? This time I made a small square sample using just 2 layers of the wool / silk mix batt with strips of lace in parallel lines.

Although it’s subtle, I really like the effect. As you can see in the close up shot, the batt has quite a bit of vegetable matter which in this case adds some interesting specks, enhancing the natural look. 

I was running out of time but decide to start the poppy seed head. The merino fibre length in the batt is very short which makes the layout quite slow but very precise.  In the first photo you can just see the strands of lace which I’ve laid out on top of 4 layers on the under side and are waiting for me to finish the final 2 layers on the top side before bringing them over. 

Circular resist partially covered in carded merino and silk batt
Work in progress: 3D wet felted sculpture with multiple resists laid out, wetted down and partially felted

The second photo shows how far I got yesterday before I had to stop. This is a multi-resist piece that will take a while to make. I’ll show it finished in my next blog.

I enjoyed letting the fibre lead my imagination in what I might do next.  I’ve done mostly production felting recently – making multiples of things for shops and sales – so it was great just to see where things led me and enjoy felt-making for the sheer fun of it.  I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio soon to finish the poppy seed head.

19 thoughts on “Using up supplies: investigating a new fibre

  1. What’s not to like about that merino/silk blend? It made a lovely pod and following your train of thoughts after seeing the green is really interesting – how things are discovered 🙂

    The two bowls really are beautiful – love the dark edge and hint of colour inside.

    The vintage lace was a good find and the possibilities for its use are many. Looking forward to seeing the seed head in your next post.

    1. Many thanks, Lyn. The batt was indeed a delight to felt. I have the little vessel at home with me and I keep giving it a stroke and throwing it up in the air as it’s very light and feels great to handle. I’d intended to try the lace on a dark background so will do that at some point.

  2. That really looked like a fun time in the workshop Lindsay. I like the vessel, the merino batt obviously worked well with the silk carded in it.
    Isn’t it a good job you didn’t wear that scarf out in the rain, rather than felting with it? It’s probably why such a lovely coloured scarf ended up in the charity shop in the first place, but I like the effect that it has had on the silk in the felt, and the blue rim on the bowls does look good too.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your poppy seed head when it’s finished (and how you do it, I’ve always wondered about that). As soon as you showed us the vintage lace, I could see the “fatter” sections of it up the sides of the seed head between the ridges.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ann. I really did have fun. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll get to finish the poppy seed head but will definitely show it next time I post, in a couple of months

  3. Thank you for posting, I love the ideas about using what I already have including the more unusual bits that seem to hang around for ever. It’s given me ideas, many thanks.

    1. That’s great, Kathy. Do post what you make on the forum: it’s lovely to see how people use their materials and develop their ideas

    1. Thanks very much, Diane. Experimenting is my favourite bit of felt making and sometimes I lose sight of that and forget to play.

  4. Perfect idea, and more than that, great inspiration for all of us that have an overflowing plethora of fiber art supplies. I’m inspired by your silk bowls! Long ago, I purchased a wholesale lot of sari silk wrap-style skirts from Darn Good Yarns: it was a random mixed lot. There were a couple lovely ones, layers coordinated perfectly, and there were many not so pleasing. They have been moved from place to place in stash, and I just uncovered them again! This could provide them useful for something, and get them out of my stash. I have at least 7 of them, if anyone else wants to give it a go as well?


    1. Hi Capi. Many thanks. Your saris sound lovely. Are they very dense silk? I’ve used a beautiful old sari once and it did felt very well but I had to take it slowly. I made a scarf – it would certainly use the fabric more quickly than small bowls! Hope you make something with them & show us in a future blog.

  5. Great use of your stash Lindsay! The merino silk blend sounds lovely and made some great vessels. The little bowls are really cute and I do like your idea for the rim color, that worked well. The lace really adds a nice white on white effect. As you say, subtle, but I like subtle. I look forward to seeing the seed pod when it’s finished.

    1. Many thanks, Ruth. You, of course, we’re the inspiration for me casting about for things to use up so thank you. Not sure when I will get back to the poppy seed head but hopefully soon.

  6. I can see why you keep playing with your bowl….very tactile with a perfect shape.
    I like your bowls too with their coloured rims. I bet the scarf was abandoned for the very reason of dye discharge, but you have used the negative to advantage. Will you leave them au naturel or embellish them?

    What a great session you had – 2 for 1 – experimenting & stash busting.

    Like others above, I too am looking forward to seeing your poppy seed head finished. I agree with you about being a favourite – they are totally fascinating & ever present around my house. You’ve also set me a challenge with this one….so I’ve gone through the process with multiple resists (cut to allow for the typical ‘webs’ that join the poppy cap to the main body) – worked an absolute treat….now I’ve just got to take the process from my head to the workbench! 🤪

    1. Many thanks for your comments, Antje. I’m glad you like the vessel & bowls. Don’t know what I will do with them. I will probably leave all of them as they are and offer them for sale next time I’m in the harbour later this month. The vessel might look nice with a poppy seed head in it, or maybe an air plant.

      I’m hoping to do some work on the felted poppy tomorrow
      If not complete it I do need to get it to prefelt stage so I can rinse the soap out if I’m going to leave it for longer.

      Would be great to see your version too. I hope it makes it to the production stage.

  7. Great little pods. I like them all but really like them stacked up. I am curios about the seed head , like everyone else. I think I know how I would go about it but I am not sure. I need to play with multiple resists more.

    1. Thanks, Ann. I’m glad you like the bowls and I completely agree that they look best stacked. It’s rather tempting to make them in lots of colours and play at stacking them in different combinations.

      I’ve made poppy seed heads before so I’m following a method I know. There’s inevitably some simplification involved. It would be interesting to hear what others’ ideas are. Maybe we should start a discussion on the forum.

  8. My favourites are the bowls, Lindsay. That blue rim reminds me of ceramic glazing and it’s lush!

    Every time I see these clever creations I want to start making more sculptural items in felt… I must take some time for this soon 🙂

    1. Thank you, Leonor. Yes, there’s definitely a blue glaze feeling to the little bowls. It would be lovely if you’re able to find some time to unleash some of your creativity into making sculptural felt. I’d love to see what you create but I know spare time is often in short supply.

  9. I love your little bowls. I’d be tempted to lay in the outline of a leaf or something similar in the bottom of them using a bit of needle felting.

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