Summer holidays self-challenges

Summer holidays self-challenges

Hello, everybody!

I have been very busy during my recent summer holidays, unfortunately not busy felting, so I am a bit behind with my felting experiments and learning right now!

That is because I lately have used my holidays to challenge myself with something different, taking with me only a few of my stash wool and supplies, and focusing on a single idea that I wanted to try and learn better. The fact that I can’t bring with me my usual tools and implements is a challenge in itself: I have to use whatever I can scavenge around, and I feel that it teaches me to be less reliant on my routine and my favourite tools. I do not truly need any of those, I found out that you truly do not need any fancy stuff to felt, it just takes a bit more effort sometimes, and understanding companions that will put up with you grabbing the rolling pin and all the bin plastic bags from the kitchen.

On my first year, I tried to wet felt vessels and pouches.

I had never gone that thick before, and I tried a sander for the occasion: that was a first as well! I managed to felt two vessels, one with a basic truncated-cone resist, and one with a strange resist (a truncated cone with add-ons at the corners, do not ask me why, spur of the moment thing). I understood that you need more than 4 layers: it was a concept that I did not readily welcome, as I realised that I did not have enough wool with me for more trials!

I used my newfound awareness about thickness to wet felt an almost A-4 sized pouch: it was my first one ever, and I was terrified that I would not be able to find the resist of the pocket in the end if I included one, so I just went for the basic shape! I had never done a rectangular shape before, so that was a first also: learning how to make straightish lines and corners! I also understood that it takes a lot of elbow grease and time for a wet felted vessel or bowl, and you need to add quite a bit to your resist size if you work with merino wool and you want your vessel to stand upright in the end!

A wet felted vessel in pink white and blue with a small pink rose plant in it, on a blue striped cushion.
My first vessel, made on my first Learning Summer Challenge
A wool felted vessel in white pink and blue on a blue striped cushion with two blue and white cushions behind it.
The inside was white, and I was surprised about how much of the pink wool migrated into the white layers. You can appreciate the thinness of this first vessel from this pic. But it stands upright.


A blue rectangular pouch handmade in felt
My first wet felted pouch ever! I went for a felted cord to close it, so that the person I gifted it to could close it well both when empty and very full.
White inside of a wet felted pouch by Kiki Peruzzi.
The pouch was white inside, and not very thick, partly to keep it soft and partly because I did not have wool enough to make it thicker.


On my second year, I was back on holiday after Covid had forced me to skip a couple of years of travelling: I had to isolate myself for a while before being able to move around, so I practiced patience! That is, laying fine layers of wool: I mean, extra fine layers!

That helped me enormously with layout control, passing time very pleasantly, and also solved my problem of what to gift to my various friends and sisters-in-law: I made a lot of extra-lightweight scarves in merino wool with accents of silk fibers. Everybody was so happy, it was a win-win. Afterwards, I was able to make more uniform felt, and tackle other challenges such as wet felting kids mittens.

Two wetfelted scarves in progress on a table, one is blue with pink details and the other is chequered pink blue and white
Two of my many lightweight scarves in progress on a kitchen table.
Three lightweight wet felted scarves drying on a wool bench in a garden. One is white, one is pink, the third is chequered pink and white
Three scarves drying on the garden bench. We had a constant procession of my husband’s relatives coming to wave at us from the other side of the garden and exclaiming over the scarves drying on the bench.
Detail of a cobweb lightweight wet felted pink scarf.
This detail will make apparent the extreme thinness of the scarves.
Detail of striped pink and white lightweight cobweb wet felted scarf.
In this one, I was experimenting with laying the wool in a grid pattern.
Detail of a white cobweb lightweight wet felted scarf.
This one had silk fabric strips and silk fiber accents helping to hold it together.
Two wet felted lightweight cobweb scarves drying on a wool garden bench. one is subtly multicolored and the other is blue
The left side scarf was made with the thinnest layer of white merino as background and a thin layer of multicolored sari silk over it: I loved it and gifted it to a very dear friend. The other one is merino with swirls of silk fabric and accents of silk fiber.
A blue lightweight cobweb wet felted scarf on a wooden bench
This is a second blue one, the difference from the other is in the accents of colour, that in the previous one were red and white silk fiber while in this one were yellow and white.
Detail of lightweight cobweb wet felted blue scarf with silk fabric swirls and white and yellow accents.
Here is a detail of this last blue scarf. The white accent was merino, the yellow was silk, and the swirl silk fabric.

I also enrolled in a yearly subscription to Lena Archbold’s online classes (here her website): I was eager to learn a lot from her, although I find her voice and manners the uber-treatment for insomnia! I managed to complete three or four of her online classes and to actually try making 2-3 of her suggested coursework designs, mainly during or right after my holidays (of course), but then did not have time for more. Pity, because I learned quite a lot from her (she also helped me sleep most evenings, that is not to be sneered at). Only a couple of the suggested designs really worked for me, the others that I tried I did not like the results, and I had major failures on a couple of occasions! That was totally my fault, because I tend to , ahem, be creative with instructions sometime. Also because I do not really like her style of fashion, so I often change materials and combinations with supplies I own and like.  Anyway, when I had the patience to try again and understand from my previous mistakes, I got very good results. More importantly, I learned some good techniques and tips from her classes.

Royal blue wet felted mittens on a white surface
Mittens that I made following Lena Archbold’s online classes, using a sander as she teaches


On my third year, I managed to scrounge some me time to enroll on Felting&Fiber Studio member Ruth Lane’s great online class on Embellishing Felt with Surface Design Techniques: fabulous!

I managed only the module on Printing, Stenciling, and Playing with Thickened Dye on Felt, as my time is always limited, but it was very inspiring and I had a real learning summer, full of ideas and experiments. It was challenging, because I had to learn a whole new set of creative tools, and I am by no means finished with the learning about it. Still, summer is short and I need to pace my creative work during the year, unfortunately: I am constantly adding to my printing stash the odd interesting surface, waiting for the time to play with dyes in future! I would love to take other Felting and Fiber Studio classes in future: during holidays, of course!

Work in progress of a cut out stencil on mylar sheet.
Work in progress of my cut out stencil on mylar sheet for my class with Ruth Lane.
Finished abstract handmade stencil on mylar sheet.
My first cut out for stencil.
An abstract print trial in green and yellow on paper of a handmade stencil on mylar sheet.
I tried it on paper, as it was my first time and wanted to try the printing paint.
A handmade stencil of a peony-type flower
My first burnt stencil, and I still have a bit of work to do on that, as you can see from the printing trials of this.
Stenciled red and blue flowers printed on white paper
My experimenting with the burnt stencil was not as successful as I may have desired, as the sheet should have been scraped for residues of plastic around the holes.
Stenciled flower in red and green on grey felt pinned to a pink and white table cover
The flower on felt is even less defined, not what I was aiming at.
Abstract stencil cut out on mylar sheet
Another cut out stencil that I made for the class.
Abstract stenciled shapes in green red and blue on paper
I got inspired while trying the stencil on paper, it made me think about seaweed, and I added a red and blue fishish shape by scraping paint with random implements.
A piece of blue and white felt is pinned on a pink and white table cover, and it has been printed with green and red stencils.
I ended up making a small sample of seaweed and “fishes” shapes on a leftover piece of blue and white felt that I had left from a bowl…
Maroon and green flower printed on paper among other paint marks in yellow, green and blue
This is my print trial of a handmade stamp with foam sheets, on paper. I was pretty pleased by the result. I have not tried it on felt, yet.
Grey felt with blue and white paint marks on a pink and white table cover.
My experiments with mark making on felt were variously successful, and great fun!
A broken kitchen implement on the side of a grey felt with many blue green and white paint marks
I had so much fun that I am afraid I kept on quite a bit with mark making on felt, trying out different broken kitchen implements, plastic packaging, and various plant parts, even!

I also had some ideas on surface embellishment through stitching and embroidering to try: I wet felted a couple of small key trays in blue to try my hand with.

Two small wet felted blue key trays, with white locks embellishment, on a wood bench
I tried the circular key tray shape first, using up quite a bit of white locks as embellishment.
Detail of small wet felted blue and black key tray with white locks
The bigger one was actually blue and black.
Blue wet felted small shallow bowl with white stitching in progress on a blue and white cushion on a wood bench
This is where I tried stitching for embellishment on a small shallow bowl. More challenging, I did not have embroidery floss and embroidery needles, I just made do with darning thread and a random needle found in a drawer.
A slanted image of a small shallow blue bowl with a white stitch motive on the edges, work in progress, on a blue and white cushion
A work-in-progress pic of the stitching, white on the blue sides of the small bowl.
A blue shallow small wet felted bowl with white stitching embellishment along the edges and raised sides, on a blue and white cushion
The finished bowl has been left in my mum’s care for her keys and glasses and small stuff that tends to wander around.

And, lastly, this summer I have been wanting to experiment with differential shrinkage and manipulation.

I only brought white merino wool with me, with a bit of other colours and silk, a small bag of orange locks, and I came back with a good half of what I brought untouched: I had very little time and I managed to complete only one vessel. I really like it though, and I think that I would like to follow through with my other ideas to try. I found the layers felt easier than what I remembered from my first tries without sander (I lately always use my sander when felting thicker felt, but I did not use it in this occasion): maybe I am just becoming better at wet felting or I get less impatient with my rubbing and rolling and fulling. I did not find the manipulation part of the project as exhausting and boring as I was afraid: possibly because I had to complete the job in two times, a week apart, and it felted faster and better because of that?

White wet felted bowl with blue vertical lines, work in progress, on bubble wrap and white towels.
This is the still wet bowl that I wanted pretty ridged. I used only merino wool on that one. Sorry, I do not have another photo, as I left this vessel with my mum, as she loved it and said that she needed to have around beautiful things: I could sympathise.

It was a bit of a complicated summer for me, and it does not signify that I could not felt as much as I originally planned: I am sure that next year will be different!

I find that summer is a very good time for me to try one or two different things and learn, as bringing only a few supplies forces me to focus only on one aspect of my felt, and I very determinedly embrace the idea of learning something each summer. I tried taking online classes during the year, but it gets too much for me with my family commitments and job commitments, it just does not work well for me.

Do you set aside a time specifically for learning or experimenting too?

13 thoughts on “Summer holidays self-challenges

  1. Love your ‘can-do’ attitude towards felting Caterina and your post is fascinating.

    You have perfected the art of making gossamer scarves – they are beautiful.
    How lovely that your mum wanted to keep the pretty vessel you just made and it’s interesting that you coped well without the sander. We’ve never got on with using a sander and we agree with you that the fulling process can be tiring – the boredom can be assuaged by listening to the radio or talking book 🙂

    1. Thank you, Lyn and Rosie. I am delighted that you liked the scarves, they have been quite a hit with my friends!

  2. You’ve used your holidays to great purpose Caterina….a relaxed time to try new things with good results.
    As Lyn says….your scarfs are beautiful & so, so fine, truly ‘gossamer’.

    Working with resists opens up a whole new felting world as you have found. I use a sander and find it a very useful tool to have especially with my arthritis.

    So pleased your mum has your lovely bowl to enjoy and you will be able to see it each visit.

    Here’s to more holidays with relaxed learning 🍷🤪

  3. Caterina, What a lovely tour of your felting journey. I am sadly, too flittered (is that a word?) to progress in an organized manner, and realize the limitations that has for me. Your gossamer scares are lovely! I especially loved the blue one with silk and white highlights. At first glance I thought you were felting on a silk scarf base…but 😱 amazed that you were using only the fibers themselves! It’s so rewarding to belong to this group. We learn so many new skills and discover, perception is only a limitation if we allow it to happen. Thank you for sharing your discoveries.


    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Capi! I hope that you will find a less flittering time to relax and just explore

  4. Caterina, I enjoyed your journey through your various summer holiday experiments. It’s fun to see your progression and the idea of concentrating on one area at a time is great. It helps you to see the differences between the various methods and see what tools you find essential. Even though you don’t have much time during the rest of the year, you still manage to get some creative time in for yourself, good job 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ruth! I look forward to that special summer learning time each year, now! I guess that it is about using my time as best I can, and it works for me while travelling.

  5. I really enjoyed reading about your summers, and all of your felting adventures too Caterina.
    I love your scarves, I have difficulty with getting such thin layers of wool laid down, but I love to see that others can do it so well. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Marie. I also found very hard to use the smallest amount of wool for the scarves, but that was the whole point, to learn about controlling the amount of wool in my layout. So I just tried again and again, splitting and laying again my wool several times. It was a long process, I can tell you! But by the end of the last scarf I was quicker and got a better hand at it: it helped also for laying out for thicker felt, because it makes for a more even felt. I definitely think that it improved the quality of my felt generally, so I would suggest anyone to give it a go as useful exercise.

  6. I think it is super that you use your holiday down time to create so much on top of great memories Caterina. Your Mum has excellent taste, I love your bowl and your scarves …. what can I say except you made your friends and sisters in law very happy bunnies. They are all stunning. It is a real skill to be able to lay out very thinly.

    I use a sander on some of my projects that’s a choice that is dependent on energy levels and the size of the project. I will always cover it in decorators plastic (the thin stuff) so that I minimise nasty surprises.

    Beautiful work and a fantastic way to engage in some constructive and rewarding ‘me time’.
    Helene x

  7. Those super thin scarves/shawls are wonderful, Caterina! I’d gladly have one 🙂 As for the vessel your mother kept, she is right – it’s beautiful and she was very lucky to keep it!

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