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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?