This week has been hectic. I haven’t had much time to do any felting. I did a little bit of stitching on my seascape, but not enough to show you and a little bit on a set of shoelaces. Mostly I made pasties for the market. They are more popular than we anticipated and we are down to the last few. This is a few about to go in the freezer. They get bagged once they are frozen.
I thought you might like to see this post from way back at the beginning of our blog journey. This is one of the first posts I did.
After you have carded your wool and it is still on the drum you might like to have it as roving instead of a batt. This will show you how to use a simple diz to do that. You can make a diz out of almost anything. mine is a piece of plastic cut from the side of a plastic sour cream container, it has a hole in the middle for the wool to come through. you pull a small bit of the carded wool through the hole and turning the drum backwards slide the diz around the drum pulling the wool through in a long rope as you go. the diz rest directly on the drum. You control the amount of wool in the rope by how fast you slide it across the drum as you go around. If its too hard, you are trying to pull too much wool through the hole.
This last little week hasn’t been a felting week its been a preparation and finishing week with an emphasis on preparation. I carded up all my dyed balls of merino. You can see all my sheep on the top shelf.
I added the sheep to my little bag, it needs to be reblocked from having little balls of wool in it and hanging out in my purse for a few weeks until I got round to doing the sheep
and doing some doodling in my sketch book, I would like to do more felt art work.
The other thing is I have been thinking or things that might sell in the summer. I made some felt laundry balls and some tea cozies and bags that might go well in the summer. What do you make for warm weather sales?
Our guest author/artist today is Zara Tuulikki Rooke. She generously offered to take us through the process of preparing fibers from her own sheep to use for felting.
As I enjoy felting, I feel very fortunate to also be able to keep a couple of sheep. My four ewes are crossbreeds, from traditional Swedish breeds including the more well-known Gotland, and the perhaps internationally less well-known Rya and Finull. In any case, they do have really nice locks.
In Sweden, the common recommendation (with exceptions for certain breeds) is to shear the sheep both in the spring (to remove the thick winter fleece before they have their lambs and before the summer) and in the autumn (when they return to the barn and start spending more time indoors). The summer fleece (sheared in the autumn) is considered to be of higher quality. It has been grown while the sheep have been out grazing nutritious green grass, and not full of hay and straw like the winter fleece. Below is a photo of their summer fleece, sheared last autumn. The lighter, brown tips are from bleaching by the sun (and probably some dirt as they are unwashed).
My ram is from an old breed called Åsen. His fleece is straighter, without real locks. This breed can have a variety of fleece characteristics and different colours in patches on the same individual animal. My neighbour also has a ram of the same breed, and the darker fleece (black-brown-grey) on the photo below is from one of her lambs.
In addition, I also buy raw fleeces from pure Gotland sheep from a farm in a neighbouring village. The photo below shows some of the variation you can get between individuals, both in colour and in the size and shape of the locks. The lambs are born black, but later the wool turns grey and the once black tips are bleached by the sun. Or rather, they grown an increasing proportion of white hairs – there are no grey hairs, just different proportions of white or black hairs making the fleece look grey.
To a felter, this abundance of raw fleeces must seem like an ideal situation. And I certainly think it is. But, the process of turning raw fleece into carded wool is quite time-consuming. And that is what this post is really about.
After shearing, the fleece needs to be skirted and sorted, to take away wool that is too short, dirty or tangled. The short wool can either be from the head or legs of the sheep, or the result of what we call double-shearing (i.e. shearing a patch a second time to even it out). You usually also need to remove a fair amount of grass seeds and other vegetable matter that gets stuck in the fleece. That can take a lot of time, but it helps to do the sorting on some kind of wire mesh that allows small bits to fall through.
Then comes the washing. I try to get as much washing as I can done outdoors in the autumn, after shearing, up until the temperatures drop below freezing (in the North of Sweden that can be quite early in the season). I leave the wool to soak overnight in net-baskets in an old bathtub filled with cold water. The next day, the water will be really brown, but that just shows how much dirt you can actually clean out from a raw fleece with just cold water. I change the water at least twice after that, allowing the wool to soak for at least a few hours between changes, until the water no longer looks dirty. In my opinion, washing the wool in just cold water is sufficient if I am going to use the wool for wet-felting. During felting it will anyhow get washed again with hot water and soap.
During the winter, I do the washing in my bathtub indoors (which prevents anyone in the family taking a shower/bath for 24 hours), and then I usually use lukewarm water. If the wool is very dirty, I also add some washing powder (the type used for knitted wool items). The main rules when washing, to avoid felting the wool in the process, it to avoid too hot water, or quick changes in water temperature, and to disturb the wool as little as possible.
After washing comes drying. The net-baskets are easy to just lift out of the water and then I usually hang them up for a while to drip off a bit. If I am washing a smaller amount of wool, I often use one of those contraptions meant for spinning water from salad. Then I lay it out to dry, on a wire mesh or on towels on a clothes drying rack. Drying takes time, usually several days. It helps to turn the wool over each day and fluff it up a bit each time. It may seem dry on the surface, but wool has an incredible capacity for retaining moisture.
Finally, you have your washed and dried wool, ready for carding. However, some locks do need to be teased first. This means pulling apart the locks/fibres – and you will probably find even more grass seeds now. The photo shows washed locks, before and after teasing. It´s an extra step in the process, but if the locks are tangled in the tips, teasing really does facilitate the carding.
I own a drum-carder, which really does save time compared to using hand-carders. The wool is feed in under the small drum, which in turn feeds it onto the larger drum, as you turn the handle. After two or three runs through the drum-carder, you can finally lift off a batt of lovely, fluffy, carded wool. Then you can start felting!
It does take a lot of time and effort, and I do swear about grass seeds through the whole process, but each step also has its own charm. I often find it very relaxing to sort, tease and card wool. It provides an opportunity to really feel and look at the locks – and to plan what to do with them. And at the end of the day, when I look at my washed locks and carded batts of wool, I feel really wealthy. Perhaps, in part, because I know how much time and effort has been invested into those locks and batts of wool.
Thank you Zara for such a wonderful tutorial with exceptional pictures to show us the whole process from fleece to wool batts!
I dye most of my own wool. The problem is that I tend to felt my roving a bit when I am rinsing. That means I have to recard it. I had some not very pretty pink that I got bought cheap because it was a little felted. I recarded it with some other colours.
This is the wool combination I will put through the carder. the carder is big. There isn’t that much wool only about 150 grams, so I only use part of the carder.
This is the first run through.
After I take it off the drum I split the batt and flipped each section to run them through again.
This is the second time through and the final ball of wool.
This is all the wool I did.
There are a couple more blended wools in there too. Now I have to make them into something.
This week has been about getting things moving towards upcoming shows. I spent an afternoon wrapping soap in wool and putting them in little nylon bags ready to felt.
I sent another afternoon getting sheep parts ready to felt. The body parts are roughly needle felted then wet felted. The legs are wet felted.
This is what they look like when they are all put together and their wool is added.
Lastly I have been soaking a fleece. I have no idea what kind of wool it is. it was a bag given to me a couple of years ago. Here it is getting a rain water rinse hanging in my apple tree. That wasn’t on purpose but the thunderstorm came in before I got it back into a bucket for its first rinse.
There are two kinds of prefelt. One is needled prefelt. Commercial prefelt is done this way. It is needled just enough to hold together. I use this sometimes, it works very well. I get it in small pieces and by the yard from Dreamspin Fibers. http://www.dreamspinfibres.ca/ (shameless plug for a friend).
The second is wet felted and this is easy to make yourself. Lately that is what I have been doing. You layout your felt as usual but you stop when it is just holding together. Rinse it out carefully and let it dry. it is till fragile but strong enough to cut out shapes when you don’t want the fuzzy edges that traditional layout gives you. I have been making small pieces and some from the ends of some batts that are not big enough to do much with. They are very helpful when you want very definite shapes.
I don’t have any exact plans for them but they are very handy to have around.
The Winner of the Beyond Nuno Giveaway is … Wendy who commented on February 25th. Congratulations, Wendy 🙂 Please will you leave a comment on this post so I can email you with the download details, Thanks 🙂 Thanks a lot for entering and for leaving such nice comments, everyone 🙂
A Guide to The Felting and Fiber Studio Site
We’ve had a lot of new visitors to the Studio site recently, and lots of new members on the forum, so I thought it might be time to do a reminder about everything we have to offer here on the Studio site. Before we started the blog just over a year ago, the four of us spent about 6 weeks working on the site, filling it with as much info as we could. We wanted to build the site into a valuable ‘One-Stop’ resource for anyone interested in felting and fibre.
The ‘About Us’ page tells you a little bit about why we started the Studio site, and there are sub pages for each of us with some info about ourselves and our interests.
In the Felting section there’s a short introduction about the many different kinds of felting. The main pages for Machine, Needle, Nuno and Wet felting all have more in-depth information, and each has a gallery page with many different examples of that particular type of felting.
Mixed media simply means artwork that is made with more than one medium, but for the purpose of the site we use it to mean artwork made mainly with felt or fabric combined with other materials. This section features pages about Beads and Beading, Hand Stitching, Machine Stitching and Surface Design. Each page’s gallery features many examples of artwork.
The Fibers section is packed full of information about wool and other animal fibres. The main Fibers page explains some of the different terms that are used to describe wool in its various stages of processing. The Wool and Other Animal Fibers page has a lot of information about wool, animal fibres from animals such as Alpaca, Angora goat, Llama and Camel. There is also an explanation of the Micron and Bradford Count systems of measuring a fibre’s fineness or coarseness; and a PDF guide to the most common sheep breeds and their Bradford and Micron numbers. The gallery page features photos of different animal fibres. Preparing Fibers has a guide to processing your own wool, from washing a raw fleece to carding it into fluffy batts ready for felting or spinning. There is a photo set and detailed description.
The Other Fibers section has lots of information about the non animal fibres we commonly use in felting, such as silk and organza fabrics; fibre prepared into tops like bamboo, banana, viscose, and the more unusual fibres like crimped nylon, plastic and Angelina fibres.
The Silk page shows the many different silk products available, for example, silk carrier rods, silk hankies and silk throwster’s waste and the gallery page features many uses of these. The Man-made fibers page and its gallery have examples of fibres and their uses including commercial art yarns and some nuno felt examples with synthetic fabrics. The Plant Based Fibers page has many examples of these gorgeous luxurious fibres and felted pieces using them.
The Tutorials section is another area with a wealth of information. There are free Dyeing, Felting, Fiber preparation and Mixed media tutorials all written by one of us, including a video on how to make your own roving using a diz, PDFs on Degumming silk and dyeing it; Stitching on felt, making mixed media wall art, using a sander for wet-felting, a beginners guide to using a drop spindle and dyeing with food colouring.
And if you can’t find what you want there, there are also links to outside sites in the Links/Resources section, including rosiepink’s free felting tutorials and their fantastic e-book showing how to make amazing felt artwork and Ruth’s book The Complete Photo Guide To Felting.
So, make yourself comfortable and come and have a look around the site. We’re always happy to read comments and listen to suggestions for adding more to the site, or to requests for articles or tutorials. Maybe you are a fibre artist with an interesting skill that would make a great feature or you’d like us to link to a tutorial, if you have anything felt or fibre related you want to tell us about, we’d love to hear about it 🙂
Dyeing some waste. Throwsters waste that is and I suppose it must have been trash at some point or they wouldn’t call it that. Throwing is was they call reeling silk for thread and this is the left over little bits. I have a batch of white and needed some colours for a project. The pictures of wet silk an bags did not turn out but I have some nice pictures of the end.
I dyed small amounts in plastic sandwich bags. First I placed each blob of waste in a bag and added some soapy water to get it wet. I let it sit to soak while I got the dye ready. I used MX dye as it would be the fastest and easiest. I poured of the extra water out then poured in the dye, just enough to get it all wet. I squished it around in the bag to make sure it all got dye. No worries about felting the silk, a nice change from dyeing wool. I did the same for all the colours and let them sit for 10 min. I added a solution of PH up and water. Buying the pool chemical is the cheapest way to buy Sodium Carbonate, especially at the end of the season.
I made a solution and poured in enough to cover the silk. I let it sit for about half an hour then drained and rinsed the silk. Here is what it looks like drying on my front porch.
Not so great looking. I had squeezed all the extra water out of them. However after they were dry I fluffed them up and they look like this.
As you can see fluffed up they barely fit on the same drying rack in 2 batches. My project didn’t work out, the waste I used on the surface sank into the courser wool I was using and disappeared so I have nothing to show you right now. I am planing to use some more on hats so I will do a post with them later.
I dye my own silk and one of the ways I do that is with MX dye. MX Dye is a fiber reactive dye and works on cellulose or plant fibers like cotton , linen and hemp. It also works on silk. As far as I know silk is the only fiber that you can use both weak acid dyes that are for protein fibers and the MX dyes on.
I like to use the low water dye method. With this method you use a jar and just a little water. What I do is scrunch or twist or pleat up my silk to be dyed. In this case they are all about 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. Then you pack it into the bottom of a jar that is big enough to hold the silk and the dye (1/2 a cup) and the fixative (1/4-1/2 cup). It is important that it be a snug fit for this method to work.
I mix up 2 colours of MX dye in 1/4 cup of room temperature water. Pour them over the silk in the jar one at a time making sure they silk is covers with liquid. If it floats as you can see a couple of my jars did you need to carefully weight them down with something non metal. Metal will effect the dye. Once the dye is in the jar you don’t want to disturb them. You don’t want the dyes to mix completely and give you a solid colour.
I am very impatient. So I usually go do something else for 20 min to an hour then I come back and add the fixative. With MX dye you have to raise the PH to get the dye to stick. The cheapest thing for this is PH up from the pool store. You can use washing soda( not bicarbonate of soda) or order it from your dye supplier but pool chemical is cheap especially at the end of the season. I add a tablespoon for each cup of water including the mix water. Stir to dissolve and then pour it into the jar. You should leave it for an hour to react but I am impatient as I said and usually dump everything out after about 20 min. Rinse the silk in cold water then hot soapy water then one more cold. Here are some results.