Felting Instructions

Felting | Nuno Felting

Focus on felting

We are turning more and more into a spinning, felting and fiber store. Josh keeps building pine wood shelves and we keep putting out more shades of solid merino and corriedale and more silks, cashmere and alpaca. We are excited by all the new felters and spinners showing up. Deep Color now has a monthly felting class and group with classes in felt rugs, felting quilts, baskets, and felting on fabric. We have also added a monthly Sunday morning felting studio so you can come and work on your own pieces. I am spending more and more time felting and I am deeply enjoying sewing my felt into quilts and baskets.

Setting Up a Felting Studio

Creating a felt studio of your own is a snap. You will need:

    1. A bar of "Kiss My Face" olive oil soap, any flavor.
    2. 1 roll of "Plastomat", 24" ridged plastic shelf liner (available at my favorite place: Pastime Ace Hardware)
    3. A bucket
    4. Large polyester lingerie bag
    5. Large leftover plastic yoghurt container (for pouring water)
    6. A small sponge
    7. Metal pot for making soap gel
    8. Lots of colored wool roving
    9. rolling pin and 1 3/4 inch 6 foot dowel (both are optional)

After you have gone to Ace Hardware and had a fun time getting your "plastomat", lingerie bag, dowel, rolling pin and sponges and acquired your "Kiss My Face" soap (it is available at Colusa Market) it's time to make soap gel.

Recipe for Soap Gel

Chop up one bar of soap into thin shavings and put the chopped soap into 1 gallon of water. Simmer the water until the soap melts and let the soap sit over night. Store in a covered container. It will thicken over time which is good, it makes it slippery. The soap gel doesn't seem to go bad.

How to Make Felt, Continued

This instruction is meant to be read after taking the intro class. You can do it without the class, but you won't get the touch aspect.

Making a sheet of Felt

Start with 1.5 to 2 oz. of wool roving. Corriedale cross or white merino is best. Break the wool into 6 to 7 inch lengths. Split those pieces into 4 lengths. Hold the wool gently with your hands four inches apart. Grasp the very tip of the wool with your right hand, the left hand is back four inches. Pull firmly but in a very relaxed way. The wool will pull out in a wisp called the staple length.

    1. Begin by pulling out staple lengths and laying them in a tidy row. Don't fuss and fiddle with the wool. Just pull easily a nice wide wisp. Lay out a row, then start laying out a row below it, slightly shingling the wool. Keep laying rows until the batt is about 10" x10". Begin a new layer, laying out the rows perpendicular to your first rows. (See, it makes more sense if you take the class.) Lay out a whole new layer. Then lay a third layer in the same direction as your first layer.
    2. Gently pat down the batt.
    3. Lay a lingerie bag over the batt.
    4. Sprinkle the batt with warm water.
    5. Sprinkle the batt with diluted soap gel
    6. Place your hands flat on the dampened covered batt and begin leaning your weight onto the batt. Use your weight to lean. Relax your shoulders. Lean your hands all over the batt. Add more water if the batt is dry.
    7. After the batt is compressed begin gently rubbing your hands all over the mesh bag.
    8. Begin to rub more vigorously. Turn the batt over and cover. Rub some more.
    9. When the batt is relatively firm, begin rolling it up on itself. Roll it from the corners and sides. Keep rolling until the felt is hard and smooth.
    10. Rinse under water thoroughly.
    11. Roll flat with a rolling pin.
    12. Spin water out or blot out water with a towel.
    13. Iron the finished damp piece.

You can teach yourself to felt from a book. I did it initially. I recommend Weekend Leisure Arts Feltmaking by Chad Hagan. She was my teacher at John C. Cambell Folk School and she taught me about soap gel and handrubbing the felt. She also has a new book Fabulous Felt Hats ($9.95), which has great felt hats in it.

Having said that- I really recommend that you come by and take a class. A lot of felting is how to use your hands and body, and how to lay out the wool. In the intro class you make a sheet of felt and learn the principles of how to make even, strong, compressed felt. Books will be even more useful having done that.

Other good felting books:

Felt/Felz by Katrina Thomas.....$40.00.... Great art felt from around the world. Very inspiring.

Simply Felt by Interweave Press... A general "How to" felt with good projects.

Feltmaking by Deborah McCavock....$39.00..... This is very complete with great projects and good art felt pictures.

Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads by Carol Huber Cypher....$21.95.... Is a brand new felting book which will make you want to sew beads all over your felt.

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New Stuff at Deep Color and How to Nuno Felt

1. Hand dyed 5 mm haboti silk for nuno felting by Jen Ferré $12.00 / yd

This shining, translucent, hand dyed silk felts easily into wool for amazing scarves. Everything you felt with it will stop people in the street asking you if you sell them.

2. Over dyed Brown Bluefaced Leicester - We've waited a year to get the brown version of our favorite wool, Bluefaced Leicester. We have overdyed this brown wool into deep dark reds and blues, blacks and greens. Felts and spins magnificently. $9.75 / 2 oz bundle

3. New Felting Books

Felt to Stitch by Sheila Smith - Beautiful sophisticated felting with lovely photograph, lots of nuno felting and good ideas for 3-D shiboiri felting and needle felting. I'm so glad felting books are moving up past super simple projects. this currently our best selling felting book.

Felted Jewelery by Candice Cooper $19.95 - Jewelers who primarily work with metal are beginning to use felt as an additional material. This book has a really interesting jewelry gallery with mature thoughtful work. The projects are pretty straight forward and interesting. New exciting information on using cordless belt sanders.

Nuno Felting - or Felting into Fabric : to be used with an all day intro class.

What is nuno felting? Nuno felting refers to felting wool and fabrics together into one fabric. The wool shrinks the cotton or polyester which can produce really crinkeled, ruffled, or ruched surfaces. Felting onto a fabric allows for a really thin drapey felt that works especially well for garments and yardage.

Fabrics: You can felt wool into any fabric that is open enough for your breath to blow through. I really like felting into 5mm haboti silk. It gives a shine to the wool and it is thin enough and translucent enough that the color of the wool shows up through the silk. I've been thinking lately about felting into linen for a rougher, more distressed look. You can also use synthetics. They will be more resistent to the shrinking proscess. Lace is very beautiful to felt into.

Wool: Nuno felting is often used for making scarves, shawls or clothing. Fine merino is soft and felts quickly, merino tencel or merino silk is beautiful and shiny. Corriedale is good for nuno purses or quilts.

Method: Most nuno felting in the U.S. is done using the rolling method with bubble wrap. I think this is a great method for large pieces or yardage but for scarves, wall pieces, shawls, or smaller experiments I really like to just felt it with my hands. You have to go more slowly and carefully to give the wool a chance to penetrate the fabric and not just felt separately. Here's how I make a silk scarf - this will make the most sense after you take a nuno felting intro class

1. Lay out some little bits of white or colored wool on your plastomat - just a scatting here and there. This will help the wool lock from the other side.

2. Lay out a piece of silk about 1.5 feet wide and 5-6 feet long.

3. Lay out 2 very, very thin layers of merino wool. Bring the wool over the edges of the silk to bind them. Use color if you like. It doesn't have to be even. Use very tiny bits of wool to pull from.

4. Lightly wet with cool water.
*IMPORTANT - Do not use hot water as it will felt too fast and not lock the silk.

5. Sprinkle the piece with diluted soap gel. You will not need as much soap and water as you would for a thicker wool scarf.

6. Put down a nylon mesh bag over the wool and begin carefully and calmly leaning into the wool. No sudden slapping or percussion. You've got to get the tiny wool fibers to penetrate the silk.

7. Lean on the mesh bag for about 2-3 times longer then you would normally and then begin to very gently rub the piece. Move the bag over to the next section and repeat - Be careful whn you move the bag not to pull the fibers off the silk.

8. After you have thoroughly rubbed your scarf, get some boiling water and begin pouring it over the piece. This is to severely shrink the piece and will make a beautiful ruched look. Get sponges - there's going to be lots of water sloshing around.

Gently swirl the piece on the mat in the hot water. Keep pouring hot water and rubbing the piece until the wool is firm and you have shrunk it as much as you desire. Wash all the soap out under the tap and dry flat.

This process will take practice. If the silk doesn't lock you either rubbed too hard, too fast, or your water was too hot.

This information is to help you remember your intro to nuno felting class or to entice you take one!

© copyright 2007 Claudia Hoffberg

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