Sunday, May 30, 2010

wet felt " uncombed fiber" mats

This was my first experiment working with uncombed fiber . I bought this from

under "cleaned wool/ merino/blended colors" . I thought I might be able to needle felt it but though it does eventually is much slower then the combed merino . Above is what it looked like coming straight out of the bag.......a big, semi-matted tangle of white to dark brown . Long and shorter fibers and rather clumpy .
Although the fiber was deffinately lanolin, smell and most of the vegi matter removed....I did have to spend an additional 2 hours "prepping" the fiber . I think some of this would come out during the combing but I don't have a comber or paddles so I did this by hand fuls....separating and pulling apart any clumps to make a nice fluffy base and feeling for any twigs, burrs and getting stuck by a few tiny thorns....(they hurt worse then needle felting like getting a splinter) . After seperating clumps and larger twigs....I shook the handful and removed smaller veggi matter and ended up with this pile . Time consuming but not hard process . I think that you would probably need to do this step even if you have a carder because the clumps of wool can bend your needles if not separated .
Once the wool is hand separated and cleaned........ I had a pile the size shown using a DVD as a reference.......I spread it out over the surface of the bubble wrap as evenly as possible avoiding and large gaps but it will still look a bit lumpy . Why bother with all this work ? I really wanted to see what would happen and hoped that it would add some interesting texture not achievable with the combed roving . I would consider it a successful experiment as it did felt and added some great texture .
Once the fiber was laid out evenly, I added the top layer of combed roving. On the "dragon skin", I laid combed roving on top and bottom to sandwich the fluffy pile between and give two different side of color . Once you have the fiber all laid out, you just wet felt as usual.....hottest water you can stand and I uswed just a small amount of soap . You can find wet felting instructions on utube or on the right top of my blog under "obsession links" . I would say that this was a bit messier then the combed fiber as I had to add a lot more water to get through the many layers of fiber . Once I rolled one side to semi-felt stage, I flipped it over and wet down the other side and rolled that for another 30min . I think I rolled for about 2 hours total, pretty forcefully . Once the whole mat appeared to be holding together, I then did some slamming the mat against the bubble wrap covered table.....which wasn't easy as it was really thick and heavy .

The next step is when you chose how thick, textured and strong you want your new "fabric" . The reason I used very little soap in this felting is Because I knew I was going to use the drier to help me felt....I put the "mat" in the dryer, still wet and unrinsed . For the fluffiest "dragon skin", I only left it in about 10 min which felted it enough to hold together but not so dense that I would break my needle felting into it . The rest of the mats I planned on using for hand sewing bags or as table runners . I wanted it very felted and left it in 20-30 min . Each extra 10min. appeared to shrink and toughen the end result . After the dryer, I put washer on rinse and spin cycle and adding vinegar torinse water to remove any soap residue that might be left . You could do this step by hand but given the thickness and weight of these thick mats, it does take some mucle to get out the water . I then hung the mats outside to finish drying .
Above and below are the 3 "uncombed merino fiber" mats with combed fiber laid on top and wet felted . The texture you end up with depend on how long you felt this .
Since I took these indoors at night. the colors are not "true".....the smaller mat is bright pastels and the larger is brick red with brown design . All three mats were the same size and the smallest is the one that is very hard felted, the red is medium hard and the green dragon skin is light felted....more solid then "pre-felt" but still soft enough to needle felt into .
If you click on the pictures it should that these mats are very thick and textured .
Below is the "dragon skin" I hope to make into a needle felt dragon.......if I can overcome my trepidation of cutting into it . This is actually why I wanted to learn wet felting in the first make skin and apendages for my animal needle felts but I am learning to appreciate the textile for it's own sake as lovely bits of color and texture .

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