As I've mentioned before, I'm taking part in the 'One Year One Outfit' (OYOO) challenge. This involves creating an entire outfit this year that has been sourced only from locally grown and sustainably produced materials. I bought supplies for felting a skirt a while back, but had suffered too much from newbie felting nerves to actually make anything. I mentioned this to fellow OYOOer, Sue of Fadanista, who made the excellent suggestion of getting together for a felting session.
It was a bit of a case of the blind leading the blind, although we both had a tiny amount of felting experience. Sue wrote recently about a felting session she had with a textile artist friend and we used her notes from that as our guide. We decided to begin with my felt and work on it together. This turned out to be an excellent strategy as the rubbing and rolling process was far easier with two people. However, my piece took so long we will need to reconvene to make Sue's felt.
We began by pulling off thin fibres from the wool roving (above) and laying them on a piece of bubble wrap, which was placed over a towel. I had drawn my skirt front and back on a piece of vinyl as a guide for the size. This worked well as a guide, but I should have made it bigger to allow for shrinkage - oops!
The fibres were placed over the pattern guide, the first layer in one direction, the second at 90 degrees to the first, and so on until we had four layers. I had three colours of wool roving, which I separated and placed, lightest to darkest, to create an ombre effect. I also added a few tufts of my dog Truffle's fur between the third and fourth layers at the bottom. Non-wool materials can be felted into wool felt in small amounts.
So fluffy and lovely!
The next step, once I'd laid out the front and back of the skirt, was to cover the wool with netting. We used tulle, but apparently flyscreen also works well.
Then we rolled up our sleeves for action. Using scrunched up plastic bags, we scattered hot water and rubbed olive oil soap (other soap can also be used, but this was local) over the netting until the wool was completely wet. We then did a sustained bout of circular rubbing all over the piece. The netting holds everything in place, but we checked from time to time that it was not felting to the wool. It wasn't.
It was lovely working with the olive oil soap, soft wool and warm water on a cool morning, not to mention the good company. The fibres began to felt together fairly quickly so we neatened up the edges by pushing them towards the main piece. The imprint of the bubble wrap could be seen on the felt at this stage, but this disappeared after further steps.
At this point we rearranged the felt so it had a piece of netting on both sides. It was placed back on the bubble wrap and the towel, then the whole lot was rolled around a pool noodle to make a cylinder. I haven't got a picture of this as Sue and I took one end of the noodle each and rolled back and forth 1000 times, while moving our hands in and out to cover the length of the noodle. Obviously this was far more cumbersome with my largish piece of felt than with the small pieces we'd done in the past and I was especially glad of Sue's help here. I was also glad of her Fitbit wrist pedometer, which made counting the back and forth rolls so much easier!
My front and back skirt pieces partially felted together in the middle, but that was fine.
The wool was well and truly felting by now. We rinsed it well in cold water and microwaved it for 2 x 30 seconds. The felt was then placed in a plastic bag and whacked down on to the table a few times. This caused much hilarity as it kept bursting out of the bag and showering droplets everywhere. I guess that was a good test of its integrity!
This is the felt before we hung it over a chair to dry.
The full piece. I love the way the ombre effect turned out and the little black Truffle speckles.
The striations of different colour wool add interest too.
I did make my skirt pieces approximately 8-10cm larger than the pattern pieces, but the felt shrunk by more than this amount once it was completely dry. I am not letting this concern me and will simply make more felt at our next session to use as strips along the skirt's sides. I only used about half the wool roving that I had bought (approximately $8 worth) so have plenty more to play with in the future.
My felt did end up quite thin and translucent in places so I returned to Bilby Yarns, where I bought my wool, and asked the opinion of the very knowledgeable lady there. She said it was fine, but may need lining to stand up to being worn as a skirt. Not knowing how to find locally-produced lining material, I may just ponder that problem for a while before finalising my skirt plans.
In the meantime I have other things to take up my time. I've started knitting for the first time in 25 years! Well I have to wear something on my top half for the OYOO. While at Bilby Yarns, I bought some beautiful West Australian wool in my felt colours to make a jumper. Progress is slow. Better get back to it!
Thank you Sue for the fun morning and the use of her beautiful garden.