Monday, December 14, 2009

And, for my first post: Traditional Felting


     Felting wool is something I've been messing with for quite some time, whether planned or by mistake (many a sweater has been reduced down a couple of sizes under my watch). Recently, I've explored the idea of felt balls for baby toys, ornaments, or even as a type of jewelry. So, for my very first post I thought it would be good to start with something with which I am familiar (and it is so very *easy* to learn).
In the beginning there was:
     Then someone gave her a haircut. It wasn't me. Someone put all that fleece into a bag and sold it at the Common Ground Fair. I bought it. You see, I was silly and didn't realize that there was some very stinky work ahead of me to make this fleece into something of use.   After a bit of research and a lot of internal complaining, I started the process of cleaning the fleece of one dirty sheep. The whole thing goes something like this  
  1. "Skirting" it, which is when you lay out the fleece and try to get out all the vegetable matter and *poop* that you can see. You can use scissors to trim the extra yucky pieces off.
  2. Then, wash it very delicately (you don't want it to felt just yet) by letting it sit in warm water, then cool water and continue the cool rinses until the water draining from the wool didn't smell like stinky sheep. 
  3. I had to air dry it for couple of days on a screen of sorts to let the air circulate. 
  4. "Carding" was next. I found some dog brushes at the grocery store and bought two. Carding is a way to line up and straighten  the fibers. It also gets any leftover matter out of the fleece. There are some pretty fancy machines out there for carding....because I was only planning on felting this fleece, I chose the cheap route and went with the brushes. 
  5. Dyeing the wool was next on my agenda. I actually used cool aide packages (and all the variety of color they have) to color the fleece. I just put them in a ziplock with some vinegar and water and the cool aide and let them sit in the sunlight for a couple of days. Then, I rinsed them in cool water (absolutely no agitating!!). I dried them again. And, finally I was done. Good gawd. 
     Then the fun begins!! Here is a little tutorial on  

How To Make Felt Balls: 
  • Wool Roving
  • Old nylon stocking
  • dish soap
  • hot water
  • big bowl 
     You start with a bit of roving, any amount and mixture of colors that you like. I was working with a couple of different sizes as I was going to try making some different things. 
     You can use the nylon stocking to contain the larger pieces and to keep them in the ball shape. I didn't end up using it throughout the whole process because the pieces were small enough that I manipulated them with my hands.
     Soak the balls of roving in the hot water and soap and start squeezing gently to get them into the form you'd like them to be. Once they start firming a bit you can roll them in your palms (like you would playdough) to make the final shape. Manipulate them as much as you would like, the longer you do it the tighter the felt. 
 
     This is a great craft for kids, too. I know my daughter loved working with all the different textures....and really, what child doesn't love playing in bubbles?? There are so many possibilities for this craft: ornaments, jewelry, doll making, paper weights (just felt it around a rock), or even a soap gift (felt the wool roving around a bar of soap). I could go on and on. And, I will....in my own head....as I try to come up with some other options for this versatile fiber.