Sunday, 6 June 2010

Merino, mohair and silk -Wet Felting

I have fulled pieces of knitting and crochet many times - usually on purpose! Small items I like to do by hand, and so I am familiar, to some extent with the way in which mohair and wool behave, when wet - under changing temperatures and gentle friction. The silk fibres were a completely new element.

When fulling a completed item, it is sometimes necessary to add some stabilising tacking, in a fibre which will not be affected by the process, in order to maintain the shape of the item. At least the individual strands of material are held in place in the item. Not so with wet felting of 'loose' fibres, and I was not too good at controlling their placing.

The following photos record my efforts. I should stress that this was all new to me. I read a few on-line tutorials and waded in. People who know what they are doing will probably note that I have made many mistakes - I had great fun though! These 'in process' photos relate to a piece of felt which I have made today. The comparable photos which I took yesterday were too dark. Tripod, draining board, lots of water and husband's camera are not good partners! Confusingly, the photos of finished work relate to yesterday's efforts - but you'll get the general idea.

On draining board lay out: bamboo mat ( or similar), on top of this - a layer of net, on top of this the base layers of fibre ( I used undyed, unidentified 'sheep') laid vertically, then the first layer of coloured fibres - laid horizontally, then the final layer of fibres (including some silk) laid vertically (as shown above), finally top layer of netting. I was not looking for a strong fabric, since these felt pieces will form the background of my brooches and will be used on another backing fabric.

Next, I gently poured water onto the netting layers. I think perhaps sponging some on, gently, might have helped, or at least being more controlled in the pouring, since I think this is where most of the movement occurred. Next pour on washing up liquid and gently rub the surface of the netting to make a lather. Turn the whole sandwich over and repeat the lathering process. Then pour on near-boiling water, and rub the surface again - I used the flat top off an aerosol against the now hot surface. I think the friction was helped by the ridges on the draining board. I then doused with cold water, added more hot water, and rubbed again. I then gently lifted the net ( some of the fibres tend to wriggle into it and need separating). Replace the net, turn the entire sandwich over ( now back with the decorative side upwards), and repeat the hot/cold/rubbing/lift the net. Add a little more soap and roll the bamboo (or raffia) mat up as a 'swiss roll'. Gently roll the roll back and two with gentle pressure from the palms of your hands. Un-roll and lift the netting to check progress. 

For the degree of felting I was looking for, this seemed to be sufficient. Replace net and rinse throughly, until all the soap is removed by gently pouring cool water over the net sandwich. Carefully peel the felt off the net and pat dry between two layers of towel. Then allow to dry flat, away from sun and direct heat. Yesterday's attempts then resulted  in this (and some smaller, similar pieces):

one of which, after backing and embroidery, became this:


  1. It is so good to see someone showing there first efforts at a craft. I have done a bit of needlefelting now and am eager to start wet felting. Have all the equipment, but never seem to have a gap in my day with enough time to do it at the moment.
    That brooch is lovely, and the embroidery and finish so neat!

  2. It's really pretty, I haven't started on the wet felting either, but the results are obviously worth it. And I love the embroidery

  3. what a great post! i love seeing work in progress like this, thank you :)

    [and the result is gorgeous!]