This week's blog post was written by fiber arts artist, Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art!
When I moved back to Portland from the Monterey area to be close to my grandchildren, my daughter (who knew I needed a project) suggested felting! Huh? You mean that flat square stuff you see in the craft stores? No, it seems in the last decade the ancient way of pressing sheep fibers into fabric has become very popular.
Most felting starts with wool fibers! What about wool fibers makes it possible to press the fibers and make it into felt you might ask? I found this awesome article in a 1988 issue of National Geographic. Here is an explanation of how it works. It “lies in the structure of the fibers, which absorb moisture, insulate against heat and cold, resist flame, and maintain their resilience. Unlike cotton, linen, silk, or polyester, wool fibers are covered with tiny scales, making them look like tiny scales. When one fiber’s scales rub against those of others, they pull the fibers together in irreversible tangles. When compacted under heat and moisture, the wool shrinks into felt”.
There are many ways to get these fibers to bond. Check out this short video Mongolian Felt Making - YouTube to see how the wet felting method works on a large scale.
In the last 25 years women all over the world have managed to use the fibers from the fleece of sheep to make the most wonderful creations! I am so grateful for those women who give classes and make videos on Youtube!
My first attempt was a far cry from wet felting (which is described above). “Make Kindle holders” my daughter Ellie said. E-book readers were becoming popular and might be a good seller.
An easy way to make felt is to shrink wool sweaters. This is actually called fulling (the final stage in felting). This makes a great fabric to sew upon. The edges don’t ravel. I cut out the pattern then needle-felted a design. The needle is very sharp and barbed. It punches the raw wool fibers and the wool yarn into the piece of shrunken fabric. The photo below also shows a tool with four needles.
I had fun making the cozies below. I made them in various sizes and sold them on Etsy. I did this for a year adding hats to the mix. Ellie showed me a cute felted hat she got from a local fair.
I bought Angora sweaters to shrink. Finding patterns I liked proved to be to hard. I left the hat-making business. But not before making a pirate hat for my grandson Max...circa 2010
For a brief period I made booties.
I took a class in hat-making by the fabulous Tash Wesp. This was using the wet felting method.
I also made flower pins and starfish head dresses.
Finally I fell in love with wet felting when I took a class in felting a rug at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, Oregon by Carin Elgin. It was the only rug I ever made, but it did show me the joys of the time-consuming art of wet felting.
Where am I Now? Artistic Portland making scarves!
If you are at all interested in felting there are many YouTube videos and classes online and in your area. Just google “Felting”!