Wednesday, December 8, 2010

(re-)using mistakes

Last week we had some friends over to felt with us and were reminded again of the differences in how people work. Some learn best by doing, feeling out the process as they go along; others like to take in words and precise instructions.

Being of the former type, my explanations fell far short for those in the latter mold; consequently, some stockings felted but did not hold together or else developed little felted tags that hung off the sides.

Two days ago S and I made yet more felted stockings and paid closer attention. Along the way, a little brainstorm hit and we refined the technique a little.

We had saved the felted failures, knowing that we could use them in needle felting. But my hand carders were right there, and I wondered if I could pull them back into roving again. 

It turns out you absolutely can.
(I got this pair of carders on sale when our local yarn shop closed its doors, but I have a friend who uses pet brushes to card wool and gets good results. If I needed carders for this type of project, I would go with the inexpensive pet brushes.)

Carding is done with the handles facing outward. You brush in a single direction at a time, back and forth until the wool fibers are separated and aligned. The matted lumps above became the fluffy wool below.
Then you start wet felting as usual. I'd meant to try and quantify the process a bit more, but I can't pretend it's a strength. How much wool do you use? You use enough to enclose the pattern.
How tightly do you hold the wool when you submerse it in the water? You hold it as tight as you need to so that the wool doesn't fall off.
How long do you felt? I usually start to shape the felt around the pattern as soon as I feel it collapsing in the water. I may bob it up and down a bit, may pat the wool into place around the shape, and then will scrub back and forth (in water or a ziploc) to get it densely matted. Answer: you felt until it looks and feels the way you want it to. 
Over the day, we used up all the leftover felted scraps and tags, then tried cutting open the stockings we weren't that fond of, carded and refelted them. That worked, too. I had some chunky, unplied yarn sitting around. With some patience, it also broke down and was able to be felted—in fact, it turned out to be my favorite. Hand carders can salvage and recycle quite a lot, it seems.

By evening we had a new pile of little felted stockings, the wool more variegated and blended than our first set was.
Strung into a garland, they add color to the house in this otherwise wet, gray season.

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  1. Good to know as we have funky ends off of some our project from today (soaps). XX got quite happily carried away wrapping wool. Thanks for the tips!

  2. These are just so sweet! You must have dozen and dozens of stocking everywhere! I once had a little lesson from my girlfriend on how to felt with roving. I loved doing it!

  3. What a wonderful project! We enjoy making felted slippers. Beautiful blog. :)
    Jennifer --

  4. Sam, I'd love to see your felted work--I can imagine it would be so beautiful.

    Jennifer, I'd love to see your felted slippers. Steph brought some beautiful wool that you had dyed--we all especially loved the tinselly mix. Thank you!


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