Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Attempt at making a felt bag from raw fleece

I have learned a lot from other people's craft blog sites and marvelled at their expertise, even if I don't share their taste.  Since last summer, dying wool with plant dyes has become my favourite  thing and in the last month or so, I have been learning to spin raw fleece into wool.  I do not have any expertise to speak of and my projects rarely turn out as planned.  I intend this blog to be a record of learning by trial and error and I hope people may read it who will post comments on how to do things better, or at least share my pain.  That sounds sad, really, I thoroughly enjoy myself even when stuff goes wrong, which is just as well. 

I had a bag of raw fleece leftovers which gave me much to ponder on through the long winter evenings of not paying full attention to Six Nations Rugby.  I ended up trying my hand at felting.  Having looked at various websites, I really fancied 

http://www.angelabarrow.co.uk/Blog/tutorial-seamless-felt-handbag/


In retrospect, I think error number one was vaunting ambition, I should think it would be easier to begin by making one thin layer of felt than a great thick bag.  This morning, being on holiday, I had a try.  

First stages seemed straightforward, I didn’t card the wool as the staples from the fleece seemed well aligned and quite easy to tease apart.  They flattened down ok under the old net curtain.



Then the turning over and putting in the resist.  Then layers on the back. 



Somehow, despite all my rolling the thing, 100 times one way then 100 times the other, the felt grew instead of shrinking.


It didn’t help that I had the bubbles on the bubble wrap facing out instead of inwards.  Error number two, read the instructions properly in the first place.  The whole thing was bulky, slithery and leaking grubby, soapy water everywhere as I rolled it.  I began to appreciate the virtues of clean, carded commercial wool roving.  Error number three was clearly using layers of wool that were far too thick and materials that were not those specified.  I rolled the beast loosely and stood it on end in the sink to drain, while I mopped table, floor and self, gave it a squeeze to get most of the water out, got some fresh bubble wrap and risked electrocution trying to felt it up with the electric sander.




Don’t try this at home, I didn’t die when I switched on the power, the bag beast did not rear up like Frankenstein’s unloved monster, but it didn’t felt much either.
Back to rolling, like in the instructions.
Then shock treatment.  Apparently, throwing felt on the table felts it up more and felted blankets were made by dragging them behind horses.  I made do with putting in a carrier bag, walloping it against the wall of the house til the pebble dash flew and jumping up and down on it in the garden.  Therapeutic and partially successful, but the bag was sadly weak at the ‘seams’.


So, I have a sheep smelling, soggy, thick, semi-felted bag with a hole in the bottom, it is mid afternoon already and I refuse to roll it any more.  Radical measures are called for.  It has gone in the washing machine at 95 degrees C together with an old towel, while I have a coffee and a fag and clear the decks.  Will the bag beast disintegrate entirely?  Will my washing machine survive?  Oh no, I didn’t think of that til now.  I should at least have put it in a pillow case.  Peering through the door, I can’t see any loose wool in the churning brown water.  Truly a cliff hanger of a first blog.




14 comments:

  1. Intrepid wool woman! Try putting a fleece under a saddle like the ancients !

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  2. Yes, Intrepid, I like this. If the washing machine had packed up, other adjectives would have applied. Thanks Pip.

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  3. You make no mention of rubbing the fibres before rolling. Rubbing 'sets' the fibres and prevents too much slide during rolling so your seams would have fared better.

    Washing machines always create a more knobbly textured felt because they shock the wool into felting. This is further exagearted by any differences in thickness when laying out and it's more difficult to lay out evenly if you're using fleece.
    Hope this helps.
    Angela

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  4. Thank you so much! I only rubbed enough to flatten the fleece out. The bag is indeed thicker in some places, but since it is pretty thick everywhere, luckily, it is functional. I used it yesterday and am growing to love it's baleful expression.

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  5. Fair play intrepid one! Am tempted to try! Although my idea of making felt by putting it on your car seat still seems good to me. Or of course you could try stuffing it down Steve's cycling shorts=-O

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  6. Replies
    1. Ha! Yes that would be a good plan . None wants the perfume of bfhb ;-)

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  7. Thanks for making me laugh so much. I saw your unique felted bag as I was researching making a felted bag for my textile art college project. I am impressed at the way you rescued your felted bag. It has encouraged me to go ahead and have a go.

    Praise

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I have had another go with a friend to help and proper clean roving. It went much better, more fun too. Best of luck with yours.

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  8. Hi. Your blog is fabulous! Really enjoyed it as I search my way on 'felt-making techniques'...you're very droll and I love the stage pictures...glad your bag worked out and baleful isn't the worst expression I guess! A bit like yourself, I'm not letting inexperience stand in my way as I take a whole fleece I have from the first shear of my (pet) sheep and setting out - yes, with vaunting ambition - to make a hand-dyed red carpet (well, I'll be happy with a mat really). So thanks again for the entertaining and actually very informative blog! :-)

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    1. Oo, what breed of sheep and what will you be dying the wool with? If you are not up for spinning and decide against felting, I have seen some good looking thick wool rugs made from raw fleece on a pegloom. Best of luck!

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  9. I so love your description of the wet felting process! I am sure many of us have been there - with a sheep smelling, soggy, thick, semi-felted piece with holes - and close to giving up. But few write about that on their blogs. Thanks for sharing also less successful attempts! :-)

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    1. Thanks - I have to remind myself that my failures teach more valuable lessons than success, but I still prefer glorious outcomes!

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