Friday, 6 March 2015

Wet Felting Alpaca Again

In the Spring a middle aged spinner's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of felt. Reflecting on my second year of writing about wool, I can see my interests do run in a seasonal cycle.  The pleasure of having readers is still fresh.  For the record, the blog has had over 80,000 page views now and what is more, in the past year I've had a free book to review and three articles published in Yarn Maker magazine. Getting paid for writing surely makes anyone some sort of author. Seeing as Wool Tribulations began with a Felt Bag Epic, for this second anniversary it seemed timely to have yet another go at wet felting. I look forward to enjoying any number of future botched projects, as experience of this particular craft has taught me little except that twelve months is just long enough to drug my memories, lest I learn it. Yup, this week I shall be indulging myself with bastardising Alfred Lord Tennyson's Locksley Hall.  'Let the great world spin forever' - there's a sentiment after my own heart and never mind his sour grapes poetic misogyny.  Elinor Gotland is off filming in Sweden, so I've no-one to take the mick.
In her absence, I invited my much more supportive friend BG over for the wet felt event.  I had watched the same video about felting alpaca as last year, hampered only slightly by having no soundtrack.  The jack for the computer speakers has been oddly temperamental since my kids went back to Uni. Anyhow, same method of laying out raw, grubby locks of alpaca, having rediscovered some rather coarse fawn stuff in Deep Stash.
You can see we are being ambitious this year, layering fleece on both sides of a resist with a view to making a hat.  The darker stuff is waste left over from spinning alpaca, intended to make a contrasting brim.  Once we had three layers on each side, the whole shebang was squirted with soap, sprayed with water and pressed flat and rubbed under a net curtain to start to set the fibres.
Now for the fun part.
Using the three colours of alpaca waste, run through the drum carder to make strips of roving, we laid out swirly flower shapes and put in bits of dyed silk for the centres and strips of green to jazz it up.  Once these had been wetted, rubbed and flattened, the whole affair looked less like road kill and positively Ascot. 
Now for the hard yards.  
Swaddled in bubble wrap, that hat was rolled until BG and I could roll no more.  We made tea and
co-opted her son to roll on with more youthful vigour.  Even after a couple of plunges from hot water into cold -
O my felting, loose and lumpy!
O my alpaca, full of dust!  
O the dreary, dreary rolling!  
O I give up in disgust!
BG's desperate attempt to needlefelt the hat into shape on a sponge football was doomed from the start.

Last Resort.   
A hot cycle in the washing machine shrank the thing so much I could barely stretch it over our hat mould. Quite gutted myself,  I rang BG to break the bad news.

The fawn fibres had worked through to the surface, dimming all the patterns. What is more, the special hat mould proved to be too big. 
So I triumphed ere my passion sweeping thro' me left me dry. Left me with a rubbish hat.  Left me with 
a gusty sigh.      
 O, I see the crescent promise of my felting hath not set.  
Zips and wires of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.
I darned the little place where a hole was and covered it with a crochet flower.  Sewed on a spare silk button and that is a functional felted bag.

Am I mad that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom tho' my heart be at the root.
Slowly comes a needle felter, as a lion, creeping nigher.  With BG's skill that bag becomes celebrity attire.

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range.
Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.


  1. I don't know what I like the best; your words or the purse. You really have a gift of writing, I always giggle my way through your blogposts! I'm so looking forward to see what Elinor Gotland is up to in Sweden, she's such a charming diva!

    1. Thanks, kind remarks much appreciated. Elinor promised to send a postcard, but nothing yet.

  2. Replies
    1. As ever with felting, I don't think I'll be doing that again, somehow I always forget the frustrrrrrrrrrrrration.