Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wet Felting at the Soup Kitchen

The Saturday Adventures of Anne and Ashleigh continued yesterday, when we went to the Soup Kitchen Community Centre for their weekly felting workshop! Calna, the Executive Director, and amazing fibre artist, facilitates. Upon establishing that she is my ex-aunt from before I was born (me being her "first ex-husband's sister's daughter") we got started!

My felting experience has thus far been limited to shrinking things that I have knit. Wet felting allows for felting all sorts of mediums like roving, unprocessed fleece, cut up sweaters, and even silk, into beautiful sheets of whatever you want to use it for. I don't know the full scope of what can be felted (please comment with other ideas), but we were all working flat pieces that can later be sewn into whatever we like. Anne is working on a case for her iPod, and I am making a mat that I can roll my double pointed needles in - like this one from Pinterest.

A blurry picture of materials. Appropriate, because felting is a blurry art. 
We started by laying out a "base material" - larger pieces of roving that we layered our design on top of - onto a sheet of bubble wrap that is at least the size of what we were trying to make. We then layer on our design. I layered on more roving, locks of fleece and tufts of silk roving. The silk doesn't actually felt, but it adheres to the wool fibres quite well and creates a lovely glow. Calna says that when you see glow, you know it is silk. I also used a "silk hanky" - a very fine and delicate sheet of silk - to create what proved to be a very impressionistic tiger lilly.

Silk hankies and roving!
When my design was layered, I placed a sheet of fine mesh or netting over top (I think I was using some kind of tulle) and then spayed it with soapy water from a spray bottle, until it sufficiently soaked through.

Then we were to gently rub and massage the piece. Jen, a fellow felter, referred to this as "Zen time". Just relax and gently rub it until it feels flat and lifts easily away from the mesh.

We then hemmed our pieces, by tucking under the edges all around, and then replacing the mesh and massaging the edges again.

Massaging my felt.
I removed the netting and placed another sheet of bubble wrap, bubble side down, on top of the felt and wrapped it around a rolling pin. I noticed after the fact, that others had the wherewithal to secure their projects with rubber bands around the pin. I missed this instruction, which complicated my rolling immensely. Calna insisted that it be rolled at least 100 times forward and backward. Anne didn't count - she focused on relaxing her shoulders. I counted every roll.

Rolling the felt and relaxing her shoulders.

Once rolled, we removed our felting from the bubble wrap, and rinsed it under the hottest water our hands could tolerate for a few minutes. All frustrations are then released by throwing the felt at the table as hard as possible 20 times. This step has a name, but I have forgotten it. Perhaps Anne remembers. Honestly, I think some of these steps are arbitrary, but exist for Calna's personal enjoyment. It was fun none-the-less.

Anne smashing her felt on the table 20 times. What is the word for this? 
After smashing, I was left with a beautiful mat, riddled with holes. I had to repeat some of the above steps to patch the larger ones. It looked quite pretty with the holes, but would not perform its function of holding needles very well.

Once the felt dries, it can be embroidered and sewn, or decorated in any imaginable way. There are needle felting machines and sewing machines available for use as well - which is a whole other Saturday adventure. I am going to embroider mine later on, in hopes that I can make the tiger lilly slightly less impressionistic.

Note the impressionistic tiger lilly. 
If you are looking for something to do on a Saturday, check out the Soup Kitchen at noon. You can make a $10 donation, or make a bracelet for them to sell. 

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