After the course about carded wool that I taught here at DHG a few days ago, I was asked to write a blog post about this technique.They asked me to give you a few tips, so here I am try to write down the many small suggestions I usually give my students. You’ll see that some of this advice follows the basic rules of this technique (the same rules, by the way, apply for combed wool), some are small details, while others are just part of a working method that I have build along the years and I would like to share with you. Do not see them as absolute rules, so follow them only if you wish. After all, everybody should learn to master the technique and then add their own personal touch, too, don’t you think?
Carded wool. My golden rules for perfect felt.
- Felt is a very tactile material, so it’s ok to use scales and measuring tape when needed, as long as you don’t forget to experiment with more physical and intuitive aspects. Practice, learn how to calculate your moves, train your eyes to observe what happens along the way, and pay attention to what seems to “work” and what doesn’t.
- Let your hands learn how to handle the material without following theoretical rules. Train yourself to ‘feel’ fibers, to understand when it’s time to work with more strength or to use warmer water.
- Carded wool is easier to use than combed wool, because you only need to open out the batt to get a layer of whatever thickness you need. You should learn how to do this delicately, paying attention to the direction of the fibers.
- Use several thin layers rather than a single thick one, paying attention to which direction the fibers run: for example, if you start out with the fibers running vertically, go on in teh same direction until you have spread out the wool on the whole surface as required by your project. Wet each layer with lukewarm water and briefly compact it until flat, before you spread out the next layer. The fibers in the second layer must run in the opposite direction of the first one. Learning how to spread out the wool is vital: make sure that the thickness is consistent because the final result strongly depends on this!
- Do not restrict yourself to one kind of carded wool only. There are strongs types of wool, such as Bergschaf, which is really easy to work with and which can easily penetrate between layers; or kinds which give a dry yet not bristly effect, such as Maori, which you can use for all kinds of needs, both for dry and wet felting; soft, delicate varieties such as Merino Extrafine.
- Wool goes well with a number of other materials, textiles, fibers and yarns. All of these materials may felt together with wool or resist this magical process. Experiment: they are a very effective way to personalize your work.
- Color is a great resource, but use it carefully and choose the dyes well: if you spread out the wool in thin layers, you can create infinite multi-colored effects. Try it multiple times until you find the effect that’s right for you.
- Soap helps let your hands slide along the fibers, to facilitate the felting process. You don’t need much, so do not create too much foam because the fibers may get scattered and you may not be able to control them. I also recommend you use it when you vigorously rub the surface in the final steps of the process, as this will prevent unsightly bumps from forming.
- Don’t use too much water: if fibers are ‘splashing around’, they are hard to control.
- Bubble wrap is a cheap material, and very easy to find. Use it to lay out the carded wool, with the bubbles facing up, leaving room all around. This way, you can wrap the wool and roll it back and forth to felt it further. I suggest you choose the medium thickness kind, because you are going to need something that’s a little compact.
These are my golden rules for a perfect felting of carded wool. What are yours?
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