Eva Camacho: an experimental study on merino and maori

from Eva Camacho - 17 November 2019

The kind of wool I mostly use in my felt creations is merino wool. During the four years I sold felted wearables at craft shows, galleries and museum stores, merino wool was the only fiber I used to make very light and soft nuno felted wearables with a nice drape. Although many felters around me were using coarser wool to make accessories such as bags, I was still using merino wool instead. I’ve always found merino a nice fiber to achieve less hairy surfaces that look almost like suede, which has always been my goal.

I’ve used all kind of merino wool, ranging from 14-22 microns, and as a form of batt and roving. While making wearables, I always found the use of roving the easiest way to lay out wool, while merino batts have always been my favorite for jewelry. I’ve also experimented with other techniques such as how to mark prefelt with rust.

Eva Camacho Fiber Artist

About two years ago I decided to stop making wearables and decided to explore the possibilities of using felt as my main medium to make visual and conceptual work. One of my main goals is to raise awareness of many of the issues that are affecting our society, one of them being climate change. During the last two years I’ve developed a series of pieces that focus on water issues. Based on this topic I created a collection of pieces with a lot of cracks on the surface to make it look like mud cracks caused by water scarcity. Even during that shift to a new body of work, my preferable fiber was still merino wool.

Eva Camacho compares carded wool: merino vs maori

Since I have never used coarse wool to create the crack effects on the felt, I was very curious to see what the results were going to be, especially when it comes to controlling the hairy surface around the cuts. So for the trial, I made two identical samples using Maori batt (27 microns) and Extra Fine Merino batt (19 microns). Maori is a blend of New Zealand carded wools (typically Coopworth and Corriedale) and it is supposed to be a very sturdy fiber for needle felting, felted bags, boots, and more.

carded maori wool vs carded extra fine merino

I started by selecting the colors of the samples. To make it less confusing I used two different colors for each samples.

Then I separated the layers to see how dense the batt was. In the pictures you can appreciate that the fibers in the Maori batt seem to be denser that in the Extra Fine Merino batt, but also the fibers in the Extra Fine Merino batt are longer than the Maori batt. While I was separating the layers, I also noticed that the layers in the Extra Fine Merino batt were easier to separate, and the layers looked more even than those in the Maori batt.

layers of carded maori wool
layers of carded extra fine merino wool

I started laying out both samples at the same time. Each sample was 30cm x 30cm and 20 grams of fiber.

experimentation - wet felting

Making the cracks

I first lay out 10 grams for each sample in perpendicular and horizontal layers. Once I am done laying out the base color or the color that I will see through the cracks, I use masking or painter tape right on top of the wool in order to achieve the wider cracks. In this case, I used blue painter tape. Instead of cutting long strips of tape, I cut small pieces and I overlap them while curving them at the same time. Once I decided the directions and the amount of cracks, I lay out the second layer of wool (additional 10 grams). The more contrasting the colors are, the more dramatic the cracks will be.

eva camacho - wet felting
eva camacho - experiments with natural fibres

After felting both pieces, I was ready to start cutting and removing the blue painter tape. Leaving the tape a little extra larger than the actual piece makes it easier to find the tape and start cutting. Before starting to cut, I make sure I know the path and the direction, and always stay in the center of the tape so both sides of the cut have the same width.

Eva Camacho experiments with carded maori wool
Eva Camacho experiments with carded extra fine merino wool
Wet felting - maori wool

Once the tape is removed, I continue felting the samples so the fibers that were under the tape can be felted. This additional felting also helps with the healing of the cuts.

Eva Camacho felts carded maori wool

Once the tape has been removed, the inside has been felted and the cuts have been healed, I start making the tiny incisions only through the upper layers. It’s essential to use very sharp scissors to make quick and small cuts.

Eva Camacho carded maori wool creations

After making the small incisions, I use the same sharp scissors to trim the excess amount of fibers in the cuts.

Eva Camacho and carded maori wool
Carded maori wool - natural fibres

Eva Camacho observations:

  1. The Extra Fine Merino batt was easier to separate than the Maori batt. I believe this has to do with the Maori fibers being shorter than the Extra Fine Merino fibers. The fibers tend to get more entangled the shorter they are.
  2. The Extra Fine Merino batt was less dense than the Maori batt, also due to the length of the fibers.
  3. The Extra Fine Merino wool, as I expected due to the finer fiber, had 10% more shrinkage than the Maori wool.
  4. The Maori wool felt more spongy than the Extra Fine Merino felt.
  5. The Maori wool felt resulted in a hairier surface than the Extra Fine Merino felt.
Shrinkage of carded wool
Carded wool: merino vs maori

It was great to experiment and play with a fiber I had never used before. My next goal is to continue using it, maybe mixing it with the Extra Fine Merino wool tops to reduce the hairiness of the surface.

If you’d like to continue learning more about carded wool and how it’s felted, then we definitely suggest reading this article: Gladys Paulus compares bergschaf and extra fine merino.

22 Comments for Eva Camacho: an experimental study on merino and maori

  1. Judy Sledge

    Great tutorial. Thank you so much.

  2. Annalisa Chelli

    Hi Judy! Thanks.

  3. Celia Riahi

    Thank you Eva that was fascinating. I hope to study with you again one day. Such beautiful work you do

  4. Annalisa Chelli

    Thank you, Celia! I’d love to have you as a student in one of my future workshops! I hope everything is well with you!

  5. Kate

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Question – how much fibers were glued to the tape, in both cases? Did you see any difference there?

  6. Annalisa Chelli

    Hi Kate, there were not too many fibers glued to the tape. There wasn’t much difference between those two fibers. The painter’s tape has very little glue and that’s why it’s ideal to use in this technique.

  7. Elen Castleberry

    Very good information. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Annalisa Chelli

    Thank you so much Elen!

  9. Sally Ridgway

    Great tutorial, thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. Annalisa Chelli

    Happy to know you like it!

  11. Kate Latz

    Very generous of you to share this information, your work is so powerful.

  12. Annalisa Chelli

    Thanks for appreciate!

  13. Peggy Dembicer

    inspiring and generous. Thank you.

  14. haydee livschitz

    thank you, very interesting

  15. Carol Reichlin Ingram

    Nicely done Eva!

  16. Annalisa Chelli

    Yep!

  17. Wendy Anderson

    Hello Eva, Thanks so much for this! I have been experimenting with the mix of longer and shorter microns together – and struggled with the batts. Can I ask you if you have done that experiment of mixing the wools? Also, how long did it take to felt the two projects – longer for the maori? Best to you, Wendy

  18. Annalisa Chelli

    Hi Wendy. I have done that experiment and it works beautifully. I am a lover of DHG’s long fiber merino wool, and mixed with any batts, it works great! I was felting both projects at the same time, but the fulling process took a bit longer for the maori. I hope I was able to help! – Eva

  19. Madeline Beaudry

    Thank you Eva for sharing so generously!

  20. Annalisa Chelli

    Thank YOU!

  21. Yvette

    What a great tutorial…thanks

  22. Annalisa Chelli

    Glad to know that fiber art is still so loved.

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