Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wet Felting

Today was my wet felting class. What great fun. A while ago Sister Mo had asked me what type of hat I wanted to make and I said a ball cap (are you really surprised ?). They didn’t have a mold for that so I found one on-line and they ordered it for me in my size. There were three other people in the class. A mom and her son, who own alpacas as a therapy program for war vets (he’s a vet of the Afghanistan war and was injured over there) and a woman who drove 2.5 hours and is a special ed teacher and lives on a small farm with about 100 different animals (goats, chickens, Alaskan Iditarod dogs, rabbits, alpacas, etc.). A great group of people to spend the afternoon with.
So you start with a pattern.the pattern It’s just a thin piece of plastic to form the shape of any type of hat you might want to make. Then, you take carded fiber (batt of fiber) and put three thin layers of fiber down, just as if you’re putting shingles on a roof. A little bit of an overlap and you go two inches beyond the pattern on all sides. We work on a sheet tray because the whole process gets kind of messy. On each layer the fiber runs in the opposite direction. Once you have that done and it seems to be even all over (you don’t want to wind up with any holes in your hat or thin spots), you make a second tray just like the first. Then there’s hot soapy water that is applied to the fiber under the pattern, but leaving the outside area dry. With gentle massaging, folding in, and flipping you ultimately wind up with this.beginning stage of my hat
The hot water opens up the fibers and the massaging and rubbing bind the fibers together. Amazing how you can take a fluffy ‘ole pile of fiber and have it come out in a solid mass like this. Once the two sides are joined together, with lots of massaging, then the plastic gets taken out from the middle. The hat gets turned inside out and worked some more. You put it on a washboard and rub the heck out of it or you can roll it inside a wooden mat to get it to tighten up and start to shrink down. Fast forward to where it gets put on the baseball cap Using more of the plastic screen, as if it was sand paper, you work the outside to make it toughen up even more. Remove from the mold and rinse the soap out several times and this helps the fiber to have “memory” to keep its shape.
My cap is going to stay on the mold until Monday, when we’ll check it and trim it if it looks like it’s ready.(I took this picture early on in the process – the wrinkles are all worked out now) Wet felting is very easy to work with. You can walk away, cover it with a wet towel and come back to it or if you don’t like the way it’s shaping up, take it and rewet it and mold it again. Here are the hats that other folks made in the class.
Debbie's hat
Debbie’s hat (ironing it to dry it out and make it more rigid)

Joy's hat
Joy’s hat (she’s trimming it to match the brim size of the mold)

Tanner's hat
Tanner’s hat (still on the mold, using the screen to firm it up)

The hats that the others made would look great accessorized with a scarf, belt around the hat or flower on it. The colors are so distinctive and with alpaca fiber it will be light but very warm. I used Chauncey’s fiber and I get to watch him in the pasture near the gardens as I work. A fun day spent learning new things. I will post pictures of the final result early next week when it comes off the mold…excited to get it and wear it.

1 comment:

Movable Book Lady said...

As a former typesetter, I was interested in the similarities between felting and paper-making, which traditionally uses fibrous material (bamboo, cotton, etc) wetted in water and sloshed about to make a slurry, then raised on a wire grid to make a mat of interlocked fibers which, when dried, is paper but can also be formed into shapes. Papier-mache is also similar. Looks like fun.