A common question that felters have is how much does wool shrink when felting. It can depend on a lot of factors such as the type and fineness of the wool, what direction you have laid the fibres, what direction you roll the wool while felting, what temperature of water you used, etc. The best way to find out is to do a sample before you begin your project.
In this example, I have used both 21 micron and 18 micron merino wool tops. I started by laying out 2 sets of 12 inch x 12 inch squares. I wanted to see if the direction of the wool layout made a difference in the amount of shrinkage.
For each sample I laid out 3 layers of merino wool.
Felt Sample 1 – Landscape
For the sample on the Left (Blue) I first laid out a thin layer of wool, laying the fibre from left to right (Landscape)
The second layer was in the opposite direction: Top to Bottom (Portrait)
The third layer was again in Landscape (Left to Right)
So in this sample there were more layers of wool in Landscape direction, wool laying across the fabric.
Felt Sample 2 – Portrait
In the second sample on the Right (Red) I laid the fibres in the opposite direction, having 2 layers laying up and down (Portrait) and 1 in Landscape.
First layer: Up and Down (Portrait)
Second layer: Left to Right (Landscape)
Third layer: Up and Down (Portrait)
I rolled and felted both samples at the same time so each had the same amount of felting. I rolled the samples in bubble wrap about 10 times, then opened the package, turned each sample 1/4 turn to the right and rolled again another 10 times. I repeated the rolling and turning of the samples until they felted.
Both samples felted and shrunk the same amounts, but in different directions. The wool shrunk more in the direction of the fibre.
i.e. wool that was laid side to side, shrunk more in that direction.
wool that was laid up and down, shrunk more in that direction.
I think this could be because when wool has been processed into roving, it has been stretched into a smoother and longer length. When the wool felts it regains some of its natural crimp and it shortens back to its original state.
More About Making Felt
Felting with a Washboard
Felt Art: Painting with Wool
Felt a Cat Bed
Felt a Necklace
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Over the past several months I have turned my attention from my loom and spinning wheel to the world of feltmaking. Needle felting, wet felting, making decorations, felting hats, bags and other smaller items. In April I had the opportunity to book a place in our local art gallery for a 2 week spot in August. I was very fortunate as usually there is a waiting list that is a year+ long.
Since I was now committed to this big project I went to work. My kitchen table was taken over with wool, soap, bubble wrap, bamboo mats. If I had known how long this project would take, I probably wouldn’t have taken it on. Felting is a very physical activity and hard work. Adding up my time, I think I have put in +400 hours so far. But I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and am starting to think what will I do next?
Here is a preview of the felting show.
Oxmarket Gallery – Painting with Wool
Some of my felt art works are now available at Saatchi Art.
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The old fashioned wash board is quickly becoming my most used felting tool. I use it for the final fulling process when wet felting. What it does is it straightens out the top layer of wool and smooths it out creating a harder surface of felted wool.
When wool hasn’t been felted enough it starts to pill as the fibers continue to move around in the felted wool, break and rise to the surface. Fulling your felt sufficiently prevents this from occuring.
I had a bag that I felted recently. I was a bit impatient and didn’t felt it completely. Soon my lovely bag started to get little wool balls rising to the surface.
I decided to give it the washboard treatment to see if I could stop the pilling. I pulled off the little wool balls from the surface of the bag. Then I filled the kitchen sink with warm soapy water and gave the bag a quick and gentle wash. I refilled the sink with more soapy water and put the bag back into the water. I squeezed out most of the water and took the bag to the wash board.
When you are felting with the washboard do not rub the wool back and forth against the washboard as this can break the fibers. What you should do instead is gently roll it up the length of the washboard using the pressure of your fingers to press down as you roll.
I started by working from the top of the bag. Because the bag is a round shape I worked my way around the bag in circles from the top of the bag to the bottom. Using both hands, I placed the tips of my fingers on edge of the rolled wool.
Using both hands (Picture shows only one hand as I was clicking the photos with my right hand) gently press down on the rolled edge and push up the bag with your fingers until the bag rolls up to your palm.
Keep rolling until you have reached the top of the wash board. Lift the bag and move it back to the bottom of the washboard and continue working your way around the bag.
Move your finger tips back to the edge of the roll and push up again.
After a few rolls your fingers will become more sensitive to what is happening to the wool. You will feel it compressing as the air bubbles are being pressed out of the wool. The wool will shrink in the direction that you are rolling.
This picture shows the partially fulled bag. You will notice that the top part of the bag where I have rolled has shrunk considerably.
It took a few times of working my way around the bag to get it fulled to a smooth and even consistency.
I am using a glass washboard. I think a metal one would work equally well . I cut the legs off the bottom of the wash board so that I could sit it flat on the table and be able to pull it close to me as I sit as I found that the legs were getting in the way as I was working.
Sami Felt Art
Etsy: Sami Felt Art – The Sun
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