Vadmal (Wadmal) is a woven wool cloth that has been felted. Felting the fabric after weaving, thickens the cloth and makes it wind and water resistant as well as warm. Vadmal is generally woven in a tabby or a twill weave on warp weighted or floor looms.
In order to felt the fabric, there are two methods that can be used. The wet fabric can be pounded in a hammer mill for several hours in order to flatten and thicken the fabric. The hammering process creates a fabric that looks more like “real cloth” and produces a stable fabric with very little nap and the wool keeps its shine. The wool fabric can also be pounded and stamped by placing the fabric in a large bucket filled with water and stamping with your feet.
Vadmal can also be felted using a wet felting method. The woolen cloth can be felted by hand by rolling or using a washboard and also by washing the fabric in the washing machine until the fabric stops shrinking. This process can take up to 10 machine washes. The wool fabric can shrink up to 60% in size. Wet felting creates a cloth that is fuzzier in appearance than one that has been pounded.
Vadmal cloth has been used for clothing since the Viking Age. Vadmal was so popular that the woven and felted cloth was used and traded as legal tender in many Scandinavian countries. Vadmal was a major export in Iceland and the length, width, thread count of the fabrics were set by law.
Vadmal fabric is still used today in most of the Saami traditional clothing, hats, mittens, bags and other items. The vadmal clothing is often decorated with pewter thread embroidery.
A few days ago, my new Little Brother Electric Drum Carder arrived. It is wonderful and it is a beautiful thing to look at as well as to use. The craftsmanship is superb. The woodwork has all been well made and polished. The motor is surprisingly quiet to operate. I have used electric carders in the past, and after a few minutes of use, the drone of the motor would get very irritating. And it is very easy to use. The carder has a variable speed motor that operates smoothly and easily with a gentle turn of the button. The drum carder also has a reverse function, that makes it simple to remove the completed batt from the back of the drum.
The drum carders come in a range of widths and sizes. I purchased the smaller one – the Little Brother. I has an 8 inch drum width and will make an 8 inch x 22 inch batt. The amount of fibre that it will hold can vary depending on what type of fibre you are using and how well you pack it in while carding. So far, I have managed to card about 50 grams onto the drum, but I think I could add more (perhaps 100 gr) if I card and pack carefully.
The drums also come with a range of carding cloth sizes.
54 TPI (teeth per inch) – good for carding art batts and thicker wools, 72 TPI, 90 TPI, 120 TPI and 190 TPI (for super fine fibres). If you work with different weights of fibres, you can also add additional interchangeble drums.
I purchased the 120 TPI size, because I mostly work with finer fibres, such as merino, alpaca, silk and also the vegan viscose fibres such as Bamboo, soya silk, tencel and other cellulose tops and roving.
I found the carder extremely easy to use, first time. The soft bamboo and soya silk that I carded tend to be very light and fluffy, and some of the fibre was catching on the small licker drum. The distance between the licker drum and the larger swift drum is easily adjustable. I unscrewed the 4 bolts and gave the adjustment screws a slight turn, to add a bit more space between the drums. This solved my problem of the fibre grabbing onto the licker.
For my first set of batts, I blended some dyed bamboo, soya silk and Pearl Infused Cellulose. I rolled these into small punis, and will be spinning this as a singles, and Navajo plying the yarn to add extra texture.
The flowers are in full bloom in my garden right now. A small patch of Petunias and Nasturtiums gave me the inspiration for my second blended batt. I used Commercially dyed Bamboo, hand dyed soya silk and some tencel for this fibre blend.
Brother Drum Carders
Gabriel at Brother Drumcarders was extremely helpful when I placed my order. The carder was shipped almost immediately. There was however, a very long delay with USPS postal service, as it took about 2 weeks to move the carder from Oregon to the International shipping location of San Francisco. Once there, the carder was onto the plane and arrived at Heathrow the next day. Then a few days delay at Parcel Force while they determined the standard VAT customs duties I had to pay.
The carder does come with an adapter so that it works on UK 220 power outlets. I switched the 2 prong plug that came with the unit, to a cable that had been on one of my old printers – so it now plugs in correctly into 3 prong UK plugs.
Now that I have retired from the world of work, I have become more involved in production weaving. I am also now teaching workshops on a one-to-one basis. Here are some Links to my hand made products on Etsy and workshops that I offer.
Hand sewn reindeer leather and pewter thread bracelets, made in the Sami tradition.
Sami style medicine bags made with reindeer leather, wool felt and decorated with pewter thread embroidery.
Keychains made with reindeer leather, wool felt and embroidered with pewter thread.
Key fob wristlets hand woven in traditional Sami patterns made with wool and trimmed with reindeer leather.
Hand woven wool throws made with hand spun and dyed yarns.
Hand woven tea towels using organic cotton yarns.
Hand woven table mats and runners made with hand spun wool and linen yarns.
Ribbon, tape, sashes woven on a traditional Scandinavian band loom.
Hand dyed rainbow coloured yarns in different weights (lace weight, fingering, DK) for crewel work, knitting, crochet, embroidery, tapestry.
Hand spun thick and thin merino wool yarns perfect for knitting or woven Saori style fabrics.
Traditional Scandinavian needle felted gnomes, tonte, tonttu.
Hand felted wool diary and notebook covers decorated with Sami rock art designs.
Pure natural linen sauna bath towels.
Sami pickup band weaving workshops.
Hand spinning workshop for beginners and intermediate spinners.
Learn to warp and weave on a rigid heddle loom.
Beginner dye workshops on how to mix dyes to create colour.
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.
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?
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.
I have been doing quite a bit of felting lately. I have been making some larger art pieces using a wet felting method and then adding detail and embellishing with needle felting. I find it to be quite strenuous on my hands and thought that I should investigate electric needle felting and embellishing machines. My budget doesn’t quite allow me to spend a huge amount of money right now, and also lack of storage and table space for yet another sewing machine led me to look at smaller hand held alternatives. I did some research but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options available. I did find a Simplicity hand held needle felting machine that I hoped might work. I looked on YouTube and read reviews but again, didn’t find a lot of helpful information about this product.
But then I thought it might be worth a try. It seems like a simple enough tool – it holds 6 felting needles that go up and down. Needle felting is as easy as that, so this might work. It is portable and you can use it by needle felting onto a foam backing the same way as in single needle felting which is what I was looking for.
I ordered it and it arrived promptly as Amazon products always do. The box contains the hot pink needle felting machine, a pair of tweezers and a small Alan key for undoing screws when you need to replace needles. It doesn’t come with replacement needles so I recommend that you order some extras at the same time.
I first tested the needle felting tool on a piece of wet felted fabric that I had made some time ago and now use for testing new bits of felting techniques. The machine is quite simple to operate. Place the needle head on the area you want to needle felt and press down. This activates the motor and the felting needles move up and down on the fabric, similarly to when you are needle felting by hand. There is a clear plastic guard around the needle so that you can avoid getting your fingers acupunctured.
The On/Off switch is conveniently located on the top of the handle so you can easily turn the motor on and off as you pick up the tool to felt. I recommend that you switch this to the OFF position every time you put the machine down, to avoid accidentally turning it on if you press on it in error.
I am planning on using this electric needle felter on my larger felt art pieces so wanted to give it a good test run to see how it works before I use it on my other work.
I decided to see if it could be used to make a flat piece of felt from wool roving.
I laid out a thin layer of wool roving onto the felting foam vertically from top to bottom.
Then I laid a second layer horizontally above the first layer.
The third layer was again placed vertically.
I began to needle felt across the piece, gently pressing down and lifting the needle felter up to move to the next section.
I turned the piece over and felted the other side.
Then turned it over again and refelted with the needle felter.
I repeated this a few times until I got an even finish across the piece.
Then I added some additional bits of green merino wool to create the grasses in the picture.
To make the flowers, I used hand spun wool yarn and shaped these into a flower shape and lightly needle felted over these before placing them onto the picture. I continued to use the felter to fix these in place.
Though Simplicity really should have come up with a better colour than hot pink, I think this is a good product and I would recommend it if you are wanting to do some small needle felting work. Because it is a hand held piece of equipment I would think it doesn’t have a very powerful motor so would not be able to handle larger pieces of work. It seems to get a bit warm during use, so could possibly overheat if used for too long at a time. I recommend using it for about 15-20 minutes at a time and then turning it off to cool down. By then your hands should have a rest as well.
Wet felting with wool is so versatile. With a bit of wool, a length of bubble wrap, a spray bottle, some soap and water, you can make just about anything you can imagine. You can make boot liners, slippers, hats, pillows or a piece of artwork you can hang on your wall.
I use merino wool or corriedale for most of my felting work because I find that it felts quite quickly and evenly. I add other types of wool, silk, alpaca for added texture and colour.
To make a felted picture, the process is quite simple, though a bit time consuming.
Start by making a flat piece of wool felt. Put a large towel onto the surface of the table you will be working on. Using white merino wool, I lay down 3 layers of wool evenly across a length of bubble wrap. Gently pull the roving apart into short pieces. Lay these on the bubble wrap, overlapping each row of wool locks by about a third. Make sure that each layer is placed in the opposite direction to the previous layer so that the wool locks cross each other and intersect. I generally start by placing a layer from the top to the bottom. The second layer side to side, from the left to the right. And the third layer, working from the bottom to the top. Wool felt will shrink about 20-30 percent so make this piece larger than what you would like your finished project to be.
After the 3 base layers have been laid in place, fill the spray bottle with warm water and a bit of dish soap. Spray the wool lightly with the soapy water. Place another piece of bubble wrap over the damp wool and gently press down on the wool and rub it with your fingers and palm of your hand for about a minute. This will allow the sopay water to soak into the wool. Now carefully remove the top layer of bubble wrap. The white wool should be a bit flattened and slightly damp. This will make it easier to lay your picture onto the top surface of the wool roving.
To make a picture I start by drawing a cartoon on paper. I refer to this as I am ‘painting’ with the dyed wools.
I lay down the basic landscape of the picture using dyed wools, the sky, the land, the river, the grass. I make sure that all the white wool from the previous layers is all covered and isn’t showing.
The finer details, the houses and the boat will be added later. Now it is time to wet felt the piece. I spray a generous amount of soapy water onto the felt picture. Lay down the second piece of bubble wrap onto the wool and gently press it down with the palm of your hands.
Carefully roll up the wool in the bubble wrap into a tube and roll this back and forth with your hands for about 2 minutes. Then gently unroll the wool package and straighten out the wool felt. Then roll it back up again in a different direction and roll some more. The wool will move around as you are felting, so you will need to unroll it every few minutes to move it back into shape.
Keep rolling and rewinding for about 1/2 an hour, checking every few minutes. You will see when the wool starts to felt and the fibres will bind and come together. When the felt is at a stage where the fibres are staying in place and not shifting around, then it is time to take the wool felt to the sink.
Fill your kitchen sink with hot water and a bit of soap. Fill the second basin, or a large bowl with cold water.
Remove the wool felt from the bubble wrap and gently fold it into quarters. Then dip it into the hot water. Massage the wool in the hot water for about a minute. Squeeze out the excess water and then dip the wool into the cold water and squeeze out the excess water.
Unroll the wool and re-roll it in another direction. Put the wool felt back into the hot water and continue to massage and knead the wool. Then put it back into the cold water.
The action of the kneading, and the shock of the hot and cold water will begin to felt the wool. You will notice that the structure of the wool changes. It will start to harden and also to shrink in size.
Keep kneading, and dipping in hot and cold water. You will need to change the water in the sink a few times as it warms up or cools down.
Once you are happy with the amount that the wool has felted, roll it up in the towel and squeeze out the excess water. Then hang the felted piece up to dry.
Once the felt has dried, you can then add the details to your picture by needle felting the houses, the boats and other features onto your felted picture.
Once I have finished the needle felting, then I add windows, doors, accents and finer details to the design with hand and machine embroidery.