Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Felting Study Group

This year I was responsible for setting up the programs for the Fiver River Guild. As part of that I decide to try setting up study groups that met outside of the guild meetings and studied a particular subject in as much detail as they chose. This year we have four groups meeting - basketry, knitting with color, felting, and lace-making. So far, it seems to be working out really well. Although there’s been no word yet from the knitting group, the basketry group is like the energizer bunny and has gone crazy since they started in September and the felting and lace groups (scheduled to start in January) have begun their meetings.

I’m part of the felting group. We’re meeting once a month for at least five months and dealing with a different form of felting at each meeting. At our first meeting in February, we decided to start with recycling wool sweaters by felting them in the washing machine. I have a bunch of felted sweaters and a few projects completed and underway to be made from those sweaters.

Project #1:

The first product from this adventure is this cover for my appointment book. This started as a small vest and by the time it felted it was miniscule. I barely had enough to do this book. It's not quite as clean and crisp as I would like but even though the sweaters are felted, they are still quite stretchy. The next time I want crisp edges I'll probably use some fusible interfacing to stabilize the fabric before cutting and sewing.

I had cut off the ribbing and added it to the flap inside so the cover can be removed and a new book can be inserted each year. Remember the book covers we used to make from brown paper bags? It’s something like that. The leather binding has a leather strip attached to act as a bookmark since I always seem to be rifling through the pages looking for the current week. Next . .

Project #2:

The second project is a work in progress made from this striped sweater. I was looking at it one day and saw the stripes in a basketweave pattern in my head. So I cut the stripes apart and in half and created a woven pattern with the strips for the front of a bag. More pictures to come when it’s completed.

I have learned a few things from this experience:

1. If you don’t want to wreck your washing machine, enclose your sweater in a totally sealed package. I started with two sweaters - each in a zippered lingerie bag. Unfortunately, sweater fibers escaped quite easily through the holes in the bag. Next I tried two sweaters - each in an old pillow case folded over and pinned close. Unfortunately, the machine agitation was able to work the cases open and release the sweater fibers into the machine. I have now bitten the bullet and bought zippered pillow covers. Hopefully, now I won’t have to scoop up floating wool fibers before emptying the machine.

2. All wool sweaters are not created equal. Different sweaters felt differently and at different rates. If you have more than one sweater in the machine, check them each periodically. While one may felt in 10 minutes, another may take 15 or 20. I even had one sweater - labeled 100% virgin wool - which didn’t felt at all after 30 minutes in the washer and an equal amount of time in the dryer. I’m assuming it was washable wool although it didn’t say so.

3. Don’t fall in love with the knitting pattern (e.g., cables). They may be lost when the sweater felts. Patterns in color (fair isle, intarsia) look great.

There are more sweaters felted with projects in mind so I’ll keep you updated. The technique for the second meeting was needle felting which takes a lot more patience than throwing a sweater in the washing machine. I already have a first design in mind. And don't bother to remind me that felting was NOT listed among my goals for 2011.

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