Saturday 19 August 2017

Can't 'resist' the challenge...

'...stop dithering and just get on with it...' I told myself

Well, I've been trying to fit in as much making as I can around 'life', and amongst some smaller things I took the plunge and made a couple of larger felted items using the resist method. I knew these would take a long time to make, so I managed to block out a couple of Saturdays so that I could commit to the process!

First up was an attempt at making a bag, taking inspiration from rock formations for the design and making it seamless in a 'made in one piece' method.

Resist-felting is basically felting around a shape or form which eventually gets removed in order to give you a piece which can be shaped and hardened through rubbing and a lot of elbow-grease to give a 3-d shape or bag.

Before starting, I needed to work out roughly how much shrinkage would occur, and make a resist taking that into account.  I used some sturdy bubble wrap that came with a sofa delivery as my template, and made it a approximate 30-40% bigger than I wanted the end bag to be. 

Size of my 'egg' resist

I'll be honest, I was a bit daunted at the size of it and how much work it would take...but I boldly carried on!

It was then time to lay the fibres out - you need to bear in mind the first layer you put down will be the inside of your bag, so I laid down a couple of white yarns to give a little bit of interest inside, and then used black merino wool over the top.
Covering the yarns with black merino wool           
Yarns laid down first - these will show on the inside of the bag

I won't spend a lot of time here giving the full method, there are lots of tutorials out there for resist-felting that can be found online, but basically you layer on one side of the resist, wet it down with soapy water and begin felting it (but not too much!) and then flip the whole thing over and layer on the other side of the resist, carefully wrapping over fibres to full encase your resist.  You continue doing this until you're happy with the thickness and evenness of fibres - your final layer will be whatever design, if any, you want to show on the outside of the bag.

Wetting down the fibres to begin the felting process

My outer layer was made up of a hand-blended concoction of black merino, grey shetland and brown merino, with strips of brown chiffon laid across in bands with the white yarns laid over the top of that.  This design was inspired by the quartz bands in the cliffs between Rinsey and Porthleven.

Beginning the top layer - hand mixing/blending different coloured fibres

laying out the final outer design

Once layout was finished, it was then lots more rubbing, paying special attention to all the edges. Once it passes the pinch test, it gets rolled many times in a bamboo mat.  Eventually, it starts to shrink and you notice the resist inside start to buckle.

The final layer wetted down

Trying not to be too daunted by my big woolly egg!

It then gets to the point that I always dread - getting the scissors and cutting it open in the right place and removing the resist - at this point I often abandon it and grab a strong cup of coffee, partly as a delay tactic, and partly to give me courage!!

I needed to cut it around the top to start to form the handles.  Then once it was felted further and the resist removed, I cut the circles (with held breath) to complete the handles.

It was then, essentially, a bag!

Once cut open and the resist removed, you can see the inside design revealed - white yarn against black

Felted, fulled, shaped and hardened - just needs to dry off!

But I worked on it for a lot longer, rubbing the inside of the bag and shaping it all the while - it was a lot of work!!  It did eventually shrink by almost 40%.

The end result is quite pleasing, though I'm dithering about the handles - do they need strengthening? I've hardened them a lot through the process, so I'm thinking they'll be okay, but I'm wondering how I might do that better next time?

I don't have a final photo of the bag yet, because I just can't decide whether I'm done with it yet...procrastination at it's best!


Glutton for punishment, I made a felted vessel as well - again using the resist method, but one of a different shape.  

I took inspiration from our shoreline, and loved using the blues, turquoises and incorporating sequinned netting and white chiffon to great effect.

Laying out fibres, and prefelts to create 'pebble shapes'

View through the bubble wrap during felting
Merino wools with sequinned net and chiffon incorporated

When it got to the cutting point, I cut an irregular wavy top before removing the resist.  The vessel took a lot of shaping and hardening - it needs to keep its 'vase' shape and be able to stand up.

With resist removed, the shaping and full begins - this is part way through and still wet

I really like how this turned fact I'm rather taken with the whole resist felting method.  The possibilities are endless.

Dried out - and still standing!!

My bag and vessel are basic resist felting, but you can get very adventurous with shapes, openings, pockets and appendages - I'm not sure my little brain can cope with that at the moment...but maybe when I have some play time I'll give something a bit more sculptural a go!

Over the next week, if and when I get time, I want to make some hand-stitched cards for the upcoming exhibition.  Eek, not long to go!

Upcoming exhibition

  The St Ives Textiles blog can be found here - this week the work of Jo McIntosh has been highlighted.  I can blame Jo for indirectly introducing me to felting many years ago at one of her fab workshops!  Jo has a website and Facebook page - if you are looking for a craft workshop Jo has a huge range of skills to pass on; check out her pages to find out what's going on!