Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More from Fiona Duthie - learn how to make those "puffy silk circles" in your own designs

If you love the look of those deliberate "puffy silk holes" that give your nuno felted surfaces more dimension and textural interest you can figure out just how to do it in this wonderful post from Fiona Duthie.  See how she makes a prefelt and cuts out the holes before placing it on top of the silk?

UPDATE:  Posts and new stuff will have to wait until after the holiday season since I SOLD OUT at my weekend show in Sonoma and have nothing in stock to prepare for 3 more big shows coming up in the next 14 days.  In addition to moving 3 times in the last 8 months, I just can't keep up.  Will post items of interest here when I can, but the blog will not be super-active again until late December.

Fiona Duthie: fiber, color, texture

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:21 PM PST

  I have been working in one version of my most perfect place... there are several variations on this... but this is definitely a good one. The Okanagan is beautiful. And home to Canada's best wines, including some amazing reds. I'm staying on the Naramata bench, right on the KVR walking trail, in a vineyard... overlooking the lake.... with fine sunrises and sunsets. It is heavenly...and that is just my mornings and evenings.

  All day I spend at the Shatford Centre, home of the Okanagan School of the Arts. Some days I am teaching... and then others I am there as Artist in Residence. I'm using this time to tidy up some old work, refine my plans and goals for 2015/2016 and then start to enter into the mindspace for my upcoming exhibition in February. It is a wonderful world! Even with a separate studio space at home, and older children now, who are pretty self-sufficient, it is still a unique experience to go to a different space and focus. I think that is the have clear goals to work towards in this special time set aside....with some breathing spaces allowed for...of course...and a fine glass of local red wine.

  This weekend was a three day session on Joomchi Feltmaking. We had a small class, due to a few cancellations, so I had the opportunity to make my own piece as a demonstration. With experienced feltmakers in the class, we delved deeper into perfect fit in garment construction and with a focus on lots of surfaces and composition techniques. 

All of the pieces were beautiful and perfect for their individual wearer and creator...

  And my own, red study....working with a single colour to really highlight the textures in the piece.

   This is first class I have taught in years that was not full. It was a tiny ego hit...being honest with you... but not for long...this smaller class size opened up opportunity to go much farther with my students and create something alongside them. We had more time for discussion and even a short "felt clinic" looking at past projects and tips for improving each work. It was a great gift of space and time.... These were three calm, creative, wonderful days, in an incredible setting and facility. It was pure pleasure.

And there are still 4 more days to go....

Warm wishes, 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

SANDERS for Nuno Felting - what I'm using now

Those of you who were hooked on the B&D 1/3rd Sheet Finishing Sander which is no longer made have been sending great notes to me with suggestions for substitutes/

I just got back from our local big box hardware store empty-handed because they only carry 1/4 sheet and orbital finishing sanders --- NO 1/3rd sheet at all.  Guess they have "gone out of favor" with contractors who obviously prefer the smaller units.  I imagine they are much more adaptable for custom work but that doesn't help felters at all!!!!!!

Did they count us out?

1/3rd sheets have the biggest plate so you can get more done more quickly.  Period.  You can use the 1/4 sheet but it will just take you twice as long***

My last (boohoo) B&D just bit the dust so I am using my new BUFFALO TOOLS 1/3rd sheet from Sears:

It's OK but it is much lighter than the B&D and the ON switch really needs to be secured with your finger ---- both of these problems make it harder to use.  I have to physically PRESS down harder and my fingers hurt after using it for 10-15 minutes, my usual routine duration.

One great blog reader told me to look into the MIATA 1/3rd sheet sander so I ordered it and will let you know ----------- costly but if it works and last longer than 6 months it might end up being worth it.

Who wants to spend hours and hours looking for a replacement for that wonderful B&D?????

If you have any suggestions, please let me know and I'll post if for all of you to read.

***Palm Finishing Sanders are just what they say --- you hold it with the palm of your hand.  If you have any arthritis or problems gripping a "knob" for several minutes at a time, this might be way too uncomfortable for you to use.  Some of the smaller finishing sanders have the same-sized plate so get one that you can grip comfortably.    The more sanding you do, the more you will pay attention to your comfort ---- if you can "try out" various sanders in a store, do that.  It's worth the extra effort.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Yarn Fringe Part 2

Adding fringe with yarn sounds easier than it looks. 

I've added lots of yarn to my nuno felt scarves but found that it was so time consuming that I wouldn't attempt it again - until now when fringe seems to be making a comeback (let's hope it's a brief one).

Felted fringe takes even more work and since I'm not a "natural" at it, the most I can do is sigh and oooh and aaah at FeltedPleasure's talent for making the most gorgeous felted fringe (most of which end in a leaf shape) I have ever seen.  No one I know can match it. 

I found an incredible handpainted, handspun merino yarn in all the right Fall colors at Dharma Trading's store in San Rafael a couple of months ago.  Expensive but I just had to have it.  My plan was to add it underneath the fibers to add substance and body to my designs and knew it would work for fringe.  It was really the yarn that made me do it!

If you add yarn and want to minimize the amount of extra work, use 100% wool; it will felt better, stick better and end in better fringe. 

You are always going to have these problems with wool yarn:
1.  it will shift and move around when you wet down
2.  it often does not stay in a straight line - see below

Lay out your fabric and lay out a very thin "underlayer" of your fibers in the spots you are going to lay down your wool yarn (here it's along the entire length) and place the wool yarn ON TOP of this underlayer.

Cover with screen, wet down, press, remove excess water (with an old towel) and remove screens.

LOOK AT YOUR ROWS OF YARN TO SEE IF THEY ARE STRAIGHT - they will not be perfect -- use your fingers to coax wonky areas back into line.

DO NOT PULL the yarn to straighten it --------- because if you do, it will shrink at a different rate than your fibers and PULL AWAY FROM your fabric while you complete the finishing steps.  See more about this below.

Just try your best to straighten it out without pulling.

PLACE THE REST of your fibers on top of the yarn and repeat screens on, wet down.  Cover with plastic, move on to the Rubbing Stage.

Don't use a Palm Washboard since it will DISLODGE your rows of yarn.  This is a Rubbing Stage that has to be done by hand.  Use a very light touch for the first 5-8 minutes to make sure you have firmly pressed the fibers into and around your rows of yarn ---- they should then stay in place for the rest of the Rubbing Stage process.

FRINGE ENDS - pay special attention
The wool fringe/yarn will start to felt along with your project but you can help the felting process by using a sander on them when and if you do sanding.  (make sure the fringe is soapy wet)

Carefully check the fibers at the end of your fabric where the fringe "grows" and make sure they are securely nuno felted to the fabric (so your yarn stays straight).  If you need to do extra work to seal that area, use a sander or your hands.   It's important to make sure that the fringe does not pull the fibers away from the fabric--------be extra sure that everything is sealed.

Throw and agitate your finished project BUT NEVER STRETCH AND PULL IT to improve the final "drape" ---- if you pull it the yarn WILL COME OFF THE FABRIC and ruin it.  (I've made this mistake more than once.)

Once completely dry, check the fringe and snip off any scraggly threads at the tips.  You can tie knots into the ends, the tops (near the fabric) or add beads.  You need to see the final fringe before you can make a decision if it needs any further embellishment.  For example, if your fringe looks too "light" next to its nuno felted fabric, add beads or multiple knots so that it looks "balanced" --- you want to make it look like the fringe belongs.

SECRET:  The fringed scarf pictured here is nothing like it is in person -- this merino yarn is so exquisite that it "makes" the scarf into something enchanting that has a lovely soft and fascinating texture.   After using it, I would never settle for an inferior yarn.  (I keep a sample of this yarn in my purse so when I need to compare it for my next purchase, it will be my reference point.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fringe - adding fringe to your nuno felt designs

Fringe in accessories and garments are the big deal this Fall Season and you can add this to your nuno felt projects - it does take extra work.  You also need, to make it look great at the end, to pay attention to it all through the process.
no thanks!
Fringe can look great or it can be a fiasco.  And it's an add-on that some women just don't like to wear. 

I like it in very limited situations --- but it is THE LOOK in scarves for 2014.  And not just fringe; scarves are now as big as shawls and are wrapped backwards using the middle at the front of the neck with the 2 ends looped over the shoulder to the front.  That takes a lot of scarf and a lot of fabric.


wool yarn fringe

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Books on FASTER Nuno Felting by Nunofeltdesigns - Print & Digital editions

Create better, more intricate nuno felt faster!

TOPICS include:
Part 1: How to use the new tools including the Palm Washboard, Edge Tool, Felting Stone & Felting Mat
Part 2: Tumbler Dryer Method & Shelf Liner Shortcuts, Rolling Machines - what they do, where to buy
Part 3: Importance of Color in Nuno Felting including How to Work with White, Using Non-Wool Fibers, Using Cotton Base Fabrics, Prefelts & Batts, & What went wrong - my fibers fell off?!
Part 4: How to make an Infinity Loop, add Ruffles to your designs on the edges and inside, make Felt Lace, the Two Layer Technique, Mosaic Nuno Felt, add how to quickly make and add Prefelt Swirls as a design element
Part 5: List of sources for supplies including fibers, tools and fabric


Kindle COVER
Kindle Digital Edition*:

PRINT Edition on***:
*NOTE: The Kindle digital edition is readable on all Apple and Android devices including tablets and smartphones using free Kindle Reader software.


NFT&T has hundreds of secrets and tips for how to nuno felt better and faster using the newest and latest techniques and tools. It's so popular that it's now available in several bookstores and public libraries in the US and UK. Available in print and digital editions.

Best Silks for nuno felting with a list of types and weights
Cottons for nuno felting
How to dye your own fabrics with RIT and DYLON powdered dyes
Non-wool fibers and nuno felting
Using a microwave
Using a portable electric sander; detailed directions
How to "water" your nuno felt
Soaps for nuno felting
Learn how to make great EDGES and ENDS
Make "ROVING YARN" to create outlines & designs
What to look for when buying custom-dyed/mixed fibers online
Best throwing technique
Using the "ALL COLD WATER" method
Fix a "mistake" with needle felting
plus many, many more!
or you can buy it from my online store at a discounted price


Friday, September 5, 2014

Blog Reader Question - What Weight Silk Fabric for Nuno Felting?

silk Chiffon
There's a list of suitable silks you can use in the Tips & Tricks Book but what counts most is what you want your project to be ---- a scarf?  Garment?  Bag?  Pillow cover?

Weight and drape are most important for wearables including scarves and garments.  For thin, delicate nuno felt you'll be happiest with SILK GAUZE which is available in mummy weights from 3.5 to 5.  3.5 is very hard to work with and may not be durable enough for an item that is worn often, like a scarf.

I love to use 4.5 and 5 mummy SILK GAUZE and in my experience it is the most flexible.

For heavier weight wearables and for items like jackets and coats (bags too) you'll be better off using a SILK CHIFFON which comes in weights (usually) from 8 to 16 mummy.  The heavier the fabric the longer it takes to nuno felt!

OTHER SILKS including HABOTAI are available in 3/5 to 8 and sometimes you can find it in 10-12m.  It has a very shiny surface and is always harder to nuno felt because of this treatment.

Other silks and silk blends are ok to use but I strongly recommend you make a 12"x12" test piece before you attempt a larger project. 

For example, I have had great success using 100% SILK TAFFETA but, as you probably know, the surface of taffeta varies so widely (it can be very nubby to very sheer to very stiff) so do a test piece first.  A full-bodied silk like this will often crimp and pucker into an un-wearable --- scratchy and stiff which is a final texture that you won't want to wear next to your skin.

SILK ORGANIZA is best for making bags and items like table runners and pillow covers.  High quality Organza is always stiff and will get a whole lot more stiff once it's nuno felted, believe me.

IF YOU ARE JUST STARTING OUT, see if you can get a couple of yards of 4.5-5m SILK GAUZE and a lowest-weight SILK CHIFFON (8m).  Once you work with each one you'll discover that you probably prefer one over the other or one for a certain mix of fibers/embellishments than another.

For WINTER WEIGHT wearables I recommend an 8m SILK CHIFFON which is wonderful to work with.  It has plenty of body and structure but drapes wonderfully once it's nuno felted with as little and one thin layer of fibers.   Makes wonderful shawls and wraps as well. 

SILK CHIFFON ALSO ACTS BETTER if you're adding felt or yarn fringe; FRINGE is the big deal in scarves and garments this season.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SAVING YOUR PROJECT for the next day....yes you can!

As I said in 100 degree temps I just had to stop in the middle of the Rubbing Stage of a very large nuno felt shawl and wrap it all up in the plastic (it was still wetted down) around a Pool Noodle and save it to finish the next morning. 

It worked but I did have to back up and repeat a few steps.

Thank goodness I still had my Pool Noodles!  Those of you who have been reading this blog and the books know that I really don't Roll my designs manually using the Solar Pool Cover around a Noodle - I go from the Rubbing Stage shortened using the Palm Washboard to Sanding.

This is what I did:
1.  The project was still wrapped inside the 1m clear plastic and still wet-through with cold, soapy water;
2.  I tightly rolled the project INSIDE the plastic around a Pool Noodle;
3.  Secured both ends with strips of muslin ties (use anything but don't use rubber bands - they might leave impressions in your fabric);
4.  Left in a cool place NOT in any sunlight;
5.  Next morning at 8 AM (roughly 16 hours later) I unrolled the design still in plastic:
6.  Opened one side of the plastic and covered the whole designs with my window screen;
7.  Used my Weed Sprinkler to soak the project again, pressed and then used dry towels to soak up any excess soapy water.

Remove screens, fold over plastic to encase the project, complete Rubbing AND use the old fashioned Rolling Method, yes, I did roll it around a pool noodle 350 times (in all four directions) to make sure the fibers migrated through the silk shawl base.

Open plastic, remove shawl, place fiber side down on clean towel, complete SANDING.

Throw, agitate and stretch.
2 day project!

I used the old 350x Rolling Method after Rubbing because I needed to do a LOT more work based on my fiber combination.  I used 50% handpainted tencel with 50% handpainted merino.  This particular tencel was quite dry and required 30-40% more work.  Not all tencel is this dry but the person who handpainted it overprocessed it.

Had it been 100% merino I might have been able to eliminate the Rolling but probably not.

WHY?  This project was sitting wet for 16 hours and that in itself caused some FELTING TO OCCUR without any agitation; wrapped wet inside plastic meant that some reaction occurred just because of the room temps went from a high of 100 to a morning low of 56.  I am sure the fibers were affected by that huge swing. 

Yes, because it worked.  However, I would never do this with a dry or overprocessed fiber ---- because, all in all, it took me 4 times the effort to complete this project.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jelly Roll Batt heaven from

My wonderful Jelly Roll Batt arrived from Decadent Fibers a couple of days ago and I've made my first design using it............lots more to come. 
the Roll
I asked for purple with gold and a few other accent colors.  Pat and Christine dyed it to order and it is so richly colored that some of it bled into a deep black.  I love that because it's a staple in my holiday designs and everyone loves black felted with lots of accent colors. 

The Jelly Roll Batt is a great option for those of you who are flexible about colors since you will always get some "unexpected" ones.............but once you start working with it, they melt together in spectacular ways and give you a lot of  color-picking freedom.  (If you like to work with much more specific colors and mix them yourself you should order batts by color, not a mélange like this.)

IF YOU ARE COMING TO THE OCTOBER 18 WORKSHOP I will be using these fibers to lay out a scarf in about 10 minutes so you can see how using batts is another way to NUNO FELT FASTER and we ALL want to nuno felt faster...........
purple heaven

Friday, August 29, 2014

Working with Paj Silk - Blog Reader Question

A GREAT READER was intrigued by my photos of scarves nuno felted on PAJ SILK. 

PAJ SILK is a favorite of European felters and the very best nuno felters like Felted Pleasure use it exclusively (and she often dyes all her Paj the same color!).
Paj Silk
Until recently it just hasn't been available to buy in the US because, I guess, there hasn't been enough demand.  It turns out that many doll-clothes makers prefer it to other silks because of it's lustre and drape which works perfectly for miniature clothing.

PAJ SILK is a cross between Habotai and Crepe; it has a tight weave (tighter than silk gauze) and shine on both sides of the fabric but it is completely different from Habotai which tends to be very shiny on one side and moderately shiny on the (wrong) side. 

I think it looks like frosted glass.  Much more subtle and once felted it takes on a completely different "hand" - it turns into a soft, supple and very luxurious super-silk, no other way to describe it.

It's lustre also makes it behave differently (a lot like Habotai) because it crimps, puckers, and bunches up at a much higher rate than the non-glossy silks. 

If you use it for nuno felting you will see this extreme puckering start the minute you start sanding -- it's that fast.

PAJ SILK is available if you qualify for a wholesale account at Exotic Silks in CA; all purchases are $100 minimums.  It's 5.5m weight

This site sells it by the yard (undyed) in a 5m weight:
You can buy 2-3 yards to try it out for yourself without spending a fortune (but $7.50 a yard if you use a lot like I do is pretty expensive.)

PAJ SILK is sometimes called PONGEE SILK but most PONGEE available to buy is 100% polyester, not suitable for nuno felting.   If you have access to a fashion fabric store or a designer wholesale fabric outlet check to see if they carry PAJ (or call it Pongee) but make sure it is 100% silk.

WORKING WITH PAJ:  Like Habotai, Paj takes longer to nuno felt primarily during the Rubbing Stage.  You have to work 20-30% harder and longer to make sure your fibers migrate through the "frosted" surface.

I love it, in fact prefer it to Silk Gauze and Silk Chiffon because it adds another wonderful texture to the other textures of nuno felted fibers and embellishments.  Plus it is so luxurious and fabulous to wear --- like cashmere pajamas.

I am not a fan of Habotai for 3 big reasons; it takes much longer to nuno felt, it can have such a slippery surface that fibers shift a LOT once wetted down and that SHINE can really dominate the final me it just "gets in the way" of appreciating the final nuno felted surface.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blog Reader Question: ADDING to "done" nuno felt

Such a great question from a blog reader:
Hi Nancy, Can I ask your advise?
I recently made a nuno felt scarf with hand painted merino and silk.
I only put the wool on one side and I was wondering if I could now also add wool to the other side or will this over-felt the wool I have already fulled?

The answer is yes, you will overfelt the completed side of the fabric if you now add fibers to the other side and take it through all the steps.

Even if you take great care not to touch the first side, it will be affected by agitation and throwing.  If you use hot water at the end (not the All Cold Water Method) it could make the first side hard and scratchy.

My advice is to make a small sample of a two-sided design - if you like how it looks (2 sided designs take about 20% longer to make) you can go ahead with a larger project.  This is of course if you have enough fibers left!

To rescue the first design, since you can't add fibers to it, you could add stitching or embroidery.  Or add beading or hot-fix gems/studs.  If you've done some fabric painting you can paint the non-fiber side but be sure to use fabric paints, they are much softer when dry. 

(You can always cut it up and use it for other projects.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

More Working with Cotton TIPS & TRICKS - it has qualities silk does not

Cotton fabric is a great option for nuno felting year-round but especially when the weather gets warmer; it provides a durable canvas for everything from nuno felted shapes to garments and accessories such as purses and bags. (Cotton really isn't just for the warm months and warmer climates - it's such a wonderful fabric to use and wear.)

For most projects the lighter-weight the 100% cotton fabric the better it works. I've used Cotton Voile, Scrim, Hospital Gauze and Dharma Trading's Harem Cloth.

I dye all of these cotton fabrics myself even though many 100% lightweight cottons are available in commercially dyed colors and prints. It's harder to dye cotton whatever method you use so it's usually best to over-dye to compensate for the inevitable color-loss during the nuno felting process.

Dharma's Cotton Harem Cloth is my new favorite (even better than voile) because it can be over-dyed and has so much more body & crispness to it --- I love the way it holds up to the tough nuno felting process. (You need to cut it with scissors, not rip it.)

Cotton has characteristics that make it very different from working with silk - the 2 main considerations are WEIGHT and TEXTURE.

All the cottons including voile are heavier than most lightweight silks (3mm to 5mm) so the weight of the cotton needs to be factored in to your end product. If you are making wearables the weight affects the final drape. If you are making bags, hats and other accessories, cotton may be the better base fabric because of it's weight and durability.

Texture is a dominant feature when you use cotton as your base fabric because it does completely different things when it shrinks during felting and can be so dramatic that it's actually as much of a design-decision as it is a fabric-decision.

Cotton (whatever type or weight) wrinkles and puckers, folds and pleats and you can pump it up or tone it down depending on how much and where you place your fibers in your design layout.

For example if you spread out your fibers similar to the prep for Cobweb Felt you'll end up with tons of small puckers between the fibers - a fascinating and wonderful effect.

If you vary the direction of your fibers in the initial layout you'll get puckering in both directions and you can really play up this textural-effect trick with the heavier weights.

All the cottons fray like crazy so it helps to think ahead about how to deal with it during layout. I like to use the Wrapped Edge Technique because it looks more professional (and hides all those ugly edges and ends). You can also serge the edges, use a Rolled Edge foot on your sewing machine or buy cotton scarf blanks with finished edges.

gauze (from tight to loose weave often labeled "hospital gauze")
Dharma Trading's Cotton Harem Cloth - see my post
lightweight cotton blends with at least 80% cotton content

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cotton Harem Cloth - a great cotton base for nuno felting

on Cotton Harem Cloth
There have been lots of enquiries on the blog about what fabrics to use for nuno felting including Cotton Harem Cloth.  It's available by the yard from

If you aren't a fan of cotton voile which is another great cotton base fabric or need something that has more body and weight, Cotton Harem Cloth might be the solution.

If you have experimented with Scrim or open-weave gauze (aka Hospital Gauze) in all weights and been unhappy with the results (I am not a fan of this class of natural cottons) try Harem Cloth.

It is much heavier and crisper than voile and you must cut it to size with scissors -- it will not rip without a lot of damage to the edges.

It also frays once cut so my best advice is to use the Wrapped Edge Technique to hide your edges and ends.  (It will also be kind to your finished project and be more durable over the life of your design, esp. if it is a wearable.)

I've dyed Cotton Harem Cloth successful with RIT, Dylon and Dharma's Fiber Reactive Dyes but, being cotton, it will lose some color during the arduous nuno felting process.  Always OVERDYE it and go for a shade that is at least 1x to 2x darker than what you expect at the end (which means you should go slightly lighter with your fiber colors if you want a match).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Watering Part 2

from PINTEREST not me!
This photo from a great Pinterest Board shows the weed sprayer in action.  Talk about a match made in heaven.....

I got the cheap-o $10 one and after wishing only the worst for the idiot who wrote the directions about how to fit all the parts together, I finally looked at the pix on the front of the box and voila, done in 5 minutes.  Or ask your hardware store to put it together after you pay for one.  They sell hundreds of these things.

The pressure for spraying is created with a hand-pump designed into the handle (she is holding that handle) and YES you can add your soap be it Dawn or olive oil soap - I thought the pumping action might create bubbles, but it does not. 

This works perfect for my All Cold Water Method.  (All sprayers are for cold or room-temp water, NO hot.)

Works like a felter's dream of going to nuno felting heaven and everything is easier and faster!

PERFECT for watering down batts which, as you know by my posts about using the fab batts from Decadent Fibers, are so hard to saturate since batt fibers are full of air pockets.

NEW:  FABULOUS for wetting down felt bracelets and necklaces too....makes it so much easier when all the fibers are saturated in a consistent manner ---- this sprayer has cut my process for making these 2 items in half!

I was singing while spraying!

Incredibly helpful for felters who are starting to have a lot of discomfort using a spritzer or other watering methods that require repetitive hand-movements.  With me it's the increasing arthritis in my this was like I sent my hands on vacation.


Those ball watering thingies cost $25-$35 which I think is nuts.  A really basic weed sprayer (nightmare directions thrown in for free) runs you $10.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Batts vs Roving from Incredible, Talented Fiona Duthis

Canadian felting artist Fiona Duthie (so incredible talented) is a constant inspiration for me.  Every section of her beautiful site - the Gallery, Bio, and Blog are well worth the time you will spend being enchanted, intrigued, and delighted with this singular vision of fibers, textiles and felt.  I love this post from her blog which is the best decription of how to use Wool Batting to its best advantage.   There's also a list of resources at the end.  (Note:  WorldofWool in the UK has been recommended by several serious felters because the variety of fiber-types are just not available from US sources.  Even with the shipping charges it might be your best source for unusual fibers.  Adding just a bit of something completely different might be all the incentive you need to keep felting during the months where everyone thinks felt only thrives in the cold months, little do they know what's going on in the 2014 world of felt........)

Wool Roving vs. Wool Batting

Comparing wool roving and wool batting was once one of the foundations of the Surface Design class, but that exploration felt most possible for in person classes. I include the fibers in the online Surface Design class, as I think it's a benefit for everyone to experience working with fibres in their different forms. In working through the class materials, I decided to do a little test to see what differences I would find when working with roving and batting, in a documentated study! I used 16 grams/ 0.5 ounce of extra fine merino roving, and the same amount of extra fine merino batting both from the wonderful DHG.
(see sources at the end!)

Wool batting has been scoured, dyed and carded. It comes in big sheets or rolls. The wool fibres are not directional, or straightened. When we are felting we want to have our fibres laid out in different directions to allow for the greatest connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt. With batting we don't need to pay any attention to the direction we lay out the fibres as they are already blended.

Batting is fantastic for quick layouts. The batting can be spread out to your desired shape and size, and layers can be built up to reach your desired thickness. To layout the batting, spread your wool out on your work surface. To remove extra fibre, use one hand as a clamp, held flat and firm on top of your fibres, and use the other hand to pull away the excess fibre-image left. Increase your layout size by laying on more batting, overlapping by about 1 inch (2.5cm) -image centre. If you have any thin spots or holes, fill in with wisps of the wool batting- image right. Very fast and easy.

Wool batting is especially useful for quick layouts for all flat feltmaking projects, like wall pieces, playmats, or making your own prefelt. It is also excellent as a base for vessels, hats and bags.
Wool batting is generally not as readily available of wool rovings, sliver or tops. Several breeds can be purchased in wool batting form, including Merino, Merino blends, Corriedale/Coopworth, Bergschaf, Norwegian C1, and Norwegian C1-Pelsull, Finnish and Icelandic. (resources below!)

Wool roving has been scoured, dyed and carded, and combed, so the fibres are all straight and aligned in a single direction. It comes in long lengths, sometimes rolled up into balls. We can layout one layer of roving if we want to create a very fine light felt, but most often we will lay out multiple layers, with each new layer perpendicular to the last. This creates the greatest potential connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt. The fibres will shrink more along the length of the fibre and we can use this to influence the size and shaping of our felt work during layout. In general though, we want consistent, even, perpendicular layers.

There are several ways to layout your wool roving. The most common form is called shingling. We use one hand as a clamp and pull away a staple length of wool fibre. Each shingle overlaps the previous one by one third -image left. After laying out all the fibres in one direction, we'll lay out the second layer of wool shingles, with the fibre direction perpendicular to the previous layer- image right. Two layers will create a lightweight consistent felt. More layers may be used either depending on the thickness of each shingle, or the desired thickness of your finished felt.

If I use the same weight of wool fibres, and start with the same size of layout, my end result should be the same with either wool roving or batting. I used exactly the same felting techniques for the same durations in both samples. The batting was faster to layout. The roving developed a more strong felted skin more quickly. The batting felt more cohesive and started to full or shrink sooner in the process. They were both finished in the same amount of time, and the finished size was the same in both samples, with equal shrinkage in the width and the length.

My batting sample was more even in finished density overall. If I had of been a little more attentive in my layout of the roving, I think it would have been as consistent, if not more than the batting. But I was working quite quickly, so in this case the batting had a slightly better end result.

After fulling completely, rinsing and laying flat to dry, both samples are tight and evenly finished. The batting appears just a little more smooth and flat.

So... no dramatic results! The same amount and size of sample produced a similar end result, as happens when an experiment goes exactly as you think it will!

I chose between roving and batting based on two main criteria. The first is availability. What fibre form is available to me in the particular wool breed I want. I love C-1/pelsull for bags, and that is most readily available in a batting form. But I also make most of my bags in white and then dye them after, and for those I use Finnish wool, that is most readily available as a roving. The second criteria is the density of the finished felt. When I am making the lightest weight, structural felt garments, I will use an extra fine merino roving. I feel I have the most control over the density of my felt (when I don't rush!) using the wool in a roving form.

It is valuable to touch and work with the different forms. Laying out with locks alone is another great experience. Exploring and using the different wools informs our felting sensibilities and understanding of the fibre qualities, as well as deepening our physical appreciation and hand recognition of the wools.

Here are some sources for you:
Merino: Dyeing House Gallery (Italy)
distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio

Merino: New England Felting Supply

Merino Cross: Living Felt

Norwegian C1, C1-Pelsull Blend, and Pelsull: New England Felting Supply

Bergschaf: Dyeing House Gallery (Italy)

distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio

Finnish: Piiku (Finland)

Icelandic: Alafoss (Iceland)

Rovings or Tops are much easier to come by, and there are many wonderful online sources, including most of those above. Too many to list here, but I do purchase most of the coarse wool breed rovings from:

Lots of felt with!
Warm wishes,