After that rather broad hint from Carolyn about her not having a cobweb scarf, I got at it right away 😉. In actual fact her lack of a cobweb scarf was more due to her procrastination in picking the colours she wanted than to my not getting around to making her one – just sayin’. 😘.
Carolyn picked a blue-green merino wool/ silk mix. The first step was to lay out six or seven wispy thin layers of the roving in differing directions. Don’t sneeze during this stage! Even the furnace fan coming on can ruffle the pattern.
It took me a couple of hours to lay the wool. Then, very carefully a piece of fabric (usually tulle) is laid over the loose wool to keep it in place. The whole thing is then wet with soapy water and gently patted down. Light circular agitation with soapy hands is next and once the very initial felting begins it is safe to start agitating with more pressure.
The scarf is laying on a piece of bubble wrap and is covered by my piece of synthetic, easily permeable fabric (so the water can go through easily but the wool won’t felt to it). I have agitated the fabric until the fibres have begun to tangle. Animal hair has little barbs on the strands that mesh or tangle when rubbed together – think of the mats in your dog’s coat when it hasn’t been brushed. The bubble wrap adds a bit of friction.
Yes, that is a sander! The sander saves an awful lot of manual labour. I begin sanding very lightly, gradually increasing the pressure as the felting increases. I check often to be sure I am not disturbing the fibres and that the fibres are not felting to the overlay fabric. The bubble wrap on top adds to the agitation and allows the sander to move more freely.
Still not satisfied, I give it some more soap and rubbing. These scarves are very light with lots of holes so I want to be sure this one is well felted and strong. The soap is olive oil soap and quite nice on my hands.
And as a final step I remove the synthetic fabric overlay and roll my sandwich of bubble wrap, scarf, bubble wrap around a pool noodle, tie it with knee high nylons, wrap it in a towel and roll and roll and roll….. Until I have worked up a sweat and the felting is complete. Actually, I roll 25 to 50 times, unroll the sandwich and roll it up a in a different direction and roll some more. The fibres shrink according to the direction they are rolled in so to ensure even felting, I turn the piece periodically. Music with a strong beat playing in the background adds a certain amount of enjoyment to the whole process.
The felting is done and now the “fulling” begins. At this point I rinsed the scarf in hot water and then dashed it into cold water to shock it into shrinking and pulling together more. To make thick felt I would do this several times but I didn’t want my fibres to pull together and “full” tightly. There are a few pictures missing in the procedure here. Everyone else had gone to bed so no one was around to take pictures of me rinsing the scarf in the hot and cold water, squeezing the excess water out and then smashing the wet mass down into the sink about ten times. This is called shocking the fibres to pull together and lock into place. Compared to the thicker felted pieces, I am a little more gentle with the scarf and don’t throw it down with as much force. I don’t want too much shrinking. The pictures shows the poor rolled and beaten scarf resting quietly in a bowl of water with a tablespoonful or so of vinegar to remove any remaining soap. The scarf is then squeezed to remove as much water as possible ( even standing on it wrapped in a towel is OK). These scarves look delicate but by the time the new owner gets them they have already taken a beating. 🙂
The scarf is laid flat to dry and then the next day there is only one thing left to do…….
…wrap it (lovingly ;-)) around Carolyn’s neck!
She likes it!