Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Felted balls.

I have gone to the dogs. With a jet-pack assist.

A few months ago, I got myself a big bag of multi-colored Corriedale roving, with the idea of experimenting with colors. When it got here, I struggled with it for three or four days, decided it was unspinnable, and threw it into the back of The Pit.

Last week, I was ordering some other textile-type books, saw "Simply Felt" from Interweave Press, thought 'what the hell', and ordered it. It got here yesterday.

I got about this far with my 'experiments' before I thought, you know, I should document this. Someone might care.

So here you go.

The setup looked like this at my house:

Obviously, my kitchen sink. This kind of thing is very low-risk; the biggest danger is dropping fiber down the drain and snarling the hell out of the garbage disposal or clogging the P-trap (or both). Avoid that, and you're golden. The running water is as hot as I can stand. If you're feeling more energy-saver, another bowl of super hot water would work as well. The container in the upper right is full of plain warm water, to soak the soap out of the finished balls. The green container contains soap, warm water, and vinegar. Vinegar isn't usually called for in felting, but my first un-vinegar effort came out like this:

I know from dyeing that vinegar will 'soften up' the outer layer of the wool fiber and make it sticky (from a chemical viewpoint), so I figured, what the hell. I put about a cup of vinegar in. (You can tell if it's enough, if it makes your nicks and cuts and hangnails sting.)

It worked.

So, the process goes something like this:

Pull off a wad or three of wool and roll into a ball.

I put my hand in all these photos for scale; I have average to slightly small hands.

Dunk the ball of wool into the container of water, soap, and vinegar, and squoosh it in your hand for maybe thirty seconds, squeezing out the air and working the liquid through the wool. Once you get the hang of it, you can kind of feel when it starts to soften up. When it does (or you're tired of squishing), pull it out. I'll look like this.

You should get to this stage in under a minute.

Now comes the mildly tedioius part. Alternate dunking the ball in the soapy water, rolling in your hands, and holding under hot water. Back and forth. As the ball felts, push harder and harder on the felt as you roll. At one point, it'll be almost a ball, with sort-of cracks between colors. That means you're almost done. Give it another squish in the soapy water and roll in your hands as hard as you can. This entire process should take two minutes or less (depending on how much wool, what kind, heat of water, amount of soap and vinegar, blah blah) and you will wind up with this:

I'll be soaking these in catnip tea and bartering them with a friend in exchange for a custom button for the hex jacket. I think all the cats in the family will be getting them for Christmas.

Now I'm going to go cut up a pillowcase and try making sheet felt.

Pray for me.

8 comments:

walterknitty said...

My cat loves those things. She likes to bat them across the floor to chase them.

Olivia said...

Yay! felt. It's addictive isn't it.

Anne said...

okay, there's today's rainy day project! The cats are in for a treat--thanks!

Donna Lee said...

The catnip tea is inspired! You could also package the felt balls inside a small plastic bag with some catnip dust so it could absorb the smell.

Roxie said...

Catnip tea! You are a genius!!

Amy Lane said...

Sekhmet will lick your feet in worship. Before she bites your toes. Very ingenious.

Mandy said...

One dvd I saw on felting said that you should "shock" it in cold water periodically, which makes the fibers contract faster.

Woo;andWossit said...

Ohhh.. that's such a cool idea! I never tried vinegar before. The catnip thing rocks too!