My projects begin with color. I assemble fabrics and fibers that interest me as a pallete and lay them on my work table to ponder. Sometimes a design idea emerges or progresses from this point.
Most of the time my projects start with a dry, feathery layout of unspun merino wool, often laid down with a pattern in the direction of the fibers. The layout is usually done on top of bubble wrap. In a scarf the bubble sheet length is greater than the desired finished length of the piece. Up to 40 percent shrinkage is expected, sometimes more.
Once the dry layout is complete, I add tepid soapy water and compress the wool through a net or another piece of bubble wrap to make sure all the fibers are evenly wetted out. After removing the net off a scarf, for example, I have what is like a blank canvas to design with a wide mix of thin fabric and fiber possibilities. Let the drawing and painting begin!
I can even imbed elements between wool and fabric I lay on top of the wool to create surface texture, or place cut up pieces on top of the fabric
For a flat piece, like a scarf, once the design is as I want it, I place a top layer of plastic or bubble wrap and begin a massage. With wet, soapy hands I rub all over the piece to initiate the connection between fabric and fiber. I do this for several minutes, working slowly. Sometimes use an electric sander on low to accomplish this stabilization of my design.
Once the massage is complete, I often turn the flat piece over and design on the back side, but every project is different.
Once it is well massaged so the design is stable, I will roll the two layers of bubble wrap with the project inside onto a pool noodle and begin rolling the project on my table. Rolling can last well over an hour. The project is still wet and soapy. Shrinkage is underway.
After rolling, but sometimes before it, I inspect my designs and work with my most favorite element in felt design, collaging with partially felted shapes that I cut just for this purpose.
Once rolling and final design check ups are done, the fulling begins. This enhances shrinkage and consists of tossing, rubbing, stretching, and rolling on itself. There is a lot of shaping control in this physical and fun part of felt making.
The last thing that finishes the project is rinsing out the soap, spin drying the piece, and giving it the loving attention of a steam iron.