Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wet Felting Wool Paintings

Today is the day that I wet felt some wool paintings.  You may be wondering why wet felting is necessary after machine needle felting but there are several reasons why it needs to be finished this way.  First of all, some of the surface fibers can still be pulled off or form unsightly pills which will ruin the look of the piece over time.   Secondly, wet felting creates a tight web of felted surface fibers so that the piece looks crisp, clean and integrated into a smooth design.  Sometimes, after wet felting the design may appear blurry or a bit distorted from the process.  At this point I can hand felt some fibers to replace some small details and reiterate some lines or edges but I hardly ever have to do that.  If I ever did need to hand felt a lot (which meant I didn't machine needle felt well enough the first time) I would wet felt it again to set the most recent fibers into the web of the surface fibers so they won't pull off over time. 

Here are the directions:

1.     Soak a bar of olive oil soap in a basin of warm water until it begins to melt and feels slippery between your fingers.  You can also use conditioning shampoo for this.

2.     Place a piece of bubble wrap under and over your felted project, with the bubbles facing the project.

3.     Lift back the top layer of bubble wrap, exposing the dry project.

4.     Fill a turkey baster with the soapy water and gently spread soapy water all over the piece until it is thoroughly soaked.  You want to see soap lather when you rub the surface with your fingers.

5.     Turn the project over and thoroughly soak the back side as well with the warm, soapy water.

6.     Place the bubble wrap back over the top of your project and begin rubbing the surface with your fingers in one direction (up and down). 

7.     Begin rolling the piece back and forth 100 times.

8.      Unwrap the project and roll it up widthwise.  Continue rolling in this direction 100 times.

9.     Repeat the above, rolling the project lengthwise, then widthwise for 200 more times each.

10.     Check the surface of the felted piece to see if you can pull any fibers off the surface or if any of the yarns or nepps are moving or flaking off.  If they are, keep rolling.  If they are not, you are finished and can rinse out the piece and hang it to dry.  I use a fan to dry it quickly.
11.  Press gently with a steam iron and trim to the desired size for your project.  You can sew borders on and make it into a wall quilt or mount on an artists frame and display it on the wall that way.


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