Saturday, June 29, 2013

In April I traveled to California to study with Leiko Uchiyama at the Tin Thimble in Loomis, just outside of Sacramento.  I also took a fast lesson in how to make felt by the no-roll method from Sharon Mansfield, one of the co-owners of the Tin Thimble.  Well this weekend was the first time I've had a chance to try this method. I needed to make some laminated pre-felts that I will resist dye sometime soon.  Normally this would have required a lot of rolling, so I wanted to try this method.

BTW, I needed to make some of these laminated pre-felts because I lost some samples of resist dyed cloth backed pre-felts that I made in a class I took with Pam de Groot last summer. I actually took two of her classes at the Midwest Felting Symposium in Madison, WI.  I enjoyed both classes.  But I was really intrigued by the Mosaic Taster class I took.  In this class we laminated 19 micron merino top to silk fabrics to create a backed pre-felt.  (A pre-felt with a cloth face.)  We then resist tied these pre-felts and dyed them in acid dyes.  The idea was that we would make a patterned purse by cutting up these various dyed pre-felts and laying them on a wool covered template with the wool side of the pre-felt facing down against the wool covered template.  In this way the wool sides could felt together, with the silk side of the pre-felt facing out.  (The silk shows the resist dyed patterns better than the wool side, imo.)  For various reasons, I didn't make a purse with my dyed pre-felts.  I have been thinking ever since about how to use these lovely gems.  I wanted to make a vest with the dyed pre-felts creating a pattern on the surface.  But I wasn't sure about how to go about this.
        Well, finally, I figured out a plan for the vest when I was teaching in Bellingham last week.  I was so excited to get started!  But, somehow, between Bellingham and home in Albany, I lost this bag of samples. : (
        So I decided to make some more pre-felts today.  I had wanted to try the no-roll tumbler dryer method of making felt, so I used it on the laminated pre-felts.  I used 19 micron merino, and two different cloths.  One was 5 mm silk habotai (paj) and the other was 3.5 mm silk gauze. The no roll method worked so well!   I'm very impressed.  I made seven different chunks of pre-felt today that will eventually be resist dyed.  And I barely broke a sweat, even though the temperature here in Oregon is in the 90's.
        I put out a piece of 1 ml plastic and put silk fabric on it.  Then I laid the merino on the silk in two, thin layers.
Photo shows second layer of wool in process, covering the silk gauze. 
 I wet out the whole thing with cool, soapy water and covered the wet pile with another piece of 1 ml plastic.  I sprinkled a little soapy water on top of the plastic so my hands would slide easily and I rubbed my hands over the surface for a short time. 
Photo shows covering the wet pile with a second layer of plastic. 
Photo shows rubbing the top of the plastic.  My hands slid easily over the plastic because it was wet and soapy. 
 I folded over the edges of the plastic drop cloth so it was tight against the wool stack.   I rolled up a damp towel and placed it on one end of the drop cloth.  I rolled the towel up with the plastic covered wool/silk stack and tied it with strips cut from an old t-shirt.
Photo shows rolled bundle, tied with t-shirt strips.
       I put the first tied bundle in the dryer on air fluff only for 20 minutes (This was too much time and the felt was almost too hard to use as a pre-felt.  I changed the time, until eventually I was doing it for around 5 minutes in the dryer.)  Some of the pre-felts were done after the first time through the dryer, while others needed to be rolled from the opposite end and put back into the dryer for another 5 minutes.
        In a day, I was able to make a nice stack of laminated pre-felts using both the habotai and the gauze.  I was super impressed with the process and the fabric backed pre-felts came out really well.  I'm looking forward to dyeing them.