How to Make Felt

Not long ago, there was quite the discussion on one of the forums I belong to on the distinction between "felting" and "fulling" wool. Both types of fabric are created by subjecting the wool to soapy hot water, agitation, & a cold water rinse. I believe that the distinction between the two types (& the different terms to describe them) has to do with the state of the wool BEFORE it is subjected to the water & agitation process.

I maintained (& still do) that what I do is more properly called "fulling," which harkens back to the days when blanket weavers would boil their woven wool blankets. The hot water caused the wool threads to swell, creating a fabric that was smooth, dense, & very strong. Fulled wool feels nicer on the skin (less itchiness) & the denser fabric was also warmer.

"Felting," on the other hand, uses unspun wool roving which is created by building up thin layers of roving, alternating the direction of the fibers on each layer. Thin felt may only contain two layers, thick felt (such as you might use for a felt hat) is generally 6 alternating layers, or more. This mat of loose fibers is then subjected to the hot soapy water & a hand agitation process which causes the layers to adhere to one another.

In creating most of my felt handbags, I begin by knitting or crocheting the wool yarn into a fabric (similar to the process of the weaver). This is a fabric, in & of itself, that is functional even before the fulling process. The mat of unspun roving is not usable unless it is felted. Once I have the knitted/crocheted fabric completed, my washing machine filled with hot soapy water provides the agitation & the last cold water rinse.

Check out this link to see a comprehensive step-by-step demonstration on felting wool -

Tagged! I'm "It"...

Marie of Knittedgems tagged me on her blog recently & I'm delighted to return the favor. You might remember Marie from an earlier post featuring her fantastic Big Dipper scarf. Marie markets patterns for her lovely designs on Etsy & through her new website. In addition to being a very talented fiber artist, Marie is a dedicated & prolific blogger who inspires me in so many ways.

One of my great joys is networking with other knit designers, Etsy shop owners, & yarn nuts of every stripe. It's an international community of creative friends that I can rely on for inspiration, advice, & just a little entertaining chit chat (because a woman cannot live on yarn alone). LOL Come join the fun & "tag" someone you love today.

The rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

7 Facts About Me
1. I am unashamedly addicted to coffee - STRONG coffee with 1/2 & 1/2 - & am seldom seen without a cup nearby.

2. I am a seasoned veteran in the "battle of the bulge," but have never mastered the art of knitting while exercising.

3. I'm a "vocational adventurer." I've owned a bar, sold advertising, been a barber, a private eye for attorneys, & an artist (to name a few), but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

4. If you are a Chinese Pug, I want you to come live with me.

5. I've rebuilt & restored 3 Volkswagen Beetles - with my own two hands.

6. I have a passion for High-Fashion & would pay a $1,000 for a Dolce & Gabanna sweater - if I didn't know how to knit something like it myself.

7. My favorite flower is the rose & I have over 125 varieties in my garden.

Tagging 7 People
1. Kibbles 'n Knits who, like me, has a hard time balancing a desire to make art, a desire to make money from art, and housekeeping
2. Camanomade, who creates gorgeous handspun yarn & writes one of the greatest informational blogs ever!
3. Dreamwoven, with her unique style of "wearable art" hats like you've never seen before.

4. Home Made Originals who shares my love of beautiful felted handbags.
5. Wooldancer whose handspun & hand painted designer yarns are simply out of this world.
6. sockprOn, whose forte is socks, of course, but also makes & sells exquisite stitch markers & is an generous promoter of other Etsy artists.
7. The Funky Felter , with her funky felt hats & more. Check out her funky felted rings & pendants. Where does she come up with these ideas?? Awesome.

Convertible Sweater - Thinking Outside the Box

My friend, Laurie, over at Camanomade, recently wrote: "I can blog or I can spin..." & it rang a bell with me. Like most of us artsy-crafty folks with blogs, we are constantly torn between the compulsion to "share" our latest bit of cleverness with the world & our reluctance to put our latest project aside for an hour at the keyboard. An hour?? Yes, unfortunately, knitting words into articles doesn't come as easily for me as knitting yarn into a beautiful sweater. Anyway, please forgive my woeful neglect of the blog. I tossed the coin & the blog lost.

I've been knitting & felting like a woman possessed in a valiant effort to get my Fall lineup of clothing, bags & accessories to market in time for the Christmas gift fairs that are starting to come down the pipe. Our local art/craft market is down to it's final three Saturdays & the gift fairs will step in to claim the remaining Saturdays through the end of November. This has been a great market season for me. Sales are up & I'm seeing more repeat business. Custom orders are up, too, & although I couldn't be happier, it does mean that it's becoming more difficult to keep up the pace.

It's a bit of a balancing act, too. On the one hand, I want to make & sell as much as I can, while I can, before the post-Christmas doldrums set in. On the other, I know that if I rush my work, I risk losing that creative edge that makes it special & in demand. For example, I whipped up this short-sleeve shell sweater from some gorgeous wool blend handspun that's been lingering in my stash for ages.

It's a basic pattern, rendered in simple stockinette stitch, on size 11 needles, that even a beginning knitter can bang out in a couple of evenings. While I was happy with the finished sweater & knew it would probably sell (fabulous texture & a nice neutral color), it lacked an element of uniqueness - that special designer's touch that can't be found in an off-the-rack sweater at Ross (& for a much lower price).

I toyed with the idea of embellishment with novelty fibers, embroidery,
buttons...everything I auditioned seemed to overshadow the exquisite texture of the handspun yarn & all were discarded. At a loss for an idea, I hung this sweater in the closet & turned my attention to other projects.

As often happens, when I stop trying to force my art, inspiration comes...& often comes from unlikely sources. We have a little charity thrift shop in my town & its specialty is clothing. I frequently shop there for garments that I can cannibalize for fancy buttons or sweaters to frog to recycle the yarn. On this particular day, however, there's was nothing worth the paltry $3.00 price tag - but I didn't go home empty-handed. I noticed an extraordinary amount of turtleneck sweaters on the rack that day & it reminded me that I hadn't designed a single one for the new Fall line. Bingo!

I rushed home & dug out the last remaining ball of that great handspun yarn & voila....

Okay, so putting a turtleneck on it isn't particularly unique, but the way I added it is. You see, I didn't pick up & knit that turtleneck onto the sweater. I knitted it separately, like a circular scarf, & left it unattached. Now, this little shell is convertible & offers the option of two separate looks that can easily go from Winter into Spring. With just this simple addition, I think I've added real value to this garment & it's now something that I'll be proud to put on sale on the web site or for the next market day.

Isn't it amazing how a simple addition like this can really make the garment? I love these little "Eureka!" moments.