Cobweb Felt Instructions

 

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COBWEB FELT

To make cobweb (or very fine) felt, you must have first mastered the ability to draw off very fine layers of fiber so some experience with felting would be recommended. For an elegant, fine and soft fabric, start with 19-22 micron merino top in sliver/roving form, taking a 3ft piece and splitting it in half lengthwise. This splitting gives more control over the fineness of the pieces you can pull off. Also see directions for Elegant Fine Scarves.

DIRECTIONS

  • Lay down towel, then blind or bubble wrap. Place a piece of poly fabric or mosquito netting on top of blind. Use contrasting color of fabric to fiber, or else you can't see how fine your layers are. If desired, draw out a pattern size for your piece of fabric, or for a scarf, draw a 72"x11" rectangle on your fabric  using waterproof felt marker. Lay fibers within the lines, allowing only fine wisps to extend beyond. Use three very fine layers of fiber, criss-crossed in direction. Then add any surface design such as silk, mohair or fancy yarns. You should be able to almost see through the fiber layers even when all three layers are down. Make it even, but don't worry about spots that look almost like holes. That is part of the unique look of cobweb felt.  To create deliberate holes in specific areas, gently wiggle your fingertip into the layers with a small circular motion until you create a small circular or oval hole.  The hole will expand to about 3X the initial size so don't make these holes too large.
  • Cover the layers with the same kind fabric netting to protect the surface design from shifting when it is wet down. A plastic bottle filled with hot soapy water and having holes punched in the cap makes a great way to gently sprinkle water on the fiber. Press down on the surface to thoroughly saturate the wool and using a scrunched-up plastic grocery bag, rub in small circles to press out all air pockets. 
  • If you want smooth sides, attend to this at this stage before rubbing a "skin" on the surface of the felt.
  • Rub continually in small circles with gradually increasing pressure for about 8-10 minutes.
  • When small amounts of pilling appear through the netting, check the surface of the felt using the "pinch test". This involves lifting the netting and gently pinching the felt between finger and thumb. If the fibers lift away individually, continue rubbing the surface a few more minutes. If the felt begins to lift up as a whole piece, it is ready to turn. Carefully flip over the entire "packet" of fiber sandwiched between the two layers of fabric. Lift the top layer of fabric to check that fibers are not sticking to to it.  Apply a little more hot water and soap to the other side if needed, and rub until pinch test on second side shows felt holding together well.
  • At this point the fulling stage can proceed. This is the point at which the holes will become larger.  As the wool fibers begin to shrink, they move towards the fibers that are closest to them.  Since the initial hole is too large for the scales to reach across, they will naturally migrate away from the center of the hole, making the hole increase in size. 
  • Leaving the protective netting fabric between the felt and the blind can prevent ridges from the bamboo blind from being impressed on the felt surface. If using bubble wrap, the protective fabric layers can be removed at this point. Place a rod of some kind at the end of your blind or wrap to provide a "beater bar". Carefully roll blind and felt up together. Wrapping the towel around the outside will provide extra grip and prevent sliding while you roll. Roll entire roll back and forth with firm pressure for several minutes. Unroll and turn the felt over, rolling from the other end this time. If using protective netting, lift to ensure felt is not sticking each time you unroll. Repeat this process, changing the direction of the felt piece each time until the it reaches the desired strength and size. Remember, cobweb or fine felt does not have to be fulled until stiff. Softness is a priority here, and since items like scarves do not incur heavy wear, the felt does not need to be tight and hard.
  • Rinse with water and block with steam iron to make nice straight sides. Allow to dry.

Jill Gully
OUTBACK FIBERS

 

Workshops

Jill is available for teaching Outback Felting Workshops to a group or privately. Please call or email for more information.

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