The theme throughout my artwork has always been colour, and my interest in the wet-felting process is the ability to make fabrics from scratch in any colours and textures that i want. The process of felting involves a variety of techniques that agitate wool fibres together using water and soap. When the fibres have knitted together they begin to shrink directionally and the felt can be worked with warm water and thrown to further reduce size. Pieces are briefly soaked in a mild vinegar solution to neutralise the effect of soap on the fibres, rinsed, moulded into shape if desired and left to dry. At this stage final decoration with hand or machine free-stitching can be done, and further decoration completed.
I use predominantly pre-dyed merino which is available in a huge variety of colours from specialist outlets such as Wingham Wool Works. These can be applied directly to a base or blended on a drum carder to produce even more subtle colour mixes. Various other fabrics and materials can be added to the batts – silks, sari waste, cotton threads, neps, recycled and synthetic fibres, all add to the complexity of the colour & texture. These batts can be used directly or spun into yarn and incorporated as detail and relief in a piece. There are a variety of methods for making images with felt, either by layering up pure colours or batts and adding texture from other materials, or making a prefelt cross hatched base and working strands of fibre into the wet base to build up an image as if drawing or painting.
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