Last weekend I discovered a new yet very old artform .. felt making. Apparently felt is one of the oldest methods of making fabric. Maybe it came from early cave man days using wool wrapped in hides as some primitive form of shoe – the compressed wool became very durable … who knows!
Hot water felting
When you read about felt making, they explain that wool fibers have very tiny scales and when rubbed together they interlock and bind tightly. So to make felt you start with dyed wool, lots of water, a bamboo mat, decorations and plenty of room to make a wet mess. You layer your colored wool strands into pictures and patterns like the beautiful image below, then roll it within a sandwich of bubblewrap/bamboo/hot water/detergent for over 120 times until you have compressed the wool to create felt. It does sounds like hard work!
Needle felting is also known as dry felting, something which I was able to try at the Seven Sisters festival in Melbourne last weekend. Needle felting mimics hot water felting process, but instead of agitating the wool with water, you are agitating it with a needle by stabbing it several hundreds of times with a barbed needle into a foam block. Not too hard and plenty of needle stabs later and you can create amazing 3d sculptures.
Always the artist