Wet Felting – wool
THE BEAUTY OF WET FELTING IS IN ITS SIMPLICITY. YOU ONLY NEED BASIC EQUIPMENT AND A SMALL AREA TO WORK ON.
Today were exploring the wool needed for wet felting, or rather we’re exploring all the wool available… for a beginner as I said above you only need basic equipment. There is so many different types and forms of wool, not to go into all the different breeds of sheep you can get wool from! But there’s one special type of wool which is brilliant for wet felting and really makes it easier if you’re a beginner! (Don’t forget you can purchase a kit of materials from me… click here!)
First we need to talk about sheep!!
There are so many different breeds of sheep and their wool has varying properties…
- Long or short fibre length
- Thin or thick fibres
- Fine or coarse fibres
The main 3 types to be aware of are Merino, Shetland and Corriedale. Merino is fine, soft and long fibre length making it hard to needle felt. Whereas Shetland and Corriedale are coarser, thick and short fibres. Breeds of sheep doesn’t really effect the technique in wet felting but does give you varying degrees of softness, Merino being the softest. Add some silk into blended in and you really get a beautiful sheep of felted fabric! All the types of wool I talk about below can be purchased in these 3 breeds of sheep.
One of the easiest wool for wet felting as a beginner, and for making a flat sheet of fabric is to use pre-felt.
Pre felt is partially felted wool. Pre felt is the stage between fluffy wool fibres and fully fulled felt. It can be bought pre-made in sheets, making it super easy to start wet felting!
Carded Wool Batts
Carded Wool which is a process of brushing the wool fibres to organise them which creates a web of fibres that can be put flat into batting or rolled into rovings (a long and narrow bundle of fibre)
Batting (also known as batts) has both been pulled through commercial carding machines which comb and align the fibres to some degree. With batting, the wool comes off the machine in thin sheets which are layered to form thicker fluffy sheets. The layering results in a textured wool where the fibres are no longer aligned, making it perfect for wet felting as it felts up very quickly. This also comes in a flat sheet like the pre-felt making an easy start for our flat layers.
Wool Top – commercial
Wool processing mills make wool top, a semi-processed product from raw wool. The process requires that the wool be scoured (washed) and combed and sorted. The longer fibres resulting from the process are called tops, and are in a form ready for spinning. Fibre is combed in such a way resulting in all the fibres to be parallel, this makes it much harder to wet felt being smooth, soft and slippy, especially Merino, therefore takes lots of gentle rubbing to create a smooth result, so only for the more experienced felter! This wool also needs to be correctly pulled off in sections and laid out as it doesn’t come in a pre done sheet!
A roving is a long and narrow bundle of fibre which has been pulled through a carding machine which combs and aligns the fibres to some degree. Roving is pulled off the machine in ropes around 2-3in thick. Though the fibres are fairly aligned, this form of wool still retains the wool’s natural crimp. Again this wool also needs to be correctly pulled off in sections and laid out as it doesn’t come in a pre done sheet!
Hand Dyed Wool Top
Take some natural wool top, hand dye it and you end up with similar qualities to wool roving or even carded wool. The dying process adds air between each wool strand and the act of heating up the wool and washing it within the dyeing process can slightly felt the wool, but again this wool also needs to be correctly pulled off in sections and laid out as it doesn’t come in a pre done sheet!
Hand Carded Wool Batts
A hand carded wool batt has different properties to a commercial hand carded batt. Using a hand drum carder fibre artists can create batts at home, creating beautiful bundles of mixed fibres. As the fibres used are often from wool top or roving they are pulled through the drum carder once or twice, this isn’t enough to mesh the fibres together in different directions. The result is a layer of loose fibres going in the same direction… tricky to wet felt smooth, especially for a beginner, but it does come in a large sheet and with all those extra curls, neebs and silk bits it can produce an amazing textural and visually beautiful piece of felt!
Within each of these types of wool you get wool from different breeds of sheep, these have varying qualities and can also change the result of your wet felting and the difficulty level when using it. The fluffy ends can be fluffed up even more and then wet felted into a carded batt to produce your curly felted blankets or felt the whole curly length for a very textured layer!