What Is Felting Wool?
Felting is the oldest form of fabric on the planet. Imagine. You are living some 9000-10,000 years ago. Accidentally you get some fibers wet. Somehow they are rubbed up against each other. When you try to pull them apart, they can’t be separated…even with great effort. “Maybe this is a good idea!” you think. And you put some more fibers together. This time you wet them purposely. You rub them together again…many more of them, and, voila! Man-made fabric is born!
Making felt is one of the oldest talents or skills on the planet…older than knitting or weaving. Animal wool or fibers of sheep, llamas, dogs, cats, muskox, bison..and more are used to make felt. When the fibers are stimulated by friction (for example rubbing) and lubricated with moisture (water or water and a little soap), because each fiber has scales, they interact with each other. The more they do this, the more they get caught or hang on to each other, and the less space there is between the fibers…eventually resulting in fabric.
Today I adapt this method of working with fibers to produce the images I create. Each piece differs in texture depending on the amount of stimulation and lubrication I use.
First, I make a number of very thin layers of fiber by pulling fibers from a ball of roving (a continuous sheet of fiber that’s produced by combing fibers from an animal in one direction). Once I’m satisfied with what I hope will be the right thickness for the project, it becomes my “canvas.”
Then I use other fibers (rovings of other colors, silk, tencel, cotton, rayon, nylon…even dryer lint), to “paint” on my canvas. This process may take days or weeks, depending on my inspiration and courage. Once I’m satisfied with what I have painted, I breathe deeply and go get lots of soapy water, and I pour it all over my painting. This is where my sister, who is an amazing and accomplished water colorist, says the “God thing happens.” This is because you never know what’s going to happen when you use water in a project. It has a creativity of its own.
Once it’s dry and complete, I mount it, usually on hand made paper, I use a variety of ways to mount the image, some of which result in 3-dimensional images. And finally, I have them framed.