Friday, 13 August 2010

So pleased - Guest blogger Feltmaker

Frances Barker is in thrall to felt. In her Suffolk home there is an abundance of wool in various stages of being washed, carded, dyed and worked into hats, boots, and other functional, as well as decorative items. "I enjoy getting lost in the possibilities that felt provides. Some soap, water, friction and a little sheep's fleece are the foundations for an incredible textile that can be gossamer fine or thick enough to act as armour".

Felt is made when wool meshes with itself. It isn't a woven or knitted fabric; but relies upon the little scales on the wool fibre entangling with each other. To encourage this process along, the felt maker wets the carefully laid out layers of wool and rubs soap through them. Then the resultant soft felt is shrunk (fulled) to size, usually by rolling it in a bamboo blind.

Frances is in her final year of a city and guilds programme and although she is sometimes lured into spinning some of her wool stash, it is always the felt that she returns to. "Spinning is fun, but felt is faster. I can make a felted hat in a day, it would take me far longer than that to spin and knit one!".

At one point Frances was felting so much that she hurt her shoulder and it looked as though she might have to give up her precious pastime. Undeterred she turned to her washing machine to do the hard work. Wool as a fibre, shrinks dramatically as anyone who has accidentally washed a pure new wool jumper on a hot wash can testify. By carefully shielding the soft felt, the machine can achieve the shrinking, leaving more time to lay out more wool.

"I've noticed that some of the coarser natural wools do very well in the machine. This means that I can source my materials closer to home, which is good news for both producer and makers".

Felt is fantastic fun, if you ever get the chance to, then try it.

Check out more of Frances Feltmaker blogs at

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