My First Felting Project

.. is actually a repair.  Back in February I created this vest:

This had been a successful project which started with a box of fabrics someone had saved in their barn for years.  I’m always slightly apprehensive when someone approaches me offering fabric.  I’m very particular about what fabrics and projects I want to sew.  I’m at a time in my life where I don’t want to spend my time seeking to please others. I do want friends so when I was told they dug this box out of the barn “just for you”, I put on my best face and said thank you.  I know how these boxes of fabric have lived.  They started either as scraps from an expensive garment or were purchased because they were marked down from some very high-at-the-time price.  In times past fabric truly was valuable being both a necessity and a luxury.  But sewing was not loved by everyone and when they could most women abandoned any sewing including essential repairs.  The few who continued to sew, also continued to curate fabrics and assured the next clueless generation that these scrapes are still valuable and should be held onto until the right person comes along.  Which usually turns out to be me.  I know there probably were some very fine wools, silks, linens or cottons in the box when it was first packed.  Trouble is the same clueless generation that assumed the archival responsibility had no idea really how to store these treasures.  By the time they reach me most are either bug infested or saturated in rodent urine.  Like as not, I will open a box to the startling vision of mice leaping in many directions.  I was truly amazed that this box had been carefully packed with cedar chips (warding off most eaters of fabric (bugs)) and had been kept rodent free.  Perhaps, I should have expected the excellent condition of the fabrics.  This came from the couple from whom I buy my pork and beef.  I purchase from them because their animals are kept clean and in good health; allowed to roam; and fed minimal supplements or other chemicals. They took the same care with the fabrics, one of which was this wool serge.

At lease I assumed it was wool serge.  It handled like wool. Smelled like wool.  Took steam like wool, but the wool setting was too hot causing the color to shift.  Possibly it could have been the original dye was unstable, but I”m more inclined to believe this is a wool blend of some type.  I was anxious to cover up the color-shift and chose to use Free Motion Couching applying strands of wool yarn in a swirling pattern.  I believe my FMC was successful  in that the final fabric is attractive.  Instead of someone saying “too bad about the iron being too hot”, they tell me that it is beautiful.  OK my braid along the front edge certainly helps as does the conch closure,  heavy interfacing and taffeta lining.

I wore the vest with pride for the remainder of last winter (which lasted until about July) and again at the beginning of this winter. However I noted that my FMC wasn’t as good as I thought because many of the strands of wool yarn came loose from their couching.

 

I trimmed some of the strands but realized if I continued that practice the vest would soon be denuded of its swirly design.  Enter the Felting Machine.

My initial testing indicated that 12 needles punching the fabric causes a lot of distressing and shrinkage. I didn’t want that much distressing. Firstly this garment is already constructed.  If I shrink it, it won’t fit and therefore isn’t worth the effort of felting.  Also, the vest is fully lined. I wanted to punch the outer shell only, not the lining.    I wasn’t sure I would be able to get the head up in and around the shoulders.  If I didn’t punch the shoulder area, the distressing wouldn’t be evenly distributed.  I didn’t think I would like the result.

I spent some time experimenting with the number of needles in use for felting. First off, it’s not as easy to remove the needles as they would have you believe.  You have to remove the guard (One screw, not too bad).  Then remove the foot. (Two tightly inserted screws that require an allen wrench. Bad. Just let me say again, Bad.)  There is a very small screw holding each needle into place in the head. Well when the screw is backed off, the needle invariably falls into the needle plate.  I lost a needle that way. I don’t know where it is Period. Afterwards, I would hold the needle with the tweezers in my right hand, while at the same time trying to insert the allen wrench and back off the needle.  The worst; the very worst is the needle directly in front of the bar the pressor foot attaches to (can’t think of the term, sorry).   In order to remove this needle, first you have to remove the pressor foot. Then lower the needle all the way into the machine, hold onto the needle with tweezers and fool around with allen wrench yet again (which is small and easily misplaced resulting in repeated searches).   I won’t discuss putting the needles back in place, but I will tell you that’s even more challenging. Yet I will do this again. Why?

I tested with puching yarn into a base with 3 needles and with1 needles.

 

I really wanted to use only one needle.  With one needle there is hardly any distressing on the base fabric or on my wool serge. But I broke the single needle almost immediately and had to spend another 10 minutes removing and installing a replacement.  I broke that needle on the hem which consists of two layers of serge with couched yarns.   3 needles worked fairly well. There is minor distressing to the base fabric visible only when you are very close. (Anyone that close if going to get a poke in the eye from me.) I broke one of the 3 needles when crossing a seam.  My seams are two layers serged together.  I also found that 1 needle required a lot of punching to attach the yarn.  I was inclined to guide the foot above the yarn in a smooth motion. I found that, even with 3 needles, a circular or zig zag motion was much more effective at attaching my yarns back to my fabric. I do have unpunched areas. As suspected, the head would only fit so far up into the shoulder area and of course, I avoided all seams and the hem.  Those few areas I ended up clipping the offending yarns.  However over all felting with 3 needles very successfully restored the appearance of the vest.

Before repair. Arrow indicate the hanging yarns.

 

After repair, arrows indicate where yarns are reattached.

I concluded by rehemming and then inserting a total of  6 needles into the machine. I consider this project a success but still want to experiment. I want to see the effect of varying the number of needles even more. I’m seriously considering purchasing this book

Because the description includes the information that she uses commercially printed fabrics which is along the lines I see myself using my little machine.

 

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3 thoughts on “My First Felting Project

  1. This is just a great post. I am so happy that you received this machine for Christmas. I know you will make wonderful felted items.

    Karendee

  2. Fun watching your experiments! There are two kinds of felting: wet and dry (aka needle-felting). I can’t find out whether that book discusses one or the other or both methods. “Nuno” has come to mean felting on or through a fabric base but it can be done either way.

    1. Louisa Since your comment I did buy the book referenced in my post. It is primarily about Nuno felting and now that I understand just a bit more, I’m also more enthused. Thanks for providing your comment. It really helped.

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