Experiments in Machine Felting


My fabric is a light weight rayon crepe.  Just a hair lighter and it would be transparent.  As it is, I would prefer to wear a camisole or construct a double layer front.  Then again this weight is heavy enough, and being woven doesn’t reveal body lines below it. So I might make a summer tank and wear only a br a. It has set in my stash for some time. It is an interesting mixed print that resembles a patchwork.  Its major downside is that it continues to shrink with every wash.

I was inspired to hack off a piece and try felting after reading “From Felt to Fabric”

From Catherine O’Leary I learned that a lightweight base (voile, gauze etc) could be felted to create year-round wearables. It is a fact I was curious about because most felted garments I’ve seen are coats and jackets.  I don’t make art for art’s sake (although I admire others who do.) I am a dressmaker who likes to embellish my garments. Learning that there is a method, commonly called Nuno felting that creates light weight felted fabrics was a delight. Oh and inspired further testing with machine felting.

My machine is set up with 6 needles.  It has the capacity for 12 needles.  I attempted to achieve  more than lightly attached (achieved with 1-3 needles) but less than fully felted (12 needles) fabric.

My first experiment was the 2nd from the top.  I felted a strip of the same fabric to the base creating a ruffle.  I would consider this an excellent alternative to other ruffling methods.  Unfortunately not all fabrics will ruffle satisfactorily when felted and thus felting may have limited application.   I followed that up by felting 3 lengths of yarn on top of the ruffled strip. I recognize that the yarn could have been attached using a couching method. At this level of personal experience, couching would have given me more control and perhaps a better application of the yarn. However should I want this combination (ruffle + yarn) on a real project, I would test at the felting machine first rather than set up a ruffle foot and then a couching foot. The felting machine is much faster.  There is a another advantage in that no thread will show. That’s an artistic choice. Is an additional decorative element desired or not?  If I were planning to use monofilament thread which is generally invisible, then I would prefer to felt. Both are equally secure.

The top beige strip was actually the last test made on this sample.  It is a loosely woven cotton comprised of thicker threads (but not thick enough to be yarn). I felted this strip flat and then started twisting it. Visually, I’m not impressed by combination of this fabric and the base. But I was exceptionally delighted with the amount of texture twisting provides. Again, it is just as secure as had it been couched but does not have the additional design element of the couching thread.

The bottom two strips are cotton gauze fabrics felted both flat and twisted.  Twisting does give produce interesting texture.  The weight of the gauze is such that the these two strips are really flat even with twisting.

Of particular interest to me is that all of these felted strips provides a bit more translucence to the base fabric. I have many fabrics in my stash which go unused because they are too light to be worn alone, but two layers is two heavy. Double layer sewing and additional undergarments wouldn’t be necessary if the fabric was judiciously felted.

The back of the felted piece:

Most of the videos and printed matter I’ve read point out that the underside, the side opposite of where the needles strike while felting, can be as beautiful and useful and the top side.  The felted strips of fabric each produced loops of fabric similar to well-used wash cloth.  Being new and pristine, they are interesting loops and could be useful at some time.  The 3 strips of yarn became a lovely line of velvet. definitely something I want to keep in mind for future use.

I feel really pleased with this felting session.  I learned to make ruffles, add great texture by twisting and create velvet touches. I was delighted with the realization that felting two light layers changes the translucence of both.  I handled various weights of fabric with limited needles and learned the difference between using 6 and 12 needles.  Right now, I may be more inclined to use 6 needles but that will be affected by the desired end-result for each project. I have a little picture album in which I’m keeping my felting samples. Between the samples and these posts, I am creating a reference that I can use to as a starting point to achieve a desired result.