My first felted vessel -not quite finished yet; I still need to embellish it!
I discovered felted vessels on Facebook, when I saw the work of the talented Shirley Cook. Her work is absolutely stunning, and I own several of her gorgeous vessels, which I purchased through her Etsy Shop.
One of Shirley's incredible vessels (I own this one!)
After purchasing my second one, I was so intrigued (Shirley adds lots of beautiful bead embellishment to her work) that I decided I really want to try wet felting.
I bought some books, watched some YouTube videos, and started buying the supplies I thought I would need - roving, vinyl (for the resist), tulle, embellishments, and so, so much more - have you noticed that every new hobby you want to get into involves lots of STUFF?
Fast forward 18 months: All my accumulated felting stuff is sitting in a huge box on the bedroom floor, gathering a nice thick layer of dust. Fortunately, none of the roving and other yarny type embellishments had even been opened, so they were safe from the dust! I truly wanted to try felting, but to be honest, I was terribly intimidated by it.
From watching the felting videos, I had the impression that once I got the felted wet, it was a race against the clock, and if I didn't do every step correctly, I would end up with a wet, gooey blob.
I finally set a deadline - I was GOING to do this, Thanksgiving weekend. I had a stretch of 6 uninterrupted days off from work (yay!), and nothing else on the agenda.
I studied my books some more, and made notes. Watched the YouTube videos again, made more notes. Reviewed my notes, made more notes. As most of you know by now, I'm a bit obsessive...
After I finished my note-taking process, I still had some "burning questions" that were keeping me from just going for it, so I logged in to Facebook and messaged Shirley with my questions - and did I mention, it was about 1PM on Thanksgiving Day? Shirley is so gracious, and imagine my surprise when I checked about an hour later, and Shirley had taken the time to answer all my questions! Thanks, Shirley!
But since it was now 2PM, I decided I didn't want to get started this late in the day, because I was anticipating a marathon....so I put it off until Friday. Although I *did* tote everything downstairs to the kitchen, scrub all the countertops, and get my work area set up.
Woke up Friday morning, and watched those YouTube videos again. (Terri Pike has some incredible videos on wet felting - a series of 8 or 9 of them, and another set of 6 or 7 just on felting with a resist. Could not have done this without her videos!) My confidence was really shaky on this endeavor! Then I decided to break the process up the same way the videos did - into 7 or 8 separate steps, so I could pause in between (and watch the video for the next step again!)
My iPad was right there with me as I slogged through the process - I watched and rewatched those videos!
Here are some pics of the process:
all my felting supplies (and 3 ceramic dog biscuit containers - a must in my kitchen!)
My designated work area, with the bubble wrap laid down. On top of the dishwasher, right next to the sink - hot water!
Cutting the vinyl resistI had learned that I needed to allow about 20% for shrinkage, so I did the math, based on the finished size I wanted my vessel to be. This bowl (from my "good china" - the only use the good china was put to on Thanksgiving!) seemed to be the perfect size, allowing for the anticipated shrinkage.
Sharpie circle, traced on the vinyl from my china template
I cut out the vinyl circle, then spent the next ten minutes getting the Sharpie marks off my good china bowl.
The vinyl resist will "resist" the felting process, allowing for the vessel to have a hollow center, rather than be just a flat circle of felt. Interesting, right?
The rovings I picked for my vessel
That striped tube on the counter - the one that looks like a biscotti? It's a raku handle for my vessel. Purchased it in anticipation of this very project, about 2 years ago. I was coordinating my roving colors to go with the raku handle. Stay tuned and learn why this handle will never be attached to my little vessel!
Side 1 - roving plus yarn embellishments
The layers of roving extend about an inch beyond the vinyl template (in all directions) - turns out, this was not enough, but I didn't figure this out until I flipped it over, and couldn't get the overlap to curl back over the vinyl resist. And by that point, I didn't want to pick up all the tiny bits of roving, removing them, and replacing them. So I didn't. Terri recommended a 1-2 inch overhang on her video, but for some reason, the "1" stuck in my head. So 1 inch, it was.
Side 2 - roving plus yarn embellishments
I managed to get the edges from side 1 tucked under the roving on side 2, but it sure would have been easier if I had let them extend further!
The felt is wet, and I haven't yet started to manipulate it
Starting to felt
I'm kneading in the soapy hot water (and burning my fingers) now, and the roving packet is starting to felt. See that pleated-looking edge at the bottom right? That's a big boo-boo. I didn't really comprehend what was going on with the process, and the resist, and I didn't completely push the packet of fibers in to the very edge of the resist, so Side 1 and Side 2 are meeting here at this "pleat", and have actually felted to each other. That is bad.
The wool is felted now, and it is time for fulling, where most of the shrinkage will occur. I have cut a hole in the packet and removed the resist, revealing the hollow center. And there's that pleated boo-boo, at the bottom right.
Fulling takes a long time.
All finished - drying upside down on one of my gorgeous Wishon-Harrell handmade canisters
Dried, and ready for embellishing.
Notice how much the colors changed from the wet state to the dry state! And there is my pleated pucker again, this time over at the far left.
I am still going to do some embellishing with beads - but I want to wait until I finish my freeform piece for the Head-to-Head challenge.
So why aren't I going to attach my beautiful raku vessel handle?
1) even though the roving I chose went beautifully with the handle, once I had felted them, the finished piece does NOT match the handle. Interesting lesson.
2) even though I allowed, through some fancy "cyphering" (shout out to Jethro Bodine) for shrinkage, this vessel shrank WAY more than 20%, and is now too small for the handle.
I can cypher good as Jethro!
3) The hole in my vessel - I allowed for shrinkage here, too. But guess what? The hole doesn't shrink. Even Jethro could have told me that! Duh. The wool shrinks - not the empty space I cut in the wool. But I just figured it was a circular hole - and that if the wool shrunk around it, the hole HAD to get smaller. Yeah, I feel kinda dumb right now. Lesson learned. But I sure would like some tips on estimating what size to cut the hole!
On one of her resist videos, Terri Pike says to err on the small side when cutting the hole, because you can always enlarge it later, but you can never make it smaller (I guess Terri isn't onto my hole-shrinkage theory yet). But here's the thing with that - when you cut the hole, you have to "heal" the edges by felting the fibers back together everywhere you cut. And if your hole turns out to be too small after the fulling process, and you decided to go back and enlarge it, can you still heal these edges, or is it too late? Inquiring minds want to know!
4) Even if my vessel matched the handle, and was the perfect size for it, I still don't think I would attach that expensive handle to this vessel with a felted pleat extending 50% of the way around its waistline - although, I am going to desperately try to make that boo-boo look like a design choice, once I start embellishing!
So, there you have it. My first wet felted vessel. I would say, my ONLY felted vessel, except that I spent SO much on the supplies, and have so much left over, that I will feel horribly guilty if I don't use some more more of them up! But it is really an exhausting process. At least I'm not scared of it anymore.
A big shout out to Shirley - thanks for the inspiration and the advice! And also to Terri Pike - I feel like I know you! You spent all day in my kitchen, coaching me on!