Suzanne Morgan is a fiber artist from Dallas, Texas. She creates one of a kind fabric and teaches on a local and national basis. Look for her classes at the Friends and Fiberworks Winter Retreat January 14 – 16, 2011 and also at the John Campbell Folk School in May of 2011. I asked Suzanne to share a little with us about her felting process in anticipation of the Winter Retreat here in Asheville.
Hi from Dallas, Lark Crafters! I’m happily in the midst of doing some last minute preparation for my classes at the Winter Retreat that’s coming up January 14th–16th in Asheville, NC. This huge event, hosted by Lisa Mackey and Friends and Fiberworks, is filling up the Biltmore Square Mall with workshops, vendors, competitions, live music, alpacas, bunnies, and fun times galore. Our wooly weekend of fiber arts won’t be the same without you, so sign up for a class anytime this week. Call 828.633.2500 or email Lisa Mackey to register. Folks are flying in from all over to join us for this spinning, knitting, sheep shearing, weaving, dyeing, and felting extravaganza!
I’ll be teaching four classes at the Winter Retreat on nuno felting collars, cuffs, shawls, and iPhone bags. Some of my classes involve felting hand-dyed silks, velvets, bulky yarns, and some other tricky textures into fine merino prefelts. I thought I’d share some tips with everyone on how I accomplish this.
General felting wisdom would teach you that a fabric can be felted if it’s lightweight and has a fairly open weave that will allow the wool fibers to penetrate. I’m a dyer and lover of texture, so I wanted to try felting with many of the denser or heavier fabrics like silk habotai and the beautiful velvets that were in my stash. I quickly learned that with patience and a lot of wet felting labor like rubbing and rolling, these fabrics could be felted and would provide a beautiful, lightweight, textured fabric. The wool even finishes the fabric edges if I work at it long enough.
When I started teaching these techniques, I found that some of my students had trouble working the fabric long enough to get the desired results. Through experimentation with various needle felting tools, I found ways to make the process a little easier. I had great results with both the needle felting machine and handheld needle tools. Inexpensive and easily accessible at any craft store, the handheld needles are my favorite. More precise design placement is just one of the benefits of using them. The handheld needles also let you add wool just where you need it to help bind the edges of the fabrics and to get the fabrics to felt in place. Lightly needle felting a piece then quickly wet felting it gives you a really beautiful finished fabric with loads of texture. I’ve made wrist cuffs, small purses, and many small art pieces using this technique.
My love of texture drew me to working with other unusual materials like metallic fabrics that really do seem too dense and heavy to felt. The secret is using wash away stabilizer. I sandwich all kinds of textures that are too heavy to felt between two pieces of stabilizer, then pin and sew. Leaving open spaces in these pieces, in essence simulating the open weave that permits the wool fibers to penetrate, allows the pieces to be felted later. I then wash away the stabilizer, add my wool of choice, and wet felt. This technique is wonderful for making a collar, belt, or anything that has a defined shape. We’ll be using this method to make a wrist cuff in one of my classes at the Winter Retreat.
Hope this gives you a little insight into the process of felting heavier fabrics into wools. Try it out and experiment with some new fabrics – it’s a lot of fun. Happy felting, and I’ll see you in class!