When I was in school, the first skill we learned was how to make felt. Being new to the process, I pictured what could be bought from Michael’s, which really didn’t excite me.
As I started working with it, the wheels started turning. I could make it my own, using different types of fiber, constructing a whole new design. This was not something I could find at a craft store, this was something that was one of a kind.
I did not use a felting machine, I used a window screen, soap, water, and lots of arm muscle (I was the felting machine!). It was satisfying to put so much work into a small piece but it did deter me from making larger work. I would only work on a little bit, feel tired, take a break, lose interest, come back to it and be done
When I began working here, I quickly discovered Echoview’s wet felting and needle felting machines and fell immediately in love. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was also infatuated with them. My coworker, Myra, is constantly coming up with new designs for our batts. She uses our mini carder and blends all sorts of scrap fibers together (we don’t waste anything!).
Depending on what she wants to do with it, she will either use the wet felter or the needle felted. When we take a raw fleece and wash it, it gets compacted from the mild agitation. We then pick it, which fluffs and opens the fibers, making it nicer to work with. The carder aligns the fibers, basically making a thick sheet for batts. When it is laid out, it is very easy to pull apart layers of the batt, making it as thin as you want. When we use the needle felter, the batt is fed through 2 rollers and rows of needles randomly pierce the fiber. I feel with needle felting, you can manipulate the fibers more to create a sharper image for any shapes in your design.
When the batt is laid out on the wet felter, we add very HOT soapy water and close the top (like a waffle maker) and turn it on. It moves back and forth, to agitate the fibers so they can interlock. We repeat this step a few more times, until the felt is sturdy. If it is wool, the process is faster because of the barbs the fiber has, making it ideal to interlock. If it is alpaca, it takes twice as long because the fiber does not have the barbs, it has crimp instead, so they do not attach as fast.
Once the felt is complete, there are a number of projects you can do with the new felt. It makes a wonderful canvas to embroider on, or you can even hang it up!