HANDMADE FELT INLAY TECHNIQUES
ADDING PRE-FELTS TO A BACKGROUND.
© Pat Spark 2003
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NOTE: Using a pre-felt (half-felt, soft
felt) to make motifs on a felt background is in the group of felting
techniques called INLAY techniques. INLAY includes all techniques where motifs,
images, lines, shapes, etc. are added during the process of making the felt.
They then become part of the felt itself.
- The words pre-felt, half-felt and soft felt are all used
to describe the same partially felted material that can be cut up and used as
a motif on a felt background.
- The pre-felt has to be soft enough, with enough loose
fiber present, to enable it to tangle with the fiber of the background wool.
Medium wools (such as Romney) need to be very soft, or they won’t attach. If
using a fine wool such as merino, your pre-felt can be harder.
- It helps to roughen up the back side of the cut shape
with a hair brush to make it fuzzier so that it can attach more easily.
TRADITIONAL METHOD OF ATTACHING PRE-FELTS TO A BACKGROUND.
- Lay the cut motif onto your felting surface. Depending
on the method you are using, you will put the cut motif onto a piece of bubble
wrap, or a reed mat. You will be looking at the back side of the motif. When
the felt is completed, the motif will be a mirror image of the way it looks
when it is laid down.
- Put layers of contrasting, colored fleece on top of the
pre-felt motif. This will fill in the areas around the motif. After felting, the half-felt motif will be slightly
raised above the textile's surface.
- Place a layer of nylon mosquito netting on top of the
wool pile. Use a sponge to apply lukewarm, soapy water to the wool stack to
wet it down. . (If the water is too hot, there is a possibility that the
pre-felts won’t have a chance to tangle into the background before they felt
by themselves.) The fiber should all be moist and the pile flattened. There
should be no air bubbles left in the pile. The fiber does not need to be
sopping wet, just moist and flat.
- Lift the net and fold your edges if you want precision.
Check to see if there are any thin areas and apply another thin layer of fiber
to help build it up. Reapply the net and wet down any new fiber.
- Using your hands, or a felting tool, work the piece flat
until the background is in the pre-felt stage. Remember that you are working
the piece from the back. So, as you are rubbing the back, the fibers from the
pre-felts are working their way up through the background and attaching.
You may need to add soapy water to your hands to keep them lubricated so that
they travel over the net easily.
TEST FOR END OF FELTING STAGE: The fibers shouldn’t
shift when pushed. Your should be able to pinch up the fiber and it won’t pull
off the surface. The cloth pinches up instead of individual fiber.
TO FULL THE FLAT FELT:
- Lay a rolling bar ( 1 ˝ inch PVC pipe or wooden closet
pole, about 4 inches wider than your beginning felt size) on one end of the
bubble-wrap/bamboo mat and roll up the wool “sandwich”. Leave the net on
top of the fleece. Tie the roll in several places. (A strip of stretchy,
cotton/lycra cloth is good for making the ties.)
- Using your forearms, rotate the roll back and forth,
with light pressure, 15 times. Unroll. Lift up on the net to make sure that
is hasn’t attached itself to the wool. (As the piece hardens, you can remove
the net entirely.) Smooth out any wrinkles. Roll the “sandwich” up from the
opposite end. Rotate 15 times again and unroll.
- If the piece is not too long for the width of the bubble
wrap/bamboo mat, turn the felt sideways and roll it 15 times in that
direction. Repeat with 15 rolls from the opposite side so that all four
directions have been rolled 15 times. Carefully turn the piece over and roll
up from the opposite end and rotate 20 times with more pressure added. Repeat
from the other end and both sides.
- The piece should be getting pretty hard by now. If not,
add very hot water and continue to roll.
TO FINISH THE FLAT FELT:
- Remove the felt from the bubble wrap/bamboo mat. Rinse
out the soap. Place the felt in a vinegar/water solution for 15 minutes. (1/2
cup vinegar with enough lukewarm water to cover the piece.) Rinse out the
- Roll the felt in a towel and gently squeeze to remove
- Place the felt on a flat surface and roll it up tightly
without a rolling bar. Roll it back and worth with light pressure, a few
times. Repeat this from all edges and both sides. This final rolling helps
to harden the felt and give it a nice pebbly surface.
- Lay the felt out on a dry towel and block it flat (it if
needs it.) Allow to dry.