Saturday, May 29, 2010

How I Make a Wet Felted Bag

     I was sitting here this morning thinking I should be catching up on emails, when it hit me! I had a brainstorm of an idea for a new bag which excited me to no end and really got my creative juices flowing. I don't need a sketch to work from this time as the idea is very vivid in my mind. I can see all the details clearly, but it's not going to be an easy or quick project. I want the bag to be large, over shoulder straps ... likely a double rope with knots here and there. I want it to be black and white and look like Holstein hide. I want the rope ends to have real Holstein tail hair. (A request has been made to a farmer I know quite well.) I want it free form, organic and fluid. I want it to be very very special.

      It wasn't long before I had a pattern cut from craft paper. It's actually under the wool in this pic, so you can't see it. This is only four layers of roving so I'm already halfway there with this layer. 

     As soon as I had eight layers laid out for the back of the bag and the flap, I placed the resist on top. I used corrugated box board. Once it's wet, it becomes pliable and serves to separate the layers. In this pic you can see how I have folded up the overlap over the resist. Wetting the resist helps the wool to stick. Now I need to add eight layers to the top of the resist so the thickness will be even on the front and back. 

     Time to get wet. After I have applied eight layers of roving to the top of the resist, I fold up the mesh over the project and using a hairbrush, sprinkle hot soapy water all over the piece. Using the flat of my hands I press firmly all over to remove all the air pockets. This picture shows that there are lots of air pockets left to be dealt with. 

     When the front is completely flat, and I've taken care of the opening so that no fibers from the front connect with the inside of the flap, I flip the work over and wet down the back through the mesh in the same way. Then I fold up all the overhanging roving, watching that the white and black join in a way that looks realistic, then adjust the shape of the flap and the bottom edge, as I want that to thin out. I make sure the wool is tight to the edges of the resist on both sides. Then I cover the work with the mesh and begin rubbing by hand until I have a nice skin on both sides. 

     Once I have a nice surface on all sides, and paying particular attention to the edges, I roll the whole thing up in bubble wrap and roll in all four directions at least 20 times. Each time you must turn the work and readjust the mesh to make sure the wool isn't sticking to it. When this is completed, the resist will be visibly buckled. 

Stay tuned for next installment of this project. 

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