Newspaper Archive of
Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
May 12, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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May 12, 2010

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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, May 12, 2010 1B RE GI ONAL INSIDE SECTION B: EDITORIAL AND OPINION UPCOMING EVENTS The art o/felt Mona Hill Copy Editor I recently had an opportu- nity to take a daylong felting class in Quincy from Dorothy Edwards with two other women. Edwards lives in her straw bale house at the end of North Mill Creek Road, where she raises alpacas and works with her sister, Willo Vieira, to run the family ranch. A 1971 Quincy High School graduate and accom- plished artist, she taught art at Wooster High until her retirement a few years ago. Felt making is an ancient cloth-making process. The basic concept is to moisten and rub layers of carded wool together until they form a solid mat. Wool is ideal because the microscopic scales on the individual strands lock to- gether with moisture and agitation. Alpaca fiber, silk and cotton will work as well. It's also possible to pre-felt smaller pieces separately to add in the final stages. Incor- porate bits of yarn, beads, silk or other fibers into the felt for a decorative touch. To begin, find a place to work that can get wet and that has a comfortable work- ing height. It's long, messy work. We laid out a piece of plastic the approximate size and shape of a table runner as a pattern. On top of that, we placed small-bubble bubble wrap. Next we laid out the fiber in three layers. Using wool roving, we pulled off lengths approximately the width of our runner, thinned them out and spread them side-by-side along the length of the pattern. The second layer was laid end to end across the first layer and the third was side by side again. The end result looked like it was cross- hatched. prepare to rub and rub and rub We mixed and matched colors as we made tile layers: I went for cool blues and purples, while Lucia Biunno went for hot yellows and oranges. We added yarn and sparkles, beads and silk at random, swirling them through the layers. Once we had arranged everything to our satisfac- tion, we sprinkled hot-as-we- could-stand soapy water over the layers and began to massage the wool layers. And massaged and mas- saged and massaged. It takes several hours of rubbing and kneading with generous amounts of pressure to achieve true felt. Once our pieces were felt, we rinsed them several times in a sinkful of hot water dosed with a healthy "glug" of white vinegar, then set them out to dry on a screen. My effort resulted in a very pleasing wall hanging that nevertheless was not true felt. 0 Above, Dovie Pickering begins to felt a small piece by moistening with hot water and dish soap. Add dish soap to the water, but do not agitate it for suds, before wetting the wool fiber. The water must be very hot to expand the microscopic scales on the individual fiber strands. As the temperature cools, more hot water will be added as the fibers are kneaded together. The bubble wrap helps increase the agitation of the fibers, locking them together into a solid piece of cloth. To begin a felting project, thin layers of roving are laid out, each crosswise of the previous layer, usually to a depth of three layers. Note the boucle yarn swirled on the top layer; during the felting process, the yarn will migrate into and become part of the fabric. Colors may be mixed by layer, as in this example, or within a single layer according to individual preference. Almost ready to begin the table runner! The black plastic pattern has been topped with bubble wrap, then the layers of wool. Pre-felted pieces may be placed temporarily on the layers to check design, but need to be removed until later in the felting process. In gen- eral, the thinner the layering, the thinner the finished cloth will be. The bits of yarn, beads and other embellish- ments will migrate into the layers during felting. This picture, taken just slightly above the level of the fabric, highlights the texture of the layers and embellishments. Photos by Mona Hill and Shannon Morrow The finished work has been rinsed several times in hot water, including a hot white vinegar and water rinse to cut the soap. Notice the small purple piece of felt in the center of the photo: It's an example of fully felted wool. My pieces are the two larger purple ones. While not truly felt, I was very pleased with the result. If I decide later that I want it to be more solid, I can heat up the water, add dish soap and continue to felt the piece. Held up to the light, strands of purple silk contrast against the soft gray and blue wool. The ribbon leads from the small stars across the "blank" space, and into the silken swirls. ::