My favourite reason for wet felting is painting ! I love trying to recreate the effects of water colour paints when I’m wet felting a picture. To achieve this painterly effect, I lay down a few, thin layers of wool at a time and leave at least three areas of white space. Gradually, I build up the layers, especially with the sky. It’s often useful to partially felt each layer by gently rolling a few times and then softly squeezing out the excess moisture.
I find this helps the maintain the integrity of each layer of colour and prevents it from becoming muddy.
The technique of glazing in water colour painting refers to the process of letting one layer of colour drying completely before overlaying it with another colour. If you were to paint another colour on top of a wet colour, the result would be muddy.
This very careful technique of building up fine layers is used by one of my favourite fibre and wool artists, Valérie Wartelle, who specialises in large scale abstract expressionist landscapes.
Let me show you an example.
I wet felted the picture above, entitled ” Devon Sheepscape”, after having spent a weekend in Halifax at a workshop with Valérie and she made me think about textures and layers, taking very small steps. So, although it’s not in her abstract style, it’s still expressive. I wanted to get beyond the ‘fluffy white sheep’ idyll – charming though it is.
You’ll notice a ceramic mark I made to ‘sign’ my work. I carved the mould in clay and pressed it into porcelain clay roundels, which I then bisque- fired before glazing and a final firing.
If I could embroider, I would have used that method instead. I made loads of these porcelain marks and will enclose one in every pack of wool I send out.
I am inspired by the landscapes of Devon and of South West France and always want to reach out for my coloured yarns to recreate the landscapes I walk through.
Here’s a picture felted last year of a Charentaise corn field in late August: a storm is threatening and the corn is just going over because of the endless scorching summer heat.
The one above shows the unbelievably Azure blue sky providing a backdrop to the fields of sunflowers and bales of hay. It’s not representational, but I’ve tried to capture the blues and golds of the scene. In the picture below, I attempted a more expressionist scene of reflected lights on the water on a summer night near la Rochelle.
Having told you a little about why I love felting landscapes, it all started with learning the basic techniques of wet felting pictures. I’m now going to set out some basic instructions for wet felting a picture. If you feel inspired to have a go, I can send you a bag of merino wools and silks to get started.
Wet Felt Picture
How to make a picture:
Wet felting is an ideal way to make a picture. You can also wet felt a background, and then use needle felting to create finer details.
There are many ways to wet felt and you will find your own favourite methods. Here is a simple method to make a picture for which you will need:
- soap (olive hand soap is good or a even a gentle washing up liquid such as Ecover),
- hot water (as hot as you can stand, cooler if felting with children)
- a spray bottle if you have one
- fibres to felt
- an old towel
- a sheet of pre-felt – this makes an easy and strong base for your picture
- 2 pieces of bubble wrap which are slightly bigger than your prefelt (old packaging is perfect!)
- Lay the pre-felt onto a layer of bubble wrap (bubbles upwards)
- Using thin layers of colour, just enough to cover the background, layer up the picture onto the pre-felt, starting with the background first, such as sky, mountains etc, then work your way forwards through the picture.
- Wet the whole picture with a mixture of warm/hot water mixed with a little soap (a spray bottle is good for this).
- Lay another layer of bubble wrap over the top. Spray a little of the water mixture on top to help your hands slide.
- Start gently rubbing over the bubble wrap, very gently at first, in little circles. Once you have rubbed over the whole picture, you can go again, a little stronger this time. Repeat, building up the strength of the rubbing as the fibres begin to felt. You can lift the bubble wrap to check on your picture below.
- Try pulling at a few fibres to see if they are felting together.
- Once the felt is fairly strong and the fibres are fixed into place, both layers of bubble wrap plus picture can be rolled up, with an elastic band placed on each end.
- This ‘sausage’ can then be rolled backwards and forwards 20-30 times.
- Unroll the sausage and look at your picture, which will have shrunk horizontally. Pull the picture back into shape a little, then turn it a quarter turn and roll it back up.
- Roll the sausage 20-30 times. Repeat turning and rolling two more times.
- Rinse your picture, first in water as hot as you can stand (cooler for little children), then in very cold water.
- Press dry with a towel, then pull into shape and leave to dry.