Lately I've really been enjoying exploring different techniques in wet and needle felting. Between my sister's flock of Montadale ewes and a friends flock of Tunis and Tunis-Churro crosses, as well as a few random fleeces I acquire from time to time, I have access to a practically unlimited amount of fiber to work with, which is awesome. The aspect of fiber art that I really enjoy is being able to start with a dirty piece of raw material and take it though the steps of skirting (sorting good fleece from not so good fleece), washing (primarily to remove excess lanolin), dyeing, carding or combing, and finally felting. It's a long, labor intensive process, but it's also very gratifying. Here are some pics of some of my first forays into felted rug making.
This was the first rug I ever wet felted. The base fiber is a nice gray-brown Border Leiscester fleece that I picked up off of an add in the paper. I needle felted the tree design on top. It is modeled after an ancient Sugar Maple that has been growing in my parent's front yard for the last 200 years or so. The finished piece is roughly 2' by 2.5'.
The next rug I made was born out of a recent infatuation with American eels. American eels have an amazing life history and are incredibly beautiful creatures, if you ever have the luck to see one up close. My husband, who works in an aquarium, introduced me to one of their resident eels by allowing me to feed it. I placed my hand in it's tank and made an OK circle shape with my fingers. The curious eel swam through my fingers and rubbed against my hand, which was an amazing experience for me. It's skin had a very velvety feel, and it's movements were so fluid. Well, that was enough to make me want to memorialize American eels in a piece of art. The design I chose is loosely based on a design in a Dover Pictura Art Nouveau book that I absolutely love and often look to for inspiration.
The wet felted base is a blend of Tunis and Churro-Tunis cross that I dyed orange and red and then carded together. The eels are needle felted on top with Montadale fiber that I also hand dyed.
The rug in progress:
The finished rug is roughly 2' by 3'. I couldn't bare to walk on it, so it hangs on one of our walls.
For Christmas last year, I decided (about 1 month before the holiday) to make a bunch of rugs for some of the women in my family. So, working for four weeks straight-out in all my spare time, I cranked out 6 rugs. One of the rugs was almost completely finished when I decided that I wondered what would happen if I put the whole thing in the washing machine to speed up the fulling (this is the second stage of felting where the fiber becomes very dense and firm). I had read books warning me not to do this and that it would create uneven felting, but curiosity overcame me. Experimenting is an important part of the creative process, but maybe not such a good idea when Christmas is only a few days away... So, I ruined that one enough to not want to give it away, but I salvaged it some by stretching and trimming off the edges.
Here's some shots of a few of the finished rugs. They are all 100% Montadale fiber and about 2' by 3'. The designs were all simple geometric design. The circle designs were inspired by an album cover I saw in a store (I'm not sure who the artist was -- the result isn't actually anything like the album cover anyways), and the line design is like a quilting technique I've seen before.
Willie didn't want me to give this one away!