Felted Fabric Art

Turn artwork-like paintings or still life into felted creations using colorful wool roving.

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Materials and Tools:

wool roving (fine merino wool)
nylon mesh fabric
38-gauge felting needle
foam surface
large bowl
hot water
liquid soap
damp towel
bubble wrap
vinegar

Steps:

1. To create the background: Pick up wool roving by the ends and gently pull, allowing the fibers to slide away from each other.

2. On the foam surface, layer the wool strips parallel to each other, and slightly overlapping, until you reach the desired width of the finished piece. Keep in mind that the piece will expand approximately 1 inch once felted.

3. Prepare the second fiber layer the same way but lay it at a 90-degree angle to the first layer. Continue layering the wool, turning each layer 90 degrees, until you have at least a 3/8 inch thickness. It takes about an ounce of wool fiber for every square foot of background.

4. With the felting needle, poke the wool into the foam to compress the layers together. Using two or three needles together will help you compress the layers quicker.

5. Using just a few strands of wool, create the basic shape of your pear composition. Continue placing additional layers using a variety of colors to create the details and depth. Use many thin layers to build up your design.

6. Cover fiber artwork with a piece of nylon mesh fabric. Fill a large bowl with hot water and a squirt of liquid soap. Drizzle water over the artwork and press down firmly enough to penetrate all layers but without disturbing your design. Fibers should be wet but not sodden.

7. Keeping the nylon mesh over the artwork, add a small amount of liquid soap to your hands and gently massage the fibers for 3 to 5 minutes to form a "skin" on the outside of the felted piece. Remove the mesh.

8. Place a towel on your workstation. Lay a piece of bubble wrap large enough to fit the felt over the towel. Roll the felt and the bubble wrap together. Roll the bubble wrap on the towel, exerting firm pressure.

9. After 50 rolls, unwrap the felt and turn bubble wrap and felt 90 degrees. Repeat the rolling procedure as described above.

10. The felt should be firm to the touch. Rinse with cool water while pressing down to squeeze out the soap. A mild vinegar rinse will restore the wool's natural pH balance.

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