This is one of the oldest techniques for creating handmade fabric. There is no mechanical tools in the process, no spinning, no weaving, no knitting, no sewing. Cleaned and carded wool fleece fibers have barbs along their edges. The wet felting process encourages these barbs to mesh which forms a fabric.
Step one is the layout of pulled wool top fibers in contrasting directions. The addition of soapy water and manipulation against a rough surface creates the pre-felt fabric. This may have the addition of silk and or paper depending on the final product I choose to create. Embellishments can also be added at this point.
Step two is the fulling process which encourages the fabric to shrink, making it impossible to pull apart. A 40 to 50 % shrinkage must be achieved to ensure a fully fulled fabric. One must calculate the starting measurements to achieve the desired finished dimensions. Fulling is accomplished by rolling, tossing and surface rubbing the piece.
For clothing, the lightness and drape of the felt is most important, so hand dyed, eco-printed or painted silk fabric is often incorporated into fine wool top during the felting process. This is called Nuno felting. To create something more sculptural, like a vessel or a lampshade, mulberry paper is added to the wool fiber which gives it a stiffness that can be shaped in many ways.
Once the shrinkage has been attained, I can then decide to add further embellishment with either embroidery, overdyeing, eco-printing or Sumi-e ink.
DYEING, SILK PAINTING and ECO PRINTING
I hand paint and dye the silk fabric that is added to my work and at times use Shibori techniques or Sumi-e Ink to apply a pattern to the fabric. Once the design has been completed, the silk is steamed for three hours to make it the fabric colorfast. The decision is then made to use this as a silk scarf or to Nuno felt in the creation of a garment. Eco printing uses real leaves in an environmentally friendly fashion to without powdered mordant to create a design on fabric.
In general, there is no machine stitching in the creation any of my work. What would normally be multiple flat pieces of fabric sewn together to build shapes in a piece, are, in my process, created around resists so that the entire work is conceived and fabricated at once. I may occasionally use machine stitching, Sashiko or Crewel embroidery to add design elements to a finished piece .
Traditional mat making on my own designs using cut woven wool fabric on burlap backing