Sometimes I am very lucky. Yesterday was one of those times. In the course of raising angora rabbits, I meet a lot of people, many of whom stay in touch. Diane of Felt Inspiration is one of them and yesterday, she treated me to a day of felt fun in her studio. In preparation, I gathered up a big variety of my felting fibers because my process begins with only the vaguest idea, generally something as simple as "I want to make a vest." No clue what I want it to look like or even what colors I want in it, just I want to make a vest. I've never made a vest and it is a very different process from the felt I usually make: mittens, hats and scarves. Because I have and love angora fiber, I make my mittens and hats with 50% angora and 50% merino, and the scarves have varying amounts of angora in them. Angora felts differently from wool, much faster and I can be somewhat carefully rough with it. Diane offered to supervise me through the vest process. One really fun side benefit is Diane worked on a couple of her own felt projects - lamp shades - while keeping an eye on me and my vest. I apparently did not get any photos of those lovely lampshades and that was silly. They are beautiful. Perhaps (nudge, nudge Diane!!) she will post photos of them on her blog.
I did get photos (with Diane's permission - always ask an artist if taking and sharing a photo is ok) of some of Diane's work. One piece in particular just grabbed my heart, a landscape piece hanging on her door while she mulls her next step with it. Is this not gorgeous? Both the piece and the fabulous felter creating it. She also has a wonderful wall o'work in progress.
Step one in designing a felt vest is making a pattern for it. It's not quite the same as a sewing pattern, although you can base your felting pattern on a sewing pattern. Diane took her pattern material and measured it against me to come up with a sort of spongebobsquarepants rectangle around which we (step 2) basted some silk fabric. Step three is layer the base wool over the silk. My vest is likely to be a bit heavy as I am an impatient felter and hate this part of the process. With mittens and hats and often even with scarves, I start with fiber batts. Much faster than layering thin tufts of roving, and it works for the mittens and hats. Probably not the best approach for the vest, though so that is Important Lesson One I learned yesterday. Once the base wool is down, then it is time to embellish and layout the design. What I want from this vest is to learn the process, to learn what goes where and how things line up, so I wasn't really invested in the design aspect and ended up just sort of throwing color at the wool. Not sure I like it but time will tell. Once that was done, Diane introduced me to a new to me tool, one I'd seen before but never used and kind of short sightedly ignored. Wow! What a great thing this squirt bulb is! I feel a field trip to the felting supply store coming on. I sprinkled away with many a good goofy grin plastered on my face. Nuthin' like a good tool to add a bit of joy to life, eh? Once all that is done, the actual felting begins. I had only enough time to put a bit of skin on the piece, and then bundle the wet pile o'wool into a bag to work on here at home.
I learned a lot yesterday. Yes, I have several books here at home that I can and do read, but truly, there is so much more to glean from a friendly felter. Diane is an amazing felter and if you ever have a chance to take one of her workshops, I highly recommend you take advantage of that chance. I know I will be a better felt artist for my time with her and that just does wonders for one's soul. Thank you, Diane!