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Felt Fabric Designs a recipe book for textile artists

Sheila Smith

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Acknowledgements My thanks to Michael Wicks for his beautiful photography of the felt fabrics, and to Joe Parish for the photographs of fibres and fabrics. Also to Joanne Eddon for her lovely hand-painted silk fabrics used in my laminated felt fabrics.

First published in the United Kingdom in 2013 by Batsford 10 Southcombe Street London W14 0RA An imprint of Anova Books Company Ltd Copyright Š Batsford 2013 Text Š Sheila Smith 2013 The moral rights of the author have been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. ISBN-13: 9781849940443 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. 20 19 17 16 15 14 13 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Reproduction by Rival Colour Ltd, UK Printed by Craft Print International Ltd, Singapore This book can be ordered direct from the publisher at the website:, or try your local bookshop.

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Contents Introduction


The Felting Process


First Fabric Designs


Nuno Felt


Open-work Fabrics


Laminated Felt


Shaped Edges


Sumptuous Surfaces


Patches of Felt


Hardwearing Functional Felt


Recycling with Knitted Fabrics


Conclusion Glossary of Useful Terms Further Reading Suppliers Index

124 125 126 127 128

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Introduction Felt has a long history in many cultures. In Central Asia it featured in the daily lives of the nomadic people and was used as felt tents for shelter, rugs for decoration and warmth and as clothing, such as shepherds’ coats, boots and hats. In recent years it has enjoyed a revival of interest and is now being made in countries with little or no tradition of feltmaking. Contemporary makers have embraced the versatility of felt as a textile medium, and it can now be found in combination with other textile crafts in decorative works. Felt as a fabric can be both decorative and functional; it offers scope for creating fabric as a base for further decoration or constructed as a fabric in its own right for articles for wear or for the home. My own interest in felt as a fabric to wear was awakened early in my felting career when I visited an exhibition of felt jackets so stiff and unyielding that movement when worn would have been severely restricted. I made up my mind then and there to investigate the possibilities of creating a softer felt but still with fully felted fibres to resist pilling. It took several years to achieve the type of fabric I was aiming for and ever since I have continued to experiment in this area of feltmaking. The techniques covered in this book create fabrics suitable to wear, to use as background fabrics for further decoration, for soft furnishings, or for fashion accessories.

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Techniques for sumptuous surfaces Most of the techniques for creating felts with highly decorative surafces combine fibres and fabrics with wool. The felt produced will be unique and individual, the results depending on how the different elements are combined, and the weight will depend on choice of fibres and fabrics incorporated in the wool. A great variety of different materials can be incorporated in this type of felt but some decisions need to be made before you begin. If the materials to be used are already dyed then there are few restrictions as to what can be used. If the felt is made from natural undyed fibres and fabrics, with the intention of over-dyeing after felting, then all the fibres need to be chosen so that they can be coloured with the same dye. Acid dyes, for example, will dye all protein fibres, such as wool, hair and silk. However, not all protein fibres take up the dye at the same rate, so making felt from a number of compatible fibres and fabrics and dyeing them in one dye bath will produce a felt in different shades of one colour. Procion dyes will colour cellulose fibres and also silk, but not wool. Before embarking on this type of felt it is useful to make a collection of ingredients that you might like to use.

Suitable fabrics Silks: chiffon, georgette, pongee, organza, lightweight dupion. Cottons: muslin, scrim, voile.

Fibres Silks: tops, filament waste. Flax, wool nepps.

Threads Embroidery threads.

Base materials The base of each fabric is one layer of silk chiffon plus one layer of wool, either lightweight needle felt or one layer of merino tops. All other additions are added to this – see instructions for the individual samples.

Lavender texture Layer 1 – silk chiffon gauze; layer 2 – lightweight merino needle felt; layer 3 – decorative surface containing crumpled silk chiffon, pongee silk, organza silk, silk tops, silk filament waste, flax fibres and wool nepps. The sample was pre-felted and dried before the addition of embroidery stitches, and then wetted out and fully felted as explained in the instructions. After felting it was dyed with acid dyes.

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Felt Fabric Designs