My preparation for my first craft fair in March is well under way with a rising stack of felt purses or mobile phone or kindle/tablet covers. I hope people will like them as attractive and unusual gifts whether for the gadget fiend or practical purses and bags.
I’ve been having some fun with lots of different colour ways, and have gone back to using some of my stash of pre-dyed wool. I really enjoy playing with the colours and effects I can create with simple merino, pieces of silk, metallic mesh, lace and fibres such as flax hemp and banana top, and, of course, dyes. My husband makes the gorgeous wooden buttons.
Can you think of other uses for them? I’d love to hear your ideas as not everyone wants a pretty cover for their phone or tablet …… or do they?
Fascinated with the different textures I can create by incorporating various fibres and ribbons into felt, I’ve been on a bit of a felting binge! I now have an extensive collection of small, medium and larger felt vase covers. It can sound weird callling them felt vases because a felt vase is about as useful as a chocolate teapot! These are made to fit over drinking glasses and plain glass vases picked up from my local supermarket.
I especially love the contrasting effects of the black mohair wool and the white flower ribbons and lace, some of which don’t take up any of the dye. Everything is laid on on undyed white merino wool, then when fully felted, dropped into a dye bath.
I’m still experimenting with the amounts of dye and shades, and just love the ‘refresher’ colours of the small shot glass vases below.
Undyed wool also has its attractions especially when lit from within or behind. The light shining through reveals the textures of the ribbons and fibres which are more difficult to see when light is shone onto the surface.
Having been increasingly absorbed in the endless creative possibilities of dyeing pieces of felt after making them, I wanted to play with other fibres which can be incorporated into felt. These include banana top, milk protein and plastic fibre! Each has its own properties for strength, softness, length etc and reacts differently in the dye bath.
Unusually for me, I decided on a fairly logical approach. First I laid out a large rectangle of merino wool fibre, just two layers. Then I added strips of the different fibres, keeping careful notes of which ones were where.
After felting the piece, I cut it into 4 strips so that each one would have all the fibres I had used. Each was then dyed using a different technique or dye.
Here it is cut into strips and dyed.
From top to bottom the fibres are:
soya bean fibre
The turquoise strip was dyed with Eurolana turquoise dye.
The green with a mix of turquoise and yellow dyes (Wilton food colour)
The purple with Wilton violet food colour (which I know breaks to give purple and turquoise and sometimes pink)
The orange with Eurolana red and warm yellow dyes.
I wasn’t sufficiently scientific to standardise the amount of dye I used.
What fascinates me is how some fibres pick up different parts of a colour mix, so the violet Wilton food colour gives a vibrant teal or turquoise with silk and the bright trilobal is a rich burgundy.
So far I’ve been making felt using pre-dyed wool, but the appeal of variegated colours and being able to make my own colourways has inspired me to start some dyeing experiments. By far the easiest to start with is dyeing with food colours. This is because there are no chemicals that require keeping separate utensils and pans solely for dyeing.
I started with Wilton’s food colourings as I’d watched a video (see below) about how the colours can sometimes separate out giving a blend. Violet is made from blue and red, and as the wool soaks in the dye varying amounts lead to the separation of these colours. My first attempt with dyeing very small pieces of wool resulted in a dusky pink. The next batch of small pieces dyed in the very same dye bath came out pale teal!
I discovered that using less water in the pan and using more dye colouring meant the wool that was completely saturated took up a deeper colour whilst the wool more exposed on top got the lightest colour.
I tried steaming in a pan on the hob and steaming in the microwave, but couldn’t detect any difference between the results. So far I prefer kettle dyeing just because I don’t like grappling with cling film wrap. If handled gently, it’s possible to dye wool in hot water without getting it felted, although different wools behave in different ways. Unfortunately for the purposes of science and being rigorous (which I am never!) I didn’t know which types of wool I was using as I’d bought a mixed bag from ebay.
Whilst on a cooking spree in the kitchen I thought I’d try dyeing some mawata silk hankies with food colouring too. They take a lot of pre-soaking so I left them overnight in water and vinegar with a tiny dash of soap weighted down with drinking glasses and glass jars!
To dye them I simple cooked them in a warm oven (75 deg C is the max temperature) for around an hour. They didn’t take up all the dye but came out quite nice and bright anyway. Once cool, they were rinsed until the water ran clear, then pressed between towels and hung to dry.