Felt Making - Wet method
Once the wool has been collected and this collection process will last from spring through to mid -summer, it is then stored in sacks. Before felting, the wool has to be washed and this process of washing will take up to 14 days.
The wool is placed in large containers/buckets which are then filled with water, soaking the wool completely. I change the water every other day for the first week and then leave for the second week. The wool is then washed in warm soapy water, rinsed and left to dry. Once the wool is dry it is then carded using a drum carder, this process of ‘carding’ breaks up the wool fibre and then realigns the fibres so that each individual fibre is parallel with the next. When the carded fibre is rolled off the carder, it is then known as a ‘rolag’ and is then ready to be used for felt making or spinning.
I find it easier to make the felt if I have clean wool to work with; unwashed wool which still contains sheep lanolin makes the felt making process much harder.
To make the felt, the wool fibres are built up in 3 opposing layers, this enables the scales on the fibres to interlock and so create a strong fabric. Using pure soap and warm water (as hot as my hands will stand) which is sprinkled onto the fibres, the fibres are massaged through curtain netting to create friction. This process of rubbing and rolling the fibres with the soap and warm water, shrinks the fibres into a fabric. For added friction, the fabric piece is then placed on a bamboo place mat and rolled.
Once dry, the felt is then ready to use.
Because I love the colours and shades of the Soay wool, I like to use only these natural colours in my products but sometimes I will dye the lighter shades to give a contrast, using cochineal which will give deep shades of burgundy reds and scarlets, or onion skins to create various shades of yellow.