Thursday, May 28, 2009

shellac for felt?

This week I've been playing around with shellacking (sp?) felt. I wish I could share with you that I'd found the right recipie, but I haven't figured it out yet! Here, anyway, is what I've learned so far!

Based on Lisa Klakulak's recommendation that varnishes from the hardware store not be used on felt and rather that the raw, unadulterated shellac be used, I purchased some blond, unwaxed shellac flakes ( and did some experimentation.

Lisa had suggested that some dilution greater than 6:1 be tried. I started with a 20:1 and couldn't even get the flakes completely into solution. So I added a little heat...I guess too much (I did a minute in the microwave) and ended up with a goo suspended in, rather than mixed with, water. Upon removing the goo from the water, it hardened on my measuring spoon. I was able to chip it off, with some effort, so at least my spoon is still accurate.

Then I remembered Lisa had mentioned using alcohol, not water, so I tried a 40:1 solution of flakes to alcohol. Still, they didn't disolve completely. 30 secs of heat, and they did not congeal into a goo, but they still did not completely dissolve... even after another 30 sec and stirring! Enough had dissolved tho', that I decided I'd apply some of what I had made to a scrap piece of felt.

Good thing I used a scrap piece!

I was shocked at how little it took to completely soak thru the felt, which was what I was trying to avoid. REally, I thought I was using so little and it came dripping out of the felt. I suppose that the type of fiber (this scrap happened to be corriedale), the density of the felt, etc impacts the amount of shellac, but really this was almost pouring out! So I did a second trial being extra careful to have a VERY little of the solution in my paintbrush.

Since the vessel I ultimately want to shellac has lots of ridges and grooves (see the shell above), I decided to try a stiffening spray by Manco, which a friend had lent me. The spray will certainly be easier to apply to my vessel's inside, even if it is not what Lisa suggested using, so I thought I'd try it.

At least in this experiment, I felt that the spray (I did 2 light coats like the can suggested) stayed too much on the surface of the felt and produced a surface residue I didn't care for. I haven't given up on it, and will try it again but with a heavier hand to see if I can get it to soak in more next time, hoping that it will produce a firmer fabric without the surface residue.

As for the shellac flakes, now that the alcohol has evaporated and the shellac dried, I find that it hasn't really stiffened the felt to the degree I wanted either, but at least I have no surface residue.
In this week's experiment I didn't feel like I had a concentrated enough solution of the shellac to stiffen it to the desired degree, and yet it was too concentrated to get it all into solution! So I guess I'll try even a little less concentration next week, hoping that I get it all into solution, but will instead apply more coats on the felt in order to achieve the degree of stiffening I want.

I'll let you know how it turns out, but in the meantime, has anyone else out there tried this yet with their felt and have any thoughts or suggestions to contribute?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

cvm origami felt bag

So this week I had a chance to play around with some CVM (California Variegated Mutant) fleece, a breed which I hadn't worked with before.

I assumed it would both spin and felt up nicely...its very fine and has a lovely crimp... and I have been wanting to play around with a felt origami bag for a while.

So as a sampler, I decided to make a small change purse...just enough for some bills, credit cards, license and random change. I laid out a square of CVM batt (16" square) and added a border and button strap of merino top I had laying around. Then I felted the whole thing, evenly to be sure I kept the square shape, which is needed for the bag. It felted up quickly and with only about 10% shrinkage.

Then I folded the square in half to form a triangle and tucked the 2 "side" points in toward the same side. This fold is a bit different than that in the book, but it is what suited my purposes. I wanted 2 compartments, both with a flap. Anyway, after folding in the 2 sides, I hand stitched the bottom, sewed on 1 button and voila! The purse has 2 compartments; 1 large and deep and the other shallower, but secured, because both compartments have flaps. Both flaps button on the same button. It's quite cute. I have some revisions I make to future origami felts,but this was a satisfactory start and I enjoyed felting the CVM.

Now lets see if I can get some photos of it loaded?

Anyone else have any experience with either felted origami or working with CVM?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Cotton

So I'm reading Big Cotton, by Stephen Yafa, and gaining a much greater appreciation for this fiber as well as for it's impact on world history.

I'm so used to thinking about what garment or accessory I might be able to create with a fiber or new yarn that I haven't paid much attention to the consequence of a fibers' production for society, the economy, even politics. Anyway, if any of you are interested in history (particularly that of early American), this book is a fun read.

Just some fun facts and figures about the fiber that came out of my reading...
Each cotton boll has over 500,000 fibers on it. Before Whitney produced the gin, it took 1 person a day to pull 1 pound of cotton from bolls. After the gin was developed, that same person could pull 50 pounds of cotton in 1 day!

Inspired by this book and the author's fascination with the cotton fiber, I decided to pull out my takli and some old cotton punis I had hanging around and give the fiber another try. If I get enough spun to do anything with, I'll post a photo next week!