Saturday, 7 February 2015

Felt Wallhanging - the final day

Monday 2nd February was our last day working on the large felt wallhanging inspired by the work of George Bain.   If you have not read the two previous posts about this project click here.

We spent our last morning finalising all the detail with more needle felting.   This part was a sitting down job, so our felting table was set up with the legs at the lowest height.

There were some knotwork sections that needed the tramlines emphasised and the two zoomorphic sections needed a bit more detail.  In addition, it was decided that the center section should have a defining border.   It was an entertaining morning with lots of good conversation - and coffee breaks with some more good cake.

The eagle-eyed will notice there are a couple of errors in the teal coloured knotwork section - but we decided that it was worth leaving in place - something for people to look out for when it's on display!

We took a break for lunch and then, after we were happy with everything, we turned the felt over so we could work from the back to re-inforce the needle felting.   At this point we were joined by Donald Matheson - he had just started as a trainee at Groam House Museum that morning and was being shown around by the chairman.  He was a bit reluctant at first, worried that he might spoil our efforts but when we showed him how easy it is he quickly joined in.  For this part, we did a bit of musical chairs, all shuffling round the table every few minutes so that all parts got the same amount of needling.
We spent another half hour or so needlefelting on the back, then it was time to do the final stage.  The next part would involve standing at the table so it was dismantled and the legs set to their highest point.

The first part was to wet down the felt with more soapy water.  Over the last three sessions the felt had dried out considerably,  but it was still damp and given that it was spending the time between sessions in a cold garage, we used very hot water to wet it down again.
It took 4 litres of water to get it sufficiently wet.  Then it was bubblewrap back on and some serious rubbing.  We started off working on the back and then about 20 minutes later turned the whole piece over and did the same for the front.  Then off with the bubblewrap and we did some more gentle massaging over all the needlefelted sections to check that everything was fully adhered and well felted.  We had one loose bit in the lettering and a quick bit of stabbing with a felting needle sorted it out.
Next part involved good team work.  First we had to roll up the felt and squeeze out as much water as we could.  The water that came out looked quite mucky - not dirt, just all the loose dye from the coloured fibres.  Because we had used so many different colours, it came out looking brown and gungey.
 Milling is the (almost) final stage and this is where the real physical effort comes in.  We worked in pairs when rolling along the length of the felt.
 Each pair did 100 rolls before unrolling, turning and rolling up again in a large bamboo blind.
It did seem to work best when the pair were of similar height.  With one small and one tall person, the bundle tended to distort a bit more quickly.

After everyone had had a go, we took away the 4 foot wide bamboo blind and replaced it with two blinds that together made up the 8 foot length and rolled across the width.   This required a larger team.  We tended to come a bit unstuck at the join between the two blinds, so we repeated the process with the felt turned round the other way.

By the end of our rolling session the felt had shrunk from 120 x 240 cm to 110 x 220 cm - it always shrinks in the direction in which we are rolling - hence the need to roll both long way and width ways.

Then, we quickly pinned a tube of fabric onto the back so that we could hang the felt up to see what it looks like in its vertical position.

The clothers rail that I had brought along for the purpose was not quite tall enough, but a couple of people held it up while I took a photograph.

We were all sufficiently pleased with the results of our five day project that we felt it warranted a group photo - even though the bottom had to rest on the floor.  Fortunately Eileen had had the foresight to bring along a small tripod so we were able to use the timer and get everyone in.

Didn't we do well? !!

All that remains is for me to take it home and rinse out all that soap..............

4th February

I spent the evening treading, kneading and swishing in the bath, rinsing out the suds and getting the final shrinking.  

I repeated this process through three bathfuls of hot water until the water was running clear and the felt was tight enough that the water tended to bounce off rather than soak into it.
Then I squeezed out what water I could and draped the felt over a wooden clothes horse inside the bath to let it drip dry.  By morning most of the water had drained off, just the bottom corners were rather wet and had to be squeezed out.  By that stage, I was able to lift it and hang it over the bannister.

After hanging over the banister at the top of the stairs, it is now completely dry and all I have to do is stitch a strip of velcro onto the back of the top edge for hanging, and a tube of fabric to the bottom edge to take a metal bar to weight the bottom. Final size is 100 x 210cm.

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