Day 1 - 9th April, 2015The group had had a brief introduction to the project at their monthly meeting a few days earlier, so we got straight to work. The first task was to choose some coloured fibres - dyed merino wool.
Then everyone had to take a second colour. Some chose strongly contrasting shades of their first colour - others went for completely different hues.
When we had the required number of pieces of coloured felt we took a lunchbreak - a beautiful sunny day so we sat outside - we lowered the felting table to sitting height and started the next task. This involved tracing our Celtic knotwork designs onto a special fabric which was then pressed onto the wet felt so we could cut it out.
The important thing at this stage was to not include the lines that give the "over & under" effect that is typical of Celtic knotwork. The tracing was done with spirit-based marker pens, so the ink would not run when the fabric got wet.
To assist with the cutting, we marked the sections that were to be cut away.
When we had our final arrangement we discussed what we would put in the central space. This involved a quick phonecall to my husband, Len, to check on a biblical reference. As this wallhanging is being made for a church, it was agreed we should go with something from the New Testament. The selected text comes from the Gospel of St John, chapter 8 verse 12.
Jesus said "I am the light of the world. He who follows me will never walk in darkness".
We decided we would have the first sentence at the top of the space and in the middle we would have a panel inspired by one of the Evangelists pages from the Book of Kells, with the final sentence below. We had made good time, so a few of us gathered around the worktop in the kitchen and made another piece of felt for the central panel.
All done - I had my homework to do for the next session, cutting out certal design but I was able to do this back at the studio with my laser cutting machine.
Day 2 - 13th April 2015
Word had spread about this project and we had a larger turn-out today - inlcuding young Joshua who brought his mother and baby brother along to help.
These included some silk, bamboo, mohair, other types of wool fibre and some gentle colours of merino wool fibre. We kept moving around the table to get an even distribution of our randomly placed bits
After our lunchbreak (in the sunshine) we positioned all the knotwork cut-outs we had made at the previous session, referring to the photograph we had taken.
Hooray! Joshua was very pleased when I said we had rubbed enough..............
But then I pointed out that we had to turn the felt over and rub again from the back!
Day 3 & 4 - 16th & 24th AprilWe spent the next two sessions adding the detail to our felt. Wet felting gives a very strong fabric but the colours tend to drift in the process and accurate fine detail is difficult to achieve. In contrast, needlefelting allows for very fine detail.
So the table was set up at sitting height, covered with slabs of expanded polystyrene and then the felt.
We pinned some thin ribbon to give guided lines for our text. We created the lettering by needling a dark plum coloured wool fleece through plastic stencils which I had cut back at my studio using my laser cutter. The felt was still a bit damp from the wet felting so we used pieces of polythene to keep our arms dry as we leaned on the felt.
It was a lovely sunny day so after our morning of great concentration, we sat outside for our picnic lunches.
In the afternoon we were joined by several members of a local crafting group and we made good progress, the lettering was completed, the "overs & unders" were falling into place and generally we ended the day feeling very encouraged by our progress.
This was a Friday. It was decided that we could leave the felt set up on the table so that when the Church was in use on the Sunday they could see how the project was progressing. When we came back in on the Monday morning for the final session we were told that the congregation were very impressed and looking forward to the time when they could hang it up on the church wall.
Day 5 - 27th April 2015
We added little twirly bits of ornament around the text. This was partly to fill in the spaces, but also to continue the theme of the Book of Kells where the scribes in centuries past had ornamented their text in such a way. By the end of the morning we were happy to stand back and admire our work - but found it best seen from above, so a few people were standing on chairs to look down on it.
So............ table changed to standing height and covered with bubblewrap. We also put towels on the floor to protect the carpet from the inevitable drips of soapy water.
It took several jugfulls of water each with a generous dollop of bubblebath and then we covered it with another sheet of bubblewrap and started rubbing.
The child in each of us came to the fore at this stage and we had fun rolling the massage tools across the table! These are supposed to be used for massaging your back in the bath, but I have found them to be really useful tools for feltmaking. We had some discussion about what was the correct collective noun for felters - "a fun of felters"? Just a few seconds of video to give you a feel for the mood!
After rubbing the back for a while we turned over the felt and repeated the proceedure on the front finishing with rub without the bubblewrap so we could be certain everything was fully attached.
Then it was time for the rolling..........
We rolled the felt up in bamboo mats and teams took turns to roll the bundle back and forth. This process shrinks the felt and firms it up, squeezing out much of the water and tightening the tangled wool fibres against each other.
All done............. and it was time to stand back and admire our handiwork, followed by the group photo.
first rinse - lots of soapy bubbles.
Two days later it was dry. Now all that remains is for the mounting strip to be sewn onto the back so it can be hung up for display.
Finishing touchesThe strip to mount the felt has now been added and I also added a tiny bit of detail to the central panel - black beads and sequins to emphasise the eyes of the four Evangelist symbols in the central panels and tiny gold beads for their halos.
If you have enjoyed reading about this project you may want to read about the previous two projects - the felt made by Groam House Museum Volunteers and the other one made by Resolis Freindship Group - click on the names for the link.
While the felt was made I took many more photographs than there was room for on this blog, but you can see more pictures by clicking here.