If you haven’t read yesterday’s post please look at some of the early pictures of the felting process.
With the limited, albeit generous, workshop schedule I concentrated on doing this wet and sudsy process as quickly as possible. Shortly into the project it was evident that I might have taken on more than I could finish before the end of the two-day class. The amount of wet-felting needed for boots seemed mammoth to this beginner.
There are a total of four layers of wool applied to each side of the boots, with study plastic form in the middle. The first thing we did was to divide the 8 – 10 ounces of the Corriedale wool we were using (depending on the height of the boots, foot size, etc. into 4 ounces for each side, then those four ounces subdivided into 4 – 1 ounce groups so that each layer had the same amount of wool applied. Two layers of wool tufts are placed, first ounce horizontally, the next ounce vertically. (The first picture on the previous post shows a long layer of red wool: the inside of the leg flap, which was then covered with the plastic so that it wouldn’t be felted to the newer layers.)
Once the entire side was covered with wool Kiss My Face soap was grated over the surface then generously sprinkled with water. With netting on top of everything each layer was thoroughly rubbed with the flat of the hands until the fibers were matted together. (The olive oil based soap was recommended for the benefit of our hands) Once the first two layers were somewhat felted the boot form was flipped over to apply wool to the other side.
The wooly boot ready to be soaped and spritzed then rubbed, and rubbed, and rubbed until my hands and arms were aching.
Meanwhile Pam’s boots had been cut apart and she was rubbing, felting and shrinking them to fit. Isn’t it cute? (Even in its still mammoth stage.) There’s no distinguishing the sole of the foot as she’s just in the process of shaping it.
Then next morning by 8:30 we were back at our tables armed with more water, soap, lots of hand power and determination. To get the wool to mat together into a felted mass takes a great deal of rolling, rubbing, massaging, pounding and manipulation. It’s important to work both sides and feet as evenly as possible, best achieved by rolling the entire thing as a unit then rolling it back and forth in the soapy water, re-rolling from one end to the other, from toes to heels, then from heels to toes. Always changing direction so that it shrinks uniformly. There comes that moment when it goes from being rather squishy into a firmer sheet of fiber.
Once that feeling happens it’s time to cut the boots apart and the plastic material form removed so that the foot and leg shaping can take place before it shrinks into a flatten form. Here Carin is cutting the boots apart for me. I wasn’t brave enough.
I should have taken a picture showing the inside boot flap as it was being reveled, along with the plastic insert, when the boots were cut apart.
Once the boots are separated the two duct tape foot forms I’d made at home were placed inside. These help to shape the boot foot and ideally to keep them from shrinking too much. (oh the horrors of that happening after all this work!)
At times I used the wash board to roll and rub the boots against. I also used a ceramic stone with ridges made for this purpose. The rice paddle also saw lots of action pounding the fiber around the toes, soles and heels. Whack, whack, whack. There were times when we were almost beating in unison in the room.We talked about the dynamics of how when a number of people start randomly beating an object in a group the rhythm eventually melds into one and everyone beats at the same time, completely unconscious of it. The the beat drifts apart into random strokes again before merging into one beat. Fascinating to experience it first hand even as we were all concentrating on our own boots and not really paying attention to the rhythm of the others.
Eventually the boots reached the stage where the forms were pulled out before the felt shrank enough to trap them. That sad situation has happened to some of Carin’s students. Carin was terrific about working one on one with each of us, keeping an eye out to see that we were progressing as needed, even helping to rub and shape everyone’s boots which was hugely encouraging.
I wasn’t able to finish them in the workshop but they were at the point that the forms had been removed and I’d tried them on for size. Ugh, feet thrust into cold wet wool boots. Oh, did my hands, arms and shoulders ache that night from the 6 hours of almost nonstop pummeling, rolling, massaging and beating. If a person did a great deal of this type of felting there’d be no need for arm exercises!
The following weekend the boots were re-soaked, soaped and pummeled some more with the rice paddle. When the feet started getting to the right shape and size I began carefully rubbing in the direction that the shrinkage needed to happen. A good tip to know: Shrinking will always go in the direction that the fiber is rubbed. I didn’t want to lose anymore length in the foot but needed to tighten up around the arch and the back of the heel so I rubbed from underneath upward. The leg part was floppier than I liked but already shorter than I’d intended. I did not want it them to get any shorter. In shrinkage the circumference I rolled the leg portions into a cylinder then rolled them back and forth over the rubber shelf lining that we used underneath the boots throughout the felting process.
Felting is one of those things that seems to take forever to accomplish when suddenly everything quickly shrinks. Attention and care must be given in order not to get past the intended shape and size. I almost over shrank the legs, even with being careful.
Since this final picture I’ve done more shaping to neaten the top edging as well as some final tweaking with the foot shaping. Overall I’m very pleased with them. Now I need to finish spinning the 3-ply and make a lucet cord for the button cord, fix on the buttons and cord then put on soles so they can be worn outside.
Today I am thankful to be able to learn new skills!