This is the first of a series of articles I’m going to be writing about felting fleeces. As a lot of readers probably already know from visiting our shop, I transform fleeces into sheep-friendly “sheepskin” rugs and cushions by wet felting raw wool, a technique which has been around for many hundreds, if not thousands of years.
When I first started felting fleeces to make into rugs I found it very hard to get information about how to actually do it. There seemed to be a lot of mystery around it and everyone had their own technique and way of doing it. In the end I learned mostly by trial and error.
The hints and tips I’m going to be sharing with you over the coming weeks are the things I’ve gleaned over the years I’ve spent throwing fleeces around in my shed amidst tears and many cups of tea. I’ve had so many disasters and I’m embarrassed to say a lot of fleeces have ended up on the compost heap simply because I lost patience with them. But I’m happy to say there have been more successes than disasters along my woolly journey and so I’m delighted to be able to share some of my favourite tips with you.
Today’s article is about using wool which I’d normally discard to make into something lovely and useful.
I hate waste and one of the reasons I started to make cushions as well as rugs, was so that I could use up leftover wool.
Recently I made a cushion from scraps of wool I had leftover from a rug that I’d made a few days earlier. The leftover wool was all in bits lying on the floor.
It was really dirty and I was going to scoop it up and chuck it on the compost heap for the birds to use for nesting, when I realised that beneath the grubby exterior the wool was actually lovely quality.
Never judge a book by its cover I said to myself as I piled the scrappy wool onto my work table and got to work separating out the nice quality (albeit very dirty!) wool, from the not so nice quality, matted bits.
I was really careful about keeping only the nicest bits, any wool which was even a tiny bit matted or didn’t feel right I discarded. This was quite tricky because most of the wool was so dirty it was hard to imagine what it would look like clean. I did wonder if perhaps I was being a little over optimistic!
After a couple of hours of sorting I had enough wool to lay out into a cushion shaped frame and was able to felt it into a cushion cover.
It took a lot of washing but I was really pleased with how it turned out. It was a real “before and after” moment!
So, even scraps of wool lying on the floor can be transformed into something lovely, but my tip would be to make sure you use only good quality wool from the scrappy pile. Tempting as it may be to want to rescue all the little bits of wool you can, remember dirt can be washed out, however nothing will remedy matted or bad quality wool, you’re best leaving those bits for the birds to make into cosy nests.
There will be washing tips coming up in subsequent posts, washing raw fleeces is one of my favourite geeky things but I have so many tips that I’m going to split into several posts.