Sunday, April 10, 2022

Another way to Felt locks

I belong to a group on Facebook called Vegetarian Sheepskin, which is a strange name for felt pelts, but there are lots of variations on what to call these felt-backed fleeces. Recently there have been a few posts about a way to felt the locks using some type of grid. I thought I would give it a try. So I ordered some plastic poultry fencing with 3/5" openings. It's stiff plastic. I would try a more flexible plastic next time. Some of the posters say they have left the grid in the finished piece for reasons that will become clear later in this post.

This photo shows a small sample of washed TeeswaterX locks that have been threaded through the grid openings. It's a tedious job threading the locks. I like to have 3/4" of the cut end coming through the grid. Of course as you get farther along, the locks catch on each other and it gets tedious trying to keep the cut ends at an even length across. 

To safeguard these long locks from felting together, I placed a piece of bubble wrap under the grid and over the locks that were hanging out to one side.

The next step is to cover the cut ends with roving.

Then I covered with netting and applied water. This is the wetted down sample.


To begin the felting process, I gently rubbed with a flat palm in a circular motion for a few minutes with the wool protected by netting.


After a skin had developed with the gentle rubbing, I removed the netting and applied a piece of solar pool cover (any bubble wrap will do, but solar pool cover is more rigid so it works faster).  Again I rubbed in a circular motion with flat palms, but with much more force than before.  I did this for a few minutes, maybe five. It didn't take long to felt those cut ends into the roving. 

Then came the tricky part, removing the locks from the grid. I found that removing the grid was easiest to do with washed locks or short locks. I also did this experiment with long raw Lincoln locks and actually had to CUT the plastic apart to free up the wool! I got so caught up in it I neglected to take photos. Sorry! Anyway, suffice it to say, carefully and gently work the plastic grid down the length of the locks to remove it without pulling the locks away from the felted backing. 

Then dip the piece in warm soapy water and work the felt by squeezing and rubbing until it's firm. Then dip and lift the piece in and out of the water until the locks are clean.  Rinse, roll in a towel and set aside to dry.

The photo below shows my attempts at this. Left to right: raw short-stapled Gotland locks; and that same Gotland but threaded through the grid AND a pre-felt backing to limit the movement of the locks from the grid; long raw Linclon locks; and the washed Teeswater locks shown in the process photos above.

In my opinion, this method is not worth the extra effort. I just did small samples, there's no way I would want to do a chair pad with this method. One could easily just felt the locks without the grid and if that's too hard, needle felting them to a pre-felt backing and then wet felting is more efficient in my opinion.

I have seen another version of creating larger pieces where wooden slats were placed in a vice and locks laid across the slat with the cut end protruding, then another slat and more locks, repeating to the desired size and tightening the vice to hold everything in place while the back was felted. Then the slats were removed and the resulted was a thin, flexible fabric with gorgeous locks. I might try that method some day. But by using my method of nuno-felting gauze onto the back of a raw fleece, I can get a very soft flexible fleece too.

Happy felting everyone! My shearer is coming in two days and I'll have 17 more fleeces!

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Felted Faux Sheepskin Tutorial


Here's a link to the felted fleece tutorial I made last fall.

This is for experienced wet felters. Step-by-step instructions on how to turn a raw fleece into a felted rug or luxurious lap blanket in an afternoon. Eleven pages with process photos. Access to my private Facebook group to ask questions and share project photos. I have taught my method of creating felted fleeces to hundreds of students over the past several years. There are many ways to create felted fleeces (a.k.a. humane sheepskins, eco-rugs, vegetarian sheepskins, faux sheepskins). This method is fast and efficient. It doesn't require a lot of equipment, just a  4'x8' solar pool cover, pool noodle, mosquito netting, and a laundry tub to rinse and full the fleece. You must have previous experience with wet felting (know how to layout fiber, how to felt, and how to full) and have the physical ability to maneuver a heavy, wet fleece.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Norwegian Skinnfell Traps


I got to use my new wood blocks from fjellform  Norway this week. They are such beautiful blocks!

I made this  chair cover (trap) using six of the eight blocks I bought. 

The printing is the fun part, the measuring, cutting and stitching is the work part. But the result is so worth the effort!

I'm making some large traps and some small chair pad sets this week. I will put some in my Square shop soon.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Felted Rugs!


I took an online class taught by Flora Carlile-Kovacs on rug making with pre-felts in traditional motifs. Thanks to the Minnesota Feltmakers Guild for hosting this class.

I learned some new things that I will definitely use again. I can't wait to make some natural colored rugs for the house!

Making the prefelt. I used Shetland Mule fiber I had dyed years ago. And some dark Indigo Ashford fiber given to me by a friend when she could no longer felt.

Deciding on the design placement

More design decisions after cutting out the motifs. I liked both sides so I had to make two versions, a positive and a negative.

Layout for the second rug

Second rug, love the edges on this one!

First rug, I intentionally wrapped the backing fibers around to the front, I thought it gave it the look of being singed by fire. Maybe the recent fire we had influenced this decision.

Pretty comparable in size and thickness. Can't wait to make some bigger rugs!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Sheep Fat or Mutton Tallow (from Fat Sheep)

Here is my first ever batch of mutton tallow soap. It's sparkling white and leaves your hands feeling SO good. I've been making soap for about 17 years but never tried using mutton tallow in it.


I guess I have overfed my sheep for a couple years now. Who knew Frankie, my 3.5 year old wether was so fat! I knew he was bossy at the feeder, but never have I seen so much fat on a sheep. 

 I was thinking of making suet feeders for the birds, but then I read about the wonders of mutton tallow for your skin.

I'll be rendering lots more of Frankie's fat and trying different blends and scents in soaps and lotions. The batch above is 100% mutton tallow with Lavender and Rosemary essential oils added for scent. 

I'm cooling down some Mutton tallow/olive oil balm now. I'll whip it up and put it in jars. I've read that mutton tallow is really beneficial for your skin. We'll see. There's always more to learn! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Icelandic Lambs!


I used an Icelandic ram on my ewes last fall and was blessed with 25 lambs this year. 13 female and 12 male. Their fleeces are fantastic! 

But I can't keep them all, so if you're interested in a ram lamb or two, let me know. I do have two ewe lambs left also. Thanks to the beautiful ladies who purchased sheep from me this summer. I'm always happy to see my sheep go to good homes. 

Minnesota is in a drought this summer and the hay crop is much lower than usual. I was able to buy 25 big rounds which should be enough to get me through to next summer if I keep my flock down to 10 or 15 sheep this winter. I'm at 23 now, so some will be moving out one way or another. 

Sid and I did an art festival at our favorite winery this past weekend. It's always fun to see old friends and make new ones. 

I am not teaching as much this year or doing many sales events -- other than the monthly Art & Farmer's Market at Fraconia Sculpture Park in Shafer, MN and the Minnesota Fiber Festival in Cambridge, MN on Saturday, Oct 16th. 

I cashed in my 401k so we could buy a used RV. We love it! We took it up to North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN when I taught the felted fleece class in July.

It was so nice to just drive and not have to worry about hooking and unhooking a trailer. The motor home is not as spacious as our travel trailer, but it sure is convenient! I love having everything we need in a compact package. We're hoping to take it on the road this fall.

And now we find ourselves in August with the garden producing like crazy and lots of projects to finish up before the snow flies again. There's never a dull moment when you live on a farm! 

I hope everyone is having a good summer and staying safe and healthy as the pandemic continues to ravage the US.



Another way to Felt locks

I belong to a group on Facebook called Vegetarian Sheepskin, which is a strange name for felt pelts, but there are lots of variations on wha...