Flax field

Flax field

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I do some felt work for a fiber processing business I work for.  This was one of the most interesting.  We got a request for a banner.  I had done some felting where I had a design, sometimes it slipped and sometimes I could keep the design distinct.  With this banner, I needed to keep the name looking good.  The company had given me a rough draft of the design the way he wanted it.

I admit I spent a lot of time just thinking about the problems and possible solutions...as usual I over-thought the whole thing.  You know the feeling after weeks of worrying about it, you start getting it done then look at it and realize that it wasn't that bad to do.  In this case, that was the result...a good one and I could not believe I had worried about it so much.

I had several batts that had been carded out of the wool from the sheep the company raises.  I started by laying out the color for the back of the banner and I made it 30% larger than the finished banner needed to be.
This is the brown back of the banner.
The wool was carded into eight ounce batts about 40" by 36", I just needed to tear them to size and overlap and blend the joins.  For the middle layer I used the white, then added a top layer of white so that the banner would have a nice background to put the design on.
The middle layer mostly covered the back color.
Here I have part of the top layer giving the white ground.
I alternated the "grain" of the batts for additional strength on the banner and with the three layers, I had a large batt laid out that was about 3 inches thick.
The thickness of the banner before wetting and felting.
I enjoyed looking at the smooth expanse of wool for a few minutes, then added the background pattern that he had designed.  To do this I was provided a roving of a fawn color to add "swirls" in the banner.
Swirls laid on the batt.
I was worried that the fawn did not have enough contrast with the background, but in the finished piece it looked great and did not detract from the lettering.
Close up showing the dimension of the roving on the ground.
In the pictures you can see the blue bubble wrap (actually pool cover) that I roll the piece in to put on the felting machine.  

At this point, I wetted down the whole piece, and left it to absorb the water while I cut out the letters.  I had pre-felted some 4 ounce batts to use for the letters and for the border around the banner.  As I cut them out, I worried that the pre-felt was not thick enough and the letters would look transparent.  As it turned out, they looked fine and I felted them to the banner with a pad sander that I have used for felting some years ago.
Letters worked out great.
I had put the felt through the roller first, but the letters need something additional to adhere them so they would felt into the background fabric.
My trusty sander doing it's work.
I dug out my old sander from my previous work with felting (some 5 years ago), and worked over each letter and the border until they began to felt together.  I had sponged off some of the water, because I had problem with the fibers slipping out of place if the felt was too wet when I started processing.  A batt of felt this thick really took some extra felting to get it felted through all the thickness.
The felting machine is know as Proud Mary...she just keeps rolling...rolling...
I rolled the banner up in the bubble wrap and put it in the felting machine.  The machine just does the rolling for me.  Instead of me bending over the table and rolling the piece back and forth, I put it in "Proud Mary" and go back to the studio and weave.  After the set time, I have to come  back out and unroll the piece and roll from the other direction.  The felt is more processed on the outer sections of the roll, so I need to re-roll several times to keep the felting consistent along the complete length of the banner.  Proud Mary helps with the processing, but I still need to direct it to get a good finished product.  (Because felting is a wet process, I keep the felting machine in our heated garage...too bad we do not have room for a car in there any more.)

I even had to fold the banner in half and to process the middle section, because of the two yard length.  But in the end the banner worked out great and I added a hanging sleeve in the top of the back so that the new owners can slide a pvc pipe through and then the banner can hang over their booth.
Finished banner ready for delivery.
The background swirls look great and just add to the design, and the letters did not shift or loose their shape.  
I am very pleased with the first try with a banner, now I just need to do some small test pieces to check out edge finishes, stitching over the letters for added emphasis, other methods of adding the hanging sleeve....always something to think about and try to improve.
Here's a close-up of the felt surface.


  1. The banner is awesome! I am not sure I understand why you used a sander to attach the letters. I have never felted anything and really know zip about the process. Could you explain how things are done? The machine you used is interesting how does it work?

  2. Felt happens when there is movement and moisture. The felting machine I work on just rolls the felt and the "bouncing" of the bubble wrap causes the wet wool to felt. Because I pre-felted the letters (so I could cut them out easily) they needed a little additional help and the pad sander vibrates and causes the movement needed to get the felting to start. Of course, my biggest worry when doing a large piece is that the fibers move but do not slip out of the place that I want them. I was so pleased that the fabric formed with the letters still in the right place! and not scrunched up and unreadable.

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