For the #1year1outfit challenge I (silly, crazy me!) specified that everything used needs to be sourced within 500km of Perth. If you have been following along you will know that this means wool, lots and lots of wool.
Lucky for us, wool is a wonder fiber! You can make all kinds of fabric from wool – tough felt, spongy stretchy knits, fat chunky knits, strong but fluid weaves. Given that I am fairly limited to wool I intend to explore the different textures of wool in my outfit.
Given that the knitting had moved in reverse, I moved on to another way of making fiber from wool, felting. I used merino roving sourced at Bilby Yarns and the expertise of local participant, Sue. If you read Sue’s blog, you would know that over the course of this year she has become a felting ninja and has kindly shared her growing knowledge and home set up with me.
We started by laying out the soft squishy roving in 3 layers rotating the direction each time.
After a good rub down with some West Australian Olive Oil soap we got to the fun stuff. POWER TOOLS!! Yes! You heard right, Sue has seconded an old father’s day gift from the shed and set it to work over the last few months. Here is the proof that I enjoyed myself so much I had to take a video whilst operating the car polisher with one hand. Don’t try that at home kids.
We then smashed it around a little and gave it a hot and cold treatment before magically I had a piece of felt! If you need more details, the technique we used are described by Sue in this post, and she later updated her techniques in this post. Otherwise just enough this squoosh, lumpy piece of 100% WEST AUSTRALIAN FABRIC : )
Now you have admired, I will readily admit that as a first attempt I was a little heavy handed with the roving and things were a little patchy and lumpy to start with. As a result I did a little extra wet and dry felting as I made my top to make it more consistent.
My idea for the felt was to soften it and give it more drape by having an element of “lace” to it. I used the patterns of gum nut bunches to cut templates and create what I hope is a natural looking lace that reflect the organic nature of the fabric.
After cutting out the holes with my emboidery scissors for a few hours, I wet felted one of the lace sections again to strengthen it as things weren’t looking stable! I then had to recut the holes…a few more hours! Sue helped me with a few remaining weak sections using her Clover dry felting needle, which I like the look of and it was quick and easy so will be getting one of those! It turns out that felt is a really forgiving fabric as you can go back and work on it as you need.
On to the sewing! Many of the seemingly unrelated sewing I have done this year has actually been testing shapes and patterns out for use in this outfit. The pattern I decided on was one I tested in my refashioned shirt from Garments of a Dignified Lady, a Japanese Sewing book. The pattern was designed for knits but after testing it in a non stretch fabric I thought it would work and that I could take advantage of the interesting diagonal seam lines.
So drum roll please…….here is my cropped vest!
I am going to save pictures of me wearing it until i have my whole outfit so for now all you get is a glimpse at it on the hanger. Sorry, not super exciting to look at so far : ). Note that we have no local thread, so I used some alpaca remnants from my offcuts bags picked up at the Fiber of the Gods mill in Toodjay. I flat felled all the seams and blanket stitched the neckline and arm holes. I left the bottom edge raw which I like in this piece but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I have worn this out and about a couple of times and I can attest to the fact that it is SUPER snuggly and it has personality!
I also fell in love with the felt so much I went back to Sue’s and made some more. Some of this corriedale and alpaca felt will be used as facings and finishes on my bottom half, but it really is quite pretty so I’m hoping I have a little left over for a little something else.
- 300g Merino roving from the south west sourced at Bilby Yarn’s
- Alpaca wool for stitching from Fiber of the Gods
- Olive oil soap for felting
So there you have it a wearable item! I will not be naked, I think that is a relief to all.
I was quite nervous about posting this as I think it’s very organic looking which is not everyone’s cup of tea. What do you think – would you wear something so raw or do you prefer clean lines?