Artfelt™ in a Nutshell
Artfelt™ is a new felting technique that combines certain aspects of needle felting, wet felting and fulling with a new patented paper developed to ease and speed up the felting process. Appropriately named “Artfelt™” paper, this paper allows one to felt incredibly simple or complex pieces with nominal space and physical effort. It allows you to create a felted material that can be either thick or thin, precise or abstract, and it can all be accomplished with very little experience in minimal time. How does artfelt™ work? There are four basic steps to the artfelt™ process which are covered in detail below. There are additional instructions and photos online at itsartfelt™.com. As a quick overview, the first step is to design your project and cut your paper to the appropriate size. Shrinkage with artfelt™ can be anywhere from 5% to 50%; you control the shrinkage. The next step is to tack the roving onto the artfelt™ paper using a barbed needle. It is the artfelt™ paper that keeps your roving in its proper position during the felting process. The third step is to felt the piece by saturating it with water, covering it with plastic, and tossing it into preheated clothes dryer. Within 15 minutes or so, the tumbling motion and heat of the dryer will have felted your piece. The forth step is to dissolve the paper, which adheres itself to the felted piece in the dryer. Simply place the piece in a sink with the paper side up and pour boiling water over the paper. Viola, you are finished!
Four Basic Steps: Design, Create, Felt and Finish
1. Design – You will want to decide what you are going to make in advance. Cut Artfelt lengthwise and make two narrow scarves, or cut it into squares to make pillow fronts or wall art. The paper can be cut into any size and pieced together to create additional sizes – however, it is not suggested that you cut it smaller than a 10” x 10” square. When piecing together the artfelt™ paper, it is suggested that you baste the pieces together either by hand with a needle and thread or with a sewing machine. Taping with scotch tape works as well, but do not forget to remove the tape before the felting process. To test out the different artfelt™ techniques, we suggest you cut off a few 10” or 12” pieces of the artfelt™ paper and follow the rest of the instructions. After making a few test pieces, you can see the results better and then determine what you would like to make with your free form kit. Even after cutting off a few small pieces, your artfelt™ paper will still be plenty long to make a scarf.
2. Create – Tacking the Roving to the artfelt™ Paper
Once you have your paper cut to the size you desire, it is time to attach the roving to it. For this you will want to lay down your protective cover first. This protective cover is going to keep the barbed needle from piercing the surface you are working on. This protective cover needs to be deep enough for the barbs of the needle to pierce through. We suggest the material be a minimum of 1” thick. It can be foam, Styrofoam, or in a pinch, a stack of old terry cloth towels works fine. Foam of some kind is preferred as needles will enter it smoothly and the needles have a much greater
tendency to break when using towels. If using Styrofoam and it seems to fall apart easily, wrap the Styrofoam in Saran wrap first. The object of tacking the roving to the paper is to have the barbs on the needle pull tiny tufts of the roving to the other side of the paper. This will hold the roving in position while it is felting. Place the paper on top of your protective cover. There is no right or wrong side to the paper. You will now tack the roving onto the paper. To do this, you will use the barbed needle in a quick up and down piercing motion. The barbs on the needle must go through the roving and the paper, pulling a small portion of the roving onto the back side of the paper. This should be a very quick motion, similar to pricking your finger with a needle. Check the back side of your work to make certain you are piercing the barbed needle far enough to bring tufts of roving to the back side. You are only tacking the roving onto the paper to keep it in it’s place during the felting process. Many people, especially those that have needle felted before, tend to not only tack the roving on, but actually begin to felt the piece with a tacking motion. This is not necessary! How much is enough tacking? As a rule of thumb, there is no need to tack the roving into the paper more then is necessary to hold it in place. If you can lift your paper up sideways and the roving stays put, then it is tacked down enough. There are many different ways to use the standard roving and the pencil roving in conjunction with the paper. You will want to think of your paper as your canvas and your roving as your medium as you proceed. The one thing you must always keep in mind is that in order for your finished piece to felt together, roving must always either overlap or cross hatch. Laying fibers down all in one direction does not allow the fibers to form a strong base. They may look like they are felted together when they come out of the dryer, but when the paper is dissolved, your piece will most likely fall apart. Cross hatching merely means laying the fibers in alternate directions. For a better visual, check out the website: itsartfelt.com
• Creating a Base; Using Standard Roving Alone
To begin, you must learn how to draft the roving. The fibers in your standard roving average about 4 to 5 inches in length, so holding the roving with both hands close together and trying to pull it apart will not work. However, holding the roving with one hand about 4” from the end, and using the other hand to pull out a small amount of fiber, does work. This process of pulling out the fibers is called drafting. To create your base, draft small amounts of roving and gently lay them down on the paper, side by side, all facing one direction, until the entire piece of paper is covered. Do the same again, but this time cross hatch the layers; in other words, lay the second layer down in the opposite direction. Two layers, depending on how thick they are, will give you a good base. You can choose to add additional layers – and some piece instructions will ask you to do so. When you have all your layers down, tack them into place. Remember, you only need to tack the roving to the paper on so it will not fall off the paper. You now have a base. With this base, you can layer and tack roving on top of it in any direction, and your piece should hold together after felting.
• Using Pencil Roving Alone:
When using pencil roving by itself, your work will look nearly the same on both sides when it is complete. You must always make certain that the pencil roving overlaps when tacking it down. If it does not overlap, it will not felt together, thus, your finished piece will fall apart. The pencil roving can be tacked down in a spiral pattern the edge of the pencil roving you are tacking down is laid and tacked on top of the edge of the roving already tacked down. Since pencil roving is quite fine, there will be more tacking involved than if you were using the standard roving. With pencil roving, you should tack it down as you lay it down. Pencil roving, like standard roving, has fibers that are about 4 to 5 inches long. To pull it apart, grasp the roving with both hands, with at least 4” between the hands. Gently tug, and the roving should pull apart.
• When tacking roving down, remember, the paper will dissolve at the end of the technique, so the roving closest to the paper will be your backside. • To create negative space (holes in your work), you will simply want to leave areas on your paper that have no roving what so ever. HOWEVER, the key here is to make certain that all the roving around these blank areas is somehow connected. If not, your piece will come out as several pieces, not one.
• When creating a scarf or a large piece, there is no need to lay the whole piece out. You can work on it from one end the other – rolling the finished end up as you go along, or simply let it hang over the table. When you have finished tacking all your roving to the paper, it is time to felt!
Preheat your dryer by turning it on the highest setting with a few dry towels in it. Let it run and warm up while you are getting your piece wet. Cut your plastic to be slightly wider and longer than the piece you are felting. If you did not get plastic with your kit or paper, any form of plastic will do. Standard kitchen garbage bags cut to the correct shape work very well. If you have clear ones, this is preferable. For smaller pieces, Saran wrap works as well. Have handy a old stocking or panty hose and garbage bag ties.
• Getting Your Piece Wet.
You will need to saturate your piece with water. This means it needs to be totally wet, through and through. One of the easiest, but most time consuming ways of doing this, is with a squirt bottle. If you have a small piece (small enough so you can lay it flat in front of you), you can get it wet all at once. If it is larger, you will have to do it in sections. Squirt the piece heavily as you want the roving and the paper to be completely saturated with water. It takes a little time for the water to absorb into the roving. To help it along, squirt the roving heavily, then place the plastic on the roving and gently push down with your hands, literally forcing the roving to absorb the water. If you are using a clear plastic, you will know when your piece is wet enough by looking at the roving. The roving should get several shades darker and a sort of “suction” will happen between the plastic and the roving. If doing a small piece, you can lay the plastic over the piece and begin to roll it into a log. Be certain the plastic covers all the roving and the paper when completely rolled up. If roving is sticking out the edges or the ends, it will felt to your hose or to itself. If you have a larger piece, like a scarf, you will want to do the wetting piece by piece, rolling the project up as you go along. When rolling the piece, check the back of the paper and make certain your piece is totally wet; the paper becomes transparent when it is wet. If it is not completely wet, spray the back of the paper with the squirt bottle until it is soaked. Tie the end(s) with garbage twisties. This will keep your piece from shifting while in the dryer.
• A quick, but trickier way to saturate your piece with water is…
To get a large pan that is at least 1 inch deep. Place a folded towel in it and saturate the towel with water – enough so that if you take your hand and push on the towel, a puddle of water forms, yet without the pressure, there is no puddle. The towel should be thoroughly soaked. Then take the piece of paper with the roving attached and lay on the towels. Place the plastic over the roving and press the piece into the towels. The paper and the roving will absorb the water. Do not try to do this with without the plastic, as the roving will stick to your hands and may come off the paper. You can however wear rubber gloves. This method is very quick but a bit trickier to do when you have a large piece and you need to do it section by section.
i. The easiest way to get the log into the hose is to slide your hand down inside the hose to the toe. Grab the end of your piece through the hose and pull the hose over the piece. This works better than trying to shove the piece into the hose.
ii. If you are working with a very large piece – an old sock or trouser hose may not be big enough. In this case, you can wrap the entire piece in a towel and use large rubber bands to keep it rolled. Or, fish net stockings stretch a great deal and work very well. In some cases, if your piece is very wide, you will need to fold it in half after rolling it so it will fit nicely into your dryer. This works fine – but do remove from dryer about every 10 minutes or so to unroll and then re-roll in another direction. This will prevent creases in your finished product.
• Actual Felting in the Dryer
When your piece is rolled up and secured, toss into your pre-heated dryer. To begin, set your timer for 10 minutes, then remove from dryer and unroll your piece. If it is felted to the degree you would like, you are finished felting and you may move onto the finishing section. If not, you will want to reroll the piece (in the opposite direction preferably), place again in the hose, and then toss into the dryer. Smaller and finer pieces usually take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes total time in the dryer. Larger or denser pieces may take up to 45 minutes. If making something larger than a scarf, you may want to remove from dryer and re-roll several times. When your piece is felted to the degree you desire, unroll and remove the plastic. Although the paper can only be used once, if the plastic is still good, you can reuse it. If your piece seems to be taking a long time to felt, roll it up looser. The more friction there is, the faster it will felt.
How do you know when it is felted enough? A lot depends on the fabric results you are looking for. You can tell a lot by looking at the paper on the back side of your piece. The roving shrinks, the paper does not, thus, the more wrinkled the paper, the more felted the piece. For fine scarves, you’ll want the paper smoother. For stronger or thicker pieces, you’ll want the paper very wrinkled.
Take the felted piece and lay in the sink, paper side up. Boil water and pour directly onto the paper. The artfelt™ paper will dissolve immediately. If you have a large piece, you may need to boil several kettles of water. Try to avoid leaving the felted piece sitting in the hot water. If you do, there is a chance that the colors may begin to run. The dyes in the roving are not made to withstand such high temperatures over a period of time. Thus, pouring the water over the paper and letting it drain right into the sink is the best method of removing the paper. When all the paper is dissolved, it is best to rinse the piece with hot water to make certain that the residue from the dissolved paper is gone. You know all the residue is gone when the water that is squeezed out of your piece runs clear. If it is cloudy, continue to rinse it. You can either lay your piece flat to dry or iron dry. If you iron dry – use an old iron incase you left some paper residue in your piece. The only benefit to ironing dry is that it goes a bit quicker and leaves a bit of a smoother fabric. If you have made a three dimensional piece, you can stretch it over a form and as it dries, it will take the shape of the form.
My piece is dry and there is a hard spot on it… Chances are this a spot where the paper did not dissolve completely. Many times you’ll actually see the paper, but even if you do not, it could be that there is still some residue there. Simply pour additional boiling water over that spot and the remaining paper will dissolve.
My felted piece is too large…You can shrink your piece at any time by wetting it and putting it back in the dryer, preferably loose in a tied plastic bag, such as a plastic grocery bag. You can do this when the paper is still attached, after the paper has been dissolved, and even after your piece has dried if you wet it again. Felt will continue to shrink when water and agitation are combined. Throwing your piece in the washer works as well. However, the dryer is your best method as you have more control as to when to remove it.
My felted piece is too small…If you feel your piece shrunk too much and is over felted, you can soak it in very hot water for a few minutes, then remove the excess water, stretch with your hands and iron dry. This helps a bit, but as a rule of thumb, try not to over felt as you can always make your piece smaller, but not bigger, and it is easy to control the amount your piece felts by checking it in your dryer frequently.
Your piece has holes you do not want, or it has fallen apart…You have several options. For holes, it is easiest if you take a small piece of the artfelt™ paper and place it behind the hole. Use the roving of your choice and fill in the hole, making certain that the roving overlaps with the already finished area then wet down just the new area and perhaps an inch around it. Roll up and put in dryer as normal. Only the wet area will felt further.
What is the best way to control the density of the felt as well as shrinkage…You can control both density and shrinkage in several ways. The first way is with the thickness of the roving you tack onto the paper. The more roving layered onto the paper, the denser your felt will be. Very light layers in general create a lighter felt. HOWEVER, if you leave light layers in the dryer too long, you will get a very dense piece, that may have shrunk up to 50%. To see how lightly felted your piece is, look at the back side when pulling it out of the dryer. The roving shrinks, the paper does not. If the paper is barely wrinkled, your piece is very lightly felted. If it is heavily wrinkled, your piece is going to be quite dense.
For additional information, please refer to the website: itsartfelt.com