Brace yourselves I am about to share with you Stage 1 of my latest project which I am calling The Experiment. Don’t worry it will not involve the creation of a composite human by way of the exemplary stitching together of body parts and the harnessing of a lightening bolt’s power via an antennae cleverly crafted entirely from my collection of knitting needles. This Experiment requires neither thunderstorms nor sewing…. nor body parts.
I am beginning to wish I had not given this such a build up. I think I have been influenced by the Wordsworth Museum’s “In Search of Mary Shelley” exhibition! I digress: I can reveal that I am experimenting with the use of plant-fibres in needle-felting. Think I can hear the rustle of you rushing for the tantalising little ‘X’ at the top of the screen. STOP! This is going to be fun…honest.
As regular readers will know I started on this path at last week’s
Where I gathered together a range of plant fibres ready to start playing
The motivation for this fibrous adventure was born from my recent change over to a vegan diet which I did largely for environmental reasons (and the hope it would make me a tad thinner … I am that shallow). As you know this has not all been plain sailing but in for a penny in for a pound (ouch! a mixed metaphor if I ever read one). I am keen to look into the environmental impact of each of the fibres I try.
Presently I am not knowledgeable about animal or plant fibres and the environment. I only know what I hear on the inter-web-thingy and don’t want to risk ‘factualising’ information that is not …erm…you know….a fact. This little endeavour of mine will give me the opportunity to snuffle about through the factoids and root out what might be empirical evidence. Oh yeah and it will be FUN! because first I need to see how they needle felt.
Stage 1 of The Experiment – Needle felting trial
All these fibres look a bit the same so let us make different sized needle-felted flowers and hearts:
And to be on the safe side so I definitely can’t get them muddled (believe me it wouldn’t take much) let us make each a little envelope
Now to get cracking. One fibre at a time (you guessed it, so I won’t get confused).
Step up BAMBOO FIBRES.
As you can probably see BAMBOO is very silky. It is also very fine and floaty. I found later I was wearing some of the whispy fibres that got away. The bamboo kept its silky sheen even after needle felting. It soon hardened as I worked the fibres inside the flower ‘cutter’. This felt very different from wool and is something to remember so that you don’t break too many a needle.
The results retained the fibrous texture of the plant skein. The most recently worked side was silky and relatively smooth:
While the reverse, a little like wool, was more tufty until reworked:
You sharp eyed readers will already have noticed that I have not yet utilised the dyes. I decided to needle felt at least one item in each fibre first so that I can trial dyeing them against unworked fibres. That is to say I am scared! I am scared that dying (by me rather than a professional) will somehow undermine the fibres ability to felt. This again is my lack of expertise. So much to learn…
Quick BANANA TOPS your turn.
Before I go any further, no it doesn’t smell of bananas! I have not opened all the sealed packets but I think this may be true across the board although I would be rather happy if the rose fibre were to be subtly fragrant.
Back to BANANA. It felt less silky than bamboo yet also had a sheen which if anything was more obvious on the needle felted item than it was on the bamboo. Again the fibres felted quickly and are soon resistant to the needle. I wonder if this will be a feature across the plant fibres?
Before I went to Woolfest I came across a really helpful video made by Ruth Packham on the Dying House Gallery website. Ruth was testing out a number of fibres (cotton, ramie, hemp and flax) and the word ‘resistance’ cropped up a lot together with warnings about going carefully in order to avoid needle snap-age. If you fancy following in our footsteps it is well worth watching Ruth and taking her advice.
For now Stage 1 of The Experiment is partially complete. I was not disappointed with the results. They were not the same as wool and were different from each other but once I have an overview of the eight fibres I can decide what will work best for any particular needle felting activity I undertake.
I have 6 more samples to work with. There is no escape folks I will keep you updated.
Until next we meet
No idea about the impact of different fibres on the environment. I do know that many dyes are very toxic…. Our local dyers had a fire recently which resulted in the run off from the firefighters (and some of the dye) getting into the river and killing all the fish. Unfortunate but thankfully no people were hurt by the fire. I guess natural dyes would be less toxic though.
Hi Patch – you are right the dyes are another issue. I have tried some natural dyes in the past and they can also have some ‘interesting’ qualities. We really should have done the dying outside, when my friend’s husband came home he laughed and said he didn’t fancy whatever we were cooking for tea! Thanks for the thought and information. Mxxx
I like the way you set up your blog sidebar with categories.
Thank you. I like checking categories in other blogs for topics of interest to me in that moment I tend to read books (non fiction) in the same way. Mx
I know Ruth and spend a few days felting with her… but only with wool.
My research does suggest that, in the UK, wool may be the least ecologically damaging fibre to work with. I think the thing to remember is that all products have an environmental impact and that reducing use (mending, recycling, repurposing) is likely to be a very important aspect of reducing our impact on the planet.
I was hoping to find an environmentally sustainable plant based alternative to wool for the vegans. I loved my wool and still have a stash which I plan to use up and I know Ruth and others source wool from cruelty free/slaughter free herds. I am hoping to get over to Sedbergh (not the best place if you rely on public transport) and will try and do it when Ruth will be about I would love to meet her properly. Bet felting with her was great. Mxxx