Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fibre of the Month April - ALPACA Project

I'm rather late posting this.. my April project has sneaked into May!  Tell you why soon..

I decided to keep my alpaca projects reasonably simple.. since I'm using raw fleece that I have to sort and card I just didn't have the time for preparing enough for a bag or slippers or whatever.  I have felted a seamless hat in the past and will put a photo at the bottom of this post.. but I don't have shrinkage details. 
ANYway, I decided to make a couple of flat pieces that can be used as table runners.

Both have a design inspired by Nordic petroglyphs.  The first one is white leg and neck fibre, coarser than the saddle area.

Design 'drawn' in red merino fibre directly onto the bubble wrap
- using the back/non-bubble side up.  I  only added the main elements at this point.
Brushing tufts of fibre.. but end first then tips
Laying tufts out.. this will be the right side.  Placed tufts all around the outside
then filled in the centre

And I forgot to take a picture of the next bit :S  I laid 2 perpendicular, very fine layers of carded fibre over the tufts.  I peeled layers off the batts and placed them 'as is'.   From the couple of alpaca projects I have done in the past I found that it was very difficult to heal a cut edge, so decided to make make a feature of natural edges.  I left a border of tuffs extending past the batt layers to form a fringe. 

Part way through felting, when it was holding together really well, I needle felted the rest of the design on.

Fully felted.  I LOVE the ragged edges.
The top layer which was placed as tufts is really textural and interesting.. it looks like lots of wiggly locks felted together.  The longboats are quite wiggly too.. I straightening them up a little with a felting needle as I went along. 

The elements that I needlefelted on stayed in place fairly well.. wherever the wiggly locks tried to distort them I just used a felting needle to tidy them up.

Holding it up to the light shows the texture off well..
you could make amazing lanterns with this!  It glows!


For comparison to sampling data:
Layout size:  63" x 18"
Finished size: 45.5" x 16"
Shrinkage: 27.5% x 11%
Weight: 200g

I wanted the second piece to be closer to the thickness of the sample piece..  

I used saddle fibre in white and toffee brown, carded into batts.
I broke the batts along their length and pulled tufts as I would with tops/roving.
After laying down the first layer I added locks with their butt ends brushed all around the outside.. sandwiching the butts in between the first and second layers.. I used three layers.
After wetting down I 'drew' on the boats
It's worth mentioning that I find with alpaca it's best not to spend much time rubbing. Rubbing as much as I would with wool seams to make the finished alpaca felts surface hairy - which is a pain if there's a design on there.  I rub it just enough to make sure it is thoroughly wet, then roll it up, tie it, and start rolling.  

Again once the felt was holding together well I needle felted in the rest of the design.. then finished felting.

The design didn't try to wander quite so much as with the first.
I like the wiggly boats :)
The smaller longboat and moon detail are a little indistinct against the brown.. if I was doing it again I'd put a layer of white over the top of the brown first so it showed up more, 
Held up to the light you can see the difference in texture..
this is much more even and thicker.

For comparison to sampling data:
Layout size: 29" x 20"
Finished size: 22" x 15"
Shrinkage: 24% x 25%
Weight: 130g

Last summers seamless alpaca hat!
Using creamy white and oatmeal tops/roving
I love old buttons :)

I find alpaca felts quickly and evenly, into a firm felt which is soft to touch. I'll definitely be using more of it in the future.  I just wish it didn't take me so long to prepare!  Maybe I'll get faster with practice.  Using tops/roving would be more fun.. no prep and no major clean-up operation afterwards (which I always do when using raw fibre).


Heather Woollove said...

Having seen both of these flat alpaca pieces in person, I must say that they are absolutely lovely...and sooooo soft to the touch!!

FeltersJourney said...

Thank you Heather :)

Pearl@GreatCottages said...

Really super to see, I tried felting with alpaca as I was given a bag to play with whilst at college - it was only the second fleece I had ever worked with - now I see why I struggled, it was hairy for me - so I obviously over-rubbed. Will try again now - love your hat! Looks like you have caught up after Wonderwool. See you soon I hope.

FeltersJourney said...

Thanks Pearl :) Yep, definitely worth trying again.. alpaca is lovely, but I find it does behave a little differently from wool and you need to play around to get a feel for it. That said I am FAR from being any kind of expert :)

Unknown said...

Beautiful projects!! I like wet felting with Alpaca too; it is so soft.