Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

I'd done this before - making a felt cover for a notebook.  How difficult could it be to make another?
I made this one for my daughter a few years ago when she liked to doodle a lot - before she went to art school!
So I expected it would be dead easy to create a piece of felted fabric and make an A5 sized notebook cover.  (as was the requirement for this month's Scottish Woman's Institute craft competition at my local branch)


Here's my first attempt.
It's been made by wet felting - a process whereby a robust fabric is created from carded wool - wonderfully soft merino in this case.  There's some dyed Wensleydale curls in there as well for added texture.  The process requires quite simple equipment and materials - a towel to work on as warm water is involved, bubble wrap, a reed mat, soap flakes, nylon netting as well as my chosen wool.  (I bought the wool from Queen of Purls, a lovely yarn store in the Saltmarket in Glasgow, a wee while ago.)
 Laying out the fibre is the fun creative part.
Making the fibres felt together takes elbow grease!
I was happy with the colours and the density of my felt.  Netting holds the fibres in place whilst warm soapy water combined with the agitation of rubbing with bubble wrap makes the natural fibres stick together.  Rolling the piece in the textured mat causes it to 'full'. At this stage the fabric becomes compacted so it shrinks in size - just like it would if you put your treasured woolly in the washing machine.  Trouble is, mine no longer fitted the A5 notebook!

So onto attempt number two.
This time I added some loops of a pretty variegated knitting yarn as well as silk fibres and curly locks.  A thorough rinse is required to get rid of all the soap then the piece can be reshaped whilst damp.  Again, though, I'd misjudged the size.  In order for this finished fabric to cover the notebook I had to trim off the uneven edges and glue it on.
Though it made a neat finished item, I couldn't help feeling that using glue was 'cheating'.  The felt will have to be discarded once the notebook is all used up and that seems a shame.  Ideally I wanted to make a removable cover which could be re-used, just like the one I made my daughter.

Back to the drawing board.  This time, though, I resorted to what my husband calls 'the last refuge of a scoundrel'* and I actually read some instructions!
I referred to an excellent book I own called Art in Felt and Stitch by Moy Mackay as well as this online tutorial by felt maker Angela Barrow.

Once more I assembled all the equipment I needed
and then I made a 'resist' which acts as a barrier when you don't want your felt to felt to itself!  Mine is made of packing foam as it's waterproof and not completely rigid.  It's bigger than the desired finished size to allow for shrinkage.  Here's the second attempt on the resist for size comparison.
And here's the fun part again, placing all the fibres.
I added lots more wool and silk this time
and had very clean hands after all this!
Then I wrapped the fibres around the resist so the notebook can be slipped inside the cover.
I kept measuring this time as the felt fulled and shrank so it wouldn't be too small.  I also cut down an inexpensive thin plastic chopping mat to the same size as the notebook cover and inserted it into the felted shape so it wouldn't shrink any further as it dried.
All that remained was a bit of trimming of the lining to allow the notebook to fit snugly inside.
Ta dah!  How appropriate then,  as I reveal my finished covered notebook, that it's National Stationery Week in the UK.

Time to find all my favourite pens and pencils and get scribbling.....

*For the record, in this quote Samuel Johnston is talking about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel - which may be timely as another election looms!


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