Friday, September 15, 2006

Fuzzy Bear Ear Whiplash

A week ago I had my first on-location photo shoot with models. it went very well - the models were all friends of mine and were without exception cheery and willing subjects. I'm taking this opportunity to show you two of the shots before their proper release to enter into this month's Whiplash competition. The subject is hats - how perfect for me? It's my first entry, and it's in the Design category.

Several years ago, a software developer friend lived with some other software developer types in a charming Victorian apartment, with hardwood floors and high ceilings and a vicious echo from all the hard, sonically reflective surfaces. I knew they needed fibers to absorb the sounds, but there wasn’t so much as a rug. I bought a bunch of wool roving, having never felted before, determined to make my friend a stellar and useful birthday gift.

Months went by. The birthday came and went. I moved apartments, and the friend became a roommate in a non-echoey location. In the corner somewhere, a giant pile of wool mocked me. So, I tought myself how to make hats. I didn’t have any foam forms so I needle-felted loosely, almost sculpting as i went, on a glass head that happened to be laying around in the house.

Fast forward a few years. I slowly perfected a method of needle-felting and then wet-felting hats that maximized loft and durability without taking too many hours to make. The hats I make now are all lined in silk with an inch-and-a-half wide grosgrain ribbon inside to help them keep their shape.

What’s the difference between needle-felting and wet-felting? Needle-felting is accomplished with tiny notched needles, wickedly sharp, that slowly intertangle the fibers as you poke them over and over and over. This produces a felt that has a wonderful loft and lightness to it, but is time-consuming if you want to produce a really durable product. Wet-felting is done by saturating the fibers in hot, soapy water and agitating them. The heat and friction cause the fibers to crinkle up and intertangle. The soap helps the scales on the fiber (just like in shampoo commercials!) open up long enough for the fibers to grab on to each other.


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