Book Resist Tutorial

Following on from the Q1 Challenge posted by Ruth from the Felting and Fiber Studio, there was some discussion on the forum about what a “book resist” is, I’m sure these resists go by a variety of names but I think “book resist” is a pretty apt description as the “pages” of the resist do look a lot like a strangely shaped book. This post is a description of how I like to work with this style of resist but if you have any tips or alternative ways of working please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Getting Started

You will need some flexible plastic sheeting, stiff enough that it will stand up on its own if you hold it by the edge but flexible enough that it will fold in half without breaking.

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I like the plastic that carpets come wrapped in but this isn’t very easy to come by, an alternative are the plasticised (wipe clean) table cloths. As much as I love foam underlay for resists, I find it a little bit thick for this technique, especially if you want to use more than 2 layers, but it will do if you have nothing else.

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Take a sheet of plastic and draw a line down the middle (this is where you will join your layers) then let your imagination go wild and draw out the template on one side of your line. I have added some photos of the resists and corresponding felt structures at the end of the post if you need some ideas to get you started.

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Tip – make sure any pointy tips are rounded, if you don’t, they will poke through the felt and create a hole.

Tip – try to avoid putting wide sections on the end of narrow stalks, its not impossible, but it will make it harder to get your resist out.

Tip – remember the felt around the middle of your resist will open out to form a space. This can be needle-felted together at the firm prefelt stage if desired.

If you want a radial sculpture where all the arms are the same, fold your plastic in half along the straight line and trace your design onto the other side.

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Stack additional sheets of plastic under your design, if you want your sculpture to have 7 or 8 arms you will need 4 sheets of plastic, if you want 9 or 10 arms you will need 5 sheets.  Pin them altogether then sew along the line down the middle. You can use a sewing machine if you wish, but set your straight stitch to long so as not to perforate the plastic too much, as this could make it easy to tear when you come to remove the resist.

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Tip – if you find it hard to push the needle through the plastic, gripping the needle with a pair of pliers might help.

Tip – if you want an odd number of arms in your sculpture keep two of the felt leaves together while you felt over them. Similarly, if you think you would like to use the same resist shape for making several sculptures but with different numbers of arms, use enough sheets for the largest sculpture and then reuse the same resist but encase 2 or more pages of the resist in wool to reduce the number of arms in your final sculpture.

Cut around your design, through all the layers of plastic.

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Getting Wet and Woolly!

Start laying out your wool, at least 2 fine layers will be needed, more if you want don’t want your structure to shrink very much or if you want it to be sturdy / functional. I typically use 2 layers for lampshades and 4 -6 layers for more structural sculptures. I like Blue Faced Leicester wool for this type of work but wrote a post on how several different wools behave for small sculptural pieces here if you are interested.

Once you have laid out at least 2 layers (in opposite directions) wet it out.

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Then lay a piece of painters plastic (or a strip of plastic bin liner) over at least half the wool then flip over one of your pages.

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Fold the wool over the edges as you would when working with any resist, being careful to smooth out any folds of wool where you are working on the outside of a curve.

If you need to cut the wool to fold it around an indentation in the resist, avoid cutting the last 1cm / 0.5″, to avoid creating a hole in your wool.

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Then continue laying out your wool over the next 2 “pages” open in front of you (one page will be partially covered by the wool folded over from the previous page). Cover with some decorator’s plastic but before you flip to the next page, go back a page and fold the wool ends over so it is all nice and neat.

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Continue laying out wool and flipping pages as you work your way around the resist.

Note: where you have folded the wool over from the previous page of the resist, if the wool is already quite thick, there is no need to add more on the reverse of the page, this usually happens where you have a narrow projection, as on the top of this resist.

Tip – if you are finding your resist is becoming a little lop-sided with a big pile of wool covered pages on one side, flip the first 2 or 3 pages (on the bottom of the pile) over to the other side from underneath. That should even it up and make it easier to lay wool on the remaining pages.

Tip: laying a few strands of wool across the top and bottom joints (where the pages are stitched together) will help prevent holes like this one from opening up when the resist is removed:

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You are now ready to start felting…

Use  a piece of painters plastic to gently rub the surface of each page in small circles, paying particular attention to the edges of the resist. I find going over the entire surface of each page 50 times is enough. The plastic should glide easily over the surface, if it doesn’t add some more soapy water.

Tip – If you are working with lots of pages you might find it helpful to remove the painter’s plastic as you complete each page so you know when you have reached where you started.

Tip – don’t forget to felt the pages at the back, the ones lying face down on the table.

Tip – work your circular motions from the edge of the resist towards the centre, this will help prevent wings / ridges of felt forming on the edge of the template (unless of course that is what you are trying to do!).

Do the “pinch test”, your fibres should be holding together well by now but if not, go through another cycle of rubbing (it may help to add some hot water too).

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Removing the Resist

Now we have to decide where to make a hole to remove the resist. For most templates, a hole near the line of stitching makes it easiest to remove the template but anything is possible! I make my hole just big enough for 2 fingers, the hole will stretch some more as you pull the resist out so don’t make it too big…

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Depending on the shape of your template, ones with long, spidery arms are the most fiddly, you may need to gently gather and work the felt over the resist in order to get it out without stretching or tearing the felt.

Once the resist has been removed hold the felt up to a light and look inside, through the hole where the resist came out, you are looking for any thin spots in the felt. Any holes should be repaired now , before fulling begins, by laying extra fibre over the wool and gently rubbing through some thin plastic until it is well attached. Now you are ready to knead and throw it, stopping every 30 seconds to check the arms of your sculpture aren’t felting together on the inside. This is also the time to start rubbing it in any directions where you want it to shrink and to start shaping it.

Once you are happy with the shape, folds etc. it can be stuffed while it dries.

Variations:

Try adding wings by laying wool off the edge of the resist.

What would happen if you stitch different shaped pages of resist together or stitched them at different positions (not just down the middle)?

How can you fold / shape / manipulate felt pods made from the same resist so that the final sculptures look very different?

Some example resists and their results:

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Stained Glass Felt Hanging

The lovely Ruth Lane from the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum is creating a book of contemporary designs and posted a request for interpretations of a couple of designs in different art forms, this is my interpretation of the Nature design in nuno felt.

I started by increasing the size of Ruth’s pdf on a photocopier to make it more manageable for felt and traced that design onto the dull side of some freezer paper. This was ironed onto a piece of black prefelt.
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Then cut out the internal sections to leave a black felt frame. I wetted out the prefelt to help the silk pieces stay in place.

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Then I started laying out pieces of hand dyed silk chiffon, trimmed so that they overlapped the black prefelt.
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Once all the cut-out areas had been covered with silk, I laid a piece of white prefelt over the back, if you want to hang your piece in a window so that it will be seen from both sides you can carefully place black wool over the chiffon edges to cover them.

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When I flipped it over the freezer paper was still attached to the front, this was very carefully removed so as not to pull the black prefelt out of position.IMG_5603
Then I gently rubbed the surface through some decorator’s plastic to fix the silk and wool into position before rolling it.

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Take care to check the prefelt has not moved off the silks after every 100 rolls.

The finished wall hanging:

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I think it looks a lot like looking through a window into a garden full of vines. I’m toying with the idea of adding some embroidery and squaring up the frame but I also quite like it as it is and don’t want to ruin it! What would you do?

Blending dyes on wool

This week I have been doing quite a lot of dyeing so thought I would share one of my favourite techniques with you. I use this technique to blend colours on wool when I want a gradual change of colour or to mix colours on the felt itself. It involves finger painting so is a lot of fun too 🙂

For this technique you will need:
Pieces of prefelt or finished felt (the method below was for 100g of felt)
washing up liquid
acid fast dyes
white vinegar or citric acid
measuring jug and scales
cling film
latex or rubber gloves
pots for mixing dyes in (old jam / chutney jars are good)
disposable pipettes or syringes
steamer (or microwave)

Method:

  • Soak your prefelt in a sink / bucket of 2L water, 0.5 cup of vinegar or 5g citric acid and, a generous splash of washing up liquid, making sure it is well saturated. If you live in a hard water area you can also add 1g of calgon to this soak.
  • Lay out some cling film, overlapping the pieces if necessary to make it big enough to lay out your felt.
  • Squeeze about half the water out of your felt (it should still feel heavy with water and be dripping but water should not be running out the bottom of the felt)
  • Lay your felt flat on the clingfilm.
  • I mix 1g of dye to 10 ml of water but you could easily use half as much dye if want paler colours. I apply my dyes with those 3 ml disposable pipettes but syringes work well too or you could just pour the dye on in the pattern you desire.
  • You can add a second or third colour now to make colour blending easier but I have applied 1 colour at a time to show how they spread.
  • After applying the first colour use your gloved fingers to spread the dye around (the washing up liquid in your bath will really help with this). If it is difficult to move the dye your felt is probably not wet enough, carefully pour some water from your soaking bath onto the felt and try again.
  • Then add your second colour (I used yellow but it looks very orange in this photo).
  • And blend with your fingers again. Continue adding colours and blending until you are happy with the design.

  • Carefully roll the felt up in the cling film
  •  And twist the ends shut or wrap in another piece of cling film to stop steam getting into your parcel.
  • I like to put mine in a zip lock bag too (very “belts and braces”!)
  • Then steam for 45 min to an hour before rinsing under running water.

Sun Dyeing

I was reading a blog a couple of weeks ago with some scepticism. With the benefit of hindsight I concede my scepticism was a little unfair. The blogger in question had posted about sun dyeing and said that you don’t need to buy those expensive photo-sensitive fabric dyes / paints, any old fabric paint will do. My initial reaction was, if any old fabric paint will do why is there a market for those expensive photo-sensitive paints? Too good to be true right?

The scientist in me made me set my scepticism to one side long enough to perform a little experiment. We all want to save our pennies to spend on more textile toys don’t we??

Materials:

  • Light coloured cotton based fabric (I expect silk will work too but synthetics possibly not – those are experiments for another day 🙂 )
  • A pad of newspaper or a large box (I used a plastic under-bed storage box)
  • Masking tape
  • A spray bottle filled with water
  • Fabric paints (I used Setasilk (iron-fix) silk paint and acrylic paint mixed 50:50 with textile medium). If you don’t plan to wash your fabric you can replace the textile medium with water.
  • Large brushes (I used the foam type)
  • Resists – I used leaves but anything that will lie flat on the fabric and block the light all work well. Paper cut outs and opaque stencils work well.

This is what I did:

  • Stretch your fabric over a box or a pad of newspaper with masking tape
  • Spray with water until evenly wet, allow the water to disperse while you gather some leaves or other objects to create a resist.
  • Working quickly, cover your fabric with fabric paint and lay out your resists, ensure they are as flat as possible to the surface of the fabric.
  • Leave in a sunny spot for 2 hours (beware of breezes blowing all your resists away if you put your box outside – I left mine in front of a south facing window).
  • The hardest part is resisting the urge to lift the leaves to see what is happening underneath 😉
  • Remove the leaves / resists and iron for several minutes to heat fix.

Sitting in the sun catching some rays, the pink and blue on the left is the Setasilk paint and on the right is red acrylic paint mixed with textile medium.

I think I applied the acrylic paint (on the right) too thickly, hence the effect is not so noticeable. In the areas where the paint is a little thinner the leaves are paler.

A second attempt with a lighter coating of acrylic paint. I also sprinkled a few grains of rock salt in the bottom right to see what effect that would have:

After 2 hours on a sunny windowsill:

Close up of the salt effect, it appears to have concentrated the paint under the grain and drawn the paint from the surrounding area:

A close up of an acer leaf outline.

Have you done any sun dyeing? What paints / fabrics did you use?
Linking up to nina-marieoff the wall Friday

Kumihimo Braiding Tutorial

I recently discovered Kumihimo (pronounced koo-me-he-mo) braiding and thought I would share some of the techniques with you.

It’s a fascinating technique with a mind-boggling array of different pattern possibilities, a small selection of which I have shown at the bottom of this post.

You will need a Kumihimo disc and some yarn or thick threads, embroidery thread works well, the discs are not expensive but you can also make your own. All you need is a disc off dense (stiff) foam (the sort garden kneeling mats are made from is good) or some thick cardboard, a craft knife, pencil and tape measure or ruler.

Making a Kumihimo Disc

  1. Use a compass, saucer, small bowl or pint glass to trace a circle on your foam / cardboard and cut out the circle. 
  2. Mark the rim with 32 evenly spaced pencil lines, this does not need to be exact but I find it easiest to mark the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions of the clock first. 
  3. Then measure the distance around the edge between 2 of your marks, this is easiest with a tape measure but can be done by rolling the disc along a ruler too.
  4. Divide this figure by 9. 
  5. Use the result to mark out 8 equally spaced lines between each of your clock quarters, you should now have 36 equally spaced pencil marks.
  6. Using a craft knife cut notches at each of the marks and a 2 cm wide hole in the middle of your disc.
This is what your finished disc should look like:
I have a commercial foam board that I like to use but the technique is exactly the same:

Setting Up Your Disc for Braiding
There are dozens of different braiding patterns available and these are largely determined by where the different coloured threads are placed on the disc at the start.

Once you have chosen your pattern (see below), cut 8 or 16 lengths of yarn (as dictated by your pattern). They need to be 3 times the length of your finished braid plus a few inches for knotting the ends. Tie them together with a single knot at one end and drop the knot through the hole in the middle of your disc.

Place the threads in the groves according to your pattern, making sure each pair is at least 2 notches from their neighbours (unlike the image below), they should be fairly taught with the knot just below the surface of the disc:

Holding the disc in your left hand (it doesn’t matter where you start) *take the left hand thread at the 6 o’clock position and place it in the grove to the left of the 12 o’clock position.

Then take the right hand thread from the 12 o’clock position and place it to the right of the thread at the 6 o’clock position.

Rotate the disc anti-clockwise 1 position so the next pair of threads are at the 6 o’clock position and repeat from *. Keep going until your cord is the desired length then remove all the treads from their notches and tie them all together with an overhand knot to finish.

If you have to put it down and come back to it, simply look for the uppermost threads and start with the next pair to the lower left (at the 8 o’clock position).

A Neater Way to Finish
If your ends will be seen or you want to tuck them into jewellery findings this video describes a better method for finishing the ends.

Pattern Choice
There are countless patterns available on the internet and in books but there is also a lot to be said for exploring and finding your own patterns too, just start with lengths of wool approx 20 cm (5 inches) long and make a note of the starting position of each colour on the wheel.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

How do you use your braids? Please feel free to post a link to photos of your work below.

Happy Braiding!

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