Madder dyed wool tops

Plant dyeing for feltmakers

A short post from Susan 3/3/20

The March 2020 issue of ‘Feltmatters’, the journal of the the International Feltmakers Association, concentrates on the colour Red. A big thank you to the IFA for inviting me to share my tips for getting good reds from madder on wool for felting.  If you want to read about it, you can buy the issue here.

Cover of IFA magazine feltmatters issue 138

Cover of IFA magazine feltmatters issue 138

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the challenge of working with fleece, whether straight from the sheep or after processing into tops. There’s a forced relaxation involved all of the processes. Sorting fleece, picking out the detritus (including hedgerow thorns and dead beetles) and gently washing dirty fleece. We tend to keep the bath just for fleece washing and I bail the dirty water down onto the front garden, which is always grateful for the nutrient and irrigation.  Even with commercially prepared combed tops you have to settle into working slowly, so it wets out thoroughly, yet doesn’t become a hideous felted mess by the time the mordanting and dyeing is done.

Basket of washed fleece

Basket of washed fleece

I confess I also love equipment. We have acquired a collection of 25L fermenting bins and steel bowls which work well for preparing bulk quantity of wool fibre.

Fermenting bins for mordanting

Fermenting bins for mordanting

 

We use the fermenting bins for all kinds of dyeing tasks. But having lots does make it easier to cold mordant lots of manageable sized pieces of wool or silk tops in parallel. I really did use all of these when preparating for a 2 day workshop for 10 feltmakers.

And when documenting the preparation, I couldn’t resist this layout.

Fermenting bins and steel bowls

Fermenting bins and steel bowls recalling Star Wars character R2D2?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do I use the dyed tops for?

Well, there’s the challenge …

Somehow there’s usually more appeal in getting started on another dyeing project than planning to make something. My largest felted item so far is a small blanket I made for a retreat to the Isle of Lewis. This was entirely local Hebridean and Shetland fleece, in their natural colours.  The blanket was finished just in time, so still damp when I boarded the intercity train north. But it’s super soft and lightweight. I use it at home as a chair cover.

Hebridean and shetland fleece laid out for felting

Hebridean and shetland fleece laid out for felting

 

Felted blanket

Felted blanket, Hebridean and Shetland fleece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ashley and I have made some needle felted animals and small sculpted heads. And I have an embellishing machine intending to combine plant dyed fleece with scrap yarn and fabric. But using it is still an aspiration.

Needle felted head

Needle felted head

 

 

 

 

 

 

Felted owls

Felted owls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, here’s the bath when not being used for fleece washing or a mordanting marathon.

Bath when not in use for woolcraft

Bath when not in use for woolcraft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in a workshop on mordanting for feltmakers don’t hesitate to get in touch.