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PUBLISHED: 5:24 PM on Wednesday, October 15, 2008
To felt or to full?
I recently became a victim to my laundry machine. Looking toward the future (the rainy, snowy future) I pulled out the sweater collection, dusted it off, and threw it in the laundry for good measure.

Whoops.


  Tanna Peters
Mom's voice came scolding in my ears: "Never wash or dry your wools on high heat." Who knew I owned something wool? Now I own a very small something wool, and apparently, I am in good company.

What I did to my sweater is a centuries-old craft that has seen resurgence in recent years known as felting (or in this case fulling).

Juneau fiber artist Sara Lee Chubbs describes the process of felting best.

"Felting is the ancient tradition of using heat, lubricant and friction to matt animal fibers into useful or decorative forms," she said. "It can be a very active art form requiring lots of 'elbow grease' to coax the fibers into place."

Sara's description gives a truer sense of the techniques involved in felting. Often using soap, special needles and heavy friction, felters are able to rub and matt the fibers together to create a cohesive fabric (much like the process used in forming dreadlocks).

According to Sara, who has been creating fiber art for more than two decades, when she began felting about 10 years ago she had to order all her supplies from the United Kingdom. But not anymore.

"Good news is that there are so many more sources for materials, equipment and info on techniques," she said. "Bad news is that wool is now so much more expensive. Felting is definitely being considered as a viable artistic medium, and not only as a follow-a-pattern hobby."

Sara's work crosses both the artistic and crafting worlds, and she claims herself as a fiber artist but says, "I am both ... I seek to not only do original designs but also to master the techniques of the craft."

Whether you consider yourself an artisan or crafter, you can master the minimally invasive skill of fulling (sister to felting), which involves taking pre-made animal-hair fabrics (like wool sweaters) and employing a washer to be your "elbow grease."

Several books have been published recently with quick DIY projects in this vein, like Betz White's "Warm Fuzzies" (read her blog with free tutorials at blog.betzwhite.com). Below is a quick tutorial for you to make your own fulled sweater into a scarf.

Step 1

Purchase or scavenge a 100% wool sweater (try a local thrift store, or perhaps a loved one's closet). Put the sweater in the washer on the HOT cycle with soap and then dry the sweater.

Step 2

Cut off the ribbed bottom of your sweater with scissors.

Step 3

Measure your scarf width from the bottom of the sweater up and cut it off to form a tube. Cut this tube vertically in one place making it a long rectangle (also known as a scarf).

Step 4

Embellish your scarf. Glue a rhinestone heart on it, appliqué animals to it, sew two different sweaters together - whatever you'd like. Now wear it with "fulled" pride.

Tanna Peters is a crafter and designer from wonderful, rainy Southeast Alaska. View her latest creations at suiteliving.blogspot.com and her shared crafting sitecraftaddicts.blogspot.com. Send local craft inquiries and info to tanna.craft@gmail.com.


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