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Basic Blocking and Felting


Basic Blocking and Felting

Instructions for Nonibags
By Nora J. Bellows

Felting Bags

Using a Top-Loading Washer

I recommend felting your bag in a top-loading washer that is set on the smallest load size and the hottest water setting.  Put bags in lingerie bags or zippered pillow protectors (to better protect your washer from felt lint and you bags from pulling out of shape).  Add a small---very small--amount of laundry detergent to the wash. 

Rather than letting the bag go through multiple cycles, turn back the dial and let the bag agitate until it is a thick felt.  You will want to check it often, making sure you work out any kinks that look as though they are settling in.  Once the bag is the size and thickness you want, or the measurements listed here, rinse it by hand, and then put it back in the washer to spin dry.  Agitating it further at this point will also possibly shrink it further.  

Using a Front-Loading Washer

Using a violent top-loading washer produces a nicer felt more quickly than a front loader, but this does not mean that you can’t get a great felt with a front loader.  There are a few things you can do to help things along:  add some tennis balls, sports shoes, and old blue jeans to your wash to increase the agitation or friction that your woolies have to contend with.  And use that little timer to check your felt often, careful to pull out any creases that look as though they are setting in, and to help the curl at the top of your bag to get straight. 

What To Do If You Are Stuck Without Any Washer At All

I know a man who, when without a washer, devised the following to felt on the go.  Pick up, at your local hardware store, a bucket (a rather deep one, I think), a toilet plunger, and some detergent.  Procure for yourself a good bit of hot water and then work at that felted bag as though you want to make butter out of milk.  A great method for the apartment dweller who must content him/herself with coin-op washers, the person in search of a workout for svelte arms, and for the felter in a hotel or some other locale lacking the benefit of an accessible washer.

Blocking Your Felted Bag

At the conclusion of the washer cycle, or your furious plunging, dry the bag as best you can and then go about blocking it:  stretch the bag so that its height and width are even all the way around.  You can stuff the bag with newspaper, plastic bags, or anything else at hand, such as a rolled up dry towel or even skeins of yarn you might have around.  You may want to use a small plate or bowl to give circular bottoms shape, or a box to help a square or rectangular bag develop or keep its crisp shape.  I have, on occasion put same sized books in thick plastic bags and then put them in the bag until it dries.  Don’t, of course, put naked books in your wet bag!

Felting Flowers

Assemble your flowers before you felt them!  Some have complained that their flowers are rather “flat” looking, especially the Camellias.  This is all in the assembly and blocking.  If you want your camellia petals to have nice cup shapes, you have to achieve this in the assembly process.  So, use your tapestry needle and yarn to get the cup shaping.  If your flower looks rather flat when you sew it together, I will look even flatter after going through the washer.

There is nothing special in the felting of flowers.  I tend to just throw them in with like colored felting and check them (and everything else) to see if it is the density felt I like (I like a really dense felt).  Once out of the washer, you will want to pay special attention to blocking.  As I have emphasized in various places, things are how they are blocked.  So, if you want your flowers to have a rather “real-ish” look to them, that is, if you want their petals to look a little this way and that, then make sure you block them to look that way. 

I pull at the petals with my fingers to emphasize the cup shape of camellias, the soft curling ends of the spider chrysanthemum, and the casual-ness of the unfurling rose, and then I employ all sorts of kitchen things to get the shape I want:  Salt shakers prop up the petals of camellias.  Bowls hold the softly curling petals of the spider chrysanthemum.  Unfurling roses are piled one next to another to make one look a bit squashy, another just opening, another open only on one side.  And Mandeville vine flowers I sometime hang from the knobs of cabinets in order to make them look as though they have only just opened.  Others I dry with their faces on the counter, their long trumpets standing up like elfin hats in order to give them that happy, completely unfurled appearance.  I hope you enjoy Noni flowers as much as I have!

Felting I-Cords

I suggest that you felt your I-cords coiled up in small lingerie bags.  If left to their own devices (that is, outside of any bag), I-cords will tend to tie themselves up on pretzel-like knots.  This tendency to tie themselves up in knots makes for not so great looking, uneven, unfelted spots.  If you don’t have a very small lingerie bag, just tie a knot in your existing lingerie bag to make it small.

Pull out long and straight to block.  If felting two separate I-cords for handles, pull them to the same length, and then dry them flat and straight on a kitchen counter or other water resistant surface.