Saturday, March 19, 2011
felted farmyard pouf
For the annual fund raising auction at Naiya's school I wanted to contribute some kind of handcraft. I've never attended this event in the past and was unsure about what kinds of items would interest bidders. When I asked around I got the impression that it's kind of an anything goes sort of thing. Since a lot of the crafts I do are common to the Waldorf community and are therefore easy to come by, I wanted to try something different.
A few years ago I had made a footstool for Naiya (that you can see here). Since it's a quirky and unusual item, I thought it might strike someone's fancy.
My last version was made on a soft foam core which, I didn't realize until I was finished, made for a rather impractical, squishy stool or pouf. I started this one, therefore, on a sturdy core of rolled cardboard.
I used big cardboard boxes cut into 14" strips that wrapped around each other until I reached my desired circumference.
This circumference was determined by the size of the felted sweater I wanted to use for the cover.
I used the torso portion of a cashmere sweater for the cover as a whole un-cut piece to minimize sewing.
(There are lots of ways folks will describe how to felt a sweater. I use a really easy method of tossing any wool or other natural fiber garment enclosed in a zippered pillow case into my washing machine. I set the machine on hot, use a small amount of my usual detergent and just let it cycle through a regular wash cycle. I've never added balls or any foreign object to aid agitation and it always seems to work out fine with a single washing. What it does is bind the fibers of the woven fabric into a solid mass that will not unravel when cut. It also shrinks the original piece by varying degrees depending on the length of the wash cycle and the type of material with which one begins. The zippered pillow case is to keep the fibers which come loose from clogging and ruining the washing machine.)
I used a second sage green sweater as the grassy hills against the blue sky background of the base. It went around the bottom portion of the entire blue piece and was sewn on by hand.
I then cut a farm house and grain silo sort of thing from some other sweater scraps I had laying about and sewed them on with a blanket stitch.
The embroidery hoop made this much easier.
After the solid structures were in place I wanted to add the more ephemeral items of the farmyard using the softer look that needle felting gives.
The project was then placed onto a felting pad (which is just a big piece of coarse foam) as I added various embellishments to the scene.
Some of the elements like the larger flowers and sheep were formed and needled on the pad then, in turn, needled onto the sweater base.
Others like the grass, stepping stones, clouds and tiny flower accents were created directly onto the base from the start.
I then wrapped the cardboard with cotton padding (about 1" thick) and slipped the sweater over the whole thing. Although it was snug it fit perfectly.
I used enough padding to fold the excess over the top of the stool to soften the cardboard edge. The surplus cotton was torn away until a single flat layer was formed.
On top of this I added two more cotton discs to make a more comfortable sitting surface.
On both the bottom and the top I cut another disc of felted sweater and hand-stitched these in place.
(This photo is the base being held in place by pins. You'll also notice a little butterfly I needle felted on the bottom. This was to cover up a hole in the sweater.)
Before I sewed on the top, I added these petals or sun-rays. They're progressively smaller from outside to inside and were sewn on by hand.
In retrospect, since each layer covers the previously layer, I could have done this bit by machine instead of with needle, thimble and thread and saved a couple of hours.
Before adding the central circle of the sunburst, I blanket stitched it to the final orange sun-shaped piece.
When I took it to drop off as a contribution, the gentleman who accepted it said, "Oh, how sweet...what is it?"
We shall see if it piques any interest or helps the fund raising cause...