It starts with an idea, of course. This one was an apron that looks like stone. So, a little over a year ago, I bought some lovely stone colored rovings and experimented with wet felting.
On my last dye day, I included some rocky colors and a variety of materials pulled from my fabric, interfacing, and old lace stash. The colors were somewhat dictated by the dyes in my “stash.” I was pretty sure that wet felting would give me the right look, but it can get thick and stiff. So, I also bought the needle felting attachment for my sewing machine thinking maybe I would needle-embellish a variety of textiles into my apron. It’s good to have options.
After much rumination, I finally settled on Nuno felting, where the wool is wet felted into a loosely woven fabric base. I’d seen this done for incredibly gorgeous scarves and wondered if it would work for my vision. Between what I’d bought and dyed specifically for this project, and some likely additions in my stash, I was feeling good. Finally, I got down to work.
I had been procrastinating both because I wasn’t sure which process I’d use, I wasn’t sure how I’d guesstimate the expected shrinkage, and because I was waiting for a nice day to take over the lanai with wool and soapy water. Ends up I have a much better space inside on the kitchen counter, and after 30 minutes of carefully placing wisps of roving, I was glad I didn’t have wind to contend with either! I’ve wet felted before here and here, and felted my knitting here. I’ve done a little needle felting too. But this Nuno stuff was new. It worked great though. My first try shrunk too much, but at least I had a starting point and more supplies (the wool stretched surprisingly far). My second try was the right size, but I was too heavy handed with the colors.
No worries, I figured I’d even things out with more roving and the needle felting attachment on my sewing machine. The attachment works great! It was great fun to let it purr all over my wool apron. However, it didn’t blend quite as well as I wanted for the stone look, and I wasn’t liking how the backing fabric poked through to the front when I felted from the back side (which would be necessary for better blending). So, though I like this technique, it’s not right for this particular need.
I am really loving the drapey qualities of the Nuno. But, I needed to go a little heavier with the wool for the best blending, and wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of the grey roving about three quarters through. I also had to piece together the last bits of my scrim for the backing, but that worked fine. I pulled my favorite bits of lace off the first two tries and resurrected them here. The apron is so soft and feminine, even though it looks a lot like a rock.
Some of the wool (particularly where I ran out of grey) still looked too streaky for my taste. I wasn’t happy with the needle felting, so — what to do? French knots! I’d envisioned a little embroidery on it anyway, so why not a little more? I thought about a trip in to town to Fiddlesticks to see if they had an grey variegated Valdani cotton. But I had no other reason to drive all the way to Honolulu. So I checked my stash. Ooh! I had several greys from a grab bag purchase. Almost two days, and an entire hank of embroidery floss later, it was looking great, but I needed more, and I wanted more dimension. I was thinking Fiddlesticks again and crewel wool. Then I remembered I had stoney grey wool in my knitting stash. That couldn’t be too different than crewel wool, could it? OK, it’s denser and a bit thicker, but it was perfect! The knots are zooming along now, as is the ball of yarn.
Moral of the story — be open to the process and let your stash lead you. Of course, a good stash is important, which is why I buy not necessarily for a specific project, but when I see something I like, or that speaks to me. It takes some will power not to go overboard, but I like the freedom my stash gives me to experiment and to arrive (sometimes circuitously) upon wonderful outcomes.