In her introduction, Leigh says her book is “devoted to purposeful felting with beautiful results.” She could easily have said, “beautiful and imaginative results.” She plays around with different fibers, stitches, and shapes on handknitted fabric, and with recycled thrift-shop sweaters and unspun fiber, as well. She also experiments with shibori (the Japanese technique of manipulating fabric by tying, twisting, or incorporating objects before felting), reverse appliqué, and needle felting,
Leigh Radford has capitalized on felting’s inconsistencies to create 30 projects that are delightfully distinct from one another and surprisingly beautiful in their nuanced use of this technique. The projects include all manner of things, among them: a tiny, round, zippered coin purse; pillows, a blanket, and simple sweaters embellished with needle felting; Christmas “stockings” and ornaments; an ottoman upholstered with textured felted panels; and jewelry--including colorful rings that are truly wearable.
Leigh’s soft, pleated cloche belies the notion that felted fabric is always stiff and scratchy. The open cardigan with a collar needle-felted in a merino/silk blend is pure elegance, and the felted buttons, some with bits of embroidery, would make a wonderful accent point on your next button-up project.
Perhaps, as a favorite, I’d pick the seat and back covers for a vintage kitchen chair. Leigh made the covers in a random polka dot pattern worked in reverse appliqué. The covers consist of two layers of felted fabric; cut out shapes in the top layer allow the colored bottom layer to peak through.
As a bonus: Leigh’s chapter on felting basics is full of hands-on wisdom. She gives explicit instructions on felting by hand, in different kinds of washing machines, the effect of felting on machine knits, different fibers, and different weights of yarn.
If you’re game to try a little nouveau felting, you can start with the Leigh’s projects for this weeks web letter: a cheery dog leash worked in CEY Renaissance and an elegant be-ribboned clutch bag knitted in Inca Alpaca.
The two projects in this web letter offer a great opportunity to talk about how different fibers, when felted, give varied results. Renaissance is 100% wool. When felted until the stitches are no longer visible, a smooth even, sturdy fabric is formed.
Inca is 100% alpaca and the difference in the composition of the fiber reveals a different felted fabric. When Inca is felted so that the stitch definition is erased, it makes a more textured and much softer, more pliable fabric.
Renaissance’s 40-color palette gives lots of choices for felted bags and other items. And because Renaissance comes in small, 50-gram hanks, you can work small projects or use many colors and they won’t leave you with a ton of unused yarn.
Inca’s super-soft hand, slight sheen, and wonderful texture are good for dressier projects, like this week’s clutch or jewelry. Choose from the 41-colors in the Inca line.
Here are the free downloadable Renaissance Dog Leash and Inca Felted Clutch patterns.
If you have difficulty downloading or printing the PDF patterns above, try these:
Renaissance Dog Leash page 1, page 2
Inca Felted Clutch page 1, page 2
Leigh’s felted leash is worked using a stitch pattern that forms two I-cords that are worked as one piece and roll in opposite directions toward the center. Using 2 double pointed needles, the first stitches of each row are knit and the last stitches are slipped. The piece is then turned, the yarn is pulled tightly, and then the previous row is repeated. This forms a sturdy fabric that is then made extra durable by felting, it also provides a very smooth edge along the length of the leash.