I’ve made swatches of different fleeces – Icelandic, Jacob, Romney wool – to seehow they compared. Icelandic wool felts quickly into a sturdy, tight but coarse fabric – great for strong bags! Jacob wool was slow to felt, but creates a tight fabric than is softer and less prickly than Icelandic. Cormo felts relatively quickly and is a bit more coarse than Merino, which felts most readily of all wools. Dutch-Canadian feltmaker and instructor Marjolein Dallinga (www.bloomfelt.com) likes to describe a wool’s felting qualities as either obedient or stubborn.
I had some Corriedale fleece, a medium-fine wool, and because it was soft I assumed it would felt easily and quickly, like Merino. So I laid out a largish vessel without first doing a swatch. Wrong idea! I kept rolling and rolling and rolling – well, you always do that when you make felt – but I discovered that Corriedale may feel like Merino, but does not felt like it. It took much longer for the wool to pull together than Merino. And though I laid out the wool intending it to shrink down in hardness and thickness appropriate for a bag or vessel, it remained soft, flexible, and springy to the touch – merino laid out this way would have been stiffer. Corriedale is a short-staple wool, meaning the maximum fiber length is short, and that resulted in holes in the final piece, though more attentive feltmaking could have avoided this.
The springiness of the felt doesn’t work for a bag, but it seemed right for bodywear. And waste not, want not, right? So I cut it down and stitched it into shape and made it into a watchcap. As a hat, the softness of this piece is delightful. Bonus, it can double as a tea cozy.