I recently helped out at Artybird to deliver the communal felt rug making element of the City and Guilds feltmaking course. I was privileged to work with Wendy, Sue, Anne and Kate for the day.
The emphasis was on experiencing communal rug making and the use of traditional techniques to achieve it. The first job was to card the Shetland fibres using drum carders. There was very little time to design the pattern so each person chose a shape from a recent course module and it was cut out from pre-felts. They worked very quickly and soon moved onto the wet and set stage where soapy water is added and the whole rug is rubbed to attach the pre-felts to the fibres and start the felting process.
Initially we rolled using hands and forearms plus beating along the length of the roll with our hands. To stretch a rug back into shape you can’t just get hold of the edge and pull. The rug is so heavy that if you pull the edge it just stretches the edge out of shape, instead you need to work it from the centre out. As always, it was then a nice change to roll with our legs for a while.
Nice to sit down and roll but if you push it away too hard with your legs it can be difficult to get it back again! Ropes are also great but best if you have two left handers or two right handers. One of each and the rug will start to skew sideways. You can see my homemade tamper tool in action along with lots of walking to compress the fibres.
As well as the tamping tool we used mallets to compress the fibres whilst continuing to stamp. To squeeze the water out it’s easiest to roll the rug up and stand on it. Final reshape and leave to dry. This will go onto my resources page as a permanent how to guide and if you’d like to make your own felt rug I’m running a workshop on the weekend of 26/27 June. Two days tuition, homemade cake and a felt rug for just £95. To book, drop me an email.