12 May 2012

Mammoth Hot Springs Felted Scarf

Mammoth Hot Springs Felted Scarf by pearhug studio
One of my fiber goals is to use fiber to create pieces to capture memories of some of the most amazing and moving places I've had the privilege of visiting. I wanted to start with things I have witnessed and experienced in national parks.

I took a trip to  Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2004. One of my favorite places in the park was Mammoth Hot Springs, a geothermal terrace of amazing natural changes:

The step-like terraces form as heated water moves along the Morris-Mammoth Fault. The hot water carries dissolved calcium and bicarbonate to the surface of the terraces where pressure lessens. Carbon dioxide then escapes as gas and the carbonate combines with calcium to precipitate as travertine. 
The Mammoth Terraces are constantly changing shape and color. Springs which were active one to five years ago may be dry and lifeless now, yet activity may later resume. Along with changes of thermal activity come changes in color. Fresh travertine is bright white in color and as it weathers it changes to gray. Bright colored cyanobacteria and algae mats which were dependent upon a stable temperature and a flow of water also change as the microorganisms die creating a stark, bleak landscape.   http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.com/mammoth.htm

I wanted to make a felted piece based on my photographs of this dynamic place. I chose a few that resonated with my memory of the place the most.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Connie Blechle of Breezy Ridge Alpacas carded a gorgeous batt for me "made from our alpaca Derecho and then blended with teal wool and then painted in some firestar as I carded." To say it is soft is an understatement-I had NEVER touched a fiber this soft in my life. Connie also has amazing customer service on her Breezy Ridge Alpacas Etsy store.

I wanted to make a scarf that was light and airy, but thick enough to showcase the gorgeous mix of fibers. White, fawn, blue, green sparkle...they all needed to be shown! I decided on a mix between cobweb felting and regular wet felting so that there are still airy spaces where the fiber just seems to hold together magically. I focused on drafting the fibers apart so I would get my desired effect.

I laid out some bubble wrap on my kitchen counter and carefully laid out the fibers from the batt:

Laying out the fibers

Next, I covered the fibers with tulle and wet it down with hot, soapy water. I then took a plastic bag and used it as a glove to flatten and saturate the water into the fiber. 

Wetting down the tulle-covered fibers with hot, soapy water

I took a pool noodle and rolled up the scarf. I made a bundle by then rolling it in a towel and tying the bundle with some panty hose ties. 

The next few steps involve the felting process, which I completed with rounds in the dryer on the no heat setting. The hot water, soap, and agitation cause the fibers to lock together and felt. Every now and then, I'd unroll the bundle, check on the fibers, and roll it up in another direction. I also alternated putting the bubble side and the flat side against the fiber when rolling my bundle. 

When I had decided the scarf was felted enough, I ran it through cool water and shocked the fibers by dropping the scarf several times. By stretching the fibers in various directions, I was able to give the scarf some shape and also check to see if I was happy with the degree of felting. I rolled up the scarf in a towel to remove excess water, fixed the fibers one more time, and left it to air dry. I will admit I also would put it in the dryer with heat just by itself for about 5 minutes at a time. 

With the flash, you can really see the different textures and patterns the suri alpaca, merino wool, and glitzy firestar felt together to make a unique piece of felt in a scarf that drapes beautifully.  

I loved the process of finally executing an idea I've had for over a year. It makes me excited about the possibilities I have and gives me the confidence that I can give myself permission to play around in the process of creation instead of just the end result. To use a process like felting where natural fibers are somehow manipulated to create a new form is also the same idea as the minerals, gases, and elements changing one form to another during a process-something that resonates deeply within me. 

I love how the texture mimics the water flow patterns

Feel free to post and link in comments if you have made something fiber-related inspired by a place you've been-I'd love to hear about them.