Lamination is a process of creating voluminous wool and cloth patterns on felt.
What you need (materials):
- wool (18 micron white merino);
- silk (white excelsior);
- fleece (white polyester fabric);
- foam underlay (for pattern);
- bubble wrap (or may be replaced by Ikea Rationell drawer mat);
- polyester net (or any other synthetic net fabric);
- plastic (approximately 50x50 cm to cover laid-out pattern);
- vibrogrinding machine;
- soap, water, scissors, washboard, towel.
So, shall we start?
First of all, to felt a seamless bag, one should draw the pattern of a certain shape and size. Take the foam underlay and draw an outline of the bag you want (the base, without straps or pockets). Then add the percent of shrinkage, which depends on the felt quality, the thickness of the blank you’ll lay out and your efforts when felting. I used 18 micron merino and added 7 cm to each side of the pattern. I worked by eye, but if you need to know the exact percent of shrinkage — like when making slippers or hats — felt a sample and take measurements. So, cut out the pattern.
Put the bubble wrapping on the table (with its smooth side up) and draw out the pattern with a marker on it. Turn over the wrapping with its bubbled side up.
Start laying out the first side of the bag. Lay the first layer of wool aflat pinching off the strands one after another and laying them out overlapped. Your layout should go 2-3 cm beyond the edge of the outline on the bubble wrapping.
Put the next layer of wool endlong (at right angle to the first one). Lay out the next layers the same way; I laid out 5, but the number may be different as one can pinch off strands of different thickness (head for an average thickness of the layer for your bag side).
Then cover the blank with the net and soap it with water+soap bath.
Having wetted the blank, carefully take away the net and put the pattern on (the one which you’ve cut out of the foam underlay).
Fold all extra felt over the pattern. Try to fit it tightly to the pattern. Make sure that there are practically no wrinkles on the folded felt and over the pattern.
Having folded the edges, lay out the second side of the bag. Take the combed wool tape and lay its strands out aflat. But don’t overlap this time, start from the folded edges of the first side. Lay out the same number of layers like for the first side (5 layers).
Then cover all with the net and soap it. Take the net away.
Fold the new edges under the blank. You can slightly lift it for your comfort.
Take fleece, draw decor stripes on it and cut them out. Lay them out on your bag.
You can take any material you like instead of fleece. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to laminate fleece (press it between prefelt and silk). Owing to its structure, it would give textured surface on a ready item. Different fabric gives different texture when used for lamination — you can experiment and put anything you like under silk: silk, linen, viscose, synthetic fabric… Some fabrics are «felted through», others not — they’re fixed by excelsior silk and so they would keep their position and texture (even if this fabric is too thick or synthetic). The best thing before making a big item is to make a small sample laminated with different fabrics and pick a texture you like more.
It is also important to remember that felt shrinks when being felted and absorbs anything in its path, so if you cut out very thin fleece details and lay them out very close to each other before felt shrinks — these pieces would come too close to each other and damage the whole pattern.
Put the piece of excelsior silk on the fleece pattern so that the silk went half-pattern over the edge from each side.
Turn over the blank carefully so that the silk was underneath. Fold over the fleece patterns.
Lay out the rest of the fleece pattern on the other side and fold over the remaining edges of the silk. It’s important that excelsior silk covered all blank completely. For that, you can slightly cut silk and fold such parts separately. These pieces could also be arranged in layers but carefully, so that the joints were hardly seen.
When laying-out is over, cover the blank with plastic and process it with the vibrogrinding machine.
Slightly lift the plastic from time to time to check how much fabric and wool have been felted, if they’ve properly stuck to each other. Buzz with the machine until 2-3 strands of wool come apart from the surface (pinch it to check). When it’s over, you can overturn the bag and perfect it from another side (through plastic, too). Moreover, remember to machine the folds to get rid of unattractive cords and seams.
After the upper strands of wool have stuck to fabric (see Step 26), you can put the plastic aside and go on felting by hand. Give the item the finishing touches, felt deep layers properly to get rid of porous spaces inside and make each part of the bag equally thick (felt should spring when being pressed). You can rub heavier with your arms.
Remember about the joints and pay them special attention so that there were no unattractive folds… For that, rub the joints thoroughly with your palm.
You can also rub side by side.
When your hands feel that the pattern began wrinkling inside the bag (this happens when all has been felted and has shrunk) — take your scissors and cut up the blank in the place where the inside should start, over the handles.
Take the pattern from the inside.
Go on felting. On the step when you take the pattern away, the best thing is to turn it outside in and rub the bag from inside to felt it from all sides. This way you won’t damage silk and the pattern.
To felt all deep layers, you can also gather the bag into a bunch and pinch it some times with movements like when kneading dough.
You can perfect the folds; the more attention you give them, the better.
Rolling is also good at the last step of felting. On the table, lay out a towel on the bubble wrapping, put the bag on it and roll all together. This is a very efficient method, its main advantage is that your blank compresses in the direction you roll it. So roll the bag properly the way you’ve arranged it (it’s important to process it with your palms), then unroll it and see how much it has shrunk in the direction you’ve been rolling it!
Now lay out the bag and towel and roll them in another direction to felt again (from top to down or from left to right — depends on what you’ve already done).
My favourite felting tool is a washboard. I use it at the last step. If your bag hasn’t gained enough density from the preceding manipulations, wet it in soapy water and rub against the washboard.
When the deep layers have been properly felted (the bag is dense, felt seems like springing back, and the whole bag has shrunk by 30-40 %), turn the bag outside in, unfold it and even the cut with the scissors (the place where the bag should open). Then felt this edge: rub the edge against the washboard or with your hands (which may be more comfortable) until it becomes smooth and oval. After that, rinse the bag to get rid of soap, straighten and shape it before drying (it’s better to do it at room temperature, or on a radiator with white paper under it: see that the bag hasn’t overdried, otherwise dark spots may appear on silk… ).
When the bag gets dry, give it the last touches: sew lining inside and insert the handles. It’s easier to find a place for handles first, then sew the lining inside, insert the handles and sew a magnetic clasp.
To insert the handles, apply them to your bag, draw the outline of the cut with chalk and carefully cut out the holes; then attach the cutting-in handles with clasps — they could be fixed in the bag at once. To strengthen the «construction» and be on the safe side, use instant glue.
And your handbag is ready :)