Many of us who adore Merino and it's many shades of colour, will stick to Merino throughout most of our felting projects. In today's topic I hope will give you a few ideas on how to extend this, by your use of colour and fibre selection. I hope to inspire you to either start creating your own colourful and textural blends or consider purchasing from a range of products readily available.
Let's start with commercial sliver (tops) blends; there are many options available to you here and these can be split into two simple categories. Firstly colour blends and secondly fibre blends.
Commonly colour blends are created by processing two or more colour slivers together in the final combing process. Each colour has already been carded and combed individually and this is why these blends appear to have a stripe effect across the width of the sliver (top). This stirpe effect can be bold, or fine... traditionally the bolder the stripe effect the less processing the blend has had and these are called 'once' blends. You can create finer stirpes of colour across the width of your sliver by processing the fibres again. An example of 'twice' blends can be found in the official Working with Felt shop where I have a selection of Merino colour blends to choose from. You can also buy blended batts... these are usually homemade products by professional dyers and fibre artists.
Fibre blends are created in the same way but have rather than being about colour they are often about texture. A well loved felting and spinning example can be found in the official Working with Felt shop... a Merino and Tussah silk mix. This blend combines the soft luxurious quality of Merino and the high shine of silk, making it an eye catching blend of textures that could work at adding a wonderful edge to you final projects.
If you fancy being a bit more experimental then why not try to create your own blends, or try blending... Home blending is easy on a small scale, you can either blend as you work, or use some simple tools and your desired fibres to create your own batt or roving... and this is where it gets fun, because anything goes!
Blending as you work... Think about your project, do you need to add texture or build colour? Let's take an example of a seascape, you have many blue shade of Merino to choose from in order to make your seascape, but individually they don't capture the 'essence' of the sea and it's enviroment... this is where you can start to use many blue shades to build your picture in the same way you would if you were a painter. I personally would always start with a dark blue base of one colour and on top of that add small locks of lighter blues to create my blend and capture the light and shade of the scene... don't worry if they over lap and merge into each other as you work, this blending will help acheive a more conisdered look. You could also try adding silky looking fibres like Tencel (in the shop) to add a sparkle to a crest of a wave. This type of blending is more of an artistic expression rather than creating a true fibre blend, but it is however important to mention.
Blending a lock of wool... For this you need a flick carder (in the shop) to gently tease your fibres/colours into a softer form to start work with. Take a small lock of each of your colours/fibres and work them together with your carding... here they don't need to have a stripey effect, you could blend one colour into another to create a 'shantung' two-tone effect.
Blending a larger amount of wool... For this you will need hand carders (in the shop), or even a carding machine. The great thing about carding here, is that you can fine blend your colours and fibre. For example if you wanted to add angora into your finished piece, hand carding a 'rolag' or batt of fibre is a much easier than individual locks with a flick carder. It also gives you a larger amount of your finished blend to work with, so you could use your blend as a project base, not just an addition to your work.
Blending at home in my eyes does have rather more creative results, not only can you experiment with fibres not traditional blended in the commercial world. For example, why not try camel and alpaca, or cotton and flax... what about merino with angelina? But it is a great way to create your own 'tailor-made' surface effects for your projects, which will set your work apart from your neighbours. Don't forget if you are hand blending... anything goes, so try everything!
I hope this has helped and don't forget, whether you go the commercial or more arty home route blending is a great way to extend your projects and take them into a new dimension.
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