Our rugs start with hand-dyed "pre-felts". We process the shorter staple (fiber length) Nash Island wool into batts (a big fluffy sheet) and then felt them up a bit in our felting machine before dyeing them. Rugs can be made straight from a batt, but pre-felting speeds up the process and simplifies the dyeing as well.
Next we lay the pre-felts out on a bamboo mat and soak it with hot, soapy water. Any design shapes are added at this time. The mat is rolled up and tied, and then rolled under foot to felt the fibers together. It usually takes three to four sessions of 5 minutes each to felt a rug. More hot, soapy water is applied between each session to keep the fibers open and slippery.
Roving or loose fibers can be applied to the rug to create designs as well as shapes cut from other pre-felts.
Once the rug is felted, it is rinsed with alternating hot and cold water to firm up the felt and rinse out any remaining soap. The rug is then spun out in the washing machine and laid out to dry.
Once dry, we embellish our rugs with hand-stitching, using strands of hand-dyed yarns and a sharp tapestry needle. The stitches add definition to shapes and quilt-like textures to the background.
After felting, the rug is cut into shape - we like ovals and rounded-corner rectangles best. A stitched edge similar to a blanket stitch is added to finish the rug.
See you at the Fair this weekend!