Using Bergschaf Wool For The First Time

I bought 200g of Bergschaf carded batt in natural brown with my last DHG order.  I hadn’t used it before, but heard a lot about people using it for slippers and handbags due to its durability.  It comes in many dyed colors, but I went with natural to work as close as possible in its natural state.  

Firstly, what is Bergschaf?  It is a sheep breed bred in the Tyrol area of the Alps in Italy and Austria.  It is bred for meat, milk, vegetation management, and wool.  It is quite a hardy animal.  The wool is supposed to felt well and is good for spinning.

In the latest issue of Felt Matters magazine produced by the International Feltmakers Association, there is a tutorial for making a pair of oven mitts by Lamorna Thomas.  It uses only Bergschaf wool in two colors.  I only had one.  I also did not make a sample.  I went along with all of the sizes and techniques for making these mitts according to the tutorial.  Because this tutorial is only available to members of the IFA, I am not able to share details here.

To start with, my layout went really well.  I am used to using batts and pulling apart the layers.  There is a motif for the top of the mitts, so I used a prefelt made from Shetland wool in natural white.  The prefelt is inexpensive to buy so I bought a large piece.  There is a lot of VM in the prefelt.  I made a heart shape and added wool ‘noodles’ for decoration.  The noodles were bits of hand spun wool that one of my guild ladies gave me from a shawl she was knitting.  She was going to throw them out otherwise and so she saved them up for me.  I started this project late in the afternoon and so after wetting out with soapy water, I just gave it a little rub, folded in the edges and left it overnight.

Day two:  I was told that Bergschaf is a fast felter, but my experience with this project is quite the opposite.  The next day I sanded, I rubbed, and I rolled.  I then rubbed some more.  I heated up the piece regularly in the microwave to keep it warm as most wool likes heat to felt.  I even used the bamboo blind as was recommended.  The piece took ages to shrink.  At times I thought it had gotten larger.  I used super hot water and then cold water to shock it.  I used my fulling tool.  The piece would not get hard or shrink much.  I spent most of the day working on this piece with resting in-between.  By late afternoon, and several bouts in the dryer, I gave up.  Although it felted to the dimensions suggested in the tutorial, I compared it to a pair of mitts I have and I needed it to shrink another 10cm to match and also to get rid of some of the stretch.

Day three:  Bergschaf is really hairy.  It also gets everywhere.  This is really putting me off.  I have spent another two hours rolling, rubbing with the felting tool and finally in the tumble dryer in a net bag.  I even used some heat.  I could only get it to shrink another 5cm than I wanted.  It still stretches.  While it was drying, I reached out to one of the FB felting groups to see if it was me or the wool.  A lot of people like Bergschaf.  I think you either love it or hate it.  Some people didn’t rate the Bergschaf from my supplier and recommended others. They made other suggestions, but I had already done what they had suggested.   I might have to try other wools.  I have used the Scandinavian batts from Wingham Wool Work for making vessels, and although there was a fair amount of vegetable matter in it, it did make a really nice vessel and a very smooth felt.  I can also try layering one thin layer of Bergschaf and alternate with a thin layer of merino batt and see how that goes.

Day 4:  My piece is all dry and looks less hairy than before I set it to dry, but it is still hairy and there is still some give in the piece and is not as hard as I thought it would be.  Never having worked with this wool before, I don’t know if that is normal.

IMG_0173Not so easy taking a photo of fuzz.  The Bergschaf really migrated into my design.

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I shaved one of the hearts to see if that would make any difference.  It is a little bit better, but not too much.

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IMG_0174So, this is what I was working on, a pair of oven mitts.  I didn’t put a loop in as I have mine hanging on the oven door and don’t have anywhere to hang it.  It is perfectly serviceable in its current state, but it could be better.  I will be making another one and blending wools to see if that works any better.  In the meantime, I ordered some batts from Adelaide Walker as suggested by the daughter of the lady who made the tutorial.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Using Bergschaf Wool For The First Time

  1. I work with Bergschaf a lot and I love it! I use it for vessels, bags, hats, slipper, etc, etc. I’m working with it right now to make a Wallhanging. I can’t understand why yours took forever to shrink as I’ve always found it very quick to work with. I wonder if it’s down to expectation? What is quick for one person may feel like forever to another. You didn’t mention where you bought yours but if you buy from Adelaide Walker you will be getting the same fibre I use so hopefully shouldn’t have a problem with it.

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    1. I bought it from DHG. I assumed it would be a slow felter, but not that slow. I just ordered some from Adelaide Walker as someone recommended, so we will see. I don’t think I would use it in hats due to the itch factor and is why I only use merino I figure if I find it itchy, others might too. I was hoping I could use it for bags.

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  2. This isn’t a fibre I have used before, although I’ve seen it on AW website. I joined the IFA a couple of months ago and saw the oven gloves and thought that seemed a nice different project but haven’t been felting for quite a few weeks. I need to get back to doing some felting alongside the decluttering as it will help alleviate any stress 😀

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    1. I have now ordered some from Adelaide Walker as recommended by the author of the tutorial and a few others. I’ve had a few people say they had issues with it from where I purchased it from and I have seen some lovely things made with it. This is actually a nice and easy project. I am currently working on another with merino alternating with a layer of Bergschaf. Will see how that goes.

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