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.
Not so easy taking a photo of fuzz. The Bergschaf really migrated into my design.
I shaved one of the hearts to see if that would make any difference. It is a little bit better, but not too much.
So, 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. 🙂