I love looking at felted creations on Pinterest. The jury may still be out on whether Pinterest is a force for good or evil in the artistic community, but I for one am a fan. It’s a useful way to see trends in the felting and fibre communities at large, and to admire the work of fellow artists.
But mostly to get jealous of the Russians and Japanese.
It’s interesting to see how creative trends develop across communities, and on the internet communities can be brought together from all across the globe. Divisions aren’t really there – if you speak the same language you can share thoughts, techniques and advice with people whose lives and cultural experiences are vastly different from your own. And culture is an important thing when it comes to our art.
But language is ever a barrier, and that’s why you still find communities that have trouble talking to one another (in a practical sense at least – you don’t need language to fangirl over someone’s pictures!) This is particularly true when the languages concerned don’t even share a common alphabet – if I read something in French I could possibly pick out a few words I could recognise or figure out, but show me something in cyrillic or hiragana and my brain gets up and walks out, slamming the door behind it.
That barrier to sharing information can lead to different trends and cultural influences evolving alongside each other. Without the ability to communicate to neighbouring ‘tribes’ we develop our own specific tools and practises. I was curious about this, and started looking into the materials used for felting in Japan (regulars to this site, or my real life stalkers, will know of my abiding love for all things Japanese). My research led me to Hamanaka.
You may have already heard of it. Hamanaka is a Japanese crafting company that produces fibres and related needle felting equipment and is becoming relatively more well-known outside Japan. The properties of their fibres have attained an almost mythological reputation in the felting community. Known to be very fast felting and largely pastel in colour, I wanted to give it a try. But where to begin? Hamanaka makes a variety of carded batts and odd speciality fibres used to create texture, and while I will review these in good time I’m going to start today with Wata Wata – their core wool.
Flippity Felts Category – Soft, smooth and reliable
- Produced by Japanese company Hamanaka
- Very short staple
- Extremely fast felting
- Smooth finishing
- A Japanese import – some availability within the UK due to UK-based Hamanaka ambassadors but supply is limited to a small number of sellers
- A great fibre to use but pricier than most British core wools
About the Wool
Micron – Buggered if I know!
Staple length – Err…short?
Handle – Soft
Available colours – natural yellowy white
Can be purchased from Sweet Pea Dolls SweetPeaDolls
Ok, I like the little baggie it comes in! I admit I am easily pleased by Japanese packaging of any kind – this text could translate to ‘Gabby is a hack with the social grace of an unharvested turnip’ and be filled with wallpaper paste and I’d still be squealing like a little girl and adding it to my permanent collection.
As it happens Ren, my good woman in Japan, assures me that it states the materials are 100% wool, which is reassuring as it looks like loft insulation.
It’s quite yellow…
…but it doesn’t look like it in these pictures. It is though. We’re not talking straw colour here, but there is a definite creamy-yellow tone.
The contents of the bag are one great big sheet folded over many times. Very neat. It looks like it will be hard to use in one whacking-great thick piece, but the fibres tear apart insanely easily. Like, super easy. The fibres are short – very short. Like mulch.
Can sheep fibres be mulched. Well… I guess. I literally have no idea what this is going to felt like, though. Guess it’s time to find out!
The Ball Test
The Ball Test is my comparison test between the different core wools to help determine suitability for purpose (i.e. dry needle felting), versatility and speed. I start off with approx. 10 inches of fibre and felt using a 36 gauge triangle needle for five minutes, then I spend another 5 minutes using a 38 gauge triangle, recording my results at the 10-minute mark. If I feel that the ball is still unfinished at this point I continue until it is completed to my standards – a tight, firm, even ball that is relatively smooth and as lump-free as possible.
This ball practically made itself.
I am astounded by this material. My ghast has been well and truly flabbered. I must be an odd number, because I can’t even.
Right away the fibres started trying to stick together, which was helpful. The shape formed quickly and kept a good size – it didn’t shrink as much as I thought something with such short fibres would. The needles worked really well with the fibres – a good, satisfying crunch with not too much resistance. The ball took about 5 minutes to make and when it was finished there were hardly any marks or creases, the shape was great and the surface of the ball was neat and fuzz free!
The thing that actually surprised me the most was the tension of the final shape. Now, I like a solid, firm felt with minimal squish. To me that is both a measure of quality and the most practical way to felt – a core shape that’s too squishy will be harder to work with when adding top layers. This ball, no matter how long I worked on it, still felt squishy yet also felt solid and firm at the same time, and was very easy working with when it came to adding layers. Not sure what that’s all about, but I’m not complaining either!
Wata Wata, where have you been all of my life?
This fibre is amazing. It absolutely lives up to the Hamanaka hype and I was completely bowled over at how quickly I was able to achieve a solid, evenly-shaped ball. Not only that, but the end results barely showed any signs of needle marks, creases or holes.
I was slightly thrown by its lack of a scent, and there is something about its texture that I can’t put into words – like feeling both synthetic and…well, not. Certainly seeing such a short staple was disconcerting, but ultimately proved to be beneficial as it allowed me to easily tear of small sections at a time.
But there’s no denying that this is a pricier fibre; nor is it particularly easy to get hold of. However, I did consider it a worthwhile buy. It’s far easier and faster to felt with and ideally suited for those moments when you have to finish a project quickly. It might not be something you can afford to use all the time, but you’ll be glad to have it in your inventory.
Please note that different clips may produce wool that differs from the description given above. All wool reviews are based on the quality of the clip I am using at the time of review.
Some photographs have been edited to ensure images represent the wool as true-to-life as possible, as apparently the ability to take accurate pictures of wool is not one of my strengths.