I recently wrote a review on the Japanese company Hamanaka’s WataWata core wool. For those who don’t know, 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 – especially their synthetic fibre, Aclaine, which is said to be very fast felting.
As a synthetic fibre, Hamanaka Aclaine makes an excellent alternative to animal fibres for those who cannot use, or who object to using, animal fibres. It’s pretty difficult to find non-animal fibres that felt as well as sheep wool, but the general buzzon the internet is that Hamanaka have achieved this impossible goal in Aclaine. High expectations abound.
Hamanaka Aclaine was the first Hamanaka product I had heard of, and I’ve been wanting to give it a try for a few years. However, it was only when I discovered Sweet Pea Dolls on Etsy that I was able to get it quickly, easily and more cheaply. So let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? I’ve waited long enough to give this marvellous fibre a try – I don’t want you to have to wait either.
Flippity Felts Category – Soft, smooth and reliable
- A synthetic fibre that felts as well as natural fibres
- Produced by Japanese company Hamanaka
- Not to be confused with other Hamanaka ranges such as Wool Candy, which are not synthetic
- 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 good selection of colours available, which seems to be growing
- A great fibre to use but pricier than most British wools – a 15g packet will cost about £2.50 – however, a little of this fibre does go a long way
About the Wool
Micron – Ummm… if any Hamanaka employees would care to tell me I’d be very grateful!
Staple length – Err…short?
Handle – Soft
Colours – Originally the majority of colours that seem to be available in the UK are very pastel-toned (although black and white are also available, as well as natural browns and greys). The colour range when looking at the Hamanaka website seems far more varied, which suggests more variety could become available in time. Thanks to the endeavours of Sweet Pea Dolls, the colours available in the UK are growing steadily and there are now many options available to the felter.
Can be purchased from Sweet Pea Dolls SweetPeaDolls
Well it all looks very neat and tidy. I think i still feel a little startled whenever I see fibres packaged so neatly – I’m used to having my fibres arrive a bit wild and woolly. I’m not complaining though – right from the offset it feels like using Aclaine will be something of an event.
The fibres are carded but come in a long strip, which makes it easy to manage the amount you use.
The texture is hard to explain – you can tell that it’s synthetic but it’s not distractingly so. It feel soft and squidgy, like spun foam, and there is no scent at all.
It all feels quite new and interesting though! I’m looking forward to this.
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.
Aclaine Felts slightly differently to standard sheep fibre tops, so I have written a tutorial on how to felt a ball shape using only Aclaine, and a separate tutorial on how to use Aclaine to cover a core ball made of other materials.
Aclaine tears into workable-sized pieces very easily. This might not sound like a big deal but I found it quite difficult to gauge how much fibre to use to make my ball. As this fibre is so different to all other types I’ve used in the past I don’t know whether it will felt large or small, so I start off with a modest amount and decide to work up from there.
Because this fibre has a rather foamy bounce to it I am unsure at first how my needles will cope with it. Some non-sheep fibres I’ve used in the past have seemed to take a personal dislike to some of the thicker, more heavy-duty needles (such as a 36 or lower) and stabbing into it feels like the needle is going to either snap, ricochet off, or snap and ricochet off (oh, isn’t that just my FAVOURITE thing!!)
I’m happy to report that this is not the case for Hamanaka Aclaine. I used a 36 triangle to start with and it worked very well, with the right amount or resistance against the fibres – it gave the satisfying crunch you want when felting but didn’t fight against the needle so much that I got a wrist ache.
Then it was all systems go.
This ball formed really quickly – certainly one of the quickest fibres I’ve used in these tests. What was remarkable to me was that for a while I wasn’t so sure that the ball was forming solidly enough. I like a very solidly made felt with little squish at the end, but while the Aclaine ball was squishier than I would normally prefer it was actually solidly made at the same time. I find it hard to explain. To summarise – a hard, solid core shape is easier to work with when adding the top colours (if it’s too squishy the shape will end up distorting and it will be difficult to secure the top colours). Aclaine doesn’t felt as solidly as, say, cheviot (I would say it was more similar to Blue Faced Leicester) but this doesn’t matter at all! Adding to the top surface causes no distortion or other problems. I don’t know how they do it, so I’m going to guess that it’s magic.
Aclaine has many other excellent properties. The fibres didn’t shed while the ball was being made, which means no messy felting mats, and the final surface was incredibly neat – hardly any frizz or hole marks. For anyone who might wonder how Japanese felting kits can possibly claim to be so neat, here’s you’re answer/
As with Hamanaka’s Wata Wata core wool, this fibre more than lives up to the hype. It’s difficult to find a vegan-suitable fibre that felts as well as sheep fibres, but Hamanaka Aclaine felts so perfectly that it holds its own against any type of natural fibre you can think of. It felts fast, feels soft and springy and, importantly for felters, doesn’t actually feel synthetic. You’d have a hard time telling the difference between Aclaine and, say, corriedale in a finished piece (although the Aclaine is much faster to felt with). On top of this, the surface is smooth and hole-free/
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.
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.