Crocheted Fiberglass Materials & Process

Fiberglass. Fiberglass is fiber made from spun glass. Often, old car windshields are used to make the fiber. Fiberglass is the material that boat bodies, surfboards, and some car bodies are made from. Typically, the material is used in conjunction with polyester resin and a mold of some sort. Fiberglass comes in the form of mat, cloth, or continuous roving.

I use fiberglass continuous roving. This is a cluster of continuous strands of fiberglass. It comes in a large very dense spool that is 10” high and 12” wide.

I crochet the fiberglass dry, right off the spool. I use a standard 6mm, US J-10, crochet hook.

I create the crocheted cloth. The story tells me what format to crochet. Whether to make a doily circle, a rectangle, or tube. Only one or several. One all-over pattern or a patchwork of all-over patterns. Should I use the traditional border patterns or individual doily patters. Will they be sewn together or hung separately. I use The Harmony Guide to Crocheting Techniques and Stitches. I flip through it over and over until I can relate a pattern or series of patterns to the specific identity dialogue.

Polyester resin. Polyester resin is a liquid plastic. I use a Hard Finish Resin also called Surfboard Resin. This resin contains 5% wax. As the resin cures, the wax settles on the surface. This wax gives the surface a hard surface that is smooth to the touch. It also eliminates the perpetual resin smell and tacky surface of regular laminating resin. I use 8 ounces at a time so that I can control it.

  • I pour out 8 ounces of resin into a mixing cup.
  • If I add dye to the resin to add color, I do so now.
  • I add the chemical hardener and mix it up.
  • I have approximately 25 minutes to work with this prepared resin batch. I apply the mixed resin to a portion of the crocheted fiberglass cloth with a 2” brush, work it in well, and gently squeeze out the excess. The fiberglass turns translucent immediately. It clings to itself, stretches endlessly if pulled, puddles, loses all form. It’s just a wet mess, a wet lump of stuff. During the 25 or so minutes, I need to apply the resin, take out the excess, and find a way to support the wet part of the fiberglass in the form that I need it to retain, making sure that I don’t end up with stretch darts if they are not a part of the form. I use gravity to create the form. If I place the wet crocheted fiberglass on a surface or some sort of mold, the stitches flatten and the roving cures as jagged flats instead of beautiful clean rods.
  • After that initial 25 or so minutes, the resin begins to set. Sort of like Jello sets, in that it no longer moves. The form is set. But, if taken off its support mechanism, the form would collapse.
  • In 24 hours, the fiberglass is hard and translucent.

The overall form is affected by the sequence of the resin application. I have to apply the resin small amounts at a time because the initial set time is so fast. This is a good thing. It allows for more creativity within the overall form. When wet with resin, the crocheted fiberglass stretches. When dry, it does not. The fiberglass itself does not stretch. It is that the crocheted cloth is a cloth made from hundreds of small complex knots. It is the weight of the liquid that stretches open the knots. So, if the wet is in the center of a dry area or along an edge, it will end up in a completely different shape when it finally stops stretching. This single aspect of the material allows the form to do its material thing, which I cannot control. I can try to predict and thereby direct, but it always does something unexpected. I welcome this runaway behavior because it saves me from making predictable moves. The material is inherently much more creative and clever then I am. It is the equal partnership of our two voices, mine and the material’s, that produces successful, interesting, readable new forms. It is in this resin stage that the form is found.

Sanding. After all of the fiberglass has been formed in resin and has hardened for at least 24 hours, I have to sand it. It does not come out clean. Fiberglass splinters stick out all over and the edges are mucked up with excess resin. With a fine grit sandpaper made for fiberglass sanding, I take down all spiky stuff from the inside areas using a large sheet, which goes pretty fast. Then, I cut small squares of the sandpaper and hand sand all of the edges. This has an effect of focusing the form



© Yvette Kaiser Smith 2004