Felt Bird House Class.

Last week I tout 3 ladies from my guild how to make felt Bird houses.

There was rubbing

Alison in working Nancy and rollingLinda rubbing

and rolling

Alison rolling

Cutting

Linda

and more rubbing

Nancy rubbing

Then the really fun part, scrunching and throwing. Sorry to say no non blurry pictures.

After that they rinsed there houses and blew up balloons inside so the will dry nice and round.

Nancy finished Alison finnished

Lynda made the hole a little bigger to use it as a bird feeder instead of a bird house.

Linda finished

Posted in Design, Teaching, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Dyed in the Wool

I have heard the expression “dyed in the wool” many times but I thought I’d look it up. According to Wikipedia, the expression “dyed in the wool” refers to a state of steadfastness, especially with respect to one’s political, religious or social beliefs. The expression comes from the fact that fabric can be dyed in a number of ways. The woven fabric may be dyed after it is complete, or the threads may be dyed before they are woven. When a color is “dyed in the wool,” the wool itself is dyed before being spun into threads, so the color is least likely to fade or change.

So that’s exactly what I have been doing this week, dyeing wool for my upcoming felting class for high school students. The class is Saturday so I’ll write about that next week. I have at the least 30 students in three classes and perhaps a few more late sign ups. So I needed to make sure that I had enough wool for all of them to make a phone case. The phone case takes about 2 ounces of wool (56.7 grams).

Wool Before Dyeing

The first thing I did was to separate out 8 ounce (226.8 grams) sections that would fit into my dye pots easily. I decided a total of 80 ounces would be enough as that would take care of 40 students. So I separated out 10 sections. The wool I am using is “Mixed 56′s” from RH Lindsay.

Dye Pots on the Stove

I put two pots of water on the stove and heated them up. I then added a ‘glug’ of vinegar from the jar and added 3 teaspoons of dye powder to each pot. I know that a ‘glug’ is not a scientific measurement but I added some vinegar and didn’t measure it. After stirring, I added the wool roving. It works best if you don’t wad up all the roving and shove it in the pot. Just start feeding one end of the roving into the dye bath and it sinks right in. Towards the end of this process, I used the dye spoon to get all the wool to sink into the dye bath. After that point, I don’t stir the wool at all.

A Peak Inside

Here’s a peek into one of the dye pots. I used blue, black and purples as the cell phone cases are to be “cosmic” and the main color will be the sky color. You can see the timer going on the stove. I steamed these for 20 minutes each.

Wool Snakes in the Bathroom

After I steamed them, I pulled them from the pot with a spoon and rinsed gently and then spun them out in the washing machine. Here are all the colors hanging on the shower rod in the bathroom. Dennis came out of the bathroom later and said “I was attacked by wool snakes in the bathroom, there were thousands of them.”

Dyed Silk Noil

I also dyed some silk noil. I shouldn’t have put it in the pot at the same time as it did get a bit stuck in places to the wool but since it will be used as an embellishment, I don’t think it will hurt to have some already in the wool.

Charcoal Grey

This one is charcoal grey. I used the black exhaust bath to make this one. I just added more vinegar to the black dye bath after dyeing the black wool and added this wool to it.

Deep Purple

This one is a very dark purple, almost black in places. I did not make a fresh dye bath for each batch, I just kept adding vinegar and dye to what I already had in the pot. I couldn’t reproduce these colors but that’s OK with me.

Black

And this is the black one. I thought maybe if I had young men in the class, they wouldn’t want a purple cell phone case. So maybe they will think black and grey are more manly. Who knows?

Red Violets and Violet

These are in the red violet family. I thought these were more “girly” colors.

Blues

And then I made a set of blues from lighter to dark.

Blue Violet

And the last one is blue violet. I am going to make up packets for each of the students with 2 ounces of background wool and then 5-6 pieces of a variety of colors for embellishing and making planets and “cosmic” stuff. I will also include small amounts of silk noil.

A Large Pile of Dyed Wool

Here’s the entire pile of wool. I really like the range of colors. I hope the students will like them too.

A Handful

I thought that some of you might like to see how big 8 ounces of wool is. That is my thumb in the bottom left of the photo. So on to making packets for the class and we’ll see how high school students do with 1 hour and 45 minutes to make a felted phone case. Hopefully, their teacher won’t lose it :)

Posted in Dyeing | Tagged , | 23 Comments

Communicating with Customers

In my last marketing post, I asked “what makes you a loyal customer?”  The reason I asked is that it helps you get into the customer mindset when you can understand what your own buying habits are and why.

I answered my own question in a discussion of customer benefits about ebooks on the forum.  I consider myself a loyal customer of Lyn and Zed’s ebooks because the books are well written, have easy to understand instructions, a lot of good pictures And the fact I can work at my own pace. When they produce new books, I would likely buy them because I know the quality is good,  the price was reasonable, purchase was convenient — immediate download and I was able to contact the seller with questions.  All of these things are key benefits to me especially since I’ve purchased ebooks more expensive and less user friendly.

groceryMy buying loyalties for groceries are different.  I like a good bargain and am loyal to retailers who are conveniently located, offer sales, discounts and coupons, good customer service with liberal return policies.

When buying art, fibers or art supplies, I have an impulse buyers addictionmindset. Although I won’t turn down a coupon, discount or sale. I love this, I have to have it! I’m sure you all know what that is like.

As a business person, you want to cultivate loyal customers.  How? It’s all about understanding buying habits, mindsets, benefits and problems.  The best way to keep on top of trends is to do a little market research and communicate with your customers and get to know them.

Ask customers why they like the specific product they are buying.  Is it for themselves or someone else?  If for someone else, who?  Starting this conversation will bring more detail because most people love to talk when they like something or someone.  Of course, this is easier to do if you are selling face to face at a craft fair or to friends and family.

women shoppingBut if you are selling through a third party like a gift shop or an art gallery, the people who procure your products know this information and will share it with you since it is a benefit to them to keep customers satisfied and popular products coming in.  They can also give you an idea why something isn’t selling.  It’s not necessarily negative feedback; you may find this is just not the right market for that product.

On the forum discussion, Ruth mentioned all the things she does at her store to keep loyal customers  Basically, great customer service was at the heart of it.  A few of them –

  • Shipping at cost
  • Free gift wrapping
  • Keeping the inventory fresh and unique
  • Custom orders
  • Creating customer oriented events.

She said, “go a little beyond the normal service, people are wowed because the norm is pretty low.”

When communicating with people, don’t underestimate your enthusiasm.  When you do what you love it shows through in the attention given to making the item, but your enthusiasm for what you do is contagious!  So, is your loyal customers.

excited womanIf you’re selling online and don’t have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, keep an email list and follow up after the sale.  Asking a customer if they are satisfied or if the gift was well received can help reveal trends and keep your customers coming back. Most people will respond to one or two questions.  It tells them you value their opinion and want to guarantee their satisfaction. Many retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble follow up with an email after the sale to ask you to rate the product and make comments.  Take the marketing hint from companies who spend a lot of money researching these things!

Emails can be used to communicate news about introducing a new product or line, exhibit emailor fair dates.  Email marketing is inexpensive and can result in repeat sales. Of course, e-newsletters and blogs also provide the same benefits.

Posting news and pictures of works in progress also works using social media like Facebook.  If I see an item I know one of my friends would like, I can share it on my news feed or send it to that persons news feed.  Again word of mouth in the digital age!

Remember less can be more.  I say this because if people are busy too much information becomes background noise.  So, be selective about what and how often you post or email.  Make it newsworthy and friendly.

You may be saying, but I do all this or I’ve tried that and it’s not working.  Again, knowing your customer will help you determine where to sell and the best strategies to use. If normal outlets aren’t working, it’s  time to get creative to develop better strategies and or find new markets.

Food for thought:  Where do my customers go?  What do they do?

 

 

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Felt Shoulder Bag

A few weeks ago, when I made my Camouflage type hat, I also made a satchel type bag. I used a more brown shades of wool and slightly less rusty/orangey colours. I used some camo print silk from an old scarf, some cotton gauze and also pieces of dyed muslin that Ruth sent me. On the back of the bag, I used a large piece of silk because I thought it would pill/bobble less where it rubbed against clothes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a slightly different angle:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also used a piece of cotton scrim to line the insides

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI attached D rings to the side, for the shoulder strap to attach to. I tried to find webbing the right thickness to make my own strap, but couldn’t get the colour and thickness I wanted, so I’m going to use one from a bag I bought.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI did think about using straps and buckles for closing the bag, but decided that would be a bit fiddly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, in the end I used magnetic clasps, and folded the bottom flap up about an inch. I don’t like the way the machine stitching turned out though, the clasp distorted it, so I might unpick it and do it again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere it is with the strap attached

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Felt bags | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Felting with friends: scarves, dying and more bags.

On our felting week end Maureen decided to do scarves. She wanted to try out some 50/50 merino silk that she had.  She laid out the wool quite thin and rubbed it into prefelt.

maureen felting thin scarf

Once it was prefelt  she spun the water out of it and started cutting it. She made slits that she then stretched out and started fulling.  You stretch and full, stretch and full and end up with great holes.

maureens cut scarf 2

Next was into the dye pot. Although the scarf turned out great, it did not show off the silk. Usually the silk and wool take the dye a little differently, with this blend I was all one. We decided that it was because the it was to well blended.

maureens cut scarf

Maureen did 2 more scarves one in the same style and one solid. Sorry the pictures of them did not turn out.

Diane hasn’t done a lot of dying so Diane and Maureen dyed some silk chiffon.  The silk was twisted and dyed with several colors.

dyed fiber dyed fiber.

On the last afternoon I decided to make a bag for my mothers birthday.

moms bag startThe inside of the bag will have a red stripe. I used a combination of commercial prefelt and top. I also added some Blue Faced Lester wool to add some strength and stiffen it.

moms bag ready to felt  This is the outside. There is black next to the resist and the white on top. I wanted the black to migrate through the white and make a light gray. This is the finished bag. its reversible.

gray felt bag gray felt bag reversed

Diane decided she wanted a new shopping bag. She started out huge and did many layers of prefelt and wool.

dianes giant bag

Here she is fulling it

dianes giant bag fulling dianes giant bag fulling more

You can see it did shrink but just after this she gave up and said she will put it in the washer at home to see if she can shrink it more. At this point it is a large sturdy basket.

This is our group shot. We were very busy. You can see Maureen’s two scarves on the left.

fruits of our labour

The one on the right was one Maureen had made recently, added just the balance the picture. And finally that was the end of the weekend. We needed to go home and rest.

 

 

 

Posted in Design, Dyeing, Experiments, Prefelt, Scarves, Uncategorized, Wool | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Breakdown Screen Printing Party

Breakdown screen printing has been around in the surface design world for a while now. I have discussed it on my personal blog but thought everyone here might be interested in the process too. My local group got together yesterday for another session of breakdown screen printing.

Print Paste Powder

What you need to start is some print paste. Essentially, you use this to thicken fiber reactive dyes and you screen print with the thickened dyes. It only takes about a quarter cup of print paste powder to add to 2 cups of water. We used 4 cups of print paste for our “party”.

Making Print Paste

You can just stir the print paste into the water but it works really well if you use a blender because otherwise it gets lumpy. As Lyn told me, you don’t want to use the same blender that you make milkshakes in – use a blender that is just used for the studio.

Black Dye Added to Print Paste

Then you add dye powder to the print paste. This one has black dye in it. Then you squeegee some thickened dye on to the screen while you have the screen on something textured. You can use things like bubble wrap, texture plates or anything relatively flat that will press against the screen and give it different textures.

Screen with Dried Black Print Paste

This is one of the screens where I used the black dye over texture plates. The textured part that sticks up a bit, keeps the thickened dye from filling that part of the screen.

Close Up Dye Texture

So you get a textured screen that looks like this. Then you let the screen dry completely. I always do this step about a week ahead of time.

Carole and Louise

Here is Carole and Louise getting ready to print a screen. You can use clear print paste (with soda ash added) or you can use a colored print paste where you have added dye. The dried dye in the screen starts breaking down as you apply the print paste and you never know how it will turn out.

Screening with Print Paste

Louise is adding clear print paste and a little bit of blue print paste. She is using a squeegee to force it through the screen.

Louise's Screen

Using the fiber reactive dyes, you can print on cotton fabric or silk. The added soda ash causes the dye to set in the fabric. This screen that Louise is using is one she made using strips of Pellon Vinyl Fuse Matte. She fused the strips to the organza and then added green print paste to the screen.

Louise's Screen on Paper

This is one of my sketchbook pages that I printed with Louise’s screen.

Black Dyed Screen with Circles

Here is another screen that has black dye.

Circles Breakdown Screened

And the resulting print on yellow fabric. Each print is different from the next one as the dried print paste continues to break down. Bunny printed this one.

Breakdown Print on Paper

 

Here’s a sketchbook page printed from the same screen.

 

 

Embroidery Hoop with Organza

This is a screen that I made from a 6″ embroidery hoop, nylon organza and duct tape.

Circle Breakdowns

This is the print from the circle screen above. I used a fabric that was already dyed and clear print paste with this one.

Black and Green Dyed Screen

Here’s another screen that I mixed black and green dye and let it dry.

Breakdown Screen Printed Fabric

This isn’t a very good photo but here’s a portion of the printed cloth from the screen above.

Green Dyed Screen

This is another screen that I used green print paste and let it dry. The squiggly bits are just stains from a previous experiment with blue glue.

Orange Breakdown PrintThis is the resultant 4-5 prints from the green screen above. The green barely shows at all and just mixed in with the orange print paste. Most of my fabrics already had prior printing on them from previous experiments. Most were quite ugly so I thought I would try to improve them.

Another Breakdown Print on Paper

This is another sketchbook page from a screen that was mostly broken down. I did several of these and they reminded me of photo negatives.

Screening with Paper Scraps

This piece of fabric was printed over paper scraps out of a paper shredder. You just sprinkle the shredded paper over the fabric and then use a blank screen and screen colored print paste through it. You keep moving the screen and some of the paper bits move with the screen. These always look different after being washed out because there are still bits of paper stuck all over it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a photo of the finished fabric but it belongs to Carole so if I remember…

I have printed on wool before with this technique. You just need to use acid dyes and vinegar in place of the fiber reactive dyes and soda ash. You do have to steam the pieces afterwards but the process works well. Once I get these fabric and papers rinsed, I will post them on the forum. You do lose some color but they are always one of a kind prints. Breakdown screen printing is a fun process, messy but fun!

 

Edit: See final results here.

 

 

Posted in Dyeing, Mixed Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Easter Baskets

With Easter around the corner, I decided to make Easter baskets for my grandsons this year.

Since I didn’t have a container the size or shape I wanted, I chose to make a resist using Rosiepink’s “How to Make Vessels with a Resist” ebook.

I wanted to put a different design on each side, but have both the same. A bunny on one side and a chick on the other.  Then I made a resist design on paper and cut a template from plastic flooring material.  After sketching out a design, I made some prefelts in colors I didn’t have because I decided it would be easier to control the small design pieces.

prefelt

I cut out the designs from the prefelt and needle felted them together using yarn to decorate the eggs.  I used an extra white layer underneath the bunnies because I didn’t want the background colors coming through after fulling.  I also used another layer under the bottom of the eggs to level them out.  Before laying out on the resist:

chick and bunny

At the last minute I changed the position of the eggs making them vertical instead of horizontal.  When I put the designs on the resist they were too tall!  Back to the drawing board to make a bigger resist.  I added another two inches in height to accommodate the height and shrinkage.

Since they are baskets, I wanted to make them look like it.   So, I alternated background colors on the first layer.  It got tricky on the second layer because the roving was laid out perpendicular and the colors didn’t match because of the staple length.  I found the sparse spots and filled in those colors first then proceeded with the second layer design careful to alternate the side colors as well. I used four layers total one side at a time.

First layer

First layer

 

After I finished felting, fulling and shaping, I noticed my bunny and chick designs were too low.  I’m sure the kids won’t care, but I’ll know better next time.  I was very pleased with the final result.  Although, the bunnies need some whiskers. Any suggestions?

easter baskets 2

To finish it off, I made basket handles by braiding roving, then felting and fulling them.  I also used Zed’s “Polymer  Clay Simply Made” ebook to make “egg” buttons. That was fun, too.  I still have to put them together.  The handles are soft which was intentional so that we could easily pack them and use the buttons to remove the handles.

What spring or Easter projects are you working on?

Thanks to Lyn and Zed for creating such easy to follow tutorials!

Posted in Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments