Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

2021 OVWSG Fiber Poker (Felting)!!

2021 OVWSG Fiber Poker (Felting)!!

Quite a few years ago, as a way to give a fun summer challenge to guild members, the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners guild executive decided to make a summer poker challenge. But since we are not a card-playing-poker-guild we would do fibre poker instead. I think it was Shirley Browsky who set it up (she has her OHS master Spinner (1991) and is completing her master weaver Certificate). she made a deck of cards listing different types of fibre, different techniques, thicknesses, colours and things to includes like feathers or beads. We drew 4 cards from the deck and could re-select one if we wanted to.

1)  2014 the drawing of the cards

Even after trading in one card for another, we occasionally wound up with conflicting cards, which made the finished item extremely hard to complete. There was also a deck for weaving created. Over the years, more cards have been added to the deck and for the summer of 2020, a felting deck was created. This year, each deck was updated and divided into 4 suits; for felting, it was Fiber, Colour, Technique and Other. This greatly reduced the likelihood of getting impossible conflicts in cards. (Use only plain weave + include overshot).

Cards would be drawn at the June meeting and you would have until the September meeting to create your yarn skein, woven sample or project, or your felted item. The September meeting would be a double show and tell meeting, a sort of what I did on my summer vacation and the poker challenge completed projects.

2) This is my spinning challenge from 2014. I think it was; include Found objects, use Locks, Pigtails and it was either use more than 2 plys or over twist.

3-5) Carl ran Fiber Poker in 2017 with a spinning or weaving option. He carefully wrote down everyone’s picks.

6) This is Ann’s finished skein.

7) A particularly interesting solution to one challenge was seen for “include Locks”

I had not been participating the last few years, due to working on the library architecture migration project; we can chat about that some other day if you are curious. This year we were in lockdown and with the most massive part of the library project done. (There are still a few small manageable chunks left to do.) SO, I can have fun rather than just watching what everyone else has made (and taking pictures of course).

This year the draw with the new decks was over email. I requested a felting challenge and the email arrived of what elements I would have to include. Nothing conflicted and I could do all the elements without researching.  The problem was more what to pick?

8) 2021 my cards

OH my, so many options running through my head!! Slow down and write them down

  • Stained glass with fine yarn using a blue 2D picture with 3D wire element finishing embellishment with beads. Going from 2D to 3D is lots of fun. I have done quite a bit of that with the Guild art show for Canada’s 150th. Keep thinking.
  • Landscape with blue sky as a prominent feature. Wet felt background layout yarn for cloud edges, water ripples, with a tree or rock edges. Lay over yarn with thin wisps of wool, building back words to the backing base. Work the back dry then flip check wet and felt. Let dry enough to Add wire elements to the backing side to push out rocks/trees add edge stiffness to the piece. Add fibre and felt to attach the wire. Push stretch out 3D areas. Let fully dry and add beads. Hmm, that sounds like fun but let’s keep thinking.
  • Hedgehog, yarn for spikes, make a blueberry or blue flower. Use an armature –mouth can open, add beads for eyes. – 1.5 (14ga) aluminum, high twist 2 tone yarn may have to spin it. black beads, white, beige and light gray and brown back. Research: “There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in New Zealand” Also; adult size of 6–8 inches, short legs, but hedgehogs are equipped to waddle around with the help of an about a half-inch long stubby tail for balance. They can lift their underside completely off the floor and run very quickly for short distances. domestication will have five toes on their front feet and only four on their back feet. Spines only grow to be less than an inch long but are sharp enough to provide defence. the quills, which are modified hollow hairs.  For domestication purposes, the white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris, was bred with the Algerian hedgehog, Atelerix algirusThe structure of their teeth, including two frontal incisors for 36 altogether, They prefer a cat food with meat or poultry listed as the main ingredient, and definitely with a high protein level. a supplementary diet including insects or mealworms. Some additional treats could be boiled egg, fruit, crickets, or vegetables.

Maybe not, i did one (with a soap inside him) recently for Glenn. (he named him Crevice)

9) Robins nest from a hanging basket at my mother inlaws’.

  • A real Birds Nest arrived from Oakville – make a bird with an armature to go in the nest. Oh, I like this idea. Let’s look at it further.

My favourite colours are blue and black. (ok my favourite colours remind you of a bruise at least it’s not one of those awful green and yellow bruises!) A blue jay is too big for the nest, research birds that are blue in the Ottawa area of Ontario. Birds I like; crows (too big), Blue Jays (too big), chickadees (well they have black but not blue), most of the birds of prey (too big).

Include Wire well that is easy. Add an armature. Didn’t Sara have proportions for a wren recently in a video? Yes. What is she using for her armature? 22ga for legs, it looks like floral wire, 32ga for toes and a pipe cleaner for the body. Hmmm, I do not think that has the strength I want and I don’t have a 32 (I checked my samples). Ok, 20ga legs and body, 26ga toes. Wrens and chickadees’ are close in size. This should work perfectly!…. I carefully watched and re-watched the first bit of the video as she is working on the armature to figure out the size. Leg measurements check, body and toe pieces I have an estimate but I left the wire longer so I could trim to size as I work. This allowed for more support wrapping on the legs, which I had wanted to add while watching the video.

Include Beads Or Sequins: birds need eyes! I have at least 2 sizes of glass beads in the small box of beads. I switched that part of my collection into a different box when I rebuild my office shelves (moved the massage and computer reference stuff out and moved wool, wax, wire and beads in. ok where on the shelf did I put it and why is it not labelled yet? (Another job, add it to the list).  I guess I should either not clean up or remember where I put things!  Ah, one little bag of the right size, perfect! Now how to attach it?

Use Thread Or Fine Yarn: do I know where my beading needle is? ….no. Will one of the long sewing needles in the giant pill bottle by the window work? Maybe… Yes, not all the beads are exactly the same size so some fit over the eye of the needle and some don’t. I pick two that fit. Now for the thread. I just got a couple of huge bobbins of industrial thread for making bags (a shop that made bags was closing so I scored white black and a green, no blue) I picked up some quilting thread that may be a bit better size and it will still be strong enough. What do I find for colours? Black, white and a different green… there seems to be a theme here that doesn’t include blue. Ok, I like black too. Black, it will be. Any other instructions? let me check. No, that’s 4 and I have them covered.

Now to watch the armature section of Sara’s wren video.

Part 1 is here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHZnSWuz7AY

Part 2 is here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnZrpAxrwcA

Sara (Sarafina Fiber Art) has a slightly different approach to felting than I seem to be developing. She is more additive and has been working on techniques and vocabulary that can be reproduced by others. She tends to wrap the armature, then makes shapes from the wool and adds them to the armature. (Thus, additive; like sculpting with clay). While I start with the armature and wrapping, I usually add loose wool and sculpt it down to what I want. (Thus more subtractive; like sculpting with stone. Just keep poking and compacting until you get the shape.) I am adding wool in sections and layers to build up muscles but I don’t tend to pre-build the muscle and add it on.

Since I had never tried to make a bird before I should probably try to follow Sara’s instructions and see how that goes… or how long that lasts before I wander off-topic and do my own thing. (I am a challenging student.)

As I said, I watched and re-watched the beginning of Sara’s video to get the armature correct. I modified her wire suggestions to increase the armature strength. For the body and legs, I selected the 18-inch long floral wire in 20ga steel (I used a magnet to pick up a part that fell off the table.)  I measured and cut the legs then added the 26ga garden wire to create the toes and trimmed the excess. I then folded the 18-inch floral wire (20ga) following Sara’s measurements twisting the wires together and attaching the body to the legs. I formed a small triangle for the body and left the rest of the wire to support the tail.

10)  Leg-wire adding the wire for the toes

11) The body added to the legs with the extra wire left for the tail

12-13)  Added black ½ inch floral tape to the beak and neck.

Ok, time to look more closely for reference photos for chickadees. Oh my, there are many chickadee types! Our local one is the black cap Chickadee. Let’s try to find shots from various directions. Why is it so hard to find a shot of the back of the head? I guess it’s hard to sneak up on a chickadee or photographers just don’t think of that as a chickadee’s best side.

Time to add fibre

First, try on the beak, it was a dark grey long-staple fibre but it just didn’t look right. Next, I tried a bit of black merino roving but I wasn’t too happy with that either. Let’s leave that a moment and look at the legs

For the legs, I selected an extremely short crimpy brown/beige fibre.   Although the baggy of fibre was unlabeled, I think it may be a bit of extremely fine Shetland. It is lightly washed and still has a bit of lanolin in it. I drafted out to about an eighth of an inch width started at the top of the leg and worked down to the toes.

14-15) Head and feet

I am still considering the black but let’s add the body and start the neck.

16-17) I anchored one end of my roving and added layers following Sara’s Instructions. It’s starting to look a bit more bird-like.

18)  I continued to follow instructions (mostly), adding a roll of wool for the chest and to build up the back.

19) I am working over a cheaper quality pool noodle.

20)  Yes, that looks a lot more bird shaped now. I don’t like that grey tonally. It’s too dark and flat. That’s ok. I have more fibre options.

21)  Blending with hand carders

My options in Corriedale are Liquorish (black), Slate (dark grey), Fog (med-light blue-grey), Grey (med-Dark Grey), White Core wool world of wool. A bit of Fog,  grey and a tiny bit of white and I had what I wanted. I again did not completely blend the fibre to a uniform colour since nature tends to be more creative than flat colours.

22)  lightening the back colour

Now it’s time to consider the tail. The Chickadee seems to have a reasonably long tail so let’s trim a bit off the leftover wire and let that support the tail. I didn’t want to fold over the ends so I used the floral tape to keep them from poking through.

23)  needs a tail

The nose was still bugging me so I took off the merino and replaced it with Slate Coriadale. Ah, much better. I then blended the slate and Licorice to get a non-flat colour for the black head markings and build up the top and sides of the beak.

24-25)  Oops, I got distracted watching the Olympics while I worked  (there was no blood shed but audio-books are safer when felting). At this point I have the wing shapes done but still need to add the feather detailing. I will leave that for later. I just have them held in place with a pin. I think I need a bit more rounding under the wings and the head and markings still need a bit more shaping. I also need to add eyes.

A pause while I go look for the box of beads. I will get back to that in a moment.

Through today I have been sitting in front of the computer (you can see the messy desk piled with wool and implements of wool torture and maybe the Mountain dew I was drinking). Just off to the right(?) is the phone which today is the bane of my felting. After someone wanting to clean my ducks, (how silly, ducks are self-cleaning. it’s the pond they wash in that would need to be washed – I don’t have a pond or ducks), multiple probably robocalls that there is no one on the line so I hang up and finally I got this one. Oh, I have chatted with their co-workers before this could be fun but it’s interrupting my felting.

Transcript: Ring!!! “Hello?” Long pause, “Is this Mrs. Glenn Martin? Noncommittally “this is Jan, Who is this?” “This is Microsoft service department about your computer.” I interrupt “which one, I have a few? If you can tell me the operating system I will know which one you want to discuss, I have some that don’t go on the internet too.” Silence……Click. She gave up much more quickly than I expected. It usually takes them longer to give up. Maybe I sounded like she had interrupted important felting?

After a bit of a search I found the small box of beads and yes I have 2 sizes of black glass beads. The bigger ones look like they will be perfect for this size bird. Now, where are the beading needles? I have a long needle that worked if I was careful selecting the bead (some had larger or smaller openings)

26) adding beads for eyes

So by bedtime, I had got this far. The eyes have been added and the felting highlight around the eye has been added. You can see the notes I took while watching Sara’s video. Unfortunately, I was partway through watching the videos when I heard her say she was working at a larger-than-life, size. Drat!!! Well, that explains why a chickadee fits in a robin’s nest!

27) still needs to have details added to the back and wings but that will have to wait until after the next library day. I promise I will show you it when I am done! I may make another which is more appropriately sized.

Have Fun and Keep Felting!!

 

Spinning Poker Challenge

Spinning Poker Challenge

Every summer my weavers and spinners guild does a fibre poker challenge. You can choose weaving, spinning or felting. I am doing spinning and felting. This post is about the spinning challenge. I haven’t started my felting one yet.

In these challenges, they make up 4 decks of cards. The cards for spinning are Fiber, Colour, Type of Yarn and General Design. You pick one from each to get your poker hand. You are allowed to return one and draw another.

Mine are

Fibre: surprise us.

Colour: dark rich colours

Type of Yarn: thick and thin

General Design: include locks

I decided I wanted to try spinning some of the silk hankies I have. these looked like dark rich colours. Well, not that dark but not pastel.

I looked up what was the recommended way of prepping them for spinning. It was to poke a hole in the middle and stretch them out. Most of the drafting is done in the stretching out. I did 2 of each colour. They stretch quite far. I am sure I could have stretched them at least twice as long but I didn’t want my yarn that thin.

I

I also have to do thick and thin. I decided the easiest way to do that was to use the required locks to create the thick parts. I think these are Bluefaced Leicester.

I don’t have a spinning wheel. I like to spin small amounts, so I use a drop spindle I have quite a few.

 

After I finished the 4 silk hankies I made it into a center-pull ball. My original intention was to ply one end against the other.

But then I changed my mind. I spun some purple silk top to use as the other ply.

I made it into a center-pull ball as well. I put one small ball on my thumb and one on a finger. I used a little painter’s tape to keep the outside thread from unravelling as I will be pulling from the center, then I can control how fast it pulls out. I like painter’s tape as it’s just sticky enough to hold but comes off easily without grabbing and pulling the fibres and doesn’t leave any sticky behind. If I was going to store the ball I would tie the two ends together instead.

           

Somehow I guessed right and had just a little more of the second simple single than the first fancy single.

That’s my laptop lid so as you can see there wasn’t much extra.

I wound it off into a skein. It looks a little wobbly at first but it needs to have a bath to let the spin show what it’s really like.  I used the small extra piece to tie the skein in 4 places. I wanted the 4 ties because I am very good at tangling skeins.

 

Here it is after its bath and hang to dry. I didn’t use any weight to try to set the yarn, I wanted it to be its natural self. I am quite happy I managed to get a nice balanced spin. I took to pictures flipping it over so you can see both sides.

I spread it out more and took a close-up. I am really please with how this came out. It was difficult to get the locks in because naturally, the twist wanted to go to the thinnest part.

 

I hope you like it too. It was a bit of a challenge but that’s the point, get you doing something you wouldn’t normally do.  I could have wished for some action shots but it’s hard to spin and hold the fibre and hold the camera. It puts me back to wondering why on earth my prehistoric ancestors got rid of the prehensile tail, it would be so handy.

Autumn Nuno Slow Stitch Update

Autumn Nuno Slow Stitch Update

It’s amazing how my slow stitch project is moving along and almost complete. Twenty to thirty minutes of stitching per day definitely works for me and even though I have been working on this project for a long time, it has been a fulfilling project. I have enjoyed seeing the piece slowly fill in with thousands of stitches.

Here’s where I was the last time I showed you the piece in mid June.

I added a lot of foreground stitching. The bit on the top left shown here is still a little pale for me. It jumps forward in front of the foreground bush in my eye. So there will be a little more stitching there.

 

I added some running stitch in the distant trees with a “grey” thread. It leans very heavily to purple but really works well to give these tree trunks a bit more definition and to move them further into the distance.

Here is where I am now. It’s getting very close to finished. A few more areas of darkness perhaps. Lindsay asked me a while ago how I decide when it’s finished. What I do with a piece like this is to get to the point where I think it might be finished and then I hang it up on the wall in my studio so I can study it. I look at the piece from different distances and different angles. I give it some time to “rest” and then I add what I think is still needed based on the assessment I have done. Or I pronounce that it’s finished. What do you think?

Connections: An Exhibition

Connections: An Exhibition

I’ve just taken down my work from a Made in Whitstable group exhibition at a local arts centre gallery so thought I’d tell you about the felt pieces I had in the exhibition.

Made in Whitstable is a loose affiliation of artists and makers who have a close connection to the town, on the coast in SE England.

With a diverse artistic group it’s not always easy to find a title that everyone is comfortable with. ‘Connections’ seemed to offer enough room for people to work with in their various styles and mediums.

This exhibition was postponed from Easter 2020 so it was great finally to get some work out there, and to catch up (albeit at a distance and in a mask) with people I haven’t seen for a long time.

As I’ve described in previous blogs, this year I’ve been learning from online workshops. I’ve long been interested in both seed heads and shells and these have both continued to feature in my recent work. Reflecting on this, I realise they are all forms of natural protective cases and although it’s not a snappy title, I decided it was a good ‘connections’ theme for me.

This is a picture I made specifically for the exhibition.

Recycling Oyster Shells: Turnstone at the Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable

These photos show the oyster shells laid out, prefelt shells in a single sheet, then cut up and laid onto a background of white Norwegian batt (lower half) and tan Perendale batt (top half). There’s a recycled silk scarf laid over the tan batt layers to give the impression of a pebbled beach in the distance.

Layout for the turnstone, using a combination of merino wool and prefelt; fully felted turnstone and a trial with two birds. I decided to go for just one. I needle felted the turnstone into place then added the eye, beak, legs and a few feather details

I also made some smaller pictures along the shell & seed pod theme

Top left: mussel shell with recycled silk sea, cotton scrim wave foam and prefelt pebbles

Top right: Oyster shell with mixed wool and yarns and fabric barnacles on a recycled silk background

Bottom left: pink shell on a recycled silk beach with cotton scrim wave foam and mixed wool and silk fibre sea

Bottom centre: paper felt shell on recycled silk background

Bottom right: Corriedale, silk and yarn background with multiple-resist circles, hand stitching and a sycamore key

I also had various 3D shapes in the exhibition.

Left – based on a eucalyptus seed pod. I made this in a wonderful workshop by Gladys Paulus in November 2019. I covered that workshop in my first blog for the Felting and Fiber Forum. Various wool batts and mohair locks.

Top right – conker made in two parts (using the stem technique I learned from Gladys). Outer made from Perendale and Norwegian batts, inner is merino wool tops

Bottom right – based on a hazelnut, also made soon after Gladys’s workshop.

Here’s a poppy seed head I made this year after Fiona Duthie’s Fibre + Paper workshop. Mulberry paper is felted into the felt surface. The paper adds structure, folds and pleats well and can be drawn on / painted. I painted this with watercolours. I had to make the top separately so stitched it on. A local craftsman made the base; the pod is held on a piece of dowel attached to the base.

This nigella seed pod is also paper felt but made side-on with pre-felted ropes and thicker wool sections (not prefelted) to allow variable shrinkage (learned from Soosie Jobson). I had a reclaimed jarrah wood and dowel stand made for this.

Another paper felt shape, inspired by shells, with pleats and nobbles made as a result of Fiona Duthie’s workshop

And finally, I included a few plant holders and some earrings.

Here’s my display area – I did put the cards (bottom right) on a small table!

My display area

There were lots of good exhibitors. Here’s a small selection: top left fused glass by Irene Southon; middle left acrylics by Josephine Harvatt; bottom left watercolours by Sarah Louise Dunn showing local sites commissioned by Whitstable Museum to illustrate a map of the town; right, prints by Linda Karlsen. Work by Irene, Josephine, Sarah and Linda (Wearartworks) can all be found on social media like Instagram and Facebook. They and other exhibitors can also be found on Made in Whitstable’s Facebook and Instagram.

The footfall was rather disappointing and I would guess that sales were down on previous years, but it was really good to get some work out on show and to see what other people had been creating.

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!

Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.

In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.

To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.

I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!

April….mmmm!

Upholstery……..April….mmmm!

A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!

I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.

Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.

I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!

So far so good.

Research & idea gathering

More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.

By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.

I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.

I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.

A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.

I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!

Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.

The photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!

Developing the raindrops idea.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!

The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.

Organised chaos and smoke screens!

Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.

The final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

The published 1998 Calendar photo

Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!

Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.

I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!

I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

When last we chatted, we looked at a few of the holders I have in my collection of felting needles while we weighted for the post to arrive from China.

After a wait for shipping, the 3 needle holders arrived, one after another. All arrived with needles intact but the packaging was dented and squished. A bit of bubble wrap may have been a good idea.

Remember I suspected that some of what is being sold are seconds and some are overruns of other people’s orders? Well, I think this line is seconds. The holders are not helped by the poor protection during shipping.

squished packaging of the first of the 3 needle holders

second package arrives even more beat up

The third package arrives not as badly dented, none had bubble wrap

21-23 the arrivals, packaging gave its life for the contents to be safe.

Out of the three I purchased only one was able to separate, which is important since it allows access to change needles.

24   1 of 3 opens.

The other two seem to be jammed against the edge of the inside of the handle. Even the one that opened does not have even spacing around the needle holding section. I think I can fix that!! I have a large file and a nail file that should help. I have some very fine sandpaper ….somewhere in the basement……well let’s start with the files.

Here is the one that opened but is sticky.

25-29 How the holder comes apart and goes back together

in the last picture, you can see the uneven spacing between the two parts of the holder. This could be from the wood swelling, the varnish is sticking or the screw joining the parts together may be bent.

With one of the two problematic holders, I was able to push the interior away from the sticking spot and get the parts apart.

30   Two open, one to go

half round rasp file used on the interior of handle portion

my weapons of sticking removal the rasp and the nail file

31-32  I used the rasp file on the interior of the handle which did remove a lot of roughness.

33  Ah yes, this one seems to have a slight tilt to the screw which may have caused the rubbing.

34 Putting the flat side of my rasp to work.

I then turned to filing the sticking spots on the interior of the needle holding part. I put the two parts back together just till they started to rub and marked the spot with a sharp fingernail. (Glenn says they are very sharp) if your nails are not quite as sharp I guess you could have used the awl or a mettle nail file.

35-39  I repeated the pattern of; sanding, checking, marking and then more sanding.

40 When I got it close, I switched to the nail file. (I promise I will go find the fine sandpaper later!!!)

That is two working and one to go! I couldn’t nudge the third one so I tried to get the nail file in and possibly file in place on either side of the sticking.

41-43 working the file into the spot that seemed most stuck

44 AH! Success!!

45  the spacing between the interior rim of the handle and exterior rim of the needle holder are not yet parallel, keep working at it.

I continued with more sanding and checking until it finally seems to be working.

46   Now I have 3 working handles! 

I will eventually find the really fine sandpaper (still somewhere “safe” in the basement)  to give it a final touch-up.  Overall If these go on sale again I would get a couple more. they are comfortable to my hand and the needle spacing is reasonable.

47-48 the Needle holders even come with “helpful” instructions!

Their helpful instructions are technically written in English but have some similarities to my spelling, while each might be considered an attempt at English, both will require a bit of interpretation for the meaning to be obtained.

Even with the need for a bit of work and adjustment, I think these will be a good addition to the options I have for holding needles. Just so you don’t think I only use needle holders I do also use the cheaper option of an elastic to hold two needles. I adjust the needle spacing if I need to by using my fingernail. (It’s a bit like using chopsticks but you’re are stabbing not picking something tasty up.)

49 the no-handle two needle option also works but is not as comfortable on the fingers

50  Here is another shot of a few of my needles and  holders

Since I started writing this I have spotted an aluminum 6 needle holder that looks intriguing, yes it’s on order and should be here within a month or so.

51 Aliexpress “Felting Needle Handle w/ 6 Needles”

Happy Felting and good luck on your needle holding quests!

Shearing Day

Shearing Day

Not long ago was shearing day. Before had we have to get pens and shoots set up to direct the sheep efficiently to the shearer. I had to go get wool bags, from the Wool Co-op I got half bags this time. The full-size ones are too hard to pack, they are taller than me. We also got my nephew to come and help out. Wrangling sheep is best done by young people, my son and nephew.

There is a crowding pen is at the far end of the shoot so the sheep can fairly easily be pushed into the shoot and past the one-way gates. You can see lambs on the right-hand side. They are small enough to pop through the fence and get out of the way. On the left are some late lambs from last year. They have been put there to be kept separate. They are too big to get back through the fence.

Despite taking many pictures most of them were terrible and I didn’t get any sheared sheep pictures because I had to grab the fleece out of the way as my husband handed the next sheep to the shearer. By the time I stuffed it into the appropriate bag, the sheep was long gone.
so here are the best of the bad shearing pictures. I am not sure that’s all the same black sheep but you get the idea. you can see how brown they look from being in the sun and weather and how black they are underneath.

 

I also have one lincoln sheep named Dolly. You can see how different her fleece is.

These are some of the wool sacks. I was sorting black wool I want to look at again and white wool I want to look at again and the stuff to go off to the co-op because I don’t want to look at it ever again. LOL

And some close-ups of some wool.

This one has so much lanolin the shine bounced the light and it looks grey.

It took about 4 hours to do 55 ish sheep. That’s about one sheep every 4.5 min. I know it’s no record but I still find it amazing. When it was all done we released the lambs to find their moms. There was a lot of noise while the lambs work out who mom is now she is sporting her new summer look. And the kids my 2 grandchildren and great-niece and nephew came in and gathered up all the little bits of stinky wool to play with. They had so much fun and smelled just like sheep in no time.

 

I wish I had better pictures for you. Maybe next year with no pandemic I can have Jan come play photographer.

Nuno Felted Backgrounds

Nuno Felted Backgrounds

I have been working on more nuno felt pieces to use as backgrounds for nuno felted landscapes. I usually create these and then decide how to move forward with stitching and embellishment.

Usually, I use white prefelt with dyed silk but I decided to use black prefelt with this one. I usually rotate and look at all possible ways to use the backgrounds. With the piece in this direction, I see pine trees. What do you see?

Here’s another background using black prefelt. I’m thinking about adding birch trees to this one but I haven’t made up my mind about any of these yet.

A lot of my landscapes end up being in the portrait orientation but this one is definitely in landscape orientation. It reminds me of the woods with pine trees and yellow flowers. The upper right hand corner looks like deciduous branches with leaves coming in from the side.

Green fields with flowers? Perhaps pine trees in the distance? What do you see?

Another floral landscape with bluebells and beargrass flowers? Perhaps the orange is bushes or trees with leaves turning colors in autumn? Or maybe it’s grasslands with flowers?

One way that I sometimes use to decide on a design is to put the background photo into Photoshop Elements and layer another photo on top of the background. This is the first background in this post with a photo of service berries and leaves layered over top.

And here’s the green background with a photo of a grass field with some white flowers in the foreground layered over top. I really like the “misty” feel of this one. But how to achieve this effect on the actual piece? Perhaps some layering of silk organza or sheer fabric?

So instead of my usual find a landscape in the background and enhance, this time I think I will try to use the layered photos as inspiration and work from that angle. It’s always good to try something new. I will show you my efforts in upcoming posts.

Auckland Fun Felters

Auckland Fun Felters

The last few months have been life-changing, first moving to New Zealand in March, two weeks in quarantine, buying a new home (complete with 12 chickens), starting a new job, adopting two kittens, finding Auckland Fun Felters (AFF) and the wonderful felting activities on the North Island.

Don’t be fooled by the cuteness, when they aren’t sleeping they are tiny little terrorists!
Aoifa (pron eee-fa) – giving us her sternest look
Floki
Aoifa “helping” to unpack the studio

AFF are affiliated with Creative Fibre, I first found Creative Fibre online before we left the UK and confess I was worried when I read their interests lean heavily towards spinning and weaving, having belonged to a Spinners Weavers and Dyers group in the UK where felting was a dirty word and the committee behaved like felt-makers were contaminating the purist application of spinning, weaving and dying I was a little hesitant about joining.

I am so glad I took the plunge and went along to my first meeting in May, AFF are true to their name and such a fun group of ladies, and everyone is obsessed with felting and the associated skills. I immediately felt like I had come home 🙂

Each meeting involves a show and tell and announcements of upcoming events we might be interested in, at my first meeting that was Woolfest in Kumeu (held annually north west of Auckland). I arrived after lunch and most of the crowds had already been and gone, it was rather lovely being able to get to all of the stands without having to fight my way through:

You can just about make out the AFF stand to the left of the door in this photo
Having been deprived of hugs and cuddles for so long during lockdown this stall naturally pulled on my heart-strings
I couldn’t resist buying a bag of Gotland locks from this stand

Back to the AFF show and tell, Lynn took us through a collection of gorgeous items our members had made:

Isn’t Lynn’s waistcoat stunning?
These eco-printed tiles were inspired by Fiona Duthie’s Creative Sparks video

These tiles will be crocheted together to make a blanket that will be raffled at next year’s Woolfest:

I managed to make one during our session on Saturday, the only rule is that that the design had to use just straight lines, I can’t tell you how desperate I was to add a red dot to the middle, some of my triangles became a little curved during fulling too:

After the show and tell, Lynn demonstrated how to make silk paper using spray starch:

These elegant little bags are an example of what can be made with the papers:

Another benefit of belonging to this group is the extensive library, including the back catalogue of my favourite magazine, I think I have died and gone to heaven!! 🙂

And just to show what a small world this is, I discovered Robyn (a fellow FFS member and a former student of my hat class) is also a member of AFF! Robyn is working on a blanket square for her own personal blanket.

That reminds me, lots of keen felters have been asking when the concertina hat class and the felt bags classes will start again, I am delighted to announce the next iteration of both classes will start on 19th August (registration will open a couple of weeks earlier on 4th August). If you would like to receive a reminder when registration opens please email teri@teriberry.com saying which class you would like to join.

More information about these classes can be found here:

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