I’ve learnt many things since joining this forum but one of the most useful is the importance of making samples when trying something new. It saves so much time and lets me develop an idea quickly without wasting materials. Sometimes I’m trying to achieve a specific effect and sometimes I just want to see what happens if…..
As I can’t go to my studio at the moment because of the pandemic lockdown, I’m working small on the dining table at home so samples are a good option.
I’ve been thinking about trees and bark recently, including looking at the different lichens on trees and investigating how to represent them in felt.
I’m an avid charity shop moocher: always on the look out for second-hand yarns and fabrics I may be able to use in felt-making. I bought a charity shop scarf that included some pretty flowery mesh and decided to make a sample to see how it felted (or not) and whether I could use it for lichen.
I started with a square of the fabric and felted it onto some white Finnish wool batt.
I like how the flowers crowd together and how the mesh disappears so I decide to try another piece on a darker background. This time I cut more random shapes of fabric, leaving space in between.
I really like this effect too but, looking at it critically, I realise it looks much more like barnacles than lichen (shells being another of my felting passions). So, off I go on a little diversion to wet felt a mussel shell with barnacles.
Returning to the lichen theme, I absolutely love the tiny worlds that grow on trees. Here’s an example from a small twig from a pear tree in my garden (about the size of my little finger).
How gorgeous is that?!
I’d nuno felted silk when making lichen on the tree stump I showed in my last blog. I decided this time to make a piece of greenish prefelt with Perendale batt and Merino tops to see what effects I could create. I stitched, added small resists and tied in marbles in a random way to the prefelt then felted the sample to see what would happen.
This has some potential but I didn’t work on the finished felt for too long as I think it’s too thick & hairy for the delicate world of lichen. I can still learn a lot from the shapes and effects. Next time I will start with a thinner merino prefelt and work on organising the composition. Or maybe I’ll make another sample. I love the discs on the lichen so will certainly try using a different resist technique next to work on these.
Finally, I’ve made a couple of samples this week to see how to resolve a problem I’ve created. I wanted to see if I could make a chinese lantern fruit with its beautiful lacy dried husk skeleton. (I don’t have my own photo but if you put chinese lantern plant in your search engine you will see them.) I jumped straight in and made the berry & stem without deciding how I’d make the husk skeleton & how I’d fit the two parts together. Clearly I don’t always take my own sampling advice!
My first question is ‘what’s the best felting technique for representing the appearance of a dried husk?’ It needs to be very lacy but very firm to hold its shape. I think I will have to use strips of prefelt for the 8 main veins but I’m not sure what to do about all the small ones.
I start with one sample laying out cobweb felt and trying different things on top: a loosely spun 100% wool yarn, some prefelt and some wisps of merino wool. In the final stages of fulling I cut out a few sections to emphasise the shapes.
I decide to develop the yarn idea and this time lay out the yarn first then some merino and silk batt along the lines of the yarn.
I like the effect in itself but I don’t think it will allow me to make a felt that’s firm enough to hold its shape, which needs to be large and strong. Also, it’s not really delicate enough and I’m doing so much cutting out that I may as well make a solid strong 3D shape, possibly with yarn on top to guide the pattern and create texture, and then cut out rather than trying to follow the lines of yarn. That’s parked for now in the ‘needs more thought’ box!
I hope I’ve shown how useful samples can be, if you need convincing – as I did.
Do you make samples? What do you do use them for?