Online Learning: the new and the unexpected

Online Learning: the new and the unexpected

The last time I posted here (in January) I described my plan to take various online felting classes. With all my sales and exhibitions cancelled or on hold I thought this would be a good way to keep me focused and motivated during our 3rd pandemic lockdown. Here’s the link in case you want to look back to January’s post.

This time I’m talking about my online learning since then, including how it has led me in some unexpected directions.

I was part-way through Teri Berry’s bag making class, which was great. I made my third bag, a backpack, and am very pleased with it. I’d definitely recommend Teri’s class. The instructions were clear and comprehensive and Teri was very responsive to my many questions, thoughts and comments. I learned a lot about bag making techniques, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Corriedale Backpack with Canvas Straps

Because two of the bags I made are large, relatively thick, and have to be fulled very hard, I admit bag-making was rather harder work than I’d anticipated. I rent a studio in an old industrial building that is largely unheated so maybe mid-winter isn’t the best time to be working so much heavy, cold, wet wool, but it’s a minor point. I had to use plastic gloves for the first time as my hands became so shredded and I often went home with sleeves wet to the armpit!

I’d planned to take 3 classes over January to March but was irresistibly drawn to a 4th: a 2-session live international felt-along by Aniko Boros (Baribon.Hu) learning to make her beautiful felted tulip pendant with pebble inclusions. Having signed up I realised it was going to be difficult to find the colourful 14 micron merino wool I needed. I only had white. I’ve never dyed my own wool before but I thought, why not have a go?

I already had some acid dyes so I started off with some 21 micron merino before going on to the finer and more expensive 14 micron. Then I tried silk hankies, Corriedale tops, mohair tops, silk fabric, alpaca & nylon …. nothing was safe. I had a blast. I had no idea how much fun dying would be.

Then it snowed and I thought ‘ooh, I could try snow dying’. That turned out to be great fun too. On the right are just a few of the snow dyed fabrics.

I had several colour choices of dyed 14 micron merino by the time Aniko’s workshop came around. The workshop itself was really interesting. A clear and detailed PDF was sent in advance and turned out to be very helpful on the first day when the sound or picture dropped out occasionally. It meant I could see what I needed to do next so was able to keep up. I’m pleased with my pendant (although I still have to add a fastener) including how the dyed wool worked, and feel I’ve learned techniques I will be able to use to make my own designs. Also, it led me into the entirely unexpected joy of dyeing.

Hand dyed 14 micron merino pendant with pebbles: Aniko Boros’ workshop

In the meantime I’d started Fiona Duthie’s online class Ink + Cloth. We practiced adding ink at various stages of feltmaking with loads of potential for using these techniques in future projects.

Above are samples of adding dye / ink before felting (on silk fabric) and on prefelt

These are samples of ink added in different ways to finished nuno felt with cotton and two types of silk. I’d found an image in the V&A museum online catalogue (a fantastic resource) of an early 20th century furnishing fabric with this style of lollipop trees that I was thinking of using for the 1st quarter challenge …but that’s a story for another time.

At the end of this I decided to combine various things I’d learned: to dye my own Corriedale wool tops for a bag and maybe to decorate it with inked or dyed pieces. This is still work in progress as I am not completely happy with it. I decided to let it dry and have a think before doing the last bit of fulling. After I’d laid out the wool I dithered over whether to add silk and prefelt pieces or not as I quite liked the wool as it was. At the last minute I added all sorts of bits and pieces without properly thinking through the design. I fear it betrays its history. A colleague who saw me rinsing it at the studio casually commented it was very ‘hippie, trippy summer-of-love’ which is absolutely not the look I was going for! I will come back to it soon. I included the strap in the photo to give an idea of what it will look like finished.

Now I’m part way through another class with Fiona Duthie: Fibre + Paper. It’s a fascinating process of combining specialist paper with wool. We started by making lots of samples: paper and felt, paper relief, extreme paper relief and paper with prefelt.

Above are samples showing different amounts of paper felted into 21 micron merino wool and bottom right combines prefelt and paper. They feel lovely and there seems to be so much potential to use paper with felt in different ways.

This week I made a vessel with paper embedded into the surface. It’s not perfect: I got a bit over-confident near the end and tore some of the surface (you can just see it bottom left, between the two ribs). I’ve been interested in shell shapes for a couple of years so I shall enjoy making more 3D paper & felt shell-inspired objects.

Paper felt shell-inspired vessel

In the coming week I will be trying out adding colour and surface designs with ink and paint plus making samples with some different papers. Fiona’s classes have been really enjoyable with excellent PDFs, photos and videos and lots of class interaction.

All the online classes I’ve taken have been great fun and very inspiring. They have given me lots of new skills and techniques that I will be able to use in my work. And they have definitely achieved my other objective: they have been really helpful in keeping me learning, focussed and motivated during what could otherwise have been quite a bleak time.

18 thoughts on “Online Learning: the new and the unexpected

  1. What a glorious selection of handmade stuff! You may not be satisfied yet with your ‘hippy trippy’ bag but we think it’s fabulous.

    Your dyeing is yielding great colours – what luck that the pendant class led you to it. Your ink work is lovely and could add a lot of interest to felt art.

    We love your vessel – it looks as if it’s just come from a tropical beach.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind comments. Maybe the summer of love bag is just a matter of taste / preference. I suppose I was disappointed because I liked the dyed wool & felt I’d wasted it. I suppose I can always dye more!

  2. You’ve created some wonderful work from these classes Lindsay. I particularly like the ink on felt/fabric and it’s good to see a close up of the interesting textures from the felted paper. I agree with Lyn about the “hippy trippy” bag, I’m not normally one for lots of colour but it looks great!

    1. Thank you, Karen. There’s a lot of potential for ink and paper with felt, including doing both, which is what I will try next. You may be right about the bag – it’s just way more colour than I’m used to!

  3. Looks like you had a great idea of how to spend your lockdown. I love learning so I agree that it helps to have this avenue to follow during a tough time. This should give you many ideas to try in the future too. Have fun!

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Yes, I know you’re a fellow learner. We just love the ‘what if….’ and I’ve certainly got lots more of that going on in my head.

  4. Wow Lindsay a great collection of work that demonstrates your learning & how you’ve kept yourself busy during difficult times.

    I can visualise much of this learning appearing in your future felt pieces, and look forward to seeing it.

    Hippy trippy – love the colours. If you are not so happy with your placement of ‘bits & pieces’ could you add stitching that links & unifies these elements together? Just trying to make extra work for you 🤪

    1. Thanks very much, Antje. Re the bag, I’m thinking of finishing the fulling then doing a bit more ink /dye work to alter how the bits and pieces stand out. After that, stitching is a very good idea. I might even do some beading and embrace the hippie trippy!

  5. Beautiful work, all of it. i particularly like the shell and the inky work. I have to say it though, beautifully made though the pendent is, it doesn’t call to mind a tulip – in fact it looks decidedly “rude” to me. I did something similar at a class I attended using multiple resists, entirely accidentally. I reversed the correct order of more than one resist on top of the other. It wasn’t until I’d almost finished the piece that the resemblance was pointed out to me, but at least everyone thought it was funny and didn’t shun me as being beyond the pale!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments, Ann. Yes, there was some discussion in the workshop about this shape: lily, tulip or body parts. Aniko said something about it being a traditional flower shape that represents femininity in Hungarian art / craft so I don’t think it’s completely accidental. I have no problem with it but will probably go ‘more flower’ if I make my own designs!

  6. I noticed the flower was a little rude too and lately I have been seeing seed pods popping up that looks rather suggestive to me.
    You have been very busy and the ink on paper felt looks really interesting.
    I really like the back pack but also the blue bag. It may not be what you were thinking of but it is great anyway.

    1. Thank you, Ann. The backpack is great. The only drawback is that it fits so snugly it’s very warm to wear. As for the blue bag, I can paint dye on the silk sections or use marker pens so I will have another go at it. I do like the colours, I just find the decorative additions a bit disjointed. If that doesn’t work, I will do some stitching, as Antje suggested.

  7. This is all fabulous Lindsay. So glad you experimented with dyeing. You are a natural. I love your trippy bag. You have to use it … a summer of love lies ahead! I would love to try the ink and paper workshops. I will put them on the agenda for later in the year. X

    1. Thank you, Helene. I do try to avoid ‘craft creep’ – where you start doing more and more different things – but I am genuinely delighted that I went with dyeing. I can recommend both of Fiona’s classes. They open up a huge range of new wet felt making possibilities.

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