I wish to show you my last abstract piece: I am quite proud of having included free crocheting and free knitting bits and of having gone bigger than my usual size, all things outside of my comfort zone that were inspired by other artists’ and crafters’ works.
It was about experimenting with felt without the distraction of colour, and I decided to use undyed or white and whitish materials, so as not to distract my eye from the final purpose. This made me think about “lack of colour” and “white” in terms of emotions and morals: how you are not supposed to show a lot of true emotions if you are a “good girl”, how the colour white has been linked to “good” in certain cultures, how silence and demure behaviour (not showing your colours) had been linked to “good behaviour” in such cultures.
So, this has made me think about what “good girl” and “bad girl” meant when I was growing up, and how problematic those concepts have become for me in time (and have been even then). This led to me choosing specific fabrics and fibers, and techniques to add to the piece. So, I guess, concepts and techniques called one to the other from the beginning of my project and I can’t say which came first, if ideas to express or techniques to try.
I thought of the piece as layered, as our life experience and identity are layered, and being a “good girl” or “bad girl” is not something straightforward either. So, firstly I made a layer of felt to go over a pre-felt background.
But how to make the surface layer? I remembered about the layout for cobweb scarves that had been suggested in the Felting and Fiber forum, the one that is made by tearing a long length of merino tops and then carefully teasing the whole length open: I wanted holes and different thickness on my surface layer of felt, so I went for that type of layout for it and it worked very well.
The surface layer was embellished with undyed locks, undyed white eri silk fibers, scraps of undyed habotari silk, white flax, and silk carrier rods. Its shape is very irregular and there are vertical holes from which one can peek at stuff underneath. I liked the fact that it’s not one single white, but many different shades of undyed natural white and of bleached or optic white. Even stretching the idea of “white” a bit to include cream and beige even.
I added a natural-fiber net that I got from my grocery shopping, and on the background strings gotten from labels of clothes and scraps from a cotton handkerchief, to remind me of all the mother-work wife-work women-work that is the “good girl” ‘s lot in life.
I lightly rubbed it and then used the sander to be sure that all the bits could stay firmly in place. I did not want it felted firmly, and I rolled it only a few times in two directions, horizontally and vertically. I washed it and left it to dry.
In the meantime I prepared the background layer, with 3 layers of undyed merino wool in a simple horizontal-vertical lay-out. I rubbed it and rolled it a few times, leaving it at the pre-felt stage. I washed it and let it dry.
On the second day, I combined the two layers, that were mostly dry, and all the other embellishment elements.
I wanted to explore what it used to mean to be a “good girl” and to make mistakes and be a “bad girl”, so on the background and peeking through the holes I placed different things that had been linked to women’s craft and life, including commercial lace, scraps from a child’s wool vest (mothers always used to make their kids put their vest on underneath their shirts) and different fibers and yarns, and strings (women forever tying and untying shoes clothes bags families).
On the background, like alpha and omega at the top and bottom, I also wanted “wrong” (but free) crocheting and “wrong” (but free) knitting pieces, and the making of those was an experience in itself, as I found very hard to let go of purpose and of “perfection”, especially in the knitting. I used a cotton yarn for the crochet and a mixed wool yarn for the knitting, as those two types of yarn are most closely related to those crafts to me. I have to say that I quite enjoyed the free crocheting and I maybe will use it again soon, whereas I doubt that the freeform knitting will become a favourite of mines!
After placing all the elements where I wanted them to be, I hand stitched them in place with a few hidden stitches each, starting from the top and the outer edges towards the inner parts and the bottom. It took me a bit, but it was essential, as I was much more confident that nothing was going to move when I went on with the following wetting and sanding and rolling. I hate hand sewing, but this time I felt that it was worthwhile!
I washed and dried the piece, and then waited to see if anything else was needed: I often find that I need to let the work get washed and dry out to be able to see what is not fine yet! In fact, I found that the merino wool vest scraps had not quite felted in as I wanted them to do, so I decided to needle felt them with a bit of added merino wool top fiber. This gave me the itch to add a few needle felted 3D shapes, vaguely organic shapes that are a symbol of the “good girl” sense of her body.
I really liked the journey and I think that the piece says what I wanted it to say. Moreover, I enjoyed trying new things in making it, and using those techniques in an organic way to express a world of meanings and experiences that I hope will find resonance in the viewers.