Making Waves

Making Waves

One of the things I’ve noticed from being at felting workshops is how predictable we tend to be when it comes to choosing our colour schemes. Whether we’re making a wearable, a bag, a vessel, etc whatever it is the majority of us will reflect that colour back in what we are wearing or the accessories we carry on that day. Before a class begins we can mostly tell at a glance who will be working with reds, who with greens, who with neutrals, etc, etc.

Personally I’ve always been drawn to neutrals, working with fibres in various shades of grey and beige with a small amount of accent colour, usually yellow or green. Unsurprising then that my wardrobe also tends to be filled with neutral colours. So what happened when the Waltham Windmill group launched their latest theme “Making Waves”? I could have followed the theme while sticking with my neutral pallet but for some reason I found myself wanting to work with blues, and not just as an accent but as the main colour. What I hadn’t realised until this last week is that blue hasn’t just found it’s way in to my studio but, without making the connection, it’s also started appearing in my wardrobe and I really hadn’t seen that coming!

Within the groups theme we have free reign to make whatever we want plus we’ve agreed a number of specific items we will each make, one of them is a jelly fish. Having done a bit of research into the many and varied species of jelly fish I came across the spotted Blue Jellyfish which is native to UK waters. My first thought was to create a “wet look” using Merino fibre covered with lots of viscose which would create a sheen and then I would free motion stitch the spots. That was quickly replaced with the idea of making my fish from sheer fabrics…..I seem to have accumulated lots of sheers and only ever use tiny amounts so this would be a perfect opportunity to use up some of my stash. After rummaging through a huge sack of fabrics, almost losing hope of ever finding the colour I needed, I came across a small piece of blue and another of turquoise, just enough to do the job… much for stash busting!!

The remnants of fabric, and the size of my embroidery hoop, determined the size of my jelly fish. I’d got some of the wash away stabiliser left over from a project I did a few years ago so that would be useful for stiffening and shaping the jelly fish.

I had enough blue fabric to cut out two circles plus one slightly larger from the turquoise. I also added a small white circle of fabric underneath thinking it would highlight the spotty area. Next I cut up some scraps of felt for the spots and arranged them on the blue discs before covering with the turquoise sheer. This sandwich was then put in the hoop and I machine stitched around the spots…..or at least that was my intention! Unfortunately I struggled to see where some of the felt was so it’s a bit hit and miss but it was near enough!

After removing it from the hoop I washed out some of the stabiliser retaining a good bit of the glue on the fabric to enable me to shape it over a plastic bowl. I didn’t think to photograph the drying stage so the next image shows it dry with the unattached tentacles cut from tulle and sheers.

The final step was to wet felt a blue “inner”, with additional thin felt tentacles, sew the fabric tentacles inside it and insert into its casing.

The finished spotted blue jelly fish.

I’m quite pleased with the finished result and this particular area of the exhibition should be interesting as we’ve used lots of different styles and techniques between us.

Another piece I’ve made for the theme is a felted sculpture inspired by a spiked shell, I’ve simplified the shell shape, lengthened the spikes and it’s currently hanging on my wall but it doesn’t feel finished. I think it maybe needs more colour variation and possibly a few embroidered barnacles…..what do you think?

Speaking of which, I’ve always had a fascination for Barnacles and can’t resist collecting them when I find them on stones and shells. These marine crustaceans are related to the crab and lobster and tend to live in shallow and tidal waters, typically in erosive settings.

There are around 1,000 different species and, as adults, typical barnacles are covered with calcareous plates and are cemented, head down, to rocks, shells, pilings, ships’ hulls, driftwood, or seaweed, or to the bodies of larger sea creatures, from clams to whales.

They feed by reaching into the water column with eight pairs of thoracic limbs called cirri which are long and feathery. The cirri extend to filter food, such as plankton, from the water and move it towards the mouth as you can see in this video. (Follow the link and scroll down to Ecology)

Barnacles on rusty metal

I’ve always liked this photo of barnacles on a rusty piece of metal which was taken on a visit to Ullapool harbour so I’m experimenting with different fabrics, including cotton and Tyvek, to make a barnacle inspired wall hanging. So far I’m leaning towards the Tyvek fabric.

Tyvek fabric barnacles

Something else I think will lend itself to the theme is dendritic printing. I love the vein like patterns, very reminiscent of coral, which can be created by pressing acrylic paint between two sheets of glass or plastic and then printing with it. I’ve been trying this out on different surfaces including paper, Lutradur, chiffon and cotton.

The most surprising result was a the print on felt, I was amazed at the clarity of it and I can see this being developed further with added stitching.

Working on ideas for felted sea anemones

There are so many possibilities within this theme that my mind is working overtime and I’ve a few other projects on the go right now. One of them is this small 20cm dia embroidery being worked on an eco print cotton fabric……note the lack of blue!

Another is a 95cm x 54cm background I made a couple of days ago throwing everything I had to hand in to the mix! There’s Bergschaf, Merino, Viscose, Silk, chiffon, synthetic net, slubs, knitting yarn, etc. I see this being an ongoing project for quite a while….something I can build on, picking up and putting down over time, adding stitch and texture until it feels finished.

At our next meeting, this coming Friday, several of us will be creating wet felted fish which we are all excited about. I will show you how those turned out and give an update on the other projects in my next post. Now………where did I put my blue cardigan?

32 thoughts on “Making Waves

  1. Wow, what an amazing collection! You have been really busy! I LOVE the dendritic prints, never seen those on fabric before, I am itching to go play in the studio now!! 🙂

    1. I love your way of researching, experimenting and combining materials!

  2. Such lovely textures – you’ve given me yet more ideas to follow up on – but then you almost always overload me with possibilities when I read your newsletters!

  3. Wow Karen I just love all the textures and experiments you have been doing. The jelly fish is beautiful and I love the shell.

  4. You have been a busy bunny! Love the jellyfish – very clever the way you built it up using several techniques.
    Your shell embroidery is looking so good – doesn’t need blue btw 🙂
    The spiked shell looks lovely and not sure if it wants anything else or not – tricky one.
    The final piece is glorious – even if you don’t add anything else to it – the colours and textures are perfectly balanced.

    1. Thanks Lynne. I’ve just bought myself a drum carder and used it to combine lots of leftover scraps of fibre for that last piece. It’s pushing me a bit out of my comfort zone but I figure it’s good to do that occasionally.

  5. WOW Karen, what an absolute feast. I just love the spotted blue jelly fish. I do find these animals fascinating, and your version is fantastic.
    Your spikey shell is good too, I’m not sure if adding anything would enhance it, although I suppose you could try a few stitched barnacles and remove them if they don’t look right.
    I love barnacles too and I’ve managed to acquire some enormous ones which I was going to use as inspiration for funery urns. However the lady I was to make them for has had to give up her natural funeral advisory service and has now actually moved away, so that idea was shelved. All your barnacles are good, but if I had to choose, I think I’d go for the cotton ones. I definitely like the picture of those growing on the rusty metal.
    And the dendritic printing is amazing, especially that done on the felt. How do you fix it? Is it steamed perhaps?
    I have run out of superlatives! I’m looking forward to your next post(s).

    1. Thank you Ann. I would love to see an image of your large barnacles if you would send me one. It’s a pity that lady had to give up her business before you got to use your idea. I’m sure if you researched it you could find someone else, not too far away, who would be interested to take them.
      The print on felt was done using acrylics which are colour fast when dried, no fixing required. I’ve painted fibre with acrylics several times and every piece has withstood washing so there’s no problem as long as the paints been watered down and allowed to soak in to the felt. However, because the paint on this sample was used undiluted it is sitting on the surface of the felt therefore there may be the chance of it flaking off if not handled carefully. It would be fine placed under glass but I like my felt exposed so I need to do more experiments and feel confident I won’t damage the paint before I start stitching on to it.
      I’m looking forward to making my fish next. It might turn out to be a very strange hybrid as I can’t make my mind up on any one species!

  6. What an inspiring post Karen! It makes me want to live by the sea 😉 I love the jellyfish, I made one a long time ago but yours is so good. I like how the sheers look like the jellyfish as you can see the “guts” of the jellyfish through the sheer fabric. I think all the barnacles look good and perhaps you could use a mix of them instead of just choosing one type? The dendritic painting is fantastic and I will have to add that to my list of printing ideas. I have done it before but not for a long time and your print on felt turned out so well. Surprising. Keep up the experimentation, it looks like you are having a blast.

    1. Thanks Ruth. I would absolutely love to live by the sea. It’s only a forty minute drive from here but to be close enough to walk from the house to the beach each day would be perfect!
      I think you might have hit on an idea regarding the barnacles. I could use a couple of different fabrics as some of my collection do have a slight variation in look, possibly some much older than others? I will explore that idea.
      I’m watching a terrific video on sea life this afternoon in the hope of finalising my fish design. If anyone is interested it’s here

  7. I loved all your ideas, Karen. It’s clear that you are having lots of fun and experimentation. I would love to see the finished exposition, it will surely be exceptional.

    1. Thank you Kiki. Yes, I am having fun with this theme. I will post photos of the exhibition when it’s time, it isn’t happening until 2024.

  8. I love your jelly fish and the shell. It does look a little bleached out but that’s nut unnatural. I hope you share pictures of the installation when it goes up. the printing is very interesting. I never explored printing and/or paint. It is great to have a piece you can just pick up and put down but I don’t know when you would have time to pick it up you are so busy.

    1. Thanks Ann. I must admit, painting a picture on paper or canvas isn’t something I’ve ever got in to but I do sometimes add paint to my textile and felt work. I’m also experimenting with paint on paper and then felting it so will report back as to how that goes…..I’ve already learnt that one of my “waterproof” inks isn’t a successful choice!!
      The “pick up/put down” pieces tend to grow organically rather than being planned. They get worked on occasionally when I stop for a coffee or later in the evening when I don’t feel like thinking too hard or starting something new!

  9. Your pieces are stunning Karen with so much on offer here. You are keeping very busy.

    Your jelly fish is fab with its different layers & so full of movement.
    Knowing your work, I understand why your beautiful pale 3D spiky shell doesn’t feel right to you. Shells aren’t always perfect so adding a few ‘Karen’ stitches will do the trick I’m sure.
    Love your different barnacles & as Ruth suggested, use all of them.
    Your sea anemones just brill.
    Jelly plate printing (I got the v large 12x14in for Christmas) & further dendritic printing are on my list….thanks for the nudge!

    I always knew we were spiritual twins….so many of our experiments are interchangeable & could each be used by the other. Even experiment note taking! Whilst colour….just look in my huge yarn/fabric stash, although I’m ahead of you with the blue/aqua & I also have orange/rust collection too.
    Looking forward to seeing more of your work & the full exhibition. 😉

    1. Thanks Antje. You are so right, we do seem to be on a parallel path a lot of the time.
      Have fun with the printing. I can’t wait to see what you’ve been doing with your lichen!

  10. This is a fantastic post, Karen! Your explorations of techniques for each textile sea creature is so exciting! It is an endless scroll of delights! And dendritic printing is amazing! Never knew of such fun!

    1. Thank you so much Juliane. I’m not sure about the rest of the Waltham group but I could happily work with this theme forever! Although I’m very passionate about wet felting I think it’s exciting to open yourself up to other mediums and techniques too. You really should try the dendritic printing, it’s one of the most accessible types of mark making I’ve come across. All you need is acrylic paint and two sheets of glass or plastic and you’re away! Have fun!

  11. Wonderful work, truly loved the jelly fish. Personal opinion is the spiked shell would look great with barnacles because I too find them fascinating. Looking forward to pictures of the installation.

    1. Thank you, I might have to make a larger jelly fish in bright colours to use up some more of that fabric!
      I do think you’re right about the shell, adding a few barnacles could be just what it needs.

  12. Loving that jellyfish, Karen! You’ve managed to capture its “weightlessness” perfectly. The sheer fabric works so well.

    As for the idea of wardrobe colour coordination, it’s a very interesting concept – perhaps people have a more limited palette than we think, and wear it consistently, then creating accessories which conform to this? Hm.

    1. Thanks Leonor, I might have another go at a jelly fish and see if I can get as stiff a finish to the sheers while retaining less of the glue. The glue has made it a bit more opaque than I wanted and it would be good to have a more see through outer shell.

  13. Oh Karen, where do I start on such an amazing post! I’m a bit gobsmacked to be honest. The variety of techniques and subject matter is incredible. What a jellyfish, he/she (not sure if they have genders) is out of this world – I can just imagine the movement when the breeze hits it at the exhibition. Love the shell shape too and what a beautiful colour. I have to try the printing technique but I will have to learn how to do it first lol!

    This is a bit like the thank yous at a wedding – the speech giver is bound to leave someone off the list in error. In that spirit in case I miss admiring any one of your creations (lest it comes back and stings me on the …… for my mistake) yours, like Antje’s post is just jam packed with gorgeousness (if there is such a word and if there is not, it needs to be invented for these occasions).

    Already next year’s exhibition promises to be a super one. I hope loads of visitors get to see it.
    Helene x

  14. Blimey Helene, thank you for your kind words and the fee will be transferred today!!😉 I only hope our visitors have the same enthusiasm for the exhibition.
    That printing is so easy but gives great results, you must try it. Just be careful if you use thin glass from picture frames as I’ve seen that break when the user tried to part the sheets….the paint makes a very strong suction! Smooth hard plastic sheets are safer, as are glass shelves, so I prefer to use either of those. I will make a note to go in to more detail in my next blog.

    1. Thanks a million Karen. The painting was not on my radar until now……… I think I better get working on it before the drum carder arrives! lol.
      Between the adventures in the gym and this, life is getting very busy 😉

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