Melting & Felting

Melting & Felting

As much as I enjoy felting and working with natural fibres I also love mixed media work and getting creative with heat manipulative, man made fabrics. It’s all the more enjoyable when you ask at the start of a class if anyone hasn’t worked with a heat tool or a soldering iron and you see the hands go up. You just know there are going to be some “ooohs and ahhhs” and huge smiles coming from excited students once they get melting their fabrics!
Last week I was invited to teach a group at Stainfield Village Hall, just a half hour from home. The groups organiser, Clare, had attended my Layer, Stitch & Burn workshop a few months previous in Sleaford and had so much fun creating this sea shell inspired piece she asked me to repeat the class with her group.

This technique was developed by the Canadian mixed media textile artist Susan Lenz.  It involves layering synthetic fabrics on a background of acrylic felt before adding free motion stitch using cotton, viscose or rayon threads. The last stage involves  “melting” the background fabric with a heat gun to create a lace like effect as seen in Susan’s In Box and Stained Glass Series 

Susan Lenz creates colourful mixed media textile art using heat manipulative fabric.

You would imagine all acrylic felt would melt and therefore be suitable for this process but I’ve discovered the hard way that’s not the case! If you’re going to try this technique I would suggest testing your background felt before stitching as some simply discolours and singes rather than melting! Having been caught out once I now order a sample before purchasing by the metre. My latest supply came from Empress Mills and melts a treat!
In the workshop, although everyone is given the option of working with simple geometric shapes, I like to encourage students to think outside the box (pun intended!) and create a piece that’s unique to them. In the past I’ve had ladies using fossils, gum nuts leaves and all sorts of other motifs as their starting point for a design as you can see from these three examples…..

Working with a more organic design is also great for those who haven’t done free motion before, or maybe are not as confident with it, as your stitching doesn’t have to be precise. In fact a “sketchy” approach, similar to the leaf design, looks great!

At Stainfield not everyone got finished on the day but I’ve been told that, at the groups meeting this week, not only did they finish off what they had started with me but most of the ladies also began working on a second piece! The size we worked to was approximately 23cm square so it fits the square IKEA box frame. 

Another heat manipulative workshop I teach is the Lutradur Leaves. This Wednesday evening I loaded the car and drove up to East Ayton near Scarborough, a really beautiful part of the country, ahead of Wednesdays class for Anita Cassidy and the Textile Experimental Group. I knew we were going to get on like a house on fire when I heard the name of the group!
The village hall was very light, airy and spacious, perfect for this type of class.
The group were encouraged to bring some leaves to use as inspiration and I supplied sketches for those that wanted them. Everyone worked with a medium weight 70gsm Lutradur and once again the ladies produced some fabulous work which sits nicely with their current theme of “decay”.

Between my last post and classes starting up again after the Summer I’ve done a bit of dressmaking, or “top” making to be precise. I’ve got a very simple linen, sleeveless, dart-less, top that I really like and I decided to clone it, adding darts to make it more fitted. Not having made anything with darts before I figured YouTube would be a good move….and it was!

I tried the pattern out with a very cheap floral fabric from Boyes. I think it’s viscose, it’s not silky but it shifted constantly while I was working with it so I’m amazed it turned out wearable!
The “palm tree” fabric is 100% cotton and was so easy to use, it’s definitely the better of the two. 

The following week I had to create a wet felted shoulder bag to promote a forthcoming workshop. In the past I’ve sometimes deliberately used colours that I’m not that keen on to ensure I keep a piece as a sample and not be tempted to use the item myself! This time I did the opposite and carded Dream and Granite Corriedale slivers from World of Wool’s Hefty Hues range to make a bag that won’t be living in a box until the workshop in the new year!

17 thoughts on “Melting & Felting

  1. The fish are great – so imaginative! It is hard to believe that both are made by new felters.

    Your shoulder bag is lovely – gorgeous colours – it will be used a lot before showing as a sample 🙂

    The students’ pieces from both the classes is a credit to the tutor! Such brilliant designs and skilled work. Good idea to have sized the pieces to fit an easily acquired frame.

  2. Thanks Lyn. I hate to think of work being put in a drawer or a cupboard, and I’ve often heard friends say that’s what they’ve done after a workshop. By showing how I’ve framed or mounted my work hopefully students will have a better idea of how they can present theirs.

  3. Looks like you are keeping busy Karen! Your classes are great for getting that experimental vibe going. Everyone’s results are amazing. Your bag is gorgeous and looks very functional. I’m sure it will be useful for you before it becomes a sample 😜

    1. Thanks Ruth. You can’t beat an experimental vibe, as for the bag its getting a lot of use and is already well travelled!

  4. Very interesting. I wasn’t familiar with Lutradur, so I looked it up. I think my Dad used it in some of his art pieces. I sadly lived 2000 miles away, his last 15 years, and visits were jammed full of outings.

    I am hoping to sew a few things for myself. I like the idea of simple patterns, and basic styles, that can be modified create a certain look. If only my current self, could have had a conversation with my younger self. 😉I have a couple classic, light weight wool knit dresses (black, deep coral) that can be accessorized up and down with ease! I think your bag is a perfect accessory piece.

    I’m inspired by everything you do!

    1. I’m not surprised to hear your dad used Lutradur in his textile art Capi, it’s such a versatile product.
      I hope you make the time to do some dressmaking, it’s very satisfying to be able to wear something created yourself.

  5. That bag is marvellous, Karen! What lovely size and format.

    Loved the fish, it’s incredible to note that’s coming from students who haven’t been felting long…

    I’m very glad you sewed something for yourself, I need to use it as inspiration to finally (literally) pick up the fabric I bought for a dress and start making!

    Your workshop definitely produced some lovely work. It all looks so beautiful and would definitely suit being shown on a wall.

    1. Thanks Leonor. I came up with that bag because I needed something inspiring, but achievable in a day, for students who may not have any experience with felting around a resist.
      Good to hear you’ve picked up your fabric, looking forward to seeing your dress when it’s finished!

  6. Those workshops all look very interesting and were obviously enjoyed by your students.
    Your bag does look good, how many layers of fibre did you use in making it?
    Those fish are something else aren’t they? Great fun.

  7. The bag was three colours (green inside, dark blue for the reveal and the carded grey/blue on the inside) laid over four layers Ann.
    Yes those fish are great and there are more in the making…..I can’t wait to catch up with what everyone’s been doing next month.

  8. Oh my oh my Karen, every time I see the fabulous work created at your workshops, I just want to hop on a plane and be present! I can see from all the ladies’ faces that they thoroughly enjoyed their time with you.

    What a great idea to clone your top. It turned out beautifully. I love the colour and know that you are going to get lots of wear out of it. I do agree when you get a design that ‘works’ it really is worth taking time to do this. I did it with a pair of trousers last year. They were expensive for what I received and very quickly wore out (I won’t mention the brand). So, in the end I took them apart and made a pair in a light brown linen. I love them too.

    The bag is beautiful and it will certainly draw in the crowds so I expect that you will end up with a waiting list. Good that you are getting to use it too.

    1. We will get to work together at some point Helene, when we get our F&F retreat organised we can do some skill sharing!
      You don’t expect clothes to wear out fast, especially when they are a well known brand, so great to hear you made the most of the situation and your home made version were a success.
      Glad you like the bag, I can see me making this design in several different colours. I rarely do craft events but have said yes to one near Nottingham this November so I’m thinking of taking three colour options of this bag with me.

  9. It looks like so much fun. I love the Lutrador leaves. I have to be glad I am not close as I don’t need to take up anything new.
    Your bag is great and nice and big. I don’t know how people live in a small purse.
    The fish are marvellous, especially for first timers.
    Sewing is on my list if I ever get some time to sort out my stuff. new year is looking good, maybe. LOL

    1. Thanks Ann. I agree about bag size, I can’t be doing with trying to cram everything I need with me in to a small bag!
      I hope you manage to make time for the sewing although you seem to have such a busy life I don’t know where you will find the extra hours. If you do please share your secret!

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