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Author: helenefeltzen

Just Playin’

Just Playin’

The last twelve months have, as my Irish granny would have said ‘put manners on me’.  Cataracts, which were a ‘by the way’ diagnoses in my late 40s finally and quickly caught up with me.  Eight increments of sight deterioration over a three month period!  No more night driving, reading became a challenge and my creative curiosity disappeared.  And so, the waiting game began.  I am currently recovering from surgery on eye number 2.  What a difference it has made and while it will be some time before I get my new glasses, I can function without them for the first time ever! Also, life in all its facets is so beautifully colourful.

So why do I mention it in my post.  It feels awkward mentioning it as I am a very private person.  Awkward, but necessary.  Many of us go through times in life where we lose our creative mojo.  Initially, I found myself angst ridden and questioning my abilities.  The feeling never really went away but I had to find a way to go with the flow and tap away at bits and pieces for a while.

So now that the eyes are fixed I have started playing.  Nothing too serious (well except for my last piece but more of that later).  I am now a week and a half after the operation and here is what I have made over the past week.

Sample 1:

First up, a bit of a back story.  I have committed to a felt swap later in the year.  The theme is brooches so I thought I should start thinking about this.  I used to like felting with basic resist shapes and distorting them so I thought this might be a starting point for this experiment.

First of all, I cut a 15cm square resist and rounded the corners.  Then I covered both sides of the resist in eight thin layers.  I started and finished with a rich orange colour and sandwiched in between were two layers of mustard and two layers of green.  I used 16 micron merino which I purchased from Leiko Uchiyama  Leiko’s fibre is hand dyed and the colours are sublime.  She is based in Ireland and ships worldwide.

Sample 1 fibres laid out and wet down 8 thin layers

I made a prefelt in the usual way.  I wanted the prefelt to be strong so I kept working it until it started to distort the resist.

solid pre-felt shrinkage has started

Then I made a small incision on one side of the resist, extracted the resist and sewed the raw edges back together with some nylon thread:

Sample 1: repairing the hole which was cut to remove resist

Then it was time to play with the square shape.  I brought the edges of the square to the front of the piece and I started playing and shaping it.  Once I was happy with the shape I handsewed them to hold them in position. Then I worked hard at felting the edges together and to the flat back side of the piece.

Sample 1: working on manipulating the shape


Sample 1: working on a pleasing shape


Sample 1: Shape has been secured with stitching and fulling begins

Once it was felted, fulled and rinsed, I removed the threads and started cutting. Lots of cutting!

Sample is fully felted, stitches are removed and cutting has started


I got a bit scissor happy! I sliced through a little at a time

Here is the finished piece.  I have popped it on top of its original resist to give it perspective:

Sample 1 finished piece laid on original resist for size comparison

Here is a close up of the piece. The inch ruler underneath gives some perspective on size.   Do you think it would make a suitable brooch?

Sample 1: close up of finished piece

Sample 2

Next up, a flower.  This year sees the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Irish felting group Feltmakers Ireland, by our esteemed member and incredibly creative Elizabeth Bonnar.  There is a celebration planned for later in the year where members will focus on making pink flowers.  I thought I might take this down time to make at least one.  But I wanted to play and not produce my usual style of flower.   I wanted to make a three layered flower but I also wanted to do some free  motion embroidery on each petal.  I decided to make the three layers separate, felt them to my satisfaction then attack them with the sewing machine.  I cut out a template for the petals (small, medium, large) and then cut these shapes from prefelt as a foundation.  I laid different tints of pink merino  on top and finished it off with some tints of pink viscose.  Once this was wet felted and fulled, my work with the sewing machine began as I did free motion stitching on each petal.  After that, I needle felted the layers together and added a central yellow disk which I needle felted and then cut back the fibre until I was happy with the dome shape. Here are some photos I took of my progress.  I was really getting into it so forgot to take photos as I went along (maybe the mojo is returning):

Sample 2: prefelted flower petals and the start of the layering of the lighter colour pinks


Sample 2 is ready for wetting down


Sample 2 has now been fulled


Sample 2 dried and ready for free motion embroidery


Sample 2 with free motion embroidery completed


Sample 2 Layers are joined together and central disk has been needle felted into the flower


Sample 2: view of finished flower (still damp so not fully shaped).


Sample 2: view of finished flower (still damp so not fully shaped).


Sample 2: view of finished flower (still damp so not fully shaped).

Sample 3

My last piece this week is a personal piece I felt a compelling urge to complete.  When I left the hospital I was given instructions and bits and pieces to help the eyes heal.  Among these were non woven swabs which I found were really soft and well aerated.  I have no idea what they are made from but I reckoned they would work nicely on felt and I had lots left over.  So I made a bowl using two layers of undyed merino.  I wet this down, and then placed the non woven fabric on top, cut the pieces to size so that they fitted around the curves.  I then felted it in the normal way.  I cut a hole in the piece and removed the resist.  Then I sealed the raw edges.  When it came to fulling the pot I threw it quite energetically as I wanted to get additional texture on it.  Then I dried it.  There was nothing particularly spectacular about the result except that it was really soft and tactile.  I did not take any photos of this process as it was just the result of some personal urgency.   Using the 3cm hole at the back of the pot as an access point, I did some free motion embroidery stitching on my sewing machine.  It was as close as I will ever come to performing keyhole surgery!  It was challenging but I am pretty pleased with the result,  Again, the ruler at the bottom of the photo gives size perspective:

Sample three: small bowl covered with free motion machine embroidery


Sample 3 rear view featuring 3cm hole through which the embroidery was worked

Back to the question of creative block.  I don’t know if it is lifted but I think two things are helping me at the moment.  The first is making that commitment, whether it is to a person or a project, the second is keeping things small and manageable, that way I can handle complexities if a notion hits me on how I might enhance a piece.  Oh yes something else too, I have started to consciously seek not to be too precious about these pieces.  I have thrown paint and ink on pieces and woven stuff through them.  Not always producing happy little results (to paraphrase the artist, the late Bob Ross) but the process is freeing.


Have you had issues with creative block?  I appreciate that it is a personal journey to find what will work to free yourself up.  What may work for me may not necessarily work for someone else but if you would like to share your journey I would love to hear from you.  Together, we may be able to help others free themselves up and immerse themselves once again in this beautifully creative world we occupy.


Helene x

A welcome return to in-person sessions and we were all scissor happy!

A welcome return to in-person sessions and we were all scissor happy!

A recent workshop saw a welcome return to my facilitating face to face felting sessions.

I was asked by our local felting guild, Feltmakers Ireland to run one of their Sunday Sessions.  These are social woolly gatherings.  They generally take place in the morning on the second Sunday of each month and last 2.5 hours.

I was given a free reign to present whatever topic took my fancy.  I thought a fun morning which I called ‘Demo and Do’ might fit the bill.  The topic was felt embellishments.  My idea was to demonstrate two basic techniques, then quickly show samples of how I had developed these techniques in my own practice to contextualise use, after which the members could have a go.

The first technique was ‘Cracked Mud’ which I learnt many years ago from the wonderful Lyda Rump.  This was quick and easy to learn so I allocated a smaller portion of the session to completing it. If you are unfamiliar with the technique, here are two of the samples I prepared for the session.  I used three colours, red, grey and black.  Alternating between the red and black (top and bottom layers) totally transformed the finished samples when I cut into them:

The second technique was the creation of a basic wet felted geode.  I was taught this technique by Marjolein Dallinga  at a superb workshop she gave when she travelled to Ireland many years ago. This technique was a bit more complex so the group spent longer working on it.  Again, so that you can have a visual on this, here are my samples.  I used the same colours as for the cracked mud technique samples.  The top of the photo shows some of the off cuts from the finished samples:


As time was short, I decided to make up packs which the participants could purchase if they did not wish to bring along the materials.  These packs comprised of a number of prefelts.  The cracked mud prefelts were industrial and the geode prefelts were handmade; three colours over six layers.  Each one was different (I bore easily so I wanted variety when I was making them).  Each square measured 20cm and weighed around 15 grams.  Here they are prior to wetting out:


And here they are after they had been lightly pre-felted.  They were all so colourful:

There was a lovely party atmosphere and altogether 20 worked on samples while 3 chose to observe.   Here are some photos from the morning.  Many thanks to Clodagh McDonagh of Feltmakers Ireland for taking these photos:


Just look at how focussed we all were! I promise there was a lot of laughter and misbehaviour  too!


A number of the participants were new to wet felting and luckily they all sat together so I was able to give them a bit more time and answer their questions following the demonstration.  I am very proud of them all as each one produced finished samples.




Here is a photo montage of the participants’ work.  Many of them brought their geode pieces home to finish but all of my ladies who were new to felting got theirs finished in time.  I am really proud of how hard they all worked.  I also prepared an electronic PDF of the technique for the participants which was sent to them later in the day.

It was a real treat to resume these activities and to meet up again with such a lovely group of women.

Have you ever gotten scissor happy with your felt!  Do you fancy sharing your results?  I would love to seem them. You can upload your photos here.

Thanks in advance and happy felting!

A big purchase

A big purchase

After years of deliberation I finally decided to take the plunge and purchase a drum carder.  This year’s AGM of the International Feltmakers Association which took place in March put it back in my mind.  My friends in the Felting and Fibre Studio cemented my resolve as they gave me lots of excellent advice during one of our get togethers.

So, research completed, I purchased from the German company Wollknoll  principally because they offered the best value for money.  While I was on their site I made some other purchases too, including a felting tool, some pre-felt, locks and a few other items.  The parcel arrived quickly and it was so exciting to receive it.  In fact it was like Christmas day only better because I didn’t have to stop what I was doing to cook dinner!

The exciting opening revealing all the extra ‘stuff’ on top!

I bought the Ashford wide (12 inch)  drum.  I opted for this rather than the 8 inch drum because there was less than €50.00 difference in the overall price.  It was very easy to put together and the box will be stored in the attic as I am given to understand that second hand carding drums have a good resale value in Ireland.  But for the moment I am going to enjoy it.

Once I put it together, Enda and I set out for Ikea which is not far away.  Jan had recommended purchasing one of their trolley tables on wheels for it as it could be secured to the surface and it would become its permanent home.  I found a lovely one.  (Thanks Jan ).  Enda helped me make it up and now they are sitting in my workroom.

Et Voila! Here it is all set up in its new home 🙂

On Easter Monday I finally found time to try it out using scraps of wool.  I am so excited with the results of my first experiments.


One of my reasons for adding to my order was that the overall weight of the package was not going to increase the transport costs.  Therefore, what I generally would ignore (because postage costs of buying small items made the price prohibitive) suddenly became attractive (with the ‘free’ postage).

My other purchases included some prefelt to experiment with.  I only recently found out that the Wollknoll merino  prefelt is a lot softer than DHG Italy product.  I’m an not sure why this should be important – it may be more malleable.    It certainly feels softer. I shall report back in this regard.  The grey one to the left of the photo is DHG Italy and the other is from Wolknoll.


I also purchased a new felting tool.  I like the feel of this beauty as there are no sharp edges to possible tear the felt (I have other felting tools that are quite pointed and rough).  I hope to test this one out soon:

Then comes the two ‘down the rabbit hole’ purchases.  first up, warp thread and then a concoction called ‘Foto Transfer Potch’  which I will need to read up about before attempting.


These should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Do you have any hints and tips for a novice drum carder?  Any assistance will be most welcome!

Latest experiments:

 Over the past few months I have been experimenting with felting on a ball.  This is just a personal challenge.  I wanted to see if I could make some pieces with different finishes which would be felted on the outside of the structure (the videos I have seen place the design against the ball then turn the piece inside out so that the design shows).  I am sure there are videos that show how to do this the other way around (where the design is already on the outside and there is no turning involved)but I have not been able to find them.  Here are the four I have made so far:

First Shibori and Ripples:


Next: Fantasy flower:


Here’s Geode Ball:


Finally, here’s Disco Ball using recycled coffee pods (my least favourite).  I used four different colour pods on this particular one.  You can see the different colours in the photo inset.  I did not like the colour of one of the sets of pods so I decided to use nail varnish to paint over it. Two coats.  It adhered very well.


I used a small yoga ball for my base.  It was handy as it could be inflated/deflated and it cost a fraction of what I would have paid for a felting ball.

Have you ever tried this method of felting on a ball? I would love to hear how you found it and see your pieces.

Happy creating!

Cybersecurity, Cash and this Quarter’s Challenge

Cybersecurity, Cash and this Quarter’s Challenge

Just before Christmas an article on the news caught my attention.  An expert in cybersecurity was warning the public about a scam.  Apparently thieves can hang out in public spaces armed with bank card readers.  As they pass through crowds the readers are searching for unprotected cards (credit or debit) which when detected are automatically scanned.  The cards are debited with small random amounts and when the transaction appears on statements the victim tends to ignore them, thinking they had perhaps one more coffee which they forgot about or alternatively that the theft is too small to report to the financial institution.  He mentioned that lots of money is stolen this way and the thieves are never caught.  Asked whether there are ways of safeguarding an individual’s cards, he mentioned that there were special wallets available (I checked these out and they are very expensive) or as a cheap alternative, placing aluminium (aluminum) foil around the card will work.  In the interests of science and before I started this post, I had my son check this out and yes, it does work.  When Carlene proposed this quarter’s challenge, and having recoiled at the price of the special wallet, I decided it was time to put my thinking cap on and come up with an alternative which could be made from scraps of fabric and a few extras.  I thought I would share the outcome and also a photographic guide on how to make one if you would like to.

The project is made up of two halves

  • first of all, make the card pockets for inside the wallet.  There are two sets of pockets, each containing space for 3 cards.  The cards slip into the pockets with the short side facing out, the card is unlikely to easily slip out that way. The two pockets are then lined so that you have space to keep your paper money (bills) when the wallet is fully constructed.
  • then the front section is made. This is where the aluminium foil is placed and attached to the inside lining of the front section with two sided stabilizer.  A front cover is then cut out, hems turned and sewn to both the inside lining and the card pockets.

Here is what is needed for this project:

For the pocket:

  • piece of cotton fabric measuring 60cm by 16cm
  • matching or coordinating fabric for the back of the pocket approximately 24cm by 20cm
  • light weight iron on interfacing (one sided)

For the cover:

  • lining material approximately 20cm by 18cm
  • piece of aluminium foil 20cm by 18cm
  • Double sided stabiliser 20cm by 18cm or slightly smaller (to avoid marking your ironing board and iron.
  • Cover fabric of your choice


  • Fabric scissors,
  • Other scissors for cutting up the foil
  • Small clamps (or small pegs will work too)
  • Iron and Ironing Board
  • Ruler
  • Card (bank or ID card) for measuring depth of pockets
  • tailors chalk
  • sewing machine with matching thread and heavy duty needle.

Tip: I kept all my fabrics light to medium weight so that the machine could handle the thick layers at the final stage of sewing.

Here are step by step photos for putting the wallet together.  I am presenting each photo separately so apologies for this rather long post (there are lots of photos but I think each one is important).   Each photo has some instructions/clarifications.  If you decide to make the wallet, please check out the photos and let me know if anything needs further clarification before you start the project.


Three fabrics were chosen, a vintage floral cotton in black green and orange from House of Fraser, a green cotton for the lining and a black cotton for the credit card pockets

Black cotton fabric with a white line drawn through it


black rectangular fabric with a white line drawn in the middle

A light white iron on stabilizer is attached to the inside of the black fabric to stiffen it before it is folded

2cm measurement drawn on black fabric, ruler to left

1cm mark in white tailors chalk sits below the previous measurement of 2cm on black fabric

Card used to measure space on black fabric, pin indicated the bottom of the card pocket

The first fold has been made in the credit card pocket and the original centre mark which is white is used to check the alignment of the fold. Ruler to the right confirms alignment

First fold as been made in the card pocket using pin as a guide to the pocket bottom


Black fabric, first fold is made for the card. 1cm mark made under the fold to show where the second fold will end


Stitching along the top of the folds on the black fabric, credit card used to check the depth of the pocket

The folds in the black fabric are secured with stitching around the whole pocket



The black credit card pockets are cut down the centre one will be for the right side of the wallet and the other will sit on the left side, fabric scissors to the bottom of the photo

Black fabric has been pinned with clips onto the pocket, right sides together


Sewing machine is stitching the folded pocket to the lining, right sides together

Sewing machine needle is sewing the edge of the black fabric to the right side of the credit card pockets


Black fabric 2 sets of three credit card pockets machined stitched and secured to the wallet lining

Both credit card pockets are identical in size, black fabric, three credit card pockets on each and now fully lined with black fabric

Green cotton for the lining, interlined with double sided stabiliser, pinned together scissors resting on top

Green lining on top, aluminium foil on bottom fused together with stabiliser

Two black pockets are placed on top of the green cotton lining which is backed by the fused aluminium foil. Ruler gives indication of final dimension of the wallet

Wallet size has been marked onto the green lining with white tailor's chalk, material is being cut through with scissors

Black credit card pockets have been clipped to the green wallet lining before sewing

Photo of the front and back of the wallet construction, one side shows the aluminium backing which has been sewn into, the other shows the black credit card pockets and the green lining

A vintage flower fabric, predominant colours black green and orange sourced from House of Fraser has been cut to fit the front of the wallet, allowance has been made for hemming so that the fabric is now bigger than the wallet

the wallet is being machine stitched, the hem of the vintage fabric from House of Fraser is being secured to the inside of the wallet

A view of the interior of the wallet, cards are placed in the black fabric pockets, paper cash is secured between the black pockets and the green lining of the wallet and the hem of the vintage fabric is also visible

A view of the front of the finished walled, vintage House of Fraser cotton fabric in black green and orange


I thought it might be fun to make a second wallet and to wet felt a cover for it.  I basically followed the instructions for the interior of the wallet except this time I hemmed the internal fabric (the red fabric) and used this to secure the pockets.  I wet felted a rectangle using merino wool, loose weave cotton, and batting and shrunk it to fit the wallet.  Once this was dry and ironed I did some random stitching all over it with red cotton thread.  I then sewed the two pieces together.  Here are some photos of the result:

The wallet cover – photo was taken at an angle so it looks a bit wonky.  You may need to focus in on the stitching if you want to see the various patterns.

black wet felted wallet cover with white designs randomly stitched with red cotton thread back and front

The front of the wallet:


black wet felted wallet cover with white designs randomly stitched with red cotton thread - front view

Finally, the inside of the wallet.  I decided to have a bit of fun and colour co-ordinate it!

wallet interior made to coordinate with felted cover. Pockets are black and the main fabric is red






Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope you are all getting some well deserved R & R following the hectic run up to the holiday season.


Here in Ireland, today (December 26th) is known as St Stephen’s day but in certain rural areas, traditionally it is Wren day,  a festival day when Mummers  take to the streets in their disguises.  In my area, the Mummers perform their play every St. Stephen’s day in pubs and clubs in the county.  This tradition originated within three local families and numbers participating have increased down through the years.

The costumes are generally a mix of rags together with woven straw.  The head pieces can be very intricate and beautiful.  Here is an example of a mummer’s headpiece. (Photo: Courtesy Museum of Ireland)


I checked the mumming origins for this time of year and it appears to be an ancient European tradition.  If you would like to find out more it is worth checking out these links  or, local to my area,found%20in%20European%20carnival%20tradition.


Project No: 1:

I want to extend a big thank you to Lyn and Annie whose current challenge has spurred me on to complete three unfinished projects in time for this post.  The first project is a crochet throw.  I have made a number of these, principally for family, and feedback is that they are really cosy.  So I thought it was time to make one for myself.  The problem was, that because it had no timeline for finish, it stayed on the hook!  So when I saw the challenge, the timeline materialized and I got it finished before the year end.  Happy days!

Please forgive the angle of the photograph, I was up on the ladder trying to get it!

The throw comprises of one very large granny square made with six large balls of fibre.  It fits on top of a kind sized bed and I think it will be staying there for the current cold spell!  Its making is pretty mindless and once I get into rhythm it can be made watching foreign crime series (complete with subtitles).  My favourite at the moment which has just finished is the French series Astrid.

Project No: 2:

My next  project was planted in my consciousness following a blog post by Ann in November 2021. Here is the link to her post .  This international project, which was titled “Fate, Destiny and Self-determination” intrigued me but it took me a while for the seeds to bear fruit.  I contacted the Artist/Co-ordinator, Line Dufour,  last September and she confirmed that she was still accepting pieces for the on-going exhibition.  She did mention any piece should not be a regular geometric shape (square, rectangle, circle etc).

So I got to work on my piece.  I started off by making a piece of pre-felt over a rectangular resist.  Then I started randomly stitching and gathering the prefelt, my idea here was to lose total control over the shape of the piece and let the random stitches determine this.  Finally I felted it up.  The final shape was anything but regular.  I hated it because while the shape was ‘interesting’ the colour was boring and it would be lost against a white backdrop.  So it sat there, and it waited patiently for Lyn and Annie to spur me into action with the challenge. It was time to start hand-stitching!

I decided that I wanted the piece to reflect my Irish origins and what it means to be Irish in contemporary society.  To paraphrase the actor Michael Caine,  not many people know this but Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe when our seabed territory is taken into account.  People perceive Ireland as being that little quaint island off the west of Europe but our marine territory is ten times the size of the land mass and I decided to reflect this in the piece (bottom section).  Secondly, Ireland is renowned for its agriculture and food production which it exports worldwide; this is represented by the abstract depiction of a tree to the left of the piece.  Then, there are its people, their tolerance and acceptance; the central section celebrates the fact that in 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same sex marriage by popular vote. (I could have included many other aspects of what it means to be Irish but it is a small piece at 12cm x 13cm.)  I purposely left a section to the right of the piece empty – this represents the future, the unknown.  I will post (mail) this off to Line in the New Year.


Project No: 3:

I love rummaging in haberdashery departments when I am away on holidays (I also love fabric stores but that is another story!).  It is a real treat because it can be a challenge to find interesting ‘stuff’ locally.  I came across a small square weaving loom when I was in Paris a few years ago and it has been sitting at the back of my cupboard since then.  2022 was to be the year when I rediscovered it and started the project.  All the yarns were from my stash and and I rescued the boucle from my late mother in law’s house when we were clearing it.  The small piece of weaving has been waiting for me to get my act together and finish it off.  So, no time like the present challenge to make that happen!  The finished piece measures 9cm x 9cm.  I think I might just frame it.  Has anyone any other suggestions?




Before I sign off for 2022 I would like to share with you some of my friends’ beautiful handmade items which they have gifted to me for my tree over the years.  I cherish them not only because they are beautiful items but because they were made with love – nothing will ever come close to handmade, especially when made by gifted friends.

Here is my friend Annelien’s work.  Annelien, who is from The Netherlands, and I first met during a week long textile recycling workshop in Finland back in 2013 and we have been firm friends since then (we have even managed to meet up in person twice since then).  (Apologies, I think the felted Angel is blurred.)


Next, Sara’s work.  Sara started crocheting a little while ago and recently gifted me one of her angels.  I love her! (actually I love both of them!)

Next up is Kate.  Kate loves working in glass and gifted me the trees many years ago (I have taken a photo of three of them).  More recently, she made me the little houses.  They are so delicate and pretty.



Thanks for reading this post and for reading and commenting on my various posts throughout the year!

Wishing you good health, happiness and peace during 2023.  Not forgetting a whole lot of creative spurs and fun!





Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 2

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 2

In the first part of this post I wrote about finally making the decision to buy some tear away stabilizer, using the free motion function on my sewing machine to ‘draw’ some copyright free doodles I had sourced from Shutterstock onto white linen fabric I had in my stash.  I did some slow stitch embroidery on one of the face designs.  Here is a link to Part 1, in case you might have missed it.

I wanted to do something a little different with the bird design.  My decision is the focus of today’s post.  Here is what the bird looked like once I transferred the design across onto the linen.


Just to recap, I had pre-washed the linen and attached some cotton batting to the back of the fabric prior to letting loose with the free motion embroidery.

It reminded me of a hummingbird and, as a result I wanted vibrant colour to inspire its completion.  I came across a set of iridescent acrylic paints in TK Maxx before the summer.  I thought I might try to use these shiny paints on the embroidered bird.

Before doing so, I needed to play with the paints so that they would work on fabric.  I did not have a Fabric Medium in my stash so I did a bit of research online and discovered that I could make one out of a few household ingredients.  So I thought it might be worth experimenting.  The recipe, which came from Paint topics, called for equal parts vinegar and glycerine mixed with two parts water.  I mixed the home made ‘medium’ and added it in equal parts to the paint.

The first thing I noticed was that the paint became very easy to apply.  I was worried that the iridescence would be lost in the mix but the vibrancy returned once the paint had dried.  Also, the black thread used when at the free motion embroidery stage acted as a barrier between the colours.  The paint itself was absorbed into the top layer of the fabric – there was no soakage into the batting.  I left the paint to dry out for about 5 minutes in between layers. The different colours sat nicely on top of each other.  I then left the picture overnight to dry completely and then ironed it to heat seal it.

I am really pleased with the result.  The cotton backing adds an extra dimension to the work as does the iridescence.  The texture of the paint is similar to what might be found on T shirt prints.   The only issue is, because this is an art piece (rather than a ‘functional’ one).  I have not tried washing it but I am happy that it is suitable for art work.

My only disappointment is that I could not get all the creases out of the pre-washed linen fabric.   Next time I might opt for a cotton fabric.

Have you ever used acrylic paint on textiles?  Have you used it with or without mixing with a textile medium?  Could you let me know how it worked for you.

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 1

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 1

I don’t make New Year Resolutions, there’s absolutely no point as I have the attention span of a puppy at that time of year.  Instead, I opt for trying new things around my birthday.  It’s a good way for me to treat myself to supplies that I normally would not try.  There is a bit of a downside in that I soon won’t be able to open presses without an avalanche of goodies hitting me but we will push that thought aside and bury it, along with the passing years  (under the goodies at the back of the press).

This year, I decided that I wanted to try tear away stabilizer.  It’s one of those products I had heard about but it is not stocked locally.  As a result it had fallen into that category of ‘mmmm that looks interesting’.  Followed by a long period of totally forgetting it existed.  So, when I finally happened upon it on Amazon, I decided I should make the purchase before I forgot all about it again!

I opted for 8 inch square sheets which came in a packet of 100 and cost less than Stg£9.00 (less than $10.00).

I love my sewing machine!  It’s a huge heavy yoke from Janome that I bought comparatively recently.   Like many machines these days, it has the facility for free motion embroidery.  As a sewist, I have lots of coloured threads so I was ready to get to work.

Next, the design.  I opted for copyright free doodles that I sourced on Shutterstock.  I was attracted to two designs which are achieved without lifting the pen too often.  This meant that there would not be too many gaps when it came to the free motion work.

I printed off my chosen designs and then transferred them onto the tear away stabilizer using a permanent marker.  I decided to use some white linen from my stash as my background.  I washed one of these pieces and left the other two alone.

I then pinned cotton batting to the back of two of the pieces of linen – the third piece of linen was left with no backing on it.  I wanted to see if I needed the batting for extra structure.  After this I pinned the pre-traced design/stabilizer onto the fabric and used the free motion embroidery function on the sewing machine to transfer the designs across.  I worked my way slowly along the lines of the drawing going back and forward a number of times to get a thicker outline.  Here are some photos of the back and front sides of my pieces:



I was very pleased with the resulting ‘embroidery drawings’.  The tear away stabilizer came away quite easily on the ‘face’ although I did use a pin to raise the paper on some of the smaller sections of the drawing.  The ‘bird’ (more in Part 2 of this post) was a bit more of a challenge as there were a lot of small areas where the stitching crossed over the design so I needed a bit of patience to make sure these were all removed.  The back of the pictures were quite neat too.

So, I had to make a decision on what to do next.  I don’t have any embroidery thread but I have lots of cotton perle thread so I chose this.

I meant to take photos of my progress but got carried away.    I stitched the eye with the free motion embroidery function.  It is my first attempt at an eye and I am pretty pleased with the result.

Here is the finished piece.


So far, the second face – the one that is backed with the cotton backing, is not filled in.  I would welcome your suggestions on what approach I should take.

Thanks in advance!

I will show you how I finished the bird in Part 2 (November 20th).  Here’s a preview of what he looked like ‘naked’.

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

It’s summer time here in Ireland and the living is, well, slightly more laid back than the norm.  Having decided to metaphorically kick off the shoes for the month of July, I thought it might be nice just to “see and share ” rather than “do” and this forms the basis of my post.

Before I start on the main focus of this post (my holiday in Italy),   I just have to show you a beautiful piece that totally blew me away.  Before heading off, I visited Dublin’s Botanical Gardens.  Founded in 1795, it is an oasis of calm for any visitor and I would highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.  While there, I noticed that there was a patchwork exhibition happening in one of their exhibition spaces.  This piece just caught me, so I want to share it with you.  The artist is Ethelda Ellis and the piece is called ‘Aoife’s View’.  The curator told me that Ethelda is a medical doctor by profession.  If you would like to see more of Ethelda’s beautiful creations check out her blog:

Now, to the Italian holiday.  We headed to Como mid-July and, in spite of the heatwave, spent our time sightseeing and eating!  Our base was Como which is to the north of Italy, right beside Switzerland.  Lake Como is totally dwarfed by the Alps – a really beautiful place.

We called into the Cathedral, the Duomo which was magnificent internally and externally.  I reckon that to appreciate all its beauty would take months observing 24/7!  I want to share with you a small area of a tapestry which was made in 1610 and which underwent restoration in 1990.  It was impossible to get a good photo of the entire masterpiece as so much detail would have been lost.  So I settled for a little!

One of our tours took us to the tiny picturesque village of Orta which is situated on Lake Orta.  It was recommended that we visit the interior of the local church which was situated at the top of a steep street.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of a piano recital and when I investigated I discovered a rather special textile exhibition happening in the same building.  The works exhibited were by Sergio Cerini.  The artist merges his early experiences in the Italian high fashion industry with his current artworks, producing beautiful pieces which are in essence a mix of paper mache and textiles.  The description does not do justice to his widely exhibited pieces and he was reluctant to allow me to photograph his work.  He did, however pose in front of one of the pieces and others can be viewed on his Instagram page @sergiocerini

Since the 1800s, the city of Como was historically the main producer of Italian silk.  When ultimately production was outsourced to China, the area was in danger of losing connection with its cultural heritage.  The large factory was bought by the Hilton hotel chain.  These photos show early paintings of the factory, what it became at the height of the industry and where it is now (apologies for the reflection on the glass):


Rather than allow the old machinery to be lost to history, a wise decision was taken about 10 years ago to set up an Educational Silk Museum to preserve these beautiful machines.  Along with displaying the machinery, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century, the museum offers interactive videos and exhibits of high fashion clothing.  Unfortunately this section was not open during my visit but I thought it might be fun to show you some of the many machines featured.  So please, grab a cuppa, sit back and I hope you enjoy the show.  I have included captions for ease of reference.


Spinning Spirals and other topics.

Spinning Spirals and other topics.

A few years ago, while searching for an online textile workshop, I happened upon one that made me curious.  I was familiar with the tutor’s name, Ruth Lane, as her book “The Complete Photo Guide to Felting” was and continues to be one of my ‘go-to’ reference books.  Among its many attributes are two that I hold important, good writing and clarity.

At the time, Ruth was offering, among her courses, one titled   Nuno Felting with Paper Fabric Lamination.  This four week course is available under the heading Embellishing Felt With Surface Design Techniques – A Mixed Media Approach.

(  Ruth lived up to expectations by providing concise instructions on her methods.  The smaller class size made the whole experience very personal and enjoyable.  It also provided a space where I, as a participant could interact easily with fellow students – it’s something personally I think important as sometimes on-line classes can leave me feeling quite remote.

I was absolutely delighted when Ruth asked me to write some posts for the Felting and Fiber Studio blog and when I finally decided to design and produce the online Spiral Workshop I was thrilled when it was accepted as one of the courses on the FFS workshop platform.  I feel so comfortable with the whole ethos of small class sizes and encouraging participants to engage with others if they so desire.

The Spiral workshop came about as a result of a challenge put to me by a fellow felter.  Once I had refined my technique I set about filming each step of the process.  I wanted clarity as, to a large extent, the videos needed to replace my physical presence in the learning space –  that said as with all courses offered by FFS, tutors are available to answer questions for the duration of the course.

Once the full course was recorded, I set about editing the material. This did not involve a lot of deletions.  Instead the videos were broken into smaller steps which would make particular elements of the process easier to locate for participants.  Each video has an accompanying PDF which again is broken into steps to match the videos.  These are available for participants to keep and the videos are available for the duration of the course (and a few extra weeks).

This will be the third run of the course which will start on 26th August.  Registration for it opens today (12th August) and numbers will be limited to make the experience more intimate.

Here are some photos of students’ work.  They are all so gorgeous and so different. I have included some of the reviews at the end of the video.


If you are interested in finding out a bit more, feel free to check out the following link:



A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

I recently won something!  As a person who hasn’t won a raffle since I was 6 years of age this was an exciting development and might finally encourage me to buy a lottery ticket.  My prize was two tickets to a birthday party.  Fatale Events, a super cool Irish events company were celebrating their 10th birthday with a big party.  The first part was a screening of the 1970’s film Cabaret which was followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  The dress code was in the period of the film (early 1930s).

Like Cinderella, I had nothing to wear and, as the Fairy Godmother is away on extended holidays, it was time to don the thinking cap and start creating.  To be perfectly honest I have been going through a really dry period creatively so I was glad of the challenge.

So it was time to head online to check out the fashions of the time.  The brief stipulated “flapper”.  Now, I will readily admit that I am no spring chicken so the gorgeous pieces I saw online would have to be toned down a bit.  Think Downton Abbey, now visualise somewhere between Cora and Violet Crawley (though to be fair,  maybe closer to Cora!).  Anyway the fashions of the time were a bit ‘matchy matchy’ which made the job a lot easier.  Flapper dresses were unstructured, sometimes with a fuller skirt.  I visualised a longer style, a bit above the ankle.

Next, a pattern.  There was no time to source a vintage one (which would have needed adjusting anyway).  I found an unstructured dress in one of my books from an early series of The Great British Sewing Bee.

Recommended fabric for this dress was silk but since this was a ‘costume’ I was ready to break rules.  As an aside, I sometimes design and make for the stage.   I felt that I could do a hacking job on this pattern so the first step was to trace it.  A bit of a challenge as, while the book offers lots of great patterns, they are all drawn on a few pages rather than individually.

I measured to just the top of my legs and made this the cut off point on the pattern as I was going to add a full skirt.  Once I traced the pattern from the book, I adjusted the front to form a deep V shape and drew a corresponding V pattern piece.  I also made the corresponding adjustments to the neck facings.

Then, having calculated my fabric requirements I headed off to make the purchase.  I chose a stretch velour because it was cheap and this dress was a one-wear costume.  The colours were chosen to tie in with a gorgeous jewelled appliqué that I bought a number of years ago.  They were also colours which fitted in with the period represented by the dress.

Then it was time to get cutting, making sure that all pieces were laid in the same direction. (The velour is like velvet in that it is different shades depending on the direction it is viewed from).

Once the bodice was cut out I sewed the two fronts together and then top stitched the seam.  I used a zigzag stitch on the seams throughout.  Then I got to work on the V front.  I was a bit nervous as this was my first godet but it worked, even though I was working with stretch material!

I then sewed the back together and also topstitched it.  The pattern top had a yoke and, as I don’t believe in making life easy for myself, I decided to insert a co-ordinating piping in the front and back shoulder seams using the gold fabric.   I felt that this would add stability to a stretchy fabric.   I cut the strips on the grain where there was no stretch and prepared the piping by sewing cord into the strips.  Then I attached to the yoke.

I then sewed the yoke to the main bodice.  Next, I added a light interlining to the neck facing and attached it to the bodice. I then cut two strips of the gold material and added it to the sleeve area to give some colour balance to the bodice.  At this point I sewed the front to the back and hemmed the sleeves.

Once this was done I was able to decide on the length I wanted the dress to be.  So, having measured this and allowing for seam and hem, I cut two widths of the green fabric which I sewed together.  I then decided to hem it before sewing it on to the bodice as I reckoned that there was enough fabric to negate any slight deviation that might occur in the hem length (plus the dress was going to be worn in a dark club).  I then gathered it having divided the skirt into four sections so that I could control the gathers a bit better when attaching the skirt to the bodice.

Once that was completed, I sewed the appliqué onto the front.  This was a bit of a challenge to get straight but I got there in the end.


And here it is!

The dress felt great on but I was missing accessories.  So I felted a hat.  I called upon my youngest son, Cian to pick out merino wool fibre colours which would blend with the dress.  He did not disappoint.  I made a cloche hat, then added two bands of the green and gold velour to pull the outfit together.

I had made a bag some time ago in a mustard colour Corriedale fibre which finished off this ‘matchy  matchy’ theme.


I popped on my brown buckled shoes, feeling very pleased that, despite not wearing them too often, I had decided to keep them rather than send them to a charity shop.

The night was tremendous and great fun.  Happy birthday Film Fatale!  I wish you many more years of cool events and spreading happiness.  Thanks for a great evening!

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