It’s the new year and like a new crisp white piece of paper, it’s all possibilities as you hold your pencil above it and wait to decide which way to go. Will it be a drawing of a landscape, will I work on a sculptural idea, will it be a note that I shouldn’t forget something, too late I likely have forgotten it since the paper is still blank.
I have things I want to work on in the future, more stretching with the Mers, I want to chat more about needles and I have to catch up to Ann with her studio upgrade! I also want to revisit my Peg Doll loom and talk about project bags and boxes.
However, after thinking about it and staring at that blank piece of paper I think we should start the year with a good stretch.
Let’s talk about Rhomboids!!! Not only are they a fascinating shape (sort of like a square but more creative: “a parallelogram with no right angles and with adjacent sides of unequal length”) they are also the muscles between your shoulder blades (Scapula). Their job is to help stabilize your arms and shoulders when your arms are out in front of you. As in when you weave, spin, felt, or work on the computer (typing and mousing). As the Rhomboids work, they are paired with muscles at the front of your shoulders (there are 3 of them so it’s not really fair, Poor Rhomboids!)
Although you may be feeling pain between the shoulder blades and stretching them out feels good it is often the anterior shoulder muscles shortening and causing the rhomboids to complain. So let’s look at a couple of stretches for Rhomboids and then try to open out the anterior shoulder. So Rhomboids won’t complain as much and you get to have fun longer!
There are a number of ways to stretch rhomboids, there are yoga stretches that focus on them, there are also cat stretches and the one I don’t see on the internet is the self-hug with rotation.
Now to help me with today’s blog I had offers from Dragon and Mr. Mer. I think Mr. Mer just wants to get out of his project bag and he has hopes I might keep working on building up his muscles more! While Dragon has a lovely back ridge and frill, his articulation of the scapula does not produce Rhomboids that would stretch quite the same way ours do. So even though Mr. Mer is a bit fishy he still has similar articulation in the shoulder and upper back.
With my willing victim, ummm… Volunteer, let us proceed to discussing how to stretch this fabulous muscle and why stretching the muscles that Rhomboids are working with maybe even better.
I have had Mr. Mer do a hard day of typing (too bad he can’t see what he is typing since he is watching his fingers when he types. I guess he did not have to take typing in grade 9 like I did, it didn’t go that well for me but that is another story.)
1 Typing and showing off his Rhomboids
You can see he has a well-developed upper back including Rhomboids, it may be all that swimming! The Felting needle stuck in his back is indicating the area of the muscle. It runs between the large scapular bone and the spine on an angle that looks Rhomboidal (thus Rhomboids, some muscle names make sense!).
2 Rhomboids between the shoulder blades (Scapula)
I asked him to turn around without moving his arms so you could see how contracted the anterior shoulder is in this position.
3 View of the front of shoulders
Three muscles help your shoulders curl in; Pec Major, Pec Minor and Short Head of Biceps. Sometimes Upper traps “Helps” and elevates your shoulder too. It is not as helpful as you hoped either. This is totally unfair since poor rhomboids on the back are having to stabilize against all three of them in the front.
If you are feeling the tension between the shoulder blades you have a few stretches to ease that. One that was popular and easy to do was the cat stretch. (this is usually done kneeling on the floor then arching your back like a cat and tucking your chin towards your chest to give a stronger stretch). Mr. Mer said it looked more like the dead man’s float from Beginner swimming lessons (oh the horror of these memories, the cold pool, the wet water…let us move on)
4-6 the Cat Stretch
If, like me, getting off the floor may do more harm than good, you may like this one better. Try a self-hug, not too much stretch there unless you are really tight!
7 Self-Hug Stretch
Keep that self-hug position and rotate the upper body slowly left then back to the right. If you need more stretch, try tipping the elbows down then rotating.
8 9 Self-hug with rotation
Now that Rhomboids have been stretched, let’s think about strengthening them while stretching out the anterior shoulder. This one is called the Invisible Can Crush.
10 Preparing for the Invisible Can Crush
Bring your arms down to your sides, bent at the elbow. Imagine your favourite flavour of pop can magically floating between your shoulder blades. OH NO! someone has switched it for some terrible tasting Pop!! Push your shoulder blades together and squish it for a count of about 7 seconds then relax. (Pop cans are weak and even weaker if they are invisible, so you don’t have to use all your strength in killing the can. Just use enough to feel like the muscle is working.)
11 Invisible Can Crush
Next, lift your elbows up towards your shoulders and then squish the offensive pop again. (Count to 7)
12 Invisible Can Crush
If we get Mr. Mer to turn around you can see that this will contract and strengthen rhomboids but also stretch the front of the shoulder. The change in position will stretch out a different part of the anterior shoulder.
13 Invisible Can Crush front view
If we can keep the front of the shoulder from curling in we also reduce its likelihood of compressing the group of nerves that run past the front of the shoulder (the nerve bundle is called the Brachial plexus). If you squish the right part of the nerve bundle, you can get numbness in the hand or fingers which is not a good thing if you are using sharp needles!
Another way to stretch the anterior shoulder is a Passive Anterior Shoulder Stretch with a pool noodle. Unfortunately, I could not find Mr. Mer a pool noodle to fit him. I gave Ann some foam hair rollers that look like they might have been the right size but I will have to go look and see what I have here. Oh, I found a miniature pool noodle but it’s a bit too miniature.
14 This pool noodle is a bit small for his manly, er…Fishly back
This can be easily fixed by wrapping a towel around it to make it a bit bigger. (I used a piece of felt and a few quick jabs with the needle to hold it in place! A couple of elastics will work with a real towel and pool noodle.
15 Pool noodle wrapped in a “Towel”
Mr. Mer is showing you where the pool noodle is positioned when he lies down (since he is not see-through) some people like to use the floor but I prefer doing this stretch on the bed.
16 Passive Anterior Shoulder Stretch, Pool noodle down the spine with a pillow under the head
17 The orientation of the pillow and pool noodle without Mr. Mer
The pool noodle (or pool noodle and towel) lies under the spine. This lifts the spine off the bed or the floor and lets the shoulders expand and relax towards the bed or floor. This is a passive stretch and should feel comfortable, not painful. Adding a pillow under the head is often even more comfortable.
If you feel you want to increase the passive stretch you can either use a bigger pool noodle or move closer to the edge of the bed and let one arm extend off that edge. Do not over-stretch, it is important to listen to the muscles for what feels comfortable.
18 Increasing the strength of the stretch by extending the arm
Remember to take a few stretch breaks while you are working. You can use a timer or drink something so your bladder reminds you it’s time to take a break.
I hope your shoulders and upper back are happy and you can now enjoy the potential that a new year brings just like a new crisp piece of drawing paper just waiting for your first flash of inspiration.
PS; Mr. Mer is so happy to be out of his project bag and is having a quick swim around my desk. Or he is making a break for it! Have fun and keep felting!
It is almost the end of the year, which is good since this one has not been one of the best years I have seen. I must also admit it has had a few good moments. We had tried to keep in touch with family and friends, through calls, zoom meetings and sometimes when we are very lucky in person. There was even a bit of in-person fibre shopping towards the end! (ooh Fiber!!) This year I have been investigating wire and still have the ongoing investigation with samples of hairspray. I added a tiny dragon to the family and have one more nearing completion.
Speaking of Dragon, he was very excited about one of my Xmass gifts this year. It will take another day or two to get it figured out. I think I understand how my friends feel when I type too late at night! What I mean is that the instruction manual while written using English words, and most are incomplete sentences, is still incompressible. However, it is truly amazing how you can have a paragraph of words that are about the battery yet still do not tell you exactly how to add the battery!
It does have the specks I was wanting: 4K Video/Camcorder, 48mp, 60fps(frames per second in the very fine print it only seems to be available at 1080 setting.) it is also light enough to fit on my existing articulating supports.
1-2 Xmas present
Since there was also a gaping lack of instructions as to how to put the macro and wide-angle lenses on as well as the lens hood (not the lens cover that doesn’t actually seem to attach if you have the other lenses on.) it took me a while to figure out how it fits together. I have figured out the remote (YEAH! A remote) can turn the camera off but not on…..I did figure out how to plug in the mike.
I am not sure if the German, French or Spanish sections might be more helpful. So it will take me another day before I am ready to try it out. I am hoping to be able to use it for felting. This is considered a very entry-level camera so I want to try it out and see if it’s got enough function to do what we need. Maybe Ann and I can try it out for some of her study group work.
Dragon volunteered to help me show you it set up at the computer desk. Here is his photoshoot.
3-5 I think Dragon is a bit of a Ham!
I am hoping Dragon will have better luck with the remote than I have had so far. If this works I hope to be able to show you the results at some point!
I also wanted to show you a few Christmas shots of Christmas past to hopefully inspire you with better memories than the last 2 years.
6 -10 Shots from Oakville in 2016 (There was snow!)
Have a wonderful New Year!! I am sure we are all looking forward to exploring an exciting new year (one with a limited imagination on number selection – 2022)
As you may have noticed Ann, Bernadette and I, all belong to the same local guild. The guild has both a studio and a classroom located in Heartwood house, which is the umbrella organization that is Home to 22 Non-Profit & Charitable Organizations. The building we are now in was formally a Giant Tiger store with an attached strip mall and apartments above the mall. Heartwood house purchased the building in 2012 and renovated space for each of the various groups. We all moved in at the end of the summer of 2013. (It was a huge move for the library but that is another story.)
With covid, part of the time the building was closed and no groups could use their spaces. As lock-downs eased, a few people (masked) were allowed into the various spaces (the number depended on the size of the room). We are one of the groups that have been hit hard by the restrictions. Ann and I with help from other members have been keeping the library books circulating (knock on the window and pick up your books by the side door) each month but the weavers have only started to work on the studio looms in the last couple of weeks. We have moved our Monday night socials to Zoom which is fabulous for the easy Commute but not quite as much fun as chatting in person.
Heartwood House has noticed that, with fewer people in the building, the groups are not interacting with each other as much as they would normally. They came up with a plan for festive door decorating and asked the groups to participate. They would bring Coffee and muffins or pizza for lunch to those that did add festiveness to their door.
At our December meeting, the Heartwood house liaison asked if anyone would be willing to decorate our door. I was going to be going in to work on the library anyways so figured it would be reasonable if I volunteered so no one needed to make a special trip in.
The instructions were to decorate the door, something festive. I wanted to represent the main interests within the guild so Weavers, Spinners and Felters (we have basket makers too but I did not have anything in the way of basket-making supplies to represent them. Sorry!!!)
I have never worked in a regular office environment or lived in a cubical world for work so I have never tried to decorate a door before (or a cubical). I had seen two other doors under construction, one was a fireplace with a Santa the other was an upside-down reindeer. Both used construction paper, card stock, stickers, and there was even a garland. The office for Heartwood house had a couple stocking up and looked like something else would be added later.
Scoping out the Neighbours, their doors in progress;
I thought about it for a while and decided on sheep, with a star/comet. Maybe some snow? And some pine trees? As a composition, a door is a tall skinny vertical space. I like long horizontal compositions. Oh well, fewer trees and make it a taller tree. Let’s start on the star! Ann will recognize the cookie-cutter snowflake I used for the star shape.
a quick cookie-cutter shooting star!
(Oh no! The book I was listening to ended so on to the next audiobook)
I used some of the World of Wool, core wool that I had hand-carded and really cheap felt from the dollar store. (This is not the even cheaper felt that may be made of coloured dryer-lint held together with cheap glue.) Other than being extremely thin, it wasn’t too bad to work with. I embedded it into the wool I was adding into the cookie-cutter from one side then the other. I used both the single 36T as well as the 3-needle handle that seems to hold T40’s in it. I focused on trying to get the edges firm but should have spent more time establishing the crispness of the edge shape. My poor little star is looking more like a flower.
OK, now let’s look at the sheep. I kept to the same fibre, made a body, with handspun yarn legs, and felted feet. Hum….. needs a head. I sculpted a head with ears and felting from the back and sides of the neck attached it to the body. I like the head so much I made 2 more of them!
Ok, we have the Felters represented!
At this point the plot of my book got distracting and there may have been a break for YouTube, so I missed the photos of spinning woollen (I usually am a worsted or semi-worsted spinner) while hoping I could make Fluffy Yarn.
For the spinners, I made lengths of mostly lofty 2 ply which I sewed onto a cardboard shape for the sheep body. It was the inside of a Ritz cracker box and worked very well. Sewing the head on was a bit more challenging but I used a curved mattress needle into the center of the poor sheep’s neck and tied it on through the back of the cardboard. I think she turned out to be quite a nice sheep!
For the weavers, I considered a cast-off fragment of weaving I had salvaged from the studio fibre-garbage-bucket. However, it was blue linen and not white like the other sheep. I did not want the weaving sheep to feel ostracized from the flock. So back to the cardboard Ritz box and cut out another sheepish body shape. I had scored some loom waste (thrums) at some point over the last year or so. The warp is a similar colour to the wool I have been working with. I wrapped and taped down on the back yarn over the sheepie shape on the diagonal. If I had done a square or rectangular sheep body it would have been much easier! But it would not look very sheepish. I used a long blunt needle and wove through the warp I had just taped down. After the weaving was done I stabilized the edges and sewed on the head.
I used some of the 2 ply I had spun to make the legs and attached them at the back of each sheep. Now I was all set to head in and decorate the door, well except for a quick stop at Dollerama on the way in for a few more decorating options. (Please don’t be out of Cardstock!!)
Yeah!!! There was cardstock, wrapping paper, glue, foam double-sided tape, wooden snowflakes! I also brought more wool, a foam pad, yarn, as well as thread and needles in case I needed them.
Now the door. With the depression for the window, I wanted to have the cardstock as a base layer. I held up the first blue piece and liked the effect the edge of the door gave. It looked a bit like a matt.
I had to do a bit of trimming so the door handle would fit!
Lise, one of the guild weavers, was in weaving and held up one of the wrapping papers I had selected for the sky. We both liked the effect with the blue background.
Ok, I know what we are doing for the sky, now let’s look at the snow for the bottom half of the door. This would have gone a bit more smoothly with just one more hand but Lise had already finished up her weaving by then and had headed out. Oh well, I managed to get 3 hills in my snow.
I opened the solid green paper and found Christmas trees on the inside….. well I guess I could just use that side and make a forest but the trees are a bit small.
You can imagine my surprise when not only did my solid green have trees but the solid brown has a grid on the inside!
My idea was to make a pine tree-ish shape on the side and have the sheep beneath that. The brown was to be the bark and trunk of the tree. So I squished and folded it length-wise to give it a bit of 3D.
It’s still looking a bit pathetic, better add more green bits. I did debate with myself if I should put the trees on the outside rather than the solid green.
Perfect!! Can you guess what I am making this time? I have the wooden snowflake, some fine wool yarn, a bit of wool and a T36 needle!
Can you see where I put those festive items? No? Maybe a bit more close-up will help!
Yes!! I made Festive sheep Bonnets or maybe they are hats? I will have to ask Ann what kind of festive sheep attire she has for her sheep. If she doesn’t have festive hats maybe we can start a new sheep fashion trend!!!
Now I need a bit more bling, let’s add more of the wooden snowflakes
While I have been setting this up, one of the Guys that works in the Heartwood house Office stopped by to check out how it was coming. He really liked the sheep but said I should put pillows at the bottom of the door in case anyone fell asleep while they counted our sheep! (These must be super strong sheep if they can put you to sleep with only a count of 3!!)
All done now off to home and back tomorrow to work on the library.
When I got in the next morning the snow had melted!! The sheep were in a pile at the base of the door! Now I see why we needed a pillow!! (for the sheep!) It must be the unseasonably warm weather that has made the snow unstable and melt. Change of plan, fix the door then work on the library!
I think I got the middle snow hill upside down but it still looks good (I was rushing!! )
Our Neighbour’s doors
Here are some of the other groups’ doors
I did get a small pizza for lunch (which was delicious) and got some work on the library done. There were a lot of people from the other groups throughout the day checking out each other’s doors. It was a fun event and I think they may do it again next year.
I still have more library work to do before the end of the month and hopefully some felting too! I hope all of you are having fun felting and are enjoying the festive season.
I considered the aerodynamic properties of creatures who are propelled by Magic or possibly a lot of hot air. Should the wing be thicker to trap more air thus giving him better lift with air displacement? Alternatively, would thicker wings add too much weight and should I look at a thinner more gossamer wing structure to keep his overall weight down? He has those industrial strength hands and feet so maybe not adding more to his overall weight would be preferable.
Bumblebees, dragonfly’s or hummingbirds, all of whom have delicate wings compared to their body use increased beats per second of those wings to overcome gravity. Dragon also has the option of magic and possibly hot air so he should be fine with the finer wing structure.
How am I going to achieve this “light” wing structure?
I had Dragon preen his wings until he was pleased with them. Then he reclined with his wings on a piece of paper. I traced the shape of each of the wings (I think he may be ticklish) on the paper. This gave me a template to lay out fibre for the web of the wing.
1) Wing armature tracings
If I had wanted to wet felt the wings I would have transferred the outline to a clear plastic or overlay a clear plastic over the paper. (I have a couple of transparent plastic duo-tang covers that would work and lots of permanent waterproof markers.) As you likely have noticed, I am not fond of unnecessary wetness so decided to continue working dry.
I mixed thin layers of wool and silk. Adding fibre, I was focusing on the bony side of the wing and thinner on the trailing web side. I lightly rubbed the fibre, to start the felting process, then moved it to the foam working surface.
2) layout of fibre over the template
3) transferred to the felting mat.
I started by tacking the wool along the front (bony) edge then used the fake clover tool to consolidate the web part of the wing.
4) using the fake clover tool to make the thin felt webbing.
It looked a bit thick to start but it flattened down quite a bit. I checked the length of the wing and found it had expanded slightly as I had felted it. I worked with a single needle almost horizontally pushing the fibre from the outside to shrink the leading edge to fit his wing length.
I placed the wing armature, which I had wrapped in wool, on top of the web so that the wing armature will be below the web on the wing. This gave me two ways I can attach the wing web to the armature, first, using a single needle to the leading edge, then continuing attaching down the ribs. Then laying wisps of wool across the ribs and felted that into both the web and the rib. I had a bit of extra fibre at the leading edge, which I wrapped over and attached it to the armature and leading edge of the web. After working from the underside of the wing I repositioned Dragon then worked from the top side of the wing.
5) The underside of the wing. Attaching whips over the ribs and working on the leading edge of the wing.
6) First wing is done and now on to the second wing.
7) Second wing, “Dragon, Lie down and relax, try not to move!”
8) Second wing detail
Working the web onto the wool wrapped armature, I was using the single needle to shrink the length a bit more as I attached the second wing web.
9) Dragon showed off his New wings
10) Snoozing comfortably in his project box ready for his trip home.
Back in Ottawa, I added a bit more silk to the wings then started to work on the crest. I had made the crest with Corriedale and added small wisps of silk to either side of the crest. The silk roving I am using has blues into blue-purple. I used some of the blue-purple above the hips but found it quite jarring so have removed it at this point and may revisit adding the purple closer to the final top layer. I still have more work to do adding more highlights in both the Corriedale and the silk or silk blended with Corriedale.
11) Yawn and stretch of the wings, maybe a bigger project box would be better, but at least he has a bag of silk as a pillow.
He is showing off his fine wings and the beginnings of his crest. He still needs eyes and a few more details to be added. Here is his photoshoot showing off the progress so far.
12-20 Dragon shows off his wings and progress on his crest
I still have quite a bit to do but Dragon is enjoying his new wings and the pillow of silk fibre in his project box! I hope I will be able to add more detail but I think the rest of this month may be very busy. (I heard a rumour X-mass is only weeks away!!! I am hoping for a second opinion!!)
Many years ago, almost forgotten in the mists of time…. Ok, when I was 16. I realized I could not possibly get an office or secretarial type summer job as many of my friends were getting (you have seen my spelling. Even now with the helpful suggestions from the computer I really cannot spell.) Working as a cashier was out because of the dyscalculia (Numbers are almost as bad as letters). So that left jobs the boys would not take at student manpower (shovel jobs) and finally I wound up working as a picture framer. Even with moving crates of glass (which are not light) it was better than shovel jobs. I wound up picture framing for 13 years until i damaged my ulnar nerve and switched careers but that is another story.
I was very lucky when I started to work. I was taught by a picture framer who was trained as a conservator. Acid free matting, backing and making rice paper glue with proper T hinges were part of my training. Mounting textiles on a ground was also something I did from small textile pieces to large quilts.
I even got to explain to people why their incredibly wrinkled Diploma could not be dry mounted because it was made of real parchment. I got that job because I would get so excited by real parchment I would explain how it was made and point out where the hair follicles had been. I would tell them how impressive it was to have parchment (made from stretched and prepared skins; usually calf, sheep or goat) rather than boring paper, so it was worth considering a conservator to get rid of the wrinkles. I would also explain not to hang it in the bathroom or direct sunlight. By the time I was done they were usually requesting the expensive restoration and very pleased with their masters or even sometimes a B.A. degree.
I framed small Tapestries in Theo Moormen technique with double glass and double mats on the front and single mat on the back. This allowed viewing of both sides of the piece but protected it from dust and handling.
Why would we want to frame a 2D felt picture?
Framed work gives it more gravitas (something framed will be looked at differently than something not framed. A framed piece (or one finished to hang in another way) suggest more value than one that is not framed. This is why presentation or hanging is important for display in a gallery.)
Protects the work from dust and unwanted handling/ fingering. (it also protects from possible vacuuming by over enthusiastic persons)
Protects the fiber from the evils of wool moths or other horrors! (Such as awooden frame with a paper backing or sandwiching your work between matts then add glass to the front and back. For further protection from dust or moths, the layers can be sealed with AF cloth tape along the edges.)
Why do some suggest Felt should not be framed with glass?
Water damage when behind glass from wicking when washing the glass (this happens when Windex or other cleaning liquids are sprayed directly on the glass and drip down into the frame.) This wetness can wick around the glass and onto the work. If it is a photo it can actually become stuck to the glass, damaging the photo when the glass is removed.When cleaning framed pictures with glass, it is preferable to spray the cloth lightly with Windex or other cleaner then use the dampened cloth on the glass. Never spray the glass because of the possibility the liquid may leak into the frame and wick behind the glass or into the matt.
Glass distorts the image. Using the wrong glass can distort the image. As non-glare glass is designed to work directly against the image but when elevated off an image it will blur and distort the image below. Choose Glass that is appropriate to your intended use. If you are using a shadow box, a filler strip under your matt or even sometimes just a double matt, consider either plain glass or one of the new glasses with a museum coating. Check if there is distortion at the height you will be placing the glass before final framing.
Humidity forming behind the glass due to sunlight on it. (a lot of dyes, like paint, are fugitive. They fade in prolonged exposure to direct light.) Due to fugitive pigment, artwork should not be hung in direct sunlight, with or without glass. There are very expensive glass types that can reduce the UV damage but it’s better to just not put it there. Do not put artwork (or real parchment) in a very humid environment. You can damage the artwork and warp or distort the matt and backing. Sculptures with pipe cleaner armatures can also have trouble in places of high humidity too.
Glass can flatten the felt. There are ways to elevate the glass off the pictures to allow for textural elements. If you have some 3-D elements in your picture you may require a shadow box (a frame with a very deep inside that your picture can expand into) if you only have a bit of texture or fluffiness you want to maintain you may only need to use a double mat (acid free). If you need a bit more height you can make a support to raise the matt up by adding foam core supports ether under the matt or between the layers of the double matt. (Under is more common). As you create a deeper collection of backing art, spacers, matts and glass. You may want to look more at a deeper wood frame although there were a couple options for deeper metal frames too. (There are some fiber artist that are laying out there wool in a picture and not felting it. Instead they are compressing it with the glass to hold it in position.)
Glass is expensive and heavy. (Some of the specialty glass can be expensive, and in large sizes, it can be quite heavy. Plexi can be lighter but is not necessarily cheaper in larger sizes.)
Framing is expensive. One way to reduce the expense is making sure your work is a standard finished size. This will allow you to pick up a stock frame matt and Glass. You can do this by making a matt template out of cheap cardstock or out of a cereal box type cardboard. Make templates with common matt opening sizes; 5×7, 8×10 and 11×14. You saw examples of this when I was working on my Christmas cards and the cardinal in previous posts.
If you are working from a photograph, try to scale your image to one of the standard sizes. Before you print it out to work with.
1 Tulip scaled to fit in a 5×7 matt opening
Use a template (so you don’t get the matt dirty) to check as you work that you are keeping the image to the size you intended. I do often expand over the border just a bit so I have the option to shift my picture or elevate the matt without showing the underfelt.
From the same blog, I showed you a different kind of frame I had found at a second hand store. They are called memory boxes or memory frames. There was a fabric backing over cork in the back of the frame and the front face with glass was hinged so you could change out what you put in there. Magnets hold the face and glass closed creating a shallow shadow box. The glass will protect the felt from dust but can be opened to clearly show that the picture is made of wool and not paint or pastels.
8-10 Memory Frames (decorative pins to hold the felt would work well)
These frames are fantastic for demos or felting displays so if you trip over one secondhand please consider buying it. I have the arctic landscape which was a water based challenge pinned in with sewing pins temporarily (I really should get a matt or felt to the edge but it shows that the piece is felt quite well.) Unfortunately they are a bit dinged up but still work well to protect and show the felt picture.
The inside of an empty cereal box was my template. I again used the wooden frame mat and glass from Dollerama.
I wound up making three 5×7 pictures for that x-mass trip; The snowman, the cardinal and the bunny. All were expressing parts of Oakville (ok, the snowman was a bit optimistic considering the number of green Christmases we have had while visiting!)
12-13 Christmas pictures
Ok I think we have the concept of using a template to make a standard size image to frame, fully explored. Now that you have the matt in front, what should you consider putting behind the pieces?
A few last things about Matts
Matts are available in both acid free and non acid free stock. Both types usually have an interior bevel of 45deg or a reverse bevel of the same angle but in the opposite direction. You can have a black or coloured core to the matt. Matts come in a huge array of colours, surfaces and textures. Some matts are hand made wrapped in silk, others some have lines or patterns drawn on them or powdered colour added (french matting). You can even add a wooden lip to the edge of the matt. All these options have a cost. Ideally try to get an Acid Free matt and backing that enhances your work.
Matts are cut on a matt cutter. If you are going to be framing a lot of your work you may consider an introductory course on matt cutting and framing. The price of a matt cutter for semi-professional use has come down so it may be worth investigating. A good quality matt cutter will save you a lot of frustration and wasted mattboard so don’t skimp on this tool.
Behind your artwork;
Ideally, a 2ply acid free matt board but since my days in framing this seems to have fallen out of favour. So let’s consider why we used to use one and what options there are now.
The 2ply was a barrier between the artwork (usually paper) and the cardboard backing. It was there to keep the piece from reacting with the cardboard and becoming either brittle or discoloured. This is not as much of a problem since the felt is not as sensitive to acidic cardboard but ideally a good acid free backing would be best for it. So let’s consider, if we can’t get 2 ply, what can we use instead? We can buy a sheet of 4ply to cut down for a backing (it’s a bit pricey to buy it by the small size you need since the backing you need for the 8×10 piece is almost the cost of a full uncut sheet. Since the cost is so close it is more economical to buy a full sheet and cut it carefully for what you need and save the rest for other picture backings.
Another option is acid free foamcore or even regular foamcore. Both make a good backing but they will start to add thickness so if you are working with a limited amount of depth in your frame this may not be as feasible.
Thinking a bit outside the frame you can find acid free paper in most reasonable quality sketchbooks. I have even spotted some available at Dollerama although they do cost $4.00 not $1.00! So, if you don’t want to sacrifice a sheet of your arches watercolor paper this may work as a separator from any acidic cardboard.
if you want to float your work on the backing, i would suggest using a fine pointed awl or heavy gauge sewing needle to punch 2 or more sets of small double holes through your backing and then you can carefully sew into the back of your work and down into the mounting board. With two holes you can tie a not on the back of the mounting board which will not be seen from the front.
There is a product called Coroplast, which is a fancy name for cardboard made from plastic. It can be used as backing without fear of acidity. You can see coroplast in a lot of yard signs (often a thinner quality but also cost less) or a thicker version is available at hardware stores like Home Depot. If you have a very thin felt picture (pre-felt with a light wool covering you may be able to sew or lace the felt around the foamcore or coroplast. Coroplast is stronger in one direction than the other. it is stronger with the holes running vertically with your work, (i hope this is clear). The felt can than be framed, but i would suggest a spacer to lift the glass. spacers can be made from foam core or you can buy clear acrylic strips which were available in my day for this purpose.
A non traditional approach to framing
14 Farm show demo display with 3D felt pictures
The framing/hanging for the last guild art show required I start with a standardized 12×12 canvas. The rule was I could not exceed three inches in height so I removed the canvas and used the stretcher bars. I wrapped my felt to the lower level giving me almost an extra inch in height! The way I attached them is a combination of sewing (button hole thread) and lacing with a bit of needle felting to keep the center depressed. I had to felt the base quite firmly to keep the base recessed. You can see more here; Polar bear for the 150th Anniversary Art show February 12, 2018 https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2018/02/12/polar-bear-for-the-150th-anniversary-art-show/
How odd! I do not seem to have a picture of the back to show you… oh time for another photo shoot! Muskox has volunteered.
15 Sewing, lacing and felting to secure the picture to the stretcher bars
You can see the combination of lacing( with button hole thread) and then needle felting to give a solid base around the stretcher bars. (Something similar can be done over one or more layers of coroplast). This gave a finished ready to hang edge. Due to the depth of the figures, if I decide to frame this with glass I will need a deep shadow box or a bespoke (custom order) plexi box. Since the felt envelopes the back and front of the frame I may need a more complex way to keep the back moth proof. As it is, today we used screw eyes to the back of the frame as a way to hang it. We were using, I think, a #3 wire so I am not sure why I have a bit of spun yarn on the back of this one?
16 -17 Musox picture Back and Side
You can see how much depth I have in the head which is wired so it can adjust a bit.
18 Muskox Front
Now let’s get back to more normal framing considerations. We have made the piece, discussed the matt and the backing. let’s consider how do we attach the piece to these parts. ( you can just pay for custom framing and not worry about how things are attached but if you want to make sure it is done to your specification or you want to save money you can do this yourself)
With paper items; rice paper T-hinges or there were also acid free tapes available to hold the artwork to the backing. With wool; most of these option will not stick well unless the felt is very thin and light. For most textiles a bit of careful sewing to attach it to the backing was usually the best option. It was removable and usually would do the least damage. A few fine textiles owners would insist their piece needed to be dry mounted but there was acid free dry mount tissue available. This might work for very light thin felt (like nuno felt) but I would not suggest it for anything thicker or heavier. You may also have problems with adhesion to the backing. (I would suggest a small separate test sample if you are sure this is the way you want to attach it.)
Another option for a base to mount on is a matt board with a bit of batting on top. Then wrap silk fabric over the batting. The felt picture can be pinned or sewn in place on the silk. Because the felt is floated on the silk an uneven or random edge can show as a feature of the piece. I would still put ether a matt or a spacer to elevate the glass off the felt.
With some felt pieces you may be able to pressure fit the felt between the matt and backing. This means no sewing, just carefully position the picture between the matt and backing, clean and add the glass, then place the frame over top. Turn everything over to show the back carefully and add the nails or bend over the tabs to keep everything in place. This does not always work as in the case of a shadow box so a few careful stiches hidden under the matt or into the back of the piece may be needed.
What are our options for Glass?
Now let’s consider glass options and I use the term loosely since Ikea’s “glass” is now Plexi. I have framed with very large sheets of plexi for commercial purposes (they were for the real estate industry; large floor plans and drawing of what the houses would look like) The plexi, especially at that size, was a pain. It tended to scratch easily, it distorted the image if the plexi was not very close to the image and it built up a static charge when you took off the protective coating (which would not be good for lightly felted wool). Its’ good point is that it did not cut you like glass occasionally tried to do. It looks like plexi has also improved over time so you may want to ask more questions at your local framing store. Do inquire about the static problem we use to encounter.
Most pre-made frames will come with standard regular glass. There are more options if you want to upgrade the glass. Since my time as a picture framer there are many more options for glass ranging from the cheapest, regular glass, to various types of coatings to reduce glare or UV damage to the artwork (some are quite expensive). Some of the new coatings look very effective but also advise not to use regular glass cleaners on them or you will destroy their coatings effectiveness. (Always apply any dampness to the cloth, not the glass when you are cleaning – remember about wicking and damaging your artwork)
Some of the “non-Glare” glasses are not suitable for shadow box applications since their pebbled surface distorts the image when not adjacent to it. You may want to consult your local framing store if you want to investigate the various glass options.
One other option when considering glass is you can show both sides of your felt by having glass at the front and back of the piece. When I framed some of my own parchment I showed both the front and back so you could see it was parchment and not paper. Oh no, I better grab the camera and show you what I mean.
19 parchment with acid free suede matt and Museum glass
This was very expensive museum quality glass when I framed this about 30 years ago. (The piece has not been in direct sunlight and there has been no noticeable colour change over time. so i would say the price was worth it.) The glass on the back is regular glass since it would not be visible most of the time and not exposed to excessive light. I painted and framed it for my mother in law who was always very fond of angels. She sent it home with us last year. It now sits beside my husband’s computer. it is not in direct sunlight but is near a window.
20 light showing through the parchment
I held the picture in front of the window so you can see the sun light coming through the parchment with the begonia shadows.
21-22 framed in double glass and matts showing the front and back
There are matts on both sides of the parchment, covered by glass. There is tape over the edge of the glass and frame. The turnbuckles were screwed in through the tape on the frame. The tape is sealing the back so no dust can get in. If you noticed, the ripple in the top of the parchment is not due to humidity. This piece is from the outer edge of the skin and the ripple is showing where one of the tie points on the deer skin edge was.
A profile view of some types of framing
23- 25 Different parts of frames:
Finally, let’s look at the frame. For traditional framing (with glass), you will need ether a wooden or metal frame. Wooden (or if you are looking at the dollar store versions some “wood” is actually plastic) Real wood is the direction I would tend to suggest for a strong frame and the ability to seal the back in brown paper. Once your have your piece assembled but before you put the hangers on, if you are not using double glass, you can add a paper dust cover to the back of a wooden frame. Stick the paper to the back edge of the frame with double sided tape. You can get rid of the excess paper around the edges of the frame by using a sanding block on a slight angle to cut off the extra paper. This gives a nice neat finished look to the back and keeps out dust and wool moths. Consider the profile (shape) of the frame for the positioning of the hanging wire. If you have used double glass you may need to elevate the wire position and keep the wire snug so it will not stretch above the frame when hung.
With wooden frames the glass/matt/felt/ backing are usually secured in place with finishing nails, brad points or turnbuckles if you are flush with the frame. There are a few options for hanging devices but most common were screw eyes and wire which are usually placed in the top 1/3 or the frame. An Awl makes a handy measuring device to make sure your positioning them at the same level!
Metal frames are available and are often a cheaper option. They go together with a screwdriver and usually use clips to hold the glass securely to the front of the frame. As long as you use a strong well-fitting backing and lots of metal spring clips, you should be able to keep the wool moths from being able to get to the wool. (As well as keep the dust out and protect from anyone wanting to vacuum the felt.)
As i showed you with the Guild Art Show, there are other ways to present a felt picture or hang a tapestry which does not involve traditional framing (with or without glass). Some of my examples; frog/ lily pad, polar bear and muskox are finished and ready to hang but are not formally framed. Ruth has had a number of posts with effective ideas to create a neat hanging presentation but without the traditional look. Depending on the piece you have created and the aesthetic you are creating you may want to try a less formal presentation. If you want to look at a more formal one, I hope I have given you a few frugal ideas and a starting point to work from.
“Comment: Hello! I am a beginner who just started 2D needle felting, and I have a few questions that I wanted to ask. When do we use each type of felting needle and what kind of design works best for each type? Also, are there any tips on how to felt yarn (especially for single strands that are used to outline shapes) so that the yarn doesn’t split? I’ve been having some trouble with the yarn splitting into thin fibers and not staying properly on the fabric. Thank you so much!”
This week a question was passed on to me about felting needles. The question was from someone who has recently discovered the wonders of 2D picture felting in wool. In the first part of her question, She wanted to know what each needle was best used for and when to use them. Needles are a Huge topic and not just a quick email so I thought maybe I better do a blog post since there may be more questions about needles out there. I am not an expert but as you know I love to research and this is one of the topics I have investigated before and I keep returning to.
So, first, let’s Welcome this new felter to the amazing world of fibre! I am sure you will find it as fun and addictive as I have! if you have more questions, yes I will likely inspire more questions, please ask. Don’t be afraid to jump in and experiment you may find something absolutely wonderful and will be able to share it with the rest of us. Now back to your questions.
Instead of thinking about what each needle does best individually, we may have more success if we think of needles on a sliding scale of how much fibre each style of needle will move or how aggressive it is in moving it. I will chat about that in a moment. Like wet felting tools, which are often repurposed for our use, our needles were not originally designed to be used by hand. Let’s look at where our needles come from and what they were meant for originally.
Where our tools came from
1) Andritz – needle board
2) Groz-Beckert – needle board
What we are using are actually industrial needles meant to go into industrial felting machines. There are two main ways to make industrial felt; one is with steam and agitation and in the second the fibre stays dry and the industrial felting needles are used.
The industrial machines make (non-woven) fabrics used in car interiors, acoustics (sound dampening), padding, landscaping cloth and other uses. I had read that the first needle felting machine was patented in 1857 but I remember seeing a picture of a needle patent from the end of the 1800’s, that isn’t too important for us just that the needles were originally designed to fit into the beds (boards) holding hundreds of needles which would be raised and lowered into the fibre passing through the machine.
The German Company Groz-Beckert claims to make over 2000 Needle variations for different applications and the machine used. These are changes in the barb placement and/or barb type, length and size or gauge of needle and the shape of the working part. Groz-Beckert is not the only company making needles although they make very nice needles. I have also used needles by a company called Doer sold out of China. I can’t seem to get much info on them but so far the needles I have ordered have been fine. (Be careful if you are ordering needles online and they are described as “short, medium and long”, you may get all the same gauge just in different lengths!)
For us, it’s the needle that is important, not the machines that hold them so I will try not to get off on a tangent. All needles have common elements with some variations. Let’s start by looking at the common features of Felting needles.
3) parts of a felting needle
The crank – the 90degree bend at the top of the needle. It seats it in the bed/board of the machine. It’s used in some holders to keep the needle stabilized but at least one holder requires it to be cut off. (Not so easy to cut needles so I did not buy a second of those holders.)
The Shank, the tapers (either one or two) and sometimes an Intermediate section are all parts that are important to the various machines that the needles are designed to fit in. For us, it’s a place to hold onto or stick in a holder.
The working part has a number of variations which will change the type of non-woven fabric the needle makes commercially. This is the part that as a hand needle felter we are more concerned with. It can be divided into the cross-section shape, the placement, number and shape of the notches (barbs).
Shape – Originally, the triangle shaped needle was what was most commonly available. Over quite a number of years we have many more types available, as re-sellers and felters became aware of the options in the industry.
Triangle – (3 sides) most common needle and use for both pictures and sculpture. This is a good basic needle and can be used in most applications. They tend to be a bit less expensive than some of the newer needles that have been more recently introduced.
Star(Cross STAR) – 4 sides – will move more fibre faster since it has one more side than a triangle.
Tri-star – 3 sides with an indented triangle cross-section.
Eco Star. – 3 sided. With a profile of an indented and rounded triangular side. Both of these 3 sided stars are said to have less resistance upon entering the felt. I have not noticed a difference but I am not working with hundreds of needles at a time.
Twisted (triangle shape). The blade is twisted, it does not twist as you poke the wool. The advantage is that the barbs are dispersed more evenly around the needle, which engages fibres more evenly adjacent to it.
Crown needles are usually found in finer gauges and are used for detail work. The barbs are only on one level and are placed near the tip of the needle. You don’t have to stab deeply since the barbs engage soon after the point enters the felt.
Fork needle – these are in a group called Structuring needles and are used in industry to make ribbing or as part of the process to make velour textures. These are just starting to appear and I have not tried them. I will look forward to seeing one in person and seeing what it can do. (I will let you know if I find one to investigate in person.)
Reverse needle – this needle has the barbs positioned in the opposite direction to the other needles. As you poke the needle into the felt nothing seems to change, as you pull the needle out, some of the underlayer (whatever depth the barbs are at) will be grabbed and pulled to the surface. This will create a surface nap or it can be used to blend the transitions between colour changes. The nap created can be reduced by using a regular barbed needle to smooth it.
Conical needles which have a tapered working part. I have only just received this style of needle and have not yet had a chance to investigate it. I am suspecting this will be a good finishing needle if used with the needle making only shallow contact with the felt. Or as a go-to needle if I am trying to increase the stiffness of the felt in a delicate area of a sculpture.
Ones we do not yet see out of industry are:
Vario barb needle Graduated barb size per edge: The closer to the point, the smaller the barb
Teardrop working part – this one has barbs only on one side and there are usually 4-8 of them. This one might be of use to hand needle felters but I have not seen it available yet. It may be worth investigating if it appears. This one will depend on how much surface distortion (that pitting effect) the rest of the body shape of the needle makes.
“Barb” (ok it’s more notch shaped but if the industry is calling it a barb then it’s a barb). This is where a lot of our needle re-sellers are not giving us all the info. There are 4 different barb styles from the German Needle manufacturer alone. Each has unique features, which will affect how the wool is grabbed and pulled into the felt. Some barb shapes are more aggressive. Some are designed for longer wear in the machines (not quite as important to us since we don’t poke our work millions of times…. well I don’t think I do. I never actually stopped and counted…. Maybe I should some time… no, maybe not.) Some barb shapes are designed to be gentle on the ground fibres. I have found that the needles I get from different re-sellers, in the same shape and in the same gauge, can still vary in aggression. Which suggests the needles have a different barb on them. I would like to know so I could request a 40 or 42 with a slightly more aggressive barb when I get the feeling they just don’t have enough enthusiasm sometimes.
4) parts of the barb or notch.
The number of barbs per side is also an issue. Each side may have 1 (as in a crown needle) or up to 3 barbs per side. On the end of a box of needles, you will see as part of the code 111, 222, or 333, denotes how many barbs are on each face of the needle. Again 3 barbs per side will move more fibre than 2 or 1 per side. Having more sides will also increase the amount of fibre the needle engages with.
5) boxes of Doer Needles T32’s, T36’s and Crown40’s.
By now you may suspect I have a bias towards the 333’s but It’s not just all about speed and how fast you move fiber. Sometimes you want to isolate just a few fibres and get them to sit exactly where you want, so a 222 or a crown (111) may be just the needle for you.
The last barb consideration is their spacing on the working part. Look at your needle and recognize that you are moving fibre only where the barbs are. So barbs close to the tip do not have to be plunged deep within the piece to work you only have to go in a bit to entangle the fibres. This is often helpful for people with muscle strain from over enthusiastic stabbing.
Finally, we have reached the end of the needle and gotten to the point (literally) which commercially also has a number of options depending on the required non-woven fabric being made. There are conical-shaped points, tapering points, rounded points and chisel points. What we usually want is something that will pierce the work entangling but not breaking fibres. So far, all the re-seller’s needles I have come across have been fine.
I did a few quick checks online as I was putting this blog post together. I spotted that the new Surface coatings for needles that had been hinted at a couple of years ago in the industry are now listed as being manufactured. Most of the coatings are to increase the life of the needles in the machines (make them more hard wearing) but some are now listed for use with other fibres (non-wool) and others to expand the Geotextile line.
Needles come in different overall lengths. This is very important to the machines they are to fit in and can be important to us if we have certain needle holders like the clover tool with a guard or the fake clover tool copy. If you are using an open ended holder (no guard to be shorter than) or using your fingers this is not too important. Unless you find one length less comfortable than another one.
Our last variable with needles is a very important one to us, their Gauge:
6-7) here are two ways to visualize the gauges of needles
Needles come in a number of gauges. Like wire, the smaller the number (32 gauge) the larger the needle is. So a 40ga is much finer than a 32ga. Industrially speaking, there is a much wider range of gauges than we usually find for hand needle felting. Commercially I have seen from 16 to 46ga but we tend to use a smaller range (36-42).
32’s would be used for coarse wool or moving a large amount of fibre quickly. It is good for attaching a limb to the body but it will leave a more noticeable surface dent than a needle that is finer. (Think dents in a grapefruit or orange skin!) This is not a needle commonly use in picture felting since it creates surface distortion. You might use it in quickly tacking together a base for your picture but you would likely move to something finer very quickly.
36’s are also good for moving fibre quickly and leave less of a dent than a 32. I use a 36 frequently in the under layers for sculptures and laying in larger base layers of colour in a picture. (I will switch to a finer needle to add more superficial layers of colour over this layer)
38’s are a little less aggressive but also is less distortion of the surface. I use these for both sculpture and pictures. These are good for working on a bit more detailed sections as well as laying in layers of colour. I have used these to work finished details but most picture felters I have chatted with tend to go to finer gauges for finishing details.
40’s are finer still and move less fibre than the larger needles (remember gauges are backwards, with little numbers being bigger sizes) these are good for pictures and for fine details. They are not as fast as working with the larger gauges.
42’s are now getting quite common, they are finer than the 40’s and have even less distortion of the surface. They again will take longer to move fibre than the larger needles. Using them in a multi-needle holder may improve your speed if you are just firming up an area and is an option if you are working 2D. I did a review of some of the different holders I have collected earlier this year (it’s all been a bit of a blur) I would suggest looking at the clover or fake clover tool with the guard and the metal bar needle holder from the Woolery for picture felting and painting with wool. Both are very helpful.
8) The Woolley’s 10 needle mettle bar tool
9) the fake clover tool (the really clover tool is green)
Usually, you buy needles by their gauge, depending on what you are going to work on and then fine-tune that by the shape. You may also consider the number of barbs to make the needle more aggressive or less, again depending on what you want it to do. You will also likely find you tend to favour and use a couple of your needle options predominantly but its still helpful to have a good selection for the occasional time that a different needle would just be perfect!
Some needles are colour coded by the re-seller. This makes it easy to see what you’re working with. Or you can mark the edge of your working surface and store different gauges in different spots. Most of my needles are not marked. I can tell if it is a finer or larger needle by looking at it or carefully running my finger over the working part and feeling it. If I am not sure, I tend to poke my project somewhere discreet and out of the way. The feel of the needle entering the felt will tell you if you have the correct one.
(Needle palpation– how to feel through your needle)
-did it feel like it grabbed a lot of fibre? Was there a lot of resistance to enter the felt? Are there large surface dents and you want to do finishing details? Then you may want to try a finer needle.
– did you poke the felt but nothing seemed to happen? Have you been poking the same spot but you don’t seem to be getting anything to stick? Time to move to a heavier gauge
– did the needle break? (and it wasn’t because you changed direction from entering to exiting) Try a finer needle. As you felt the density of the felt increases and shifting to a finer gauge will help let you keep felting if you need to make the felt denser. Some felters do not felt that firmly and this is not a problem they would likely encounter. Although it is VERY important to make felt that is appropriate to the use it will be put. This means both using a fibre that is appropriate to the use, and felting to a density that will withstand the intended purpose. As an example, Merino, while lovely and soft, will not wear as well if made into slippers. Finn fibre would be stronger and the slipper made with it would be longer lasting. If you only lightly felt the slippers, they will also not last as long as more densely felted ones. For pictures, if you are framing them behind glass (I want to talk about that at some point) you don’t need the density that a 3D sculptural figure would. If you do not want to have glass your felt must be able to withstand dusting or even the horrors of a possible vacuuming (don’t trust someone won’t try that after you sell your work!).
If you are working on finishing details and you are pretty sure the 40-42 gauge is correct but it’s still not quite feeling right, try a different working part shape. The stars are more aggressive than the triangles, the twisted will affect fibre more evenly around the needle. If you want to focus on the surface then a crown might be right. The other advantage to the crown needles is not having to push them too deeply to entangle the fibres. (Less deep poking can equal fewer muscle complaints – maybe I should have another chat about ergonomics? Or maybe Ruth can give us some tips!) If you have switched from a triangle to a different working part shape but still want to increase the amount of fibre you are engaging with the needle, you may want to then consider looking at more barbs per side or fewer if you require a more delicate touch.
So it wasn’t quite as simple a question as it looked. My suggestion is to get a sample pack of needles from one of the re-sellers. Check your local fibre sources and felting supply stores first, then look farther afield like Etsy or Amazon. Look for a pack that has a couple of each of the main needle gauges in a few different shapes. You will likely have a few of the 222’s and 333’s in the collection so you can get an idea of how that affects the needles. Most of the re-sellers now are colour coding their needles so you can see what is working best for you and order more. If you have un-coloured needles you can make your own colour code using Nail polish, tool coating dip, permanent coloured markers or spray paint for mettle (just don’t get any of that on the working parts!!)
10) a few of the needles sets I have collected. Fibre Craft had full sets similar to Olive Sparrow’s sets but I seem to have used them.
Another tip is Instead of stabbing frantically, slow down and feel how the needle interacts with the wool. Having a couple of needle holders that have different needle gauges in them is handy too. I still love the metal bar tool from the Woolery for doing background laying-ins quickly (I think I have T36’s(333) in it at the moment). If you read an earlier blog you may remember the fun I had with the (3 needles) holders I bought from china. They are worth having because of the needle spacing and you can always mark with painters tape what gauge is in them (I do forget and really should remember to mark what I put in when setting them up! With a couple of pokes you can always tell if I filled it with 40’s or was it 36’s)
11) it’s good to have different needles in holders so you don’t have to stop and switch needles. These are all needle holders sold out of China
From my workshop notes, this might help too.
REVIEW REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF:
1 – Working depth; look at the distance the barbs extend up the working part of the needle. Maximize the fibre movement and minimize work, try to work only as deep as you need to and not poke through your work (unless it is very thin). It will push fibre out the other side. If you push past the piece too much you will get the look of a reverse needle (Fuzz) on the backside.
Even though you don’t need a huge selection of needles it’s nice to have a choice, especially when working on small parts.
2 – Change needles when you need to. If you are feeling increasing resistance in the piece you’re felting (the density of your felt is increasing) if you need it firmer then shift to a finer gauge needle.
Needles with more barbs (3 vs 2), larger gauges or sides (Star vs Triangle) move more fibre but tend to produce more surface pitting. This isn’t important if you’re adding a fur coat to your piece but maybe if you are working on a face or working on a picture.
3 – Stay Focused (and slow down). It’s much easier to avoid the finger if you are not distracted by a movie or TV show. Audiobooks and Music work better since you can keep your eyes on your needle and your fingers so they don’t cohabitate. (that can require Band-Aids)
12-23) A few of the pictures I have done or am working on. I seem to have a bit of trouble keeping some of my pictures flat. I hope they will inspire you to jump in and have fun with fibre!
Now the yarn question.
I don’t do a lot of outlining or drawing with yarn but what I have done I found that I started at one end and poked towards the part I had already attached, laying down and attaching a bit at a time. If you are finding your yarn splitting see if you can find a bit of wool of a matching colour and add a bit of that to tack it down. (a bit like a staple.) Make sure your yarn is wool. It is much easier to work with than acrylic. For gauges, I tend to use a 38 or 36 gauge with the size of yarn I have played with. You may also try felting the yarn in on more of an angle. So poking closer to parallel to the surface you are attaching it to. (The direction the needle moves is the direction the fibre will move too). This also increases the likelihood that you will be engaging with both ply’s. if you are stabbing straight down you may increase your chance of having the needle land in between them, increasing their chance of splitting.
-Size of the yarn (DK to lace weight) try the finer needle with the finer yarns.
-Tightness of the spinning (loose spun may be more prone to splitting than a tighter spun yarn) This could be an interesting investigation! So many thoughts, so little time to felt lately!
-Fiber content (other than superwash) wool is narcissistic and will want to be with itself or other wools, some other fibres are not so enthusiastic about entanglement with others.)
I tend to lay in fibre rather than yarn when I am drawing with wool. I find I take short thin bits of top or a small amount of a lock then anchor one end with the needle and draft it just a bit more so it’s finer than I think I will need. (Thin lines seem to want to be stronger than I intend them). I start directing my needle at a shallow angle back in the direction I have affixed the fibre. There will be a little take-up but it is from the end with the loose fibre rather than the part I am trying to attach. I have the fear that this may be a clear as mud but I know other blog readers may be able to add more suggestions since they may have investigated yarn more thoroughly than I have.
I hope this has helped our new felter with the needle question and has been a review for the rest of us. Looking back through past blog posts will give a vast amount of information too! Search under “Needle felting” or “Picture felting” or maybe”Painting with wool”. I promise I will show you how Dragon’s wings are coming along soon! Dragon now has silk highlights!! How Posh!!!
As you may have read earlier, I had made Chickadees for all my brothers-in-law and my Mother-in-law. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/09/06/an-army-of-chickadees/ Brother in law #4 brought his chickadee home and hid it in his house and waited to see if his wife would find it. She liked the chickadee but was not so amused that she had to go find it.
While I was in southern Ontario, I was helping my sister in law who is married to brother-in-law number four. She mentioned it would be so cool to have a nest and eggs to go with the Chickadee. I can’t do much about a nest at the moment but I may be able to do something about the second request.
My Mother-in-law’s chickadee was still hanging around the living room. He/she had left the almost empty bowl of nuts and was keeping an eye on the other bowl with different nuts from the coaster holder. Excellent, I can try to get the scale correct.
1 Mary’s Living room Chickadee keeps an eye on the nuts
So off to the internet to do some research but being quite busy with assisting with elder-care, I did not have the leisure of a thorough search of the topic. I did find that the eggs of a Carolina chickadee had been photographed but I had trouble finding images that were definitely labelled as the northern chickadee’s. Well, my sister-in-law (and the chickadee) lives in Virginia so the local eggs would be of a Carolina Chickadee to be correct. (It might confuse the Northern Chickadee but it is unlikely she would find only a Carolina chickadee to date anyways.) Ok, it looks like the eggs are small and mostly white with brownish spots. I can do that.
I had brought the dragon I was working on and a few bags with different colours of wool. So I dug around until I found some white. I think it’s some of the Corriedale roving. I also had a tiny bit of white alpaca and some reddish-brown that was courser than the Corriedale. I am not sure where I picked it up or what it was but it may be perfect for this.
I created the egg shape from the white Corriedale, then made 2 more since One egg would get lonely. (so that is three in total.)
I blended the alpaca and coarse reddish-brown to give a mottled variegated tone. I then broke the fibres into short pieces under ½ inch long. I selected a thin wispy amount and draped it over the egg shape in a band towards the fatter end of the egg.
I tacked down the fibre in spots, trying both the 36 and 40 triangular needles. Where poked, the colour darkened significantly and in between the pokes showed a much lighter and less distinct brown.
At this point, I considered using the sharp embroidery scissors. This would trim the fibres so that only the attached fibres/spots would stay making more distinctive dots. The problem with this would be that I would lose the lighter in-between shade and I would have to be sure that each spot was well embedded before trimming.
Plan B; lay over thin wisps of white to bring down the intensity of some of the darkest spots. This worked well. I wish I had a bit more of the white alpaca on hand for the outer layer but the Corriedale work.
Unfortunately, I was very focused on getting a few minutes at a time to work on this and the little dragon project and I do not seem to have taken pictures as the project progressed! I am sorry! So I can only show you how it turned out.
2 Look I found in the Napkin basket
4 – 6 Egg close-ups
We had more wildlife in the backyard while I was there.
7 – 10 Sparrow, Woodpecker, Robin, Bluejay
I hope you have been having fun felting and playing with fibre.
Update: I left Oakville promising to be back on Friday evening with my husband. I had planned to sit with my mother-in-law and make Dragon’s wings. (she had been so intrigued watching me bend and twist wire to create the armature. she continued her interest as I added the layers of wool to start the body, so I wanted to let her see what would happen next with the wings.) Unfortunately, my Mother-in-law did not wait for us and died peacefully in her sleep early Friday morning. Her memorial service went very well and I had suggested her minister may like to have her Chickadee as a reminder. The brothers agreed and we gave her the little bird. She was very happy to receive it. We did not know she had a bird collection but did know she was particularly fond of my mother-in-law. She was an amazing woman and will be greatly missed.
After I had written my last blog, I headed back to Oakville to help with my Mother-in-Law who has not been well. It was very busy with lots of appointments and I tried to work on a bit of felting in moments of quiet.
When you last saw the little dragon, I had augmented the wire on the legs, arms, hands and feet. Then started from the tail to add the under colour.
1, the tail from the last post
I was using a small amount of black, a bit of dark grey and larger amounts of Indigo. Since you don’t usually see solid colours in nature, I did not blend to a uniform new colour but left bits of each tone visible.
My goal was to give me a general base colour to work from and lay in the spinal fringe. I think I will be augmenting that with some silk but after I have created the wings.
2-3, adding the base layer of colour standing on my old laptop.
As I would go off to help with something then come back intermittently to work on the little guy, I discovered that blue cane dragons have an odd interest in Orange dark chocolate. He had obviously spotted it in the glass dish. I had used the box holding the delicious chocolate as a ruler while making partitions in lists. I just put it in the glass dish so it would not be lost in all the papers with notes on the table.
4 -9, the great Chocolate heist
His obvious joy at running off with the chocolate was quickly thwarted with the realization that I had not made fingers appropriate for extracting the chocolate out of the box!!
10 Not having teeth is also an issue.
11, so close but yet so far
I continued to work on the face adding an upper lip, background for the eye area and nostrils.
12, adding more detail to the face
My husband and I took a quick run to a couple of the local computer stores to look for a new laptop since I was to stay for a bit longer and he would be heading home. We found one and brought it back.
13-14, the new laptop
15, the new laptop has problems
Here he is checking out my new laptop. It was fabulous for about 4 days then developed strange pixelation problems in the screen…. It was such a nice clicky keyboard too!! Back to felting, You can see I am starting to add the colour in the mouth, but still no teeth. it may be safer if he doesn’t have teeth.
16 – 17, mouth colour added as well as fringe
You may have noticed the fringe, at the ankle and wrist/forearm, has been added. The next step was to start the wisps of grey in a tone similar to the mandible for the front of the neck, belly and under the tail.
18, adding the grey wisps
By this time one of my Brothers-in-law had arrived and it was time for me to head home for a bit. I will be focusing next on the wing membranes since I suspect that will determine some of the body highlights. However, that will be another post, since we will be heading back to southern Ontario Soon.
Is it October? It feels like the end of August in Southern Ontario. A couple of quick shots for you to enjoy and hopefully inspire new colour pallets, felt pictures, or sculptures.
19 – 22, End of August weather in October? A few shots from Oakville.
I hope you are also enjoying strangely nice weather for what the calendar clearly says is October. If you are having our normal October, it’s OK, you can keep it, we really don’t want it back!! Maybe I should try to quickly wash one more fleece before we wake up to snow?
“Mistakes” can lead to opportunities to try new to you solutions. I am sure all of you have come up with this solution but in case you haven’t made this mistake I thought I should share and show you my solution.
The wire I chose for the toes was a coated steel but only 25ga. (Perfect for chickadees but not for this size of Dragon, but you work with what you have at hand.) Now I am back home and have a bigger selection of wire options. I need to augment the 25ga since it is not providing the grip I need to hold on to the cane or cling to the basket of the walker. Otherwise, I very much like the little guy.
1 As you last saw him
Do I have to make another armature? Or, can I augment the strength of the wire so it will have a better griping ability? I already have a thin layer of wool to make the skinny long fingers. I guess I could make less skinny toes and fingers if they have better gripping.
2 Inserting a wire across the hips to strengthen legs, (that was not the wire I thought I grabbed).
I pulled out a long black wire, it was in with the green floral wire. I poked it through the hips then found the middle and wound it down the legs on either side. It was a bit short and not as strong as I hoped. So I added a second wire of 20 ga. to the leg and down into the middle tow.
The second wire was inserted and anchored under the top of the finer black wire. I wound tightly over the already wrapped wool. A small change in gauge or type of wire can make a big difference in the stiffness of the wire. It’s best to have wire that is just a bit stronger than the tension created by the wound and felted wool. If the wool is stronger than the wire your figure will not hold a pose. If you are only lightly felting something you can reduce the strength of the wire and it will still hold the fibre/felt. Do you remember the ghosts I made for ghost girl a couple of Halloweens ago? They were lightly felted but I needed the wire to support their weight so that determined the gauge I chose. In the case of the dragon, I likely should have doubled the 20 ga for the legs toes and fingers.
3 Needs a bit more stiffness, adding the 18”, 20ga green floral wire.
4 Much better.
I wound down to the toe and used the plyers to make sure it was tightly secured. Then I wound back up the toe a bit with the extra wire.
5 Both legs done, the little guy feels much stronger already!!
Legs done, I next moved on to the arms and middle fingers. I again poked the wire through, this time at the shoulder joint. I wound the wire down the arm to the middle finger then back up and into the bottom part of the wing. I left the medial and lateral digits un-augmented.
Next, hide the wire!! I continued with the World of wool Core wool that I had hand carded the last time I was in Oakville. There is a tiny bit of kemp in it but it is working well for both wrapping and sculpting.
6-7 Hiding the wire, the toes don’t look too much bigger.
As I added fibre to cover the extra wire, I made glutes, quads, and gastrocs! I have also added ribs to the wings only 2 this time. I think that is looking better!
8 Time for the beginning of the colour layer!
I have started the first layer of colour but have a trip back to Oakville so I think this is as far as I can go before I have to start packing. (Well Glenn will do a bit of emergency laundry first then I can pack). I have wool and tools pulled and ready to go. I should grab some wire (since I forgot to bring any last time).
I wonder what I have forgotten?
Ok, back to the topic at hand or more accurately on the desk. The augmentation of wire strength by adding wire over the underlayer worked. (it worked much better than the incision, extraction of the broken wire and insertion of a stronger gauge on a skunk project. Poor skunk’s wrist never healed correctly but it’s better than the break was.)
If you don’t mind the toes being a bit larger in diameter than originally planned this may work for you if you find a similar problem. (That problem being, not bringing a selection of wire with you when you spontaneously decide to create a new project!)
Have fun and keep felting!
PS I got out to the Market Ann is selling at and did some promotional photos for her and discovered that pumpkins are shiny when they are wet!! Who knew that? Here are a few shots of a rainy day at the market to enjoy
It’s been another couple of busy weeks in Ottawa and Oakville, but in between fighting with errant grapevines, trying to start to prep my garden for fall, long drives to southern Ontario and eldercare, I did get a bit of felting done.
While in Oakville I noticed that my Mother in law and I both have the same quad cane. (it’s a cool type of cane when you have any balance issues.) They are identical, except for the height they are set at. I need a way to make my cane more, well, mine.
1) Quad canes
If my mother-in-law does go to a seniors building she will also need something to distinguish hers from other similar canes. I could do this by adding a piece of tape with our names on our respective canes but that seems rather unimaginative! I should do better. I think I should do a Morning glory for her and I will see if I can figure out how to have a dragon on mine. (Glenn says I need more Ice Flame wings like the last cute little dragon I did). This one will have to be much longer, or would that be taller? I didn’t bring down any appropriate flower colours so I think I better start with mine.
I had brought with me an IKEA bag of white core wool to card into usable fluffiness with one of my sets of hand carders. I had sampled the core wool with combs but found the carders gave greater loft as you would expect in a woollen (carder) vs worsted (combs) fibre preparation. I tried very hard not to leave little fluffs of wool all over the basement carpet or anywhere else in the house! That will give me fibre to try out my ideas.
I borrowed a pen and a piece of paper and started to work on a design. I looked at my cane and my super helpful walker. Both are stylishly black, so they go with anything as a fashion accessory. Unfortunately, they are also identical with every other black quad cane and walker of the same make. I looked at the curvature of the cane near the handle, then started sketching.
2) walker and helpful grippe-thing.
3 )Sketch of ideas for cane identification dragon.
Ok, this looks interesting. I have core wool with me, why did I not pack wire? I have to go to Walmart to get a few things so let us see if I can find another package of floral wire (20 and 25 ga coated steel). After a lot of looking, I had success! This 20ga wire comes in pieces 18 inches / 45.7 cm long.
I looked over my original designs now that I had the wire. I think the easiest way to get a dragon to stay on the cane would be to have the neck, body, tail, or appendages hold on to it. So, I should consider a longer neck and long tows would help too. How about adding a bifurcated tail that should be twice as grippe as a mere single tail!!
Like the sketching, I started to play with the wire I wanted to see if I could get the dragon a size I could wrap around or cling to the cane.
4) Extending neck?
5) Adding body and back legs
I folded the first piece for the upper skull, neck and forearms. I folded and used the second piece interlaced with the shoulders/upper arms to create the spine and back legs.
6) Adding the tail
I used a third piece folded and attached to the hips /back legs. This one I twisted about two-thirds of the length and left the rest to create the bifurcation.
7-8) Tail extensions and long tows
I used the 25ga (the wire I have at home I am sure was 26ga) to create extra-long tows, lower jaw, and bifurcation extensions. This amused my mother-in-law who sat watching my twisting, flipping, bending and attaching bits of wire together.
9) Checking on the cane
10) last part to add
I folded and used a final piece to create the leading edge of the wings. (4 pieces for the total dragon)
11) I started to add the wool over the armature deciding to add stubby ears to his head before building up the upper and lower jaw.
At this point, I took a break and went for a walk around the block with the walker. It is good to get outside and take a break. It allows for an increase in circulation and time for inspiration to strike. I was hoping to find a horse Chestnut tree since the squirrel-planted ones in my pots had died and I would like to have one in my portable forest. (I have a bunch of trees I keep as pets in pots on my driveway…. It is not as strange as it sounds.)
12-16) Views from Oakville
17) This is the leaf structure of my little tree that died. I would like to grow another.
18 ) is this a black walnut? It was dropping fruit and making a mess of the sidewalk!
Oakville is about 2 weeks different from us in weather since Ottawa is farther north. The trees in the south have just the hint of colour and the nut trees have not dumped their nuts yet. I did find 2 trees nearby but only one nut was on the ground. I will try to check next trip and hope for better pickings. I think I found black walnuts, which I will try to plant and see if I can expand my forest!
Upon my return, I continued to add wool to flesh out my dragon until it was ready to try on the cane for scale. AH Ha!! I think that works. I need to add a bit more flesh to his bones and maybe a longer tail would help but the basic concept is a success.
19-22) testing out the dragon on the cane
So, this is proof of concept, yes this will work. Analyzing the little guy suggests making the toes out of a stiffer gauge of wire than a 25/26ga steel. I will look through my sample appendages and see if I have something that would suit better. ( I do suggest making samples of the gauges you have access to, in single, double and if you don’t have too many options, then how the flexibility of one gauge is affected when wrapped in a different gauge. It’s a lot easier than discovering part way through a project “I wish those tows were stronger” and considering a tow-ectomy with the upgrade reattachment surgery to consider after the extraction. I will likely finish this little guy off and he may be a walker basket dragon if he’s not a cane dragon.
This morning I woke up early to drive back to Ottawa and miss as much of the Toronto area traffic as I could. (The alarm went off a bit earlier than I had anticipated and I started in full darkness but it was quiet.) While still on my in-law’s street I spotted 2 of the infamous Ninja-stealth skunks of Oakville! They do not have a white stripe down their back or sides. One had a white puff at the tip of his very puffy tail. I did not stop to try to get a picture of a black skunk crossing a dark street. Oh! You find out where the strip is if it lifts its tail, the white stripe is on the underside!
Pre-dawn occurred as I passed Darlington (I hope that was pre-dawn and not a nuclear problem!) dawn occurred at my first rest stop. Since I was now stopped I finally got to take a picture, there had been fabulous pinks earlier, now the colour was shifting to the yellows and blue sky.
23-24) true sunrise at my first rest stop
A bit later in the morning, I drove past a field with a group of deer. Then spotted in two marsh areas near Kingston Ontario, groups of very big white swans! When did we get loose swans? Sorry, no pictures I was driving! I had given up on radio and switched to an audiobook about werewolves and dragons. Traffic was great at these ungodly hours and I cruised into the farmers market for a cookie purchase from Ann about 2 hours ahead of when I thought I was likely to get there (remember about the enthusiastic alarm clock sending me out over an hour before I had anticipated. Maybe I need to get a watch again.)
25-31) shots from the Farmer’s Market Ann sells at (and the chipmunk she was trying to take pictures of)
Ann still had the Cookies I was looking for so it is time to head home and write up the blog post of my prototyping a cane identifier. However, since I started with a quick nap in front of the computer maybe a lot of caffeinated Mountain Dew to wake me up long enough to finish this for your amusement is necessary. I am sorry I did not get you pictures of the ninja skunks and swans.
So in conclusion remember to pack your felting wire, make samples to see if a concept will work, assess the sample, make augmentations or adjustments then either finish the sample or create your fabulous extra impressive piece now that you know more about how it will all work from your investigation. Maybe skip the part with the skunks and the long drive. but the scenery had lots of rocks and trees and even some water and wildlife! I would suggest keeping the part with Ann’s excellent cookies. Now I think I may have another little nap since the caffeine is starting to wear off. (Oh no, I left my spell checker in Oakville so I will try not to break your spelling by fixing mine)
Have lots of fun and keep felting!
PS, my cane dragon is now hanging out on my hat brim (it’s my driving hat so I’m not wearing it now!), I wonder if I can convince him to go back to the cane? or the basket of the walker?