Last week we got the petals to the point they were firm and reasonably thin. As I promised let’s look at the new equipment I am about to use.
I ordered a felting pad for ironing. it is a little firmer than the white felting mat I was just trying out. I also ordered the clover craft iron II (with accessories). I spotted it on at a lower price than I had seen it in previous weeks so ordered it. Checking on the day it arrived it was up in price over 10.00, while today the price is back down to 2.00 more than I got it for! Prices are acting very strangely lately.
Let’s look at the Felt Ironing Mat first.
23 Wool ironing mat “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting”
Yesterday I found out some felters are using these ironing pads as felting mats. Ironing mats, (about .5 inch thick) are thinner than the 1 to 1.2 inch felting mats. The ironing pad is a bit firmer than the white felting mat. It arrived folded, with instructions that include “do not fold”. If I use it as a chair pad I will likely flatten it quickly, but I tried it in its present state. It is about half an inch thick. I measured the white wool mat at about an inch thick. The grey wool mat was about an inch and a quarter. (See Photo below)
24 comparing thicknesses
25 (Ironing mat, White wool mat, Grey wool mat)
I did a brief test with the bad sheep picture. This would let me check the end feel of the needle entering the ironing pad, which is quite resistant but does work.
26 needle test of the ironing felt mat
I suspect using the ironing mat may increase the strain on the arm/wrist/finger muscles with prolonged enthusiastic (stabbing) use for felting. I do not like ironing except for before sewing projects, so I am unlikely to injure myself using this as an ironing pad. This thought may come back to haunt me……
The Clover mini iron II and accessories came with a lot of instructions and diagrams. i read them over when they arrived then put everything away in a nice little box.
27 Clover Mini Iron II
28 I found a plastic box at Dollerama to keep the Iron and its attachment options in.
The iron is usually used with appliqué by quilters. The various attachments will get into small corners and the ball attachment will accentuate dishing shapes. The Iron is designed to flatten and smooth the surface of the felt, more like the commercial hot press felts. It may be interesting to try starches or misting with this too. (oh no a distracting thought escaped!)
There are other similar-looking devices which are used for Auto body repair and another for taking wrinkles out of leather goods (shoes, bags etc.). Check the temperature range on each type, you don’t want to scorch your felt.
One last thing to remember about the mini iron, from what I have read online, it is very important to keep the iron rest, (the plastic and wire thing that supports the iron tip), somewhere you will not lose it. I read many warnings that this part can mysterious disappearance and happens frequently.
Tiny Craft iron time!
Ok, now I am ready for the next step that I skipped with the prototype.
29 I plugged in the iron and waited for the iron to heat up
After a couple of minutes, I tried it on the prototype. Hum it doesn’t seem to be hot yet. The wool is not warm? I wonder if it’s working? Did I get a broken one? Let me check…Ooops! OWW! No, it’s hot now.
30 I guess this means the Iron is not broken. Owwww.
I carefully ironed each petal, first the prototype then the new petals I had made. There was a bit of thinning visible. I will have to try pressing a bit harder but i didn’t want to scorch the wool. Next flower I will try to get a wire that is closer to the petal colour since the black and green floral wires are still slightly visible, at least in the photos.
31 Carefully ironing the petals
I took them in to show Ann on Library day. It was not as busy as we had hoped so Ann got her dry felting experiment done and I showed her skinny petals.
32-33 Ann inspects the thinness. She said she had not anticipated them to be so firm.
There was one more step I had skipped in the instructions for making a rose from Tjarda’s Workshop. She had very carefully trimmed any fluffy, flyaway edgings on her petals. I recently purchased a few more variations on curved bladed scissors. I selected one with a short curve to the blade that seemed to fit the petal and started trimming. I think I was a bit more enthusiastic than Tjarda but did get all the fluff removed and smoothed the curves.
34 trimming the edge fluff
35 close up of scissor blade curvature
36 Here is a before (R) and after (L) petal.
After trimming, I tugged gently on the edge of the petal to give a bit of the frill. The tugging is along the length of the edge.
The next step will be adding the last details to the iris petals and then assembly! But that will be another time, I have a bit more library work to do. So, while I am off doing that I hope you are enjoying spring and getting a chance to have fun felting.
Update; we seem to have had a week of mid-summer weather (not so good for the spring flowers). This weekend we made a trip to the first biggish Fiber Festival which was only a 3-hour drive away in Peterborough Ont! It was so good to be able to feel fibre in person! if you are interested I took a few pictures (121 actually) but promise I won’t inflict them all on you! I am sorry I did not get a picture of the beaver we saw sitting in the grass beside the highway (i was driving) I thought it was only a groundhog as we approached but saw the distinctive tail as we passed. What a fun Saturday! I hope you are enjoying your weekend too!
This week, I am back to working on felted flowers between Library work. I have the last bit of data I needed for my year-end report (so I had better take a moment to fill that in and send it off to the guild executive). Now that is done I can get back to Felting.
A few weeks ago, I watched a workshop given by Tjarda van der Dussen. She made rose petals that were wonderfully thin. Next, she used a tiny craft iron to flatten them further. Then finally, she assembled them, adding leaves to the stems, into a life-like Rose.
I am very fond of irises, I think they may be my favourite flowers. (if only they flowered longer!) I have had different colours, but most are of the large bearded variety. The frilly peach one in the backyard, came with us from the townhouse we rented before I bot this little house. (My house is a semidetached bungalow, so I guess technically it is only half a house.) The location was good, and the yard was about twice as big as a townhouse with more room for plants, so I bought it. The house came with a dieing red maple tree, which I could put my hands around. The first spring I added a garden to the front yard with the unhappy tree. Unfortunately when I watered the front garden the mostly dead red maple grew and over the next few years became a heavy shade-producing tree, thus all the sun-loving plants I had planted were not impressed. My back yard will likely have the same fate since there is now a rapidly growing red maple in the yard behind me, which will eventually shade a lot of my yard too. (Don’t tell my plants!!)
So let’s look at a few Iris from my garden over the years. I hope they will inspire you too.
2 Bronz and White iris
The bronze Iris is quite hardy but is not as flashy as some of the blues, or as delicate as the frill-edged peach. The white is also quite delicate in looks and does not flower every year.
3-4 Frill-edged Peach Iris
The frill-edge Peach is particularly showy but has been known to face plant since the flower is large and the stem is long. I have to remember to tie it up before it falls over this year.
5 I have two of the smaller varieties of iris, this smaller variety, and an early dwarf spring clump that is an even darker blue dark.
I have had several iris in the front yard that have slowly died back and disappeared as both my tree and the neighbour’s Linden tree continued to grow and make shade. Some have been quite spectacular and I am sorry they did not last.
6 Fancy Iris
My backyard iris have fared better but were threatened with shade from an over-enthusiastic grapevine last year. (There will be a discussion of boundaries involving sheers shortly with said vine.)
7 backyard iris
I have even grown some, through the summer, in pots to good effect.
8 Iris in pots
On to the next (felt) iris.
I tried World of Wool core wool with the bit of kemp on the first petal. Laying out the general shape then adding a bit of the mixed blue merino braid I had used before for edging colour.
9 laying out the fibre
10 adding the blue edging
I used the T-36 to tack it in the general area, leaving some hanging off the edge of the petal to add to the underside when I flipped the petal. I switched to the fake clover tool to imbed the blue fibre into the white. I realized I had forgotten to add the wire to pose the petal so added it now then back to poking. I flipped frequently and found that if I worked a bit deeper I would transfer some of the blues to the other side giving a better mottle.
I worked one side and then the other side until the petal was the correct shape but not as thin as I wanted.
11 switching to the fake clover tool
I left the first petal at this point and started a second, this time using a small batt I had purchased from Wabi Sabi in Ottawa. It was a Rambouillet/ Merino mix batt, that had a nice crimp but was not quite as lustrous as the core wool.
12 Batt of Merino- Rambouillet
I did the same layout of fibre poking at a low angle along the edge of the pattern piece to get the shape required.
13 when I had the fibre holding together (not good felt but it was not falling apart) I added the wire.
14 adding wire through the center
After making more petals I may role the tip end as well as make a long role back just so it won’t poke up into the flower petal. Again, I added the blue to the edge and wrapped it over the edge of the petal, taking down the fibres with the 36T and then using the fake clover tool with the 40t’s.
15 adding the blue edging
Comparing the two petals, I decided to continue with the small batt of Rambouillet /merino.
16 comparing the two types of wool in the petals
17 I suspect that this type of foam mat may be demoted back to a garden kneeling pad.
A couple of days earlier Ann had spotted another wool felting mat on Amazon. It was white and similar in size to the grey one I purchased and reviewed recently. This one was described as; “KEO ST. Needle Felting Pad – 100% New Zealand Wool Mat for Precision Felting. Natural Cream Color, 10” x 8” x 1” – Complete with 2 Handmade Leather Finger Guards”. (that was a mouthful lets just call it the white wool mat.
I also ordered a “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting” so I would be ready to use the “Clover Mini Iron II-The Adapter Set” which I had ordered when it went on sale earlier. (It’s back up to an exorbitant price again.)
18 the new white felting pad (it came with more finger cots!)
19 let’s try it out
So let’s try this one out. It is much firmer felt than the gray wool with kemp felting mat. It is still softer to work into than the firm red foam. It does not leave little bits of red foam in the felt. Unlike the softer grey wool with kemp mat, it had no aroma. Both seem to be made in layers that are commercially needle felted together. The needle end-feel on the white is firmer than the grey but still less than the red kneeling foam. I did find I had some fibre transfer but I was trying to move the blue colour from one side of the petal to the other. The fibre transfer to the mat would have been less if I had not wanted to work so deeply. (a reverse needle would have been able to pull fibre from one side to the other too.)
I have recently seen the use of a thinner piece of firm felt placed over a mat to protect the mat from getting fibre transfer. Sort of like putting a mattress topper on top of a mattress to make it more comfortable and longer waring. (not the type of mattress that has a built-in top since you cant flip them only rotate them they tend not to last as long as the un-pillow-toped mattresses. Sorry got distracted. Back to felt!) I may try to track down a light and a dark piece of firmer felt about a ¼ inch thick to try as a cover for my felt pads. I could see it extending the life of the mat, whether or not it works to keep fibre colour transfer from your work.
As long as you are lifting frequently and flipping the petal I found both the white (stiffer end feel) and the Grey (softer end feel) wool pads comfortable to work on. They would be comfortable to work a picture on (again lifting frequently) or to use as a working surface for a sculpture.
I worked on the larger lower petals and then worked on the smaller upper petals.
20-21 using the needle at a low angle and moving the tinning fibre towards the center of the petal
My focus was to work as thin as I could while still creating a firm felt. I found that working around the edge with the multi-tool tended to spread the shape while it thinned the felt. I would alternate multi-tool to flatten then switch to a single needle working more horizontally towards the center to counter the spread. The pattern piece was helpful to check the size and get it back into the correct shape.
The other technical detail to consider is about the wire within the petal. I have quite a bit of experience felting with armatures. Very occasionally working needles through the wool and around wire I will brake one. It is usually when I start to try to work too quickly or I am distracted (trying to watch YouTube rather than listen to an audiobook). Working with such thin felt defiantly requires more care and less speed. In the center of the petals where the wire is located, I found I had problems with the fake clover multi-tool and broken needles. I eventually shifted to focusing the multi-tool to thin the edges and the single needles to work near the wire and reshape the petals. This improved the longevity of my needles.
I worked the petals in stages. First holding together enough to insert the wire, then to the point it was the correct size and shape but not firm enough, then finally going back over each petal until it was the firmness I wanted and about the correct shape.
22 comparing thinness
The petal on the right is the basic petal shape which has been worked long enough to hold its shape. For the petal on the left, I have continued to work with both the multi-tool and the single needle to the point of being quite a firm felt. If the felt was this dense but thicker (more of it) the light gauge of wire I am using would not be strong enough to hold a shape against the strength of the wool. I tried floral wire gauge 20 and an undesignated floral wire that I think maybe 24gauge. I continued working with the other petals until all seemed to be as thin as I could get them.
Next week we will look at the new equipment that has arrived so i can continue working on these petals.
Sorry for today’s delay! I have been busy this week working on the guild Library report. It’s a lot of data to sift through even with a second year of reduced book borrowing due to covid. I do a report in December for the city grants then one for the AGM in May. It’s not the same data since the first covers the Year (2021) and the second covers the library term From the AGM in 2021 to AGM 2022. I have a fabulous library team working with me but I write up the report and then send it to Ann to spell check and make a synopsis since I tend to be very thorough. It usually takes a week to get the data into charts then analyzed a bit then written up into the report. The main data is dropped in the appendix (21 pages) and the short tables go into the report (5 pages). I am only missing one bit of data to finish it but here is the extremely short version (not I am not going to show you 21 pages of charts!!)
Library team: 6 regular members and 3 assistants this year, for a total of 9.
Acquisitions: 69 new items From Donations, Bequests, and purchases
Circulation: Total items; 249 (1 item out for repair)
Format of items in circulation: BOOKS 208, MAGAZINE 21, DVD 18
Accessibility: 238.5 hours in the library, plus the hours from March I still have to add.
1 The Felting Section of the Guild Library
2 Part of the Guild Library Cabinets
I also got a note off to the newsletter about the next Library day. We have been having members email their book requests to the library and we pull, sign out and bag the books. The members come to the library, knock on the window, hold up their name signs and we grab their bag of books and meet them at the side door to give them their books. It has been working quite well over the last 2 years.
3 books pulled ready to bag
4 books ready to go out to members.
2 months ago, we got word that we could have more people in the studio space, where we have the library. We would need to have only 2 people browsing the books at a time, proof of vaccination and wear a mask at all times. Last month we were allowed 4 people at a time looking at books and they could self-administer the health questions, but still had to wear their masks. This month it looks like we may be able to have the regular capacity and no symptoms of ill health for ourselves or assonated people but still keep the mask. We hope that the books can finally visit with the guild members in a more personal way.
5 Ann Ready for in-person book sign-out, for the first time in 2 years!
So if we can have library happening in a more normal way Demos of spinning weaving and felting cannot be far behind. I have been doing demos for the guild since the 1990s, first weaving then adding spinning, and finally adding felting to the options for demos. I’m not sure what my first demo was but it may have been weaving at a sheep to shawl demonstration at the experimental farm. My first time spinning at a demo was at a tractor pull competition with another spinner Clara (she was very good). In the morning, she spun and answered questions. By the afternoon, I was spinning and talking at the same time too!
At first, I carried a folding Leclerc table loom either a 2 or 4 harness. They didn’t feel heavy at the time but after quite a few years they seem to have gained weight. I was sometimes also bringing a wheel or two depending on the demo. For the Carp Fair demo I could fill a small station wagon with equipment and display stuff (they gave us a 20x 20 tent to set up a four-table display, it was a challenge that we filled each year.)
6-7 weaving at the same demo (it’s a super long warp!)
8 We let anyone who wants to have a try. It means we get many interesting variations on the pattern we thought we were doing!
Over the years, I have learned a lot of demo tricks. one of the best is if you think you will be on damp grass or it might rain (we have had sudden small rivers appear in tents we were demoing in when it rained), bring a plastic under bed box or low sided storage bin that your wheel will fit into as well as your feet. Spinning in a plastic box will keep your feet and wheel dry. If it’s just morning dew to worry about bring a rubber-backed kitchen matt that is big enough to fit under your wheel. They roll up and take up little space to bring with you. I also have a folding wagon that can transport wheels, looms, wool, a folding table… from the car to the demo spot if I cant get the car close to unload.
9 One of my Friends demonstrated the weight capacity of a folding wagon
10 a Plowing match demo with a tarp to keep the dew off the wheel
11 Manotick demo in a tent in the rain.
12 in a tent, raining at the Richmond Fail (trundle box is tucked under the table.)
Another sneaky thing I do at demos, now that I am also felting, is I have a couple of pieces that I save to work on only at demos, that are works in progress. I have found that when I am just starting out with a picture or sculpture there is a lot of mild curiosity. However, if I have something underway to the point you can make a good guess at what I might be doing, I tend to get more interest and questions. “Is it a dog?” gets kind of boring until someone says very hesitantly “….is that.. a ..polar bear?” “YES! It is!!”
13 Polar bear finally looks a bit less like a dog.
14 Makers fair demo
15 Demo at Wool Growers Co-Op, Carlton place
When you demo you don’t have to know everything, so don’t be afraid of questions. It’s fine to say “I’m still new and don’t know that, but we can see if we can find out”. If you are demoing in a group ask the others who are demoing, if you are by yourself, refer them to your guilds email to ask. There are also breed specific organizations you can find many of the contacts at sheep 101 on the internet.
Second, don’t worry that you’re not a master weaver, spinner or felter. There are not a lot of masters out there and they all started somewhere not being masters. If you enjoy what you’re demoing, your enthusiasm will be contagious. In addition, if you’re just beginning, it shows others they can do this too. Watching someone make fluffy fibre stick together it’s like magic! Watching someone make perfect fine lace weight yarn is a bit daunting, If it is a slubby functional yarn, that may actually be much more approachable. It’s amazing how many times someone will ask, “What happens when it brakes?” then you accidentally brake it and show them how it reattaches.
Once I took my Ashford Traditional out to a demo. It is a lovely wheel, the golden retriever of wheels! “Is that fibre? Can I spin it for you?” anyway I had the drive band brake and had repaired it but only had blue crochet cotton so I had a blue drive band and was spinning white wool. You can see where this is going I am sure. After having a man stand staring at the wheel for much longer than most people stop and just stare, he finally asked.
“How does the wool go from white to blue, then back to white?”
“Good question!” so I stopped the wheel and showed him the path for the yarn through the orifice and on to the bobbin and the path of the drive band and how the treadle and footman turned the wheel.
I hope we will be able to demo again soon. It is a lot of fun and you may find others who didn’t know anyone did weaving, spinning or felting and they have always wanted to learn to do that too!
16 Basket dragon with hand died wings, Carp Fair Demo
I have lots of photos of the demo display and other people demoing. I am usually the one with the camera so these are most of the pictures I have of me actually demoing.
17 1812 was not my best year, the diminutive Great Wheel and the Robiedue wheel went to this demo with me. Demo at Chrysler for 1812 battle asked to demo in costume.
18 Demo at Carp Fair
Have fun and keep felting (hopefully soon in public!)
Last week I watched an online workshop with Tjarda van der Dussen. She was showing how to Needle felt a realistic Rose and Butterfly which had blue patterns on one side of the wing and brown on the opposite side. Originally, what I found fascinating was her ability to work very thinly with a lot of surface detail (particularly with the butterfly).
As I watched her workshop, I was impressed with her ability to do surface work (shallow insertion of the needle only affecting the top layer of her piece.) She achieved this partly through the angle of the needle and partly by very good depth control. She said she preferred spiral (twisted) and star needles for her work. She used them in a wooden single needle holder. I am not sure if she has tried Crown needles, which as you know, have only one barb per side but all are located very close to the tip of the needle (making it ideal for surface detail felting). I think she said she was using 38 and 40 gauge needles. She also had one of the 7 needle fake clover tools (the blue rather than the original clover green) which she used mostly with a shallow insertion.
For her working surfaces, she usually started with the clover brush tool, used covered with cotton fabric. She was lifting frequently whatever she was working on, so it would not stick to the cloth. She would, at times switch over to working on a wool mat that she had made herself. (I do want to figure out how she made that!)
She used a pattern or template for the petals that reminded me of the paper flower patterns I have seen on Pinterest occasionally. I should go take a browse and see if I can see a pattern for an iris. (I miss my iris now that my front garden is all shade). Tjarda would compare the petals she was making to the template, first getting the general shape, then adding the indentations indicated for each petal shape.
She used leather finger cots (protectors) as she held the petal and template to work on the edge with the needle. If you don’t have finger cots you can make them out of scraps of leather or you could try to “accidentally” cut the fingers off a strong leather glove. If you go for the latter plan, it may be best to find one stray glove and hope the other doesn’t reappear later. Also, test the leather with a felting needle to make sure the leather is thick enough to protect you while supple enough to use to hold your project.
Her last tool that intrigued me was a “mini Iron” for sewing and crafting. After a bit of searching and price checking, I found one online. This iron requests a heat mat which I have not yet tracked down. There are similar-looking tools for taking the wrinkles out of leather and another that fixes dents in car bumpers, both are reportedly much hotter and a lot more expensive. The ones I saw described for quilting while looking identical to the Craft version were more expensive. If you find one at a garage sale you may want to get it if it’s a good price. Hopefully, it’s one of the ones that has a temperature adjustment and rest for the hot end.
She used the little iron to flatten the petals and also add a bit of shape to them. The most important aspect seemed to be the flattening and increasing the adhesion of the felt. Unfortunately without a heat mat, I didn’t want to try out this part of her workshop. I will try it as soon as I can find the elusive mat.
Now on to trying to create a flower, not a rose but let’s see if I can find a paper flower pattern for an iris. So off to Google image to see what I can find. Success! I found a page from what looks like an old book on flower making. There were also pages out of another book, in Russian, that look interesting but it took me a while to find an iris.
I found a more modern-looking page from a book that had templates for Iris petals. I tried to track the image back to find out what the English book was called and if I could still get a copy. I think it might be “Handmade Flowers from Paper and Fabric” but I can’t find a view of the inside to check. I will have to watch for a second-hand copy. Maybe Ann will spot a copy at Value Village?
3) cover of the book I think the pattern may have come from
OK, I have found a general pattern shape to do a test run on.
Iris test run.
I printed off the pattern and cut out the pieces, then transferred them to card stock. I used the pattern to layout fibre for the petal.
5) original pattern pieces and transferred to card-stock
My first petal was “A”, (it’s the petal that has the beard on a bearded iris). I lay down thin wisps of variegated blue from the remnants of a braid of merino. (yes I do have a bit of Merino wool)
6) Pattern “A” fibre laid out
I did not have a clover brush tool like the one that Tjarda had used, instead, I tried the Red higher density kneeling pad. After removing the template from under the wool, I was focusing on thin like the ice dragon’s wings…..nope that’s too thin.
7) adding more wool to thin spots in the petal
I added more fibre and used the fake clover tool very lightly to fill in the thinnest spot. I found that the fibre tended to spread a bit and I had to check the template regularly and readjust the edges.
8) shaping the edges with the felting needle (if you are careful you can hold the pattern and petal in your fingers and very carefully needle felt the edge)
Each petal does not have to be identical but it should be quite close to the same size and shape.
I carefully lifted the wool off the foam regularly turning the petal.
9) Gently lift the wool off the work surface and turn it frequently
I followed the instructions and made all the required petals. (Ax3, Bx3, Cx5 I am going to make the leaves later)
10) all the petals are now created.
The next step was to insert the wire into the petal. I made sure that the wire was hidden in the fibres and not visible on either side as much as I could. I added a bit more fibre to make sure the wire would stay hidden. I did this for each of the 3 “A” and “B” petals.
11) slide the wire into the petal and hide with a bit more wool if needed
At this point, I realized I didn’t have a high heat ironing mat. So decided to fall off the instructions and skip the anatomical correctness for the lower petals and instead had a bit of extra fun. (this is just the prototype to see if the pattern pieces work or if the size needs adjusting.)
12) the cool Mini Iron II, with extra bits! (but not a heat pad)
I had been looking at my photo reference for a Bearded Iris, Instead of a small beard (practically a goatee as it were), I went for the full ZZ Top facial hair on my iris. If you are going to have a beard, you might as well see how long a beard you can grow. I had a bit of Bernadette’s combing waste for the beard.
After adding the excessive Beard-age to the lower “A” petals, it was time to start the assembly. I paired an A with a B and twisted the wires together. This gave me three pairs of petals, which I positioned and twisted together in one stem.
13) The ZZ Top of Bearded Irises!
14) the bare twisted stem
Next, we need to have that green base just at the top of the stem with the twisted wire I did not have trouble adding green fibre to cover the wire, building it up under the iris.
15) the stem gets wool at the base of the flower and down the stem
I will still need to make leaves for the flower but let’s move on to the bud so we can get it to about the same spot as the flower is at this point.
To make the bud I made a round-bottomed cone with a floral wire embedded in it. I then added the remaining petals, one after another, adding them around the cone core.
16) the bud
I had no trouble building up the green base to the bud but wrapping the stem was not as easy. I followed Tjarda’s lead and tried clear fabric glue on the wire before adding the wool. This worked but was a bit messy on the fingers. It did allow for a very thin layer of wool to be added so I may try it on other tiny-er projects.
17) Tacky-fabric-glue, make sure it drys clear
Now it was time to make leaves. The pattern instructions suggest 4 long leaves and 2 short for around the bud. I had a nice (feels like Corriedale) green in the bag I had found the blue roving in. I think this was the bag I put together to make wet felted iris flowers at a felt in at Carsonby Hall a few years ago (no wonder I seem to have almost all the colours I wanted in it!)
18) first of the 4 long leaves to make.
This is long Iris leaf #1 done with the wire inserted. I will need to make at least 3 more but not today.
It has been dark and overcast all day today. Looking out the office window, I keep seeing little occasional white bits floating past. Not enough to rebuild the snowbanks, but too much when I have just planted the first pot of snow peas! I also have the front yard grass raked and the topdressing with grass seed has been applied!! This is not the time for even a few flakes of snow!!! What happened to plans for spring and getting the side yard felting studio ready to work in?
Oh well, at least I am well on my way to having a nice blue Iris to look at even if our plans for spring change suddenly back to winter.
19) the full-bearded Iris
20) iris and bud with the first leaf.
Next time I will try out the T40 Crown needles and press the wool. I am still pleased by the thinness of the petals on the prototype especially since they are not ironed.
Have fun and keep felting and I hope someone is enjoying spring.
As you may remember from my last post, I wanted to look at some of the types of felt pads but had not yet got my hands on them. Well, this week 2 examples have arrived! I hope you won’t mind and will join me as I investigate.
The felt pads from the descriptions and images seem to come in 2 main types.
Thick felt pad; the photos look like industrial Felt, which is made with hot pressed steam rather than a felting machine. (Photos can be deceptive!)
Felt pillow; which looked like an outer felt layer stuffed with something, hopefully, wool.
For this test, I used two thin layers of commercial red craft felt. It is a cheap, not 100% wool felt and is very thin like a pre-felt which stretches easily. It is not as nice as the real wool felt but also not as unpleasant as some of the acrylic felt that seems to be shredded fibre (and possibly dryer lint) held together partly by glue. For needles, I am trying a single T36 and the fake clover tool with T40s, the fibre is from my stash, some are from Bernadette’s Batts, some was Galaxy Melange (died grey wool) from the World of Wool (UK) and a bit of died core wool from Sarafina fibre arts. (Just in case anything looked particularly appealing and you desperately needed a bit for yourself.)
1 craft felt – has the thickness of very thin prefelt
Test subject #1:
2 Comes in a nice cardboard box with a wooden needle holder just like the ones I have been ordering from China.
3 Close up of felt pillow showing value-added felting tool.
Let’s start with the smaller pad, 7.08 x 7.87 x 1.57 inches (with a nice 3 needle wooden needle holder).
Its described as “Thick and sturdy: Our gray needle felting mat is thicker than ordinary felt, and it is not easy to scratch the tabletop. Felting needles is made of soft felt and dense sponge. The needle felting mat has the best density. It is also equipped with felting needle supplies, allowing you to get a better needle felt experience.” The Cost was CDN$ 16.99 (Not cheap but it did come with the expensive wooden 3 needle holder I was already familiar with. The needle holder has a bit of a wobble as you unscrew the handle but doesn’t rub or catch, so is not one of the factory seconds I had purchased directly from china). The description left me a bit confused but still curious enough to get it.
The cover felt layer is approximately 1/8” thickness with a sewn seam connecting the two layers. The interior feels like a piece of foam or firm sponge. The edges look like it has had heat applied to them. The way the edge of the felt layers has bits of melted fibres suggests that the felt has a lower wool component so likely a higher component of synthetic than wool.
4 edge of the felt outer layer with a firm melted edge.
The feel of the needle entering the top layer of the pad feels like the short stapled acrylic felt that is partly held together with glue. There is a noticeable resistance to the needle penetrating into the felt layer of the pad. This is less noticeable as I add more wool to the little picture I am working on. This may not be an issue when working on a thicker ground layer to the picture than it would be with such a thin one.
5 Starting with a bit of sky
6 Adding some hills,
Pushing the needle through the felt had resistance, similar to that found in the cheap craft felt that has a glue component to it. It requires the piece you are working on to be lifted regularly so it won’t cling to the felt cover. Once the needle had penetrated the felt the feel of the sponge or foam inside is comfortable. There does not seem to be shifting between the foam and the outer felt so I don’t think there will be any added worry about lateral movement and broken needles. I suspect this is not a felting surface I will use frequently although the wooden needle holder is always a nice addition to my collection. This pad will likely be put aside for students to look at during workshops.
After working with the pad for about an hour I noticed that I could see a red tint of fibres from the felt base I was using. A firmer base felt for my picture may not have left as much residue.
7 Red residue left from the back of my felted picture
Test Subject #2
8 the second felt pad, came with 9 needles in 2 lengths
“Needle Felting Pad made of pure wool dimensions 10 x 8 x 1.2 inches, Needles and leather finger pads included.” The cost was CDN$ 13.99.
As I opened the taped closed plastic sleeve that the pad was in, I inadvertently did a sniff test. Ummm…. Well, that is an odd aroma…. Slightly like, petroleum? Ann took a sniff when she was over, she may have a better description. The smell decreased to barely-there over the last 2 days. I suspect the smell may dissipate if left sitting outside in the sun… for a while.
The second felt pad defiantly is made of wool that has a lot of kemp in it. The edges look like it is made in layers or it may have been the implement that cut the felt has left bands and groves. The close-up photos hopefully makes the kemp easy to see. if you look closely you can see fibres (Kemp) descending from one layer into a lower layer. This makes me suspect that this has been made in a needle felting machine. From the original photos, I had expected this to be the hard industrial felt used in ironing pads but this has some give to the surface.
I added more wool to the picture to test how the pad feels when used. Not bad. The surface is soft and the needle has much less resistance on entering the pad. I like this one better than the last one.
11 Testing felt pad 2
12 Adding World of Wool fibre.
13 Shortening the hills, adding foreground and water. This makes me think of the north.
Ok, that is working well, let’s see what else I can try. I had meant to make the picture 3×5 but I am interested to see where the water is going. (you can’t trust the sneaky wet stuff, it’s likely trying to escape the picture and make a run for it.) Let us change the size of the picture and make it a 5×7. So I need to add both length and width to the picture. I added fibre around the edges of the picture building up the size to what I wanted. I found lifting frequently kept the fibre from sticking.
14 Here is the front of the picture
15 You can see how the original rectangle has expanded with the added fibre. (What a mess! I will not frame this one with double glass!)
I did find that there was some transfer of the kemp from the pad to the back of the piece. I do not know if this will lessen as I use the pad. I suspect it may.
16 Kemp transferring from the mat to the back of the piece.
17 There was a small amount of red f transferred from the back of the picture to the mat.
This mat I would use again. It has improved in smell, it is comfortable to use, and it can hold a 5×7 or a bit larger picture.
We have a new game to play!
Today was our local guilds Library day. I had been into the studio last week pulling requested books and getting everything ready for today. Ann had seen and smelled the second pad right after it arrived, (when it was at its stinky-est). Today I brought the finished piece and the mat to have a few brave people try the fun new game “what is that smell?” After some careful sniffing, we have come to two suggestions from a number of players. One was it was “ode de Mutton Urine” or possibly “ode de petroleum product”. The suspicions were that the wool may not have been as clean as we normally deal with or the lubricants used in the carding process had gotten in the wool giving it the odd aroma.
18 The new game “What is that smell?”
20 “Oh my! Ode de Sheep Urine?”
21 Testing it with a needle
22 Admiring the little test picture
The original wool may have been a lower grade or kempy carpet wool (not a bad wool just more ideal for hard-wearing carpets than soft woolly underwear. There are many types of sheep and many uses for each of their different type of wool)
I hope that gives you a couple more options for taking out your more violent stabby tendencies. I may still try to make my own pad using a felt outer layer and wool core. I am suspecting there may be less compacting of the inner core of wool if I use something that is more like hair than something with a lot of crimps. I wonder if I can find some unwanted Tog (I have been collecting tog for an Icelandic blanket project but may need to find more!) if I don’t want to waste good tog, I can always take a quick trip to Carlton Place and visit the Wool Growers Co-Op and see what they have in there carpet wool box! That sounds like a reason for a road trip!!!
On another topic, Signs of spring!
I am sure I will soon be out in my garden side yard studio. I know this since I have seen signs that the first of my trees have migrated to their summer location! (Spring tree migration time!!) Spring must be getting close!! I hope you are enjoying spring or can see it coming (keep an eye out for those migrating trees!) and I hope you are having fun felting.
23 The day-old tell-tail-tracks of tree migration
24 The tracks end here where we find the noble wandering trees (their poplars) I am sure the rest will follow their lead in the next week or two! (yes I have a small portable forest)
Last week I took a trip south of Ottawa to visit Ann and see her future studio space. There are two more rooms connected to this one through the back door, that in total seem close to the size of this one if combined. I am sure Ann will show you more as her great studio migration continues.
1 Part of Ann’s New Studio Space
She had a present for me, a piece of black foam used for packing boxes with air purifiers. Looks like a potential felting surface to me! Yes, I stab. I like to stab. I am very stab-ie, ok, there are rumours I am dangerous to be around (possibly just when I am felting but maybe not. It could just be the long fingernails, I am enjoying this part of my retirement.) You have seen many of the things I have stabbed, but what have I been stabbing on? Let’s investigate!
My first dry felting experience was using a sponge, a cellulose sponge and a cheaper car washing synthetic sponge. (NOTE* do not leave needles in a cellulose sponge they will rust if you forget them there.) Neither lasted well but I was also rather enthusiastic in my early stabbing as I began my felting creations. The sponges limited the area I could work on at one time but they were cheap! I can’t find the originals, but they’re the type you find at hardware or the kitchen section of other stores. They were ok for small figures, a mouse or a bird, but require more shifting of your figure if you tried something larger. I think you too would likely upgrade to other types of foam from these, especially if you wanted to work on pictures.
2 Cellulose sponge
3 Rainbow Dollorama sponge (Foam)
4 Car wash bone sponge
My next felting surface was a piece of upholstery foam (not the type with a fire retardant). It worked well but eventually created a sunken area where I had been working. Occasionally little bits of the foam would get embedded in the piece I was working on and I would have to remove Foam bits. It did last longer than the sponge and was a bit bigger. If you are also an overly enthusiastic stabber the depth of 3 or 4-inch upholstery foam may be a good way to keep from stabbing through to the table (or your lap!) As you likely have noticed a bit of fibre is sticking to the foam, using one side of the foam for darker fibres and the other for lighter fibres helps reduce picking up unexpected colours. This is not a problem if you are working on a picture rather than a 3-D figure. Remember to lift your work frequently, leaving the plastic covering on the foam, if it came with one, will also reduce fiber pick up.
5 Upholstery Foam Note clinging fibers
6 Close up of deterioration of upholstery foam
Next, I upgraded to new foam seat cushions from Walmart (found in the craft or sewing section). These were good for larger pieces and painting with wool I started with a 12×12 inch piece and added a couple of larger sizes. I found that the wool tended to sick to the foam but didn’t if you left the plastic on. The plastic covering for the foam would, with enough poking in the same spot, eventually break apart and first the plastic and later the foam would stick to the work. About this time Memory foam was becoming popular and available. I looked at it but it looked like the needle’s barbs would tare into the softer foam quickly so have avoided it. If I find a free piece I will give it a test run, or I guess that would be a test poke.
7 Seat Cushion foam 18×18 by 3 inches deep
I used the seat cushion foam for a number of years finding the 2 inch thick pieces were good at keeping the needles from going through and they did last a reasonable length before expiring and needing retirement. (yes, I have worked with the foam on my lap so I know the needles did not penetrate at that depth. Or, I could have just have been less violent by then. I guess if you really were overly violent in your stabbing you could go through the foam but it seems a bit excessive and you probably should not be felting if you’re that angry! Unless the other options to needle felting foam would bleed if you stabbed it, In that case, vent your wrath on the foam!)
My next introduction to a felting surface was a foam kneeling pad from Dollerama at a portrait felting workshop. (It was a great workshop!) The pool noodle-like foam lasts longer than the chair seat foam and has not yet broken down in the same way that the upholstery types of foam crumbled as well as pitted in. As an area is overworked it collapses and turns from pool-noodle-firm to squishy, thinner on one side and indented. You can get a bit of fibre build-up which happens on the cushion foam without the plastic cover but not to the same extent. The second side of the pad is still usable but I have found it wears out quicker on the second side. The type I am using has a hollow center to each channel of the extruded foam that has been stuck together. The channel may be separating one side from the other as I use/stab it.
8 a reasonably well used kneeling pad foam, note that the plastic has started to tear away from a lot of felting.
9 some indentation and collapsing of the foam from lots of use
10 very well-worn foam like a pool noodle, note some fibre sticking to the foam.
While thinking of pool noodle types of foam, don’t forget to consider pool noodles. They are not good as a flat surface but work very well for a support under a limb when working on a sculpture. I have also used pieces of pool noodle to hold needles if I don’t have them stuck in my work surface. Pool noodles come in various sizes from the tiny one Mr. Mer used to demonstrate a passive anterior shoulder stretch(about the size of a large primary grade pencil) to the extra-large adult-sized ones, with many other sizes and now shapes in between.
11 pieces of pool noodle used to hold needles
12 working with a kneeling foam and a picture
13 showing the hollow centers of the pool noodle like foam kneeling pad
I have tried the Closes Cell foam ½ inch thin kneeling pads, which are Much firmer than the 1-inch thick pool noodle kneeling pads. It has much more resistance to the needle penetration, which can be a good thing, as I will discuss shortly. The pieces I have found are small and work best for smaller sculptures or little pictures. It is similar to an interlocking child’s play floor. If you find the floor mats feel too thin, you can add a second or third layer to feel safer. This would allow much larger pictures worked on all at once. Remember that with this type of foam there is more resistance. Thus breaking the rule of “the needle travels the same direction in as it does out” will more easily wind up with broken needles. The resistance of this firm foam in conjunction with over-enthusiastic stabbing can also either tire you more quickly or cause you to feel muscle or joint fatigue faster than the softer foams. This problem may be a solution since it promotes shallower careful stabbing. This foam may also be better used with a slightly thicker wool base, a pre-felted batt rather than a thin sheet of lightly felted pre-felt
14 firm close cell foam
15 laying out dragons wing on close cell foam
16 Dragon standing on the close cell foam
17 a smaller version of the kids play interlocking foam tiles, which would allow for larger projects.
The Pink (I think I may come in other colours) foam insulation for basement walls is another option if you want to work big. I have a couple of pictures I would like to work on in a larger format so the pool noodle kneeling pad foam will be too small. (I know I could work one area at a time but I don’t really paint like that. I like to see the whole piece. I tend to work basically from background to foreground like a pastel but also adjust tones with thin wisps of overlays of fibre like a Watercolour or a vary washy acrylic. (Yes, I know it’s scandalous, but I did use my acrylics like watercolours occasionally, the Horror!!!). Pink foam is cheapish and acquired easily at a home building store. Sometimes it can even be found as garbage at constructions sites. The piece I have is 23×24 inches. It can be purchased in up to 4×8 foot sheets so the scale of your work can get Big if you want. At that size, it is not too heavy but it is awkward to move around and does not fit on a bus easily. The other piece of Pink foam insulation I had was closer in feel to Styrofoam and it made a truly unique sound when you stick your needle into it. It sort of screams, in a way that does send shivers down my spine. If I kept going, I might be able to overcome this squeamishness since I know of other artists who do use this product for large scale work. This new “Foamular” hard foam is not as shriek-y as the previous piece of pink foam, so try to find one that is not as much like Styrofoam and closer to the close cell foam (at least for felting I am not sure if one or the other is better at insulating your basement).
18 close cell insulation foam board (Pink)
As I mentioned before for the ½ inch firm foam, also applies to the pink foam Styrofoam insulation sheets. Both have an unexpected advantage in depth training. They can be helpful if you find your enthusiasm in stabbing is destroying surfaces quicker than you would like. With many of the foams, the needle will easily enter the working surface under your work, with the firm foams you can feel (and with the older pink insulation, hear) as the needle hits the work surface. The hope will be that you notice this and reduce the depth of your range-of-needle movement. (Remember look at the position of the barbs on your needle or needles. For most uses you don’t have to go any deeper than the working depth of the needle which engages the barbs.) Using a good working depth and not wasting energy plunging into your work surface will also reduce stress on your body. The exception would be when you are attaching parts of a sculpture, (Oops! I forgot to attach a limb!!). When attaching parts you will want to have the needlework deeply into your piece, sometimes beyond the working depth of the needle, but again not deeply into the mat.
While we are talking about foam, I should talk about the black foam Ann gifted me with. It was part of the interior packing for boxes of air filtration units, which were delivered to her husband’s work. Its structure is more open foam than the pool noodle. You can see little bubbles that make up this foam. I, unfortunately, tore the pieces apart before I thot to take a picture for you! I used a single needle as well as the fake clover tool to work on one mouse ear. It created a dent in the area I worked heavily on, quite quickly. It has a soft feeling as the needle entered the foam so may be quite nice to work with if I was using a thicker base layer (my test pieces were mouse ears and vary thin!!) I have asked Ann to save me a piece of the larger padding for a larger project.
19 Open Cell Packing foam
20 Anther view of the dent from a mouse ear
I have watched the rice in burlap bags used, for a number of years now, and was very curious what the feel would be like to use one. So, I have purchased a bag of burlap wrapped rice when it went on sale at the grocery store (Chinese New Year had excellent prices!). It was specifically identified as “not-for-cooking, this-is-an-art-thing” when I brought it home. I had wanted to try out the rice in burlap to see how it would feel as a work surface. When I was ready to try it out, it took me a while to locate the bag (it was sitting with the other bag of rice hidden in a corner of the kitchen. A sneaky hiding spot, it probably didn’t want to get impaled, repeatedly.) Unfortunately, Rice in burlap, at least this brand, only comes in 10lb bags on sale!
21 the brand of Burlap Sack of Rice I purchased
22 testing the bag of rice with mouse ears, flip frequently
23 little fibre attachment to the burlap but larger ears may have produced a larger amount of adhered fibre (note the needle-reacquisition-from-the-floor item)
24 Mouse is comfortably sitting on the rice bag
I found that the burlap did grab a bit of fibre and required me to flip the mouse ears frequently. (I have heard rumours that something rubber rubbed over the bag will lift some of the embedded fibre without damaging the burlap.) The feel of the needle entering the rice bag (end-feel) was quite comfortable (low not a lot of resistance). Since I have seen patches offered for burlap covered rice bags I suspect that the burlap if stabbed frequently in the same spot will wear out. Being able to add an inexpensive piece of burlap to keep it going should make this an economical, (if heavy), option to stab into or even better, to stab on top of rather than frequently stabbed into. I am unsure how long the rice will last. In Ottawa, we can have an outside temperature swing from -40c in the winter to +40c in the summer. If your studio was outside in a lot of humidity I would suspect the rice would not last as long. In addition, if left undefended, this would be a very attractive item for the local chipmunks, field mice, Voles and probably the raccoons too.
Now there are 2 types of surfaces left that I have not yet been able to acquire that I would like to try, wool pads and a clover tool brush mat.
There are two wool options, one seems to have a wool cloth or felt stuffed with wool or a thick wool pad like an acoustic felt or firm ironing board pad felt.
A Wool pad, (like an ironing pad), I have been trying to track down. From what I have found online, from those who use or sell them, avoid the ones that stink and don’t use those. I suspect the smell will be from a chemical additive, possibly a fire retardant, or it is not made from 100% wool. There are also mentions of wool adherence to the surface so again frequent lifting like the rice bag is recommended. I have seen mention of a thin piece of wool felt between the wool pad and the work, again it requires lifting to keep the wool from wanting to adhere where you don’t want it to stick. I am also wondering if the type of process used to make the felt will make a difference. Since most photographs I have seen so far, look like hot press rather than needle felting machine-made felt. This is not like the felt wadding that was under my ironing board, but a ¾ to 1 inch thick very firmly felted pad. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a piece of this to try out too. So far, there are not many places selling it as a felting surface and the price has been painful when you add shipping. (I will be a wimp and wait for the pain level to go down! –when it’s cheaper.)
A second needle-felting pad is popping up in some Etsy stores. It is a wool cloth or firmer felt cover that is stuffed with wool. It’s marketed as a more environmentally friendly option to the various foams used as felting surfaces. these are still relatively new and I would be interested in investigating both, what the end feel of the needle is like and what sort of length of use can be expected before patching would be required (similar to the rice bag patching perhaps?).
The other surface I have I have not yet tried is the Clover brush mat. Its small size and the very large price has kept my curiosity in check. If I find one secondhand, I will defiantly investigate this too. I suspect the end-feel of the needle entering the brush would be very low resistance since there are just bristles and air spaces between them. I think the smaller working surface would keep this from being a favourite work surface for me. It is still worth investigating and may have some useful purpose in my felting tool collection. (Unlike the cellulose sponge I began with, that has been brought out to classes as a cautionary tale.
Now because I have heard rumours that I can be verbose, I also made you a chart. You can add another box with your notes on findings from different work surfaces too. The feeling of how the needle enters a work surface is from low to high resistance but what feels best to you is subjective. Try different work surfaces and see what is best for you for that project. I do change what I am using not just by what is close to hand, but by the scale of the project or what feels right for that piece.
Feel of use with the needle
Cellulose felt slightly firmer than synthetic.
Small size projects.
Car sponges are larger.
Both are cheap and easy to obtain.
Soft, little resistance from the needle.
Larger sheets can be purchased and comes in deeper thicknesses than other foams.
Can be pricey. I have read from different sources to avoid foam with fire retardant.
Working in one spot will deteriorate foam
foam seat cushions
Soft, Soft, little resistance from the needle.
I usually see 2” deep by ether 12×12 or 24×24 but other sizes are available.
Leaving the plastic cover over the foam reduces the wool sticking and seems to lengthen the life of the foam a bit.
foam kneeling pad
– pool noodles
A bit more resistance than upholstery or cushion foam but still easy to insert the needle.
11.5”x13” but a larger pool floaty was available briefly.
It can collect fibre and collapses as it is used. I have used these a lot and find them vary economical for 5×7 and 8×10 landscapes.
closes cell foam (Kneeling pad or interlocking play floors or some yoga mats)
Firm, there is resistance to the needle entering the foam. if you tend to try to kill your felting with enthusiasm, this will tier you as well it may stress your joints.
The kneeling pads I have are 7.5X17.75
They are easy to pack with you and can be used for both sculpture and pictures. They do tend to make me aware if I am stabbing too deeply. Puncture holes but no denting noticeable from 1 ear construction
Black plasticy packing foam
Not as firm as the close cell or pool noodle foam
Varies by the box it came out of. (Air filtration box)
Free from Ann.
This dented just under ¼ inch after making 2 mouse ears in the same spot with the punch tool. this would be better for pictures with a thick felt base. But otherwise worked well.
Pink foam insulation
Firm even more resistance. There is also a sound that may offend your ears as the needle enters the foam.
Easily available from building supply stores up to 4’x8’.
Good for learning not to stab too deeply, good for Large pictures.
rice in burlap bags
Vary comfortable to work with.
I waited till the rice bag went on sale. the size was 12×11”
I purchused a 10lb bag so I with back problems this is not a bring it with you surface. I suspect with extended use it will ware thin since I have seen burlap patches discussed on line.
-Felt over Wool stuffing pad
-Firm felt pad
-have not yet acquired one
Clover brush mat
-have not yet acquired one
25 Chart of wool felting surfaces
I wish to thank Mouse for Her (?) assistance with this post. I watched Sara’s latest felt-along mouse but wanted to try a more close to life-size mouse. Mouse is close but still a bit big for a field or house mouse. Mouse also didn’t like the brownish outer layer I had made for her and insisted white was rite, well for her. I am sure the next one will be more mouse sized and I hope brown or maybe a lovely charcoal, like the voles in the backyard were.
26-32 Mouse volunteer to investigate felting surfaces.
I hope this has given you a few ideas about possible work surfaces to keep you Happily Felting.
The Snow started Friday just in time for rush hour and continued into the early parts of Saturday. (Sometimes it’s good that I don’t usually go anywhere.) I do not want to go out and look at the driveway. Looking at the garage roof, it may be better to stay in and finish writing this note to you. Then tomorrow, Sunday, I have some feet to work on if I can finish the gastrox and soleus muscles so I can get to the feet. I promise I will show you how that is coming in a later post. I also can report I have received Mr. Mer’s Hair! I will show you that but thought a week less fishy might be in order.
So to get to today’s topic I should get you caught up with my frantic (HA!!!) social life. Last week we were able to visit my brother, his family and my Mom for the first time since…. Well, sometime last year…. I think it was early August actually. We were hoping for a safe Christmas dinner but that plan was thwarted. So it was an early March, (my) Birthday / (Mom’s) Anniversary, Dinner My brother was hosting. It was fabulous to see everyone and meet the new kitten (not quite so new now but still stuck with kitten brain). We were very pleased to get caught up on all the family news, especially exciting was the news that my Niece had been accepted into McMaster University. My parents and brother all went to Mac, I was a rebel and wound up in fine arts at the University of Toronto after doing 3 years of commercial art. (My Dad and brother were both PhD Geologists, but I love landscape so I guess that sort of fits in.)
I had brought my little ice dragon to show my niece since she has been interested in some of the strange things I felt. She did like the little guy too.
When I got home, I dug through the little ice dragons’ box and found I had his wing template but not the armature measurements. I did a few quick measurements of the ice dragon then started working on the little Mac dragon. I pulled out a couple of 18-inch steel florist wires and found the roll of 26 gauge steel floral wire and got to work.
1 Armature in progress
This little guy is a bit bigger than the ice dragon but only a little. I used the 20ga for the main frame and used the 26ga for the tows and lower jaw (both yet to be twisted in the photo). I also added the 26ga over the main frame to give it a bit more strength. He needs to be able to stand up and look fearsome!
2-3 Adding wool to the armature body
I used a fine crimpy fleece I had purchased at the wool Growers Co-op in Carlton Place but found it to be too brown in tone. I switched to some of the core wool from Sarafina Fiber Arts, trying the darker grey but deciding on the lighter grey. (It’s really important to go check your source or reference material, in this case, the school colours.)
4-5 Always refer to your reference material
Now, to find the burgundy for the wings. It is time to dig through the Red bin, I have a bag of red tones also in the basement. Luckily, I found I had a corriedale called Aubergine by Ashford I had picked up at Wabi Sabi (one of the local fibre and yarn stores).
The colour was perfect but looked a bit flat since it was too homogeneous. I added a bit of “i-have-no-idea-where-this-came-from fuchsia,” which I had found while looking for my sari waste, which I never did find and I don’t think it would have been the correct tone if I had found it.
7 Mac Heraldry
A quick check of the McMaster shield Heraldry added the background colour of gold to the two colours Burgundy and Grey. Ok, where did I put the boxes of beads, I need to find eyes! They should be Gold or dark amber.
8-9 finding the right colour
I chose one of the dark amber beads in the little bag in the center of the second picture. The colour seemed to work with the body and upcoming wing colours. To add the eyes, I used a long needle to get the position, then used the tapered awl to get the depression the bead would be sunk into, (the eye socket). Leaving a longish tail of thread at the back of the head, I went from there across to the hole for the eye, added the bead and drove the needle through to the other eyehole. I again added a bead this time taking the needle out at the back of the head so I could tie the two threads together. I covered the knot with a bit more of the grey fibre.
10-14 “Don’t look yet! I can see my wings are naked!!!”
I again made a template to layout the wings. I dry rubbed them a bit to get them to be cohesive enough to remove the cards.
15-17 the strangely expanding wings.
Strangely with wispy wings, as I felt the wings tend to get bigger, not shrink like a good felt should do! Even my fiber is dyslexic and can’t be relied on to do anything the normal way everyone else dose! I could have done this using wet felting but I would have to have gotten wet so I went for the dry option. I am sure you will be much braver and may not melt with the application of dampness. If in dought you might try surgical gloves.
18 Mac Dragon is keeping close supervision on my work.
I counteracted the expansion that the punch tool seemed to encourage by working with a single needle on an angle, from each end, along the leading edge of the wing membrane. It was still a bit longer at the front edge than I had planned on, but I made a design change at the shoulder and was quite pleased.
19-24 the wings
“No don’t show that side! You haven’t added my tail enhancement!!!!”
“The Embarrassment!! Just for that, I will show them what you were drinking while you were making me!! That will explain any blurry or inappropriate pictures!!”
25 “Ha! She was drinking BEER!!!”
Mac dragon, it did take me 2 days to drink that one can, out of the 3 days it took to make you, so I am not likely to be too tipsy to operate a camera. Though it’s probably not a good idea to drink too much alcohol while needle felting…….
My final additions to dragon were the ear puffs with a bit of gold Bombay silk and the bifurcated tail embellishment. I added a secondary piece of wool and silk above the bifurcation. (I am sure it will attract other dragons with its flamboyantness and the bit of gold silk)
26 “I am the magnificent Mac Dragon! I can’t wait to start classes! I wonder what we will be taking…. I hope it’s Art! Maybe stop motion animation would be fun?”
I tried out the Christmas video camera (the zoom is a disappointment and the frame rate is not as listed.) I had a long argument with the file this afternoon and got it finally to crop, rotate and convert to avi format. I pulled out the little display turntable I had ordered in December(?), time is getting much trickery to keep track of than it used to be. Let’s just say it’s the pandemic and I won’t worry about that too much. If I can get the file to add, I will add it here.
Video of Mac Dragon pretends to be a merry–go–round (If this doesn’t work I will beg Ann to help! Second try, my phone is much more shaky but worked better than the new video recorder for formatting!)
I would like to have been able to get Mac Dragon (short for McMaster U. Dragon) to his new home but I am snowed in until tomorrow. So, no one say anything to my Niece until after I can deliver him on Monday!
As I had mentioned before I had started the Mer-Family from Sara’s Mermaid-felt-along. She had used 14 ga armature wire. I had not yet investigated armature wire when I started or I would have upped the wire strength since I had scaled up the figure. I also suspect I am working more firmly than she had intended.
I was finding the wire was unable to hold articulation at his waist. This could either be from the wool overpowering the gauge of wire used or the 14 ga wire may have broken at his waist. I am not sure that it has broken since it doesn’t feel like a bake. I have had a broken wire on another sculpture which might have been from metal fatigue but I hadn’t finished making it, so it should not have been tiered. For that one I did surgery, creating an incision and inserting a new wire. The incision was worked, with a course felting needle, diagonally across the incision to create the equivalent of scar tissue. Finally adding a surface layer to finish hiding the post-surgery look (you don’t want to leave a scar!).
This worked but I wanted to try something less intrusive. I was quite pleased with the glutes and lumbar spine /sacrum so did not want to do the incision. Instead, I decided to try arthroscopic surgery! (Without a license!!! Don’t tell!!)
I checked my options for wire. Since 14 ga aluminum was way too light, I suspected that either the 10 ga or the 9ga might work. Since I knew I wanted to position the Herring-ton rods (this is a fishy procedure) down each erector spinae, I would not likely need anything stronger than the 9ga. I checked the samples I had made during the wire study group and decided that 9ga should work.
21 Tools to sharpen the end of the 9ga aluminum wire
I cut 2 lengths that would reach from lower quads to upper back. I used the rasp and nail file to sharpen one end. I used an awl to make the insertion then worked the wire through the glutes and down the hamstrings.
22 insertion of the lower section of the first Harrington rod
I could easily feel where the end of the wire was through the wool (that Registered Massage Therapist career is still useful!!). I could rotate the wire to keep it more centrally located. As you may have noticed, the glutes are more posterior than the hamstring muscles so the wire needed to follow the couture of the body.
23 The white line indicated the approximate path of the 9ga wire.
The awl allowed me to insert the wires to either side of the spine, where the original twisted 14ga aluminum wire was located. It also allowed for an angle of descent into the glute so I could rotate the wire and get it to dive into the lower leg. I was sure I would need to cross the point of articulation (his waist), with enough length that the wires would stay well embedded and allow not only flection and extension (bending forward and backwards ) but, with this lateral placement should allow for lateral rotation! When he had a single point spine (and less wool), he could bend forward and back but his rotational movement was minimal and not pose-able.
So the steps I took for this operation were:
Select the gauge required by reviewing my previous sampling,
Sharpen the aluminum wire with a file then refine and smooth the point with a nail file
Arthroscopic insertion (with an awl – I am sure it was well sterilized since it was brand new!)
Work the wire through the glutes rotating it to descend into the lower Hamstring muscle while palpating to keep track of where it was in the leg. Then repeat to this point with the second wire leaving the upper end loose and out of the body.
24 the insertion of the awl at a shallow angle
I check that the patent could do full flection at this point to confirm the operation was proceeding well.
25-28 Mr. Mer shows off his new flexibility
There is also confirmation that some rotational movement is already possible, I suspect he will have more once the surgery is complete and the upper rods are inserted.
For the second half of the operation;
I bent and tried to determine the best angle and location for the wires. *remembering that there is a triangular frame in his torso that is allowing some shoulder curvature (Protraction/ Retraction) and rotational posing. So I chose to position the wires more along the Erector spine (located to each side of the spine) and then redirected them into the lateral part of the lats (latissimus dorsi).
29-31 upper wire placement
I trimmed the wires to a bit closer to equal length and sharpened the superior (upper) end of the wire.
I curved the wire to insert it but could not find my big pliers to straighten it out properly once the insertion had been made. I used one of my metal chopsticks to push against the wire to straighten it and it worked.
32 the skin graft to cover the inserted wire
For the skin graft, I took a section of the dark green fibres and needle felted a section down the center of the fibres leaving wispy edges for attachment on either side of the wire. (You can see the first part of the graft in the lower spine). I added more fibre to build up the Erector spinae muscle over the wire. (You can see that in the upper section of the lumbar and lower thoracic region). The wire is very close to the surface at this point so I need to make sure the fibre above this point is well secured so there will be no exposure of the surgical rods. (That would be embarrassing!)
I used the cop stick again to flatten the second wire and finish embedding it into his upper body.
Adding more wool fibre, I continued to contour and build up the muscles until the wire was well buried on both sides of his spine.
Mr. Mer is quite pleased with his operation and wants to show you how discreet the scaring is.
33-36 Mr. Mer shows you where the wires are and how discreet the post-surgery scaring
Mr. Mer insisted I neaten up his hands before the photoshoot so while listening to an audiobook (a werewolf romance this time) I pulled out my 40ga crown needles and got to work. It took most of the 8-hour book to get the hands tightened up and reduce the fuzzy halo on them. I will want to go back later and trim them with scissors ( I have ordered a pair with curved blades that may work well with his fingers.)
37-38 working on Mr. Mer’s hands
I also worked on his head a bit more giving him a bit more cranium and a better jawline. I am still working on his face but it’s coming along. I have found him hair, but it is still with Bernadette (the truckers in Ottawa interrupted its arrival on library day.)
39-41 continuing to work on Mr. Mer’s head and face.
He has also had a bit of work done on his chest and I am back to working on his arms again.
42 a post-surgery treat
I gave him a chocolate for his post-surgery recovery but he seems to just want to hold it. Probably for the best, since I didn’t felt any internal digestive organs for him….. and he only has teeth in his lower jaw. Let’s not think about that too much….
Now on to his photoshoot!
43-52 Mr. Mer shows off his progress so far
Mr. Mer is quite pleased with his progress and is sure Mrs. Mer will be happy too. He would like a bit more work on his human muscles (I have no objection, you should see my photo reference pictures!!) I think I may make the integration from his fishy under-section to his knees a bit more elongated too. Otherwise, he is almost done.
For the rest of the Mer-Family; Shark Boy needs his hair and maybe a bit of a touch-up with the 40 or 42ga needles. I have had a trip to the local purveyor of wool (Wabi Sabi) to pick up Corriedale for the Mer-Ladies. I am considering Goldfish /Koi as inspirations so have a lot of body reshaping to consider. I have contacted Adel about long locks for their hair and she will watch for some in the right colour and length. Adele does fabulous dyeing of locks and roving (Adele Forward on Facebook) just don’t buy the one that looks like goldfish when she posts it!!. She use to go to a lot of the fibre festivals in Ontario but has been working from her home and shipping out during the pandemic.
While I am waiting for Mr. Mer’s hair to arrive, I will keep working the intersection between the fish and man and adding a few more muscular details.
If you would like to create a Mer-Person (or family) for yourself, I would suggest checking out Sara’s mermaid felt- along on YouTube to get you started! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hljS4YRmz9w) What type of fish will your Mer-Person be related to? Will you stay more traditional? Or will it be a non-fish aquatic species, maybe a Mer-turtle? Whatever you chose to inspire you have fun and keep felting!
For those of you who have not met Mr. Mer, here he is last year as I was working on his anatomy.
1-2 Mr. Mer 2021
Mr. Mer was underwhelmed with how I had left his basic under-structure of his fishy bits. I agreed with him that he was not quite as pike-like as I would like. The fish part of the body needed to be thicker and more muscular when compared to my photo reference. How can you fight snapping turtles with such a scrawny lower body? I still liked the vestigial knees but felt the idea had not yet coalesced into a good integration between man and fish. I will think more on this as I add bulk to his fishiness.
3 parts of the green fibre collection.
I dug through the greens I had been using, I was almost out of one of the colours I had blended and will have to blend more of it! I was using the large ball of “Olive” Corriedale as the base and adding other greens to mottle and create the colour for the under-structure. The darker top that I was blending with the olive I am pretty sure some was the Superwash I had bought from the Black lamb.
4-5 blending wool to build up Mr. Mer’s fish body and tail.
Since I needed a reasonable amount of fibre to build up his fish end I used the hand carders to partly blend the colours. (Nature tends not to have flat colours.) Although I usually hand blend small amounts for details, using the handcards or even dog brushes is easier on the hands and wrists than working with the same amount of fibre hand blending. When I take the fibre off the cards, it is still quite a long staple. For the under layer and blocking in the basic shape this will work. However, as I get closer to the final shape I tend to tear the fibre into pieces from half an inch to an inch long.
Although I started with the armature and adding shapes build-up of fibre as per Sara’s instructions I have deviated well away from her original Mer-Maid design. She tends to work by adding formed shapes, but for this one, she added a wet felted skin layer to put over her under-structure. I have had more fun using a more blended approach of both additive and subtractive sculpture. (Adding pre-formed shapes and felting them into place is a lot faster than what I tend to do with using layers and small amounts of loose fibre to sculpt into the desired shape).
You can see I have moved from legs with a tail shape Mer-Man to the beginnings of a more human-fish hybrid.
6-8 upgrading Fishy-bits underway
I like the direction but need to increase the height and a bit more width of the fish section. I am investigating the popliteal space (the area behind the knees). I like the angle of the intersection but want to raise the fish spine a bit higher.
9-10 Needs a bit more
Oh no, he is not going to like the way that tail looks, it’s a bit bear. I over fanned the armature of the tail and then added wisps of full-length staple. I added a bit to each side using a variety of needles and finally the punch tool (fake clover tool). so when I adjust the tail to the correct position the webbing should ripple like partly closing a fan.
11-12 Working on the tail
That seems a bit better so I switched back to the body again.
13 elevating the top line of the fish body
I have made both the top line higher and am investigating the angle of integrating behind the knees. Tomorrow Is Library Day for the guild and I will ask Ann what she thinks. So it’s time for Mr. Mer to get into his project bag (not that I expect to have any time to work on him tomorrow) but I am sure he will enjoy getting out of the house and Ann will like seeing how he is coming along.
14 On Library Day, Ann Checked out Mr. Mer’s Progress, she had a few suggestions.
15-17 Ann critiques him
As we got the library ready for book pick up, Mr. Mer took up position on top of a small 8 harness loom to watch for guild members wanting their requested books.
18-20 Mr. Mer is watching for Library patrons
I noticed he was having trouble bending and has to maintain a push-up to allow him to look out the window. I have to see what I can do to help him. I will start with an assessment of his ROM (Range of Motion) particularly at his waist but that will be in my next post.
I will hope you are not getting bored with the fishiness of my posts and promise to try to work on something different, but the next post will be part 2. There may be surgery involved!
The January Meeting of our local Weavers and Spinners guild had a Zoom presentation on silk from the owners of Sanjo Silk (B.C. Canada). They talked about the different types of silk, about some of their acquisition trips to buy silk and showed us some of what they had in their store. It was all quite inspiring with the silk giving lots of ideas for future spinning or projects.
1 web page of Sanjo silk showing some of the silk they offer (Fiber, Yarn and cool odd stuff)
After the meeting, there was an inquiry if there would be interest in a group purchase to reduce the cost of shipping. Their website offered free shipping over $200.00 Canadian (before taxes). There was another discount if we had a higher number too, but we doubted we could spend that much. We had a small number of enthusiastic shoppers express interest and our new Yarn Convener set out to organize our shopping.
We perused the website www.sanjosilk.com/ and selected our drool-able lists. We then added the costs up and each sent our list to Deborah. She collected our payments, tallied the master list and sent out the order. She organized it all through E-Transfers, (I had never sent money by an E-Transfer, it was all very exciting!) She even organized E-refunds when we had collective spend enough for a further price reduction!!
Deborah had some cool stats that may interest you.
After not very long a LARGE box arrived! Deborah did a sort of the loot into each of our lists then dispersed it among the group.
2 the box arrives!!
3 our combined loot out of the box
I had a specific interest in my acquisitions; I was interested mainly in some of the colours that silk comes in besides white. I chose 3 options for further investigation. (Tussah, Muga and Eri)
4-5 Mr. Mer helps me set up for the fibre photoshoot
The Peduncle tussah silk was a silvery brown. This is fibre from the pediculus (foot) of the cocoon. On their website, it is described as Pewter in fibre form, with a stunning lustre of Brownish-grey. It was the least expensive of the three coloured silks I selected at $11.25 for 50g. I am sorry I did not get more it would be exquisitely blended with fine dark wool.
6-7 Peduncle tussah silk
The Golden Muga silk was a blond colour. This one was described as “liquid gold”. They did warn that there is a lot of natural variation between batches they receive. The differences are caused by variations in diet and environment for the silkworms. They suggest you get enough for an entire project at once so you don’t have variations within the colour range by getting different batches. This one was $16.90 for 50g. I think I would like to see what variation is available so may order again and hope to get it from another batch.
8-9 Golden Muga silk
The Red Eri Silk was a Fox colour orange/gold. Their website described it as a deep Orange-butterscotch, soft Luxuriously lustrous and long staple-length fibre, prepared in a thick roving. I am wondering if Mrs. Mer would like some of this blended with another fibre for her hair and possibly some fishy body highlight. This was $18.80 for 50g.
10-11 Red Eri Silk
While browsing I spotted the oddest looking “cocoons” I have ever seen, full of little holes and in a golden colour. I had to add them to the list! They were listed as Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia. They further explain that this is the outer part that attaches to the tree branch. The strong gold colour is from the Sericin, if it is removed the silk will be a pale yellow. It was suggested that you can “soak your cricula cocoons in water (with a dash of pH-neutral soap); reshape them, enhancing their dome shape with your fingers; let them dry. Or iron them flat for use in 2D projects”. My brain immediately started thinking about a top for Mrs. Mer!! I am sure that you will think of much more exciting things to try with this cool cocoon attachment! A bag of 5g (a large handful) was $7.00.
12-13 Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia
The next two selections were similar to each other. The first was 100% Silk Carrier Rods (7 casings for $6.00.) the description was that “they’re actually part of the silk-reeling process. These carrier rods are stiff, strong, and smooth. Some are straight, some curved – they’re very sculptural. And they dye beautifully. (Also see our Silk Casings, which are thinner and finer.)”
14-15 Silk Carrier Rods
Yes, I got the bag of the 100% Silk Casings too, they were priced at $6.00 for 14gr. Their description was; “Although these curious items look a bit “insectoid”, they aren’t. They are bi-products of the silk spinning industry. Each one is unique. They’re similar to the Carrier Rods we also carry, but they’re thinner, finer, and more pliable. Some are ridgey and corrugated, some are not. Each package is a variety of shapes and configurations. Use them for jewelry, to embellish art pieces, or just enjoy their stunning good looks.
16 Silk Casings
From the meeting, I remember they described both as waste products of the silk reeling industry. It is good to have what was considered waste be available to us, I am sure we will find a use for it! I had considered from the web picture possibilities for horns but I don’t think I have enough of the ribbed shape to do that. It is still weird and will likely percolate many odd ideas in the future. In the meantime, I will just enjoy their oddness and may add a few to my demo stuff. Oh, note that they have been cut off so the length of the fibre if separated would be short.
Lastly, I did get a white silk blend with Linin, I think this was a mill end, 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen (trace amounts). The mill that made this has some debate as to exactly how much linen is included but it will be 3% or less. I seem to have a section where I can’t feel or see anything that looks like Linin. Oh well, it is still gorgeous! The Erin is a shot-stale fibre because the silkworm is not killed but allowed to break and leave its cocoon,( aka; Peace Silk). This fibre has been prepared using a woollen prep. It is described as having a soft and lofty character. It is also described as similar to cotton sliver fibre prep. 100g bag (about 3.5 oz.) was $15.60
17-18 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen
If we order again, I may try a similar option of 65% Bombay Silk 35% Linen (flax) Spinning Fibre, it was slightly more expensive but had more Flax fibre content. That one is 100g for $19.00.
It is nice to have a selection of fibres to inspire you, or have just the right option available as you are in the middle of a project and just need a bit of something. Being part of a guild and thus easier to organize a group order (we saved a lot on shipping and got a bit of a discount too!) was a great help. Deborah did a fantastic job getting us all organized. I hope we did not overwhelm her and we can try this again! I would like to be able to shop locally (we should be out of partial shutdown by the time I post this, I hope!) but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the bits of fibre shopping we are able to do and live vicariously through looking at each other’s acquisitions.
Did you have a flash of inspiration looking at casings, cocoons or rods? Are you thinking about foxes after looking at the photos of Red Eri Silk?
Now a word about felting
Remember if you are wanting to felt with silk it is not as narcissistic as wool, so it won’t want to stick to itself the way that wool does. Using a tiny wisp of wool over the silk to help lock it in place or blending it with wool as you are preparing your fibres will help it stick. Silk can be used to add a lustre or pop of colour amongst the wool. Ann has applied it on the outer surface of vessels then used a razor to save back the wool and expose more of the silk to great effect. I have used silk fibres mixed with other fibres like alpaca or Icelandic tog as part of the outer coat of some of my animal sculptures to keep the hair/pelt from felting or matting to the body.
If you are going to be working with silk it’s a good idea to start moisturizing your hands a few days before you start. I also use extra-fine files for my nails. Silk, even though it is reluctant to felt when you want it to, will cling to your fingers and anything else you didn’t want it to stick to. Bernadette, who also posts blogs here, has done a lot of spinning with silk and silk blends she may have some good suggestions for you about keeping it under control!