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Author: Jan

Realy im not 12, i am just sivearly dislexic. i can spin, weave, felt, garden, Draw, Paint, and do layout but i realy cant spell. if you read out louwd i do make more sence.
Which Cane is Which? Prototype and Concept Testing!

Which Cane is Which? Prototype and Concept Testing!

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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 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?

Summer Fiber Poker (Felt) 2021 Completed

Summer Fiber Poker (Felt) 2021 Completed

Earlier this year I told you about the Fiber Poker Challenge at the Guild Ann, Bernadette and I belong to. There were challenge cards for weavers, Spinners and Felters. four cards were drawn for us, in our topic of choice, which we received for the June meeting.  our solution is due at the September meeting.

These are the cards I would be working with.

1) the felting poker cards I drew for 2021

As you may remember, I have been creating an army of Chickadees as a way for my brothers-in-law and their families to remember their parents’ home.  (The bird feeders in the back yard are visited by chickadee, nuthatch, blue jays, cardinals, morning doves, sparrows and the evil squirrels; black, grey and red. There are also chipmunks feasting at the feeders!) I have sent chickadees home with 4 out of the 5 brothers.

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2-6) four of the five brothers and their Mom’s Chickadee’s

All those tiny little feet may have been getting to me!

Include Wire

I sat down and pulled out the wire I had been using for the birds, 20ga and 26ga coated steel floral wire. I started twisting and playing making a pair of front legs… well that will need a bit more to go with it. With a few more bends with the tiny pliers another pair of legs appeared. Next a spine to attach the legs to and maybe a tail… yes definitely a tail.  Hum I think those back legs should be front legs? yes! Rotate the feet and that looks better!

I think I need wings!

7) wire included, Check! adding wings

I had wrapped the armature with the 26ga floral wire. Using it to create the toes and lower jaw. For the wings, I slipped the U shape in the middle of the wire, into the space at the shoulders between the two gauges of wire. I will build up the support by adding more 26ga wire wrapping. Then strengthen it further when I add the wool.

8)  The ribs on the wings are 26ga and the main structure of the wing is in 20ga.

9) adding the wool will stabilize the wings and “ears-like things”

I decided to add ear-like appendages to finish the armature.  Now I am ready to add the wool. I am using Sarafina Dark Grey Core wool and for the first time trying her Tacky Wrap on the tips of the toes. You can see I am working with very thin strips of the core roving, the pieces are about 6 inches long. This core wool has a vary tiny crimp and worked well. I did find it much slipperier than the fleece I had used for the Chickadees legs and feet. When i washed that fiber i had left in a bit of lanolin which gave it a bit more clingyness. So the addition of the Tacky Wrap helped a lot! This is the first time I have used it, I liked it and will likely find it useful again.

10) most of the armature is covered and is balanced to stand.

So I have wire covered from the cards. (OK I have wire, covered literary!)

I am ready to consider the other card’s instruction, “Use your favorite colour!” Let me think, that would be Blue, but I like black too. But I do like blue better. Blue-green is OK and blue-purple is almost as good. A lovely indigo, prussion or ice blue……

Let me go check my stash of blues. How can I have a stash of blue and not have the blue I am thinking of?  Change of plan! I checked our local fibre source Wabi Sabi in Ottawa and yes they had Corriedale in shades I was looking for and they didn’t close till 4 pm! I made a list and rushed (it didn’t look like a rush but it was for me!) out to the car.  Hmm.  traffic on the highway? Oh yes, it’s Sunday afternoon! I hope they’re not all heading to pick up blue fibre! No? Great! I even found a parking spot. Had a bit of trouble with the walker and the front door. I will figure doors with steps out eventually.

In Corriedale, I selected a number of cool blues, blue-greens and a cool yellow that I didn’t have. I found a bit of Silk and Merino that was in the colour-way I was wanting, too. (I don’t usually use much Merino since it tends to absorb light and I find Corriedale comparatively much more reflective and give my sculpture a bit more life.

11) why did I not have the colour of blue I wanted?

I considered the body. It is core wool but I like the mottled colouring and while the grey is leaning heavily towards the brown I quite like it. It makes me think of rocks in Iqaluit (the capital of Nunavut on Baffin Island in northern Canada). OK, next let’s cover the ribs for the wings. Something icy and cool in blue. That done, I had the little guy do some contortions so I could trace his basic wing shape. This gave me a template, which helped me in laying out thin layers of fibre to make the thin wing membrane.

12) wing tracing to make a template for layout

I laid out the wool then gave it a gentle rub, as if I was wet felting, (but stayed dry) then a few T-36 pokes. Next, I switched to the fake clover tool with the fine needles. I focused on the leading edge of the wing leaving the wisps alone along the trailing edge.

13) wing underway

I carefully pealed and flipped it a couple of times. This stretched the length of the wing a bit so I used a single needle to work across the front of the wing to shorten it. (The direction you poke is the direction the wool will move.) You can see I was trying to keep the wing extremely thin but still strong enough to hold together.

14) wing still quite transparent

15-16) A bit more dragon yoga posing and I was able to position the wing for membrane attachment.

I put the ribs on the underside which will show if the wing is elevated. I attached along the front edge then lay in wisps of blue to help attach the ribs.

Then on to the second wing. I was laying in wisps of the silk and Merino, a darker blue, a little of the light blue and the greenish-blue. While on the shopping run, I had looked at some Tencel but it seemed too shiny compared to the Corriedale.

17) the second wing

With both wings on, they seem a bit big for his little body.

18) downsizing the wings just a bit

I thinned the first wing by gently tugging on the tips downsizing the wing to a more appropriate size. You can see the amount of fibre I have removed in the top corner.

19) Ah that’s lighter it should be easier to fly now

20)  Wings are looking good,

21) I think we need a tail puff to help with turning while flying. Aerodynamics are integral to dragon flight, they are not like a bumblebees who obviously fly by Magic alone. The puff will be a fan shaped rudder when I am done.

22)  Attaching the tail puff.

23) a bit of ankle decoration.

The next card says “use Beads or Sequins“, how about some eyes? It’s important to see where you’re flying!!

24) “I can’t see if I am cute. I need Eyes!”

I think you will like the other ones better. I will sew them on so I can “use thread or fine yarn” as my final card.

So let’s take a peek at “use blue, use wire, include beads and thread”. A quick photo shoot for a little ice dragon.

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25-27) a quick photo shoot in front of the computer.

28) Now let’s take a look at the scale of my ice dragon.

While I was out doing early voting (Dad always said if you don’t vote you can’t complain later), the little dragon was off investigating the office plant.

29) “I need dramatic lighting!! I’m ready for my close-up!!”

I had a lot of fun with this years fibre poker challenge, even if i did not actually do any of the 3 options i had originally planed to do. I may go back and try another version or wait and see what I pull next year.

Have fun and keep felting!





An Accidental Army of Chickadees

An Accidental Army of Chickadees

It’s been another busy week heading into the September long weekend. We are back again in Oakville which should have been about 5.5 hours drive from Ottawa. Instead, the traffic was heavy and slow. (we saw unsuccessful car sex in three locations, once involving multiple vehicles! I told my car not to look as we drove past “avert your headlights!!” I was driving so I didn’t get any naughty car pictures to show you.) we are traveling because two of my brothers-in-law will be there. One departing and another arriving.

This past week I have been continuing the fleece washing. I had a strainer basket of wool ready to put out on the drying rack on Friday morning but restrained myself (since the weather is sentient and has a poor sense of humour, it would rain if I left it out to dry. It’s the long weekend.  We don’t want it to rain!

1) the last of ram #2 soaking.

2) don’t tempt the weather by putting out fleece to dry.

we also cleared the path to the back of the garage from errantly growing raspberry canes. this will make it a bit easier to finish raccoon-proofing the garage.

3) the extracted errant raspberry

My other quest for the week was to make presents for my brothers-in-law. There Are 5 brothers, and I have made one for brother number 4 and one for Glenn’s Mom last trip. So four more to go! I have tried variations on the theme and so far I am pleased with them.

The reason i am making a small invasion or maybe an infestation, of chickadees is they remind me both of my parents cottage and also of my in-laws home in Oakville. His brothers have been taking turns staying with his mom and i had hoped the chickadees would bring them good thoughts of Oakville and watching the birds and squirrel fight over the bird feeders (they are not squirrel feeders so we know is in the wrong in that war!) We were down this time as brother #3 was leaving and brother # 2 was arriving. We hope to see brother #1 before we leave.

4 & 4.1) Mega-Chickadee (Arnold) with his in-progress smaller cousin (for brother #4)

I had wanted to tell you about the first two I made. I had brought the wrong thread with me, pant mending thread not eye attaching thread (really they’re totally different thread!), when I was making the first two guys so devised a way to attach eye without the thread. This would not be strong enough if your creature was to be played with but if it’s just sitting around the eyes are secure and won’t fall off. (how embarrassing to have eye drop sounds terrible)

Without appropriate thread, I needed a way to get the bead (I had brought small black glass seed beads) to sit in the location I had wanted and to stay in place.

I used the felting needle to work some of the wool through the bead, arranging it so that there were wisps on both sides of the bead.

5) bead and a bit of fibre

5.1) Bead with a small amount of fibre through the centre

6) both eyes ready to attach

I chose the spot and used the awl and felting needle to make a dent in the felt head. good thing the little guys seem a bit soft in the brain, more room to inset half an eye bead.

7) using the awl

8) marking the other side and checking it’s in the correct location.

9) making the hole a bit deeper with the felting needle

First try; I found it was not as secure with a finer amount of fibre and need to have more added to it. With a bit more added lateral to each eye, the attachment was a success.

10) first one done, on to the next armature.

Second try; This time I tried using more fibre. (as much as would fit through the opening in the bead seemed the correct amount.)

I continued to work with wisps of colour to give a chickadee a bit of suggestion of feathers.

Once I had the little guy to my liking it was time to trim off some of the fuzzy halo. As I mentioned in a previous post the core wool from World of Wool has a bit of kemp which occasionally sticks out at an odd spot. The Corriedale is also showing a bit of halo which is more noticeable where the black is adjacent to the white. I used the scissors carefully removing the fuzzy bits of wool.

11) Hair cutting started.

12) a good trim

13) Two handsome chickadees ready for their new homes.

the Chickadees were given to their new owners before we departed back to Ottawa. Both were surprised and seemed happy with their new pets.

The next step is to make a few more. Unfortunately, I was working in front of the computer and had been distracted from my audiobooks by impending Hurricane Ida. I got so distracted with the Horrors of the storm I lost track of the number of armatures I was making, 4 or was it 5 more. Looking away from the nightmare water and wind event on the computer I realized I am overrun by chickadee armatures. There seem to be 6 of them now staring at me! I have a production line of leg wrapping ahead of me! That’s 36 toes to practice on! I seem to be making a small flock of chickadees!

14) 26ga steel toes wrapped around 20ga steel floral wire armature (both wires are coated so the steel is not exposed)

15) all lined up with legs and beaks done, still have to try toes with wax. (the fleece i chose has some lanolin left in it after washing and has a lot of very fine crimp)

16) now with a bit more body

the eyes for the last two worked well out so well I used the same technique again.

17) supervision!!!

17.1) time to add the second eye

18) one of the two I have finished and brought with us to give to brothers #2 and #3 this weekend.

19) here he is in a jaunty pose before retiring to his travel facility complete with bagged lunch for his travel pleasure.

20) upon our arrival here in Oakville, we found that Glenn’s mom’s bird had discovered the bole of nuts on the coffee table!! He seems to be very happy in his new home but is reluctant to let the rest of us nibble on the nuts. I may have to leave some sunflower seeds for him too!!

I have been doing variations on wing attachments, separate wings, wings constructed on the body, separate wired wings,  wing tips added to built-in wings….. who know what else I will try?

I promise I will do something other than chickadees in the near future! Have fun and keep felting

Surface Control – looking at Hair Spray and styling gel, initial investigation.

Surface Control – looking at Hair Spray and styling gel, initial investigation.

Like Ann, I have been having a  busy time since the last post. I was all set to head to Oakville then my trip was postponed to next week. So I am packed, but still need to find the camping cots we bought years ago to sleep on. They are nowhere to be found so we went out to Canadian Tire and bought a new one. I have been refining my notes on the chickadee as I made another armature. (well you just saw that so I don’t think you will be much interested in seeing a second bird so much like the one Mom got and liked! But I fear Ann’s Cookies may have been more appreciated!) The bird is now living in her living room by the window. I did have something I wanted to investigate further and now might be the right time to get part one started. This will have a time component so I will not make a full report now.

Surface Control – looking at Hair Spray and styling gel, initial investigation.

Last week I was wondering about how to reduce the flyaway fuzziness of Mom’s Chickadee. I eventually took matters in hand with a pair of fine sharp pointed scissors. This did quite a respectable job, but I had considered other options. Spray fixatives were used with pastels at school and being cheap art students we often bot inexpensive hair spray rather than proper artist fixative.  Will hair spray work on wool? Let’s Investigate!!

When considering fixatives/ hair spray there are a number of factors to investigate.

  • Does it hold the fuzz in check when initially applied (I was using the product instruction for distance for spraying.)
  • Dose the hold lasts more than a few hours or days?
  • Does it discolour the wool?
  • Are there any other changes in the wool that is noticeable at the time of spraying, or over time?

Off to the Dollerama to find cheap hairspray!  On previous visits, I had seen hair spray and hair gel (Glenn uses it to keep his hair neatly in a ponytail for work.) I found two hairsprays that looked interesting.

 1 the subjects of investigation.

 The “Blue sample” was Finesse – Superior hold Firm Unscented Hairspray, it boasted a weightless, dry finish.  The instructions are shake can then hold 20-30 cm away from hair (in my case wool)

The “Pink Sample” Was Salon Selective all day Volumizing Stay Put, Extreme Hold, enriched with argan oil from Morocco. ( I have no idea what that is but it sounds impressive!) The instructions are to shake the can and hold 20 to 25 cm away from hair/wool.

The “Black Sample” was AXE Styling Adrenaline Spiked-Up Look Extreme Hold Gel. Instructions, use a fingertip amount mix vigorously then style through hair.

The “None Sample” was Core wool from World of Wool in the UK,  just the wool covered by a piece of card stock to keep the sun off.

What I have learned so far: hairsprays have long names and seem slightly pompous in their extremeness. (No Hair products were harmed in this experiment and all hairspray will go to Glenn at the completion of this investigation.)


Next, I made the test felt pieces using the World of wool Core wool that I had hand carded. I made a sample 7 inches long and about 3 inches wide. I used a bit of light blue merino yarn to mark off the sections.

 2 making the needle felted wool sample

3 dividing the sample into sections for each application and a control or None section.

I masked off the sections that were not getting the spray treatment to reduce cross-contamination of the samples.

 4 Prep to spray the blue sample

 5 Blue spay applied

 6 parted off the excess and tried to compress the wool. Wax paper may have been a better choice, next time!

The Blue sample is unscented (mostly) and it gave a good light coverage at 30cm.

Next cover that sample and on the pink spray.

 7 pink sample was much wetter than the blue spray.

This gave a lot more wetness both on the surface and into the wool but it was also held at the suggested 20-25cm for this product.

Next up was the black sample

 8 I borrowed Glenn’s hair gel from the bathroom.

For this one, since I had to apply it to the surface I made little finger circles on the top half and stroked the felt in one direction on the bottom. It took a couple of fingers’ worth of gel to get the surfaced covered. The circular motions loosened up a few strands of wool but seemed to have stuck the surface down. It remained damp long after both Blue and Pink were dry.

 9 On the back of each sample I sewed on a tag saying which sample it was.

Then I covered the thin “None” sample on the right so it would not be in the sun.

10 the sample

Hum, maybe I should change that to half in the sun half out of the sun so we can see if the plain wool will change colour in the light…. Give me a moment I will fix that.

11 the upgraded sample

OK, now we can check if wool left in a window will change colour in the sun. (It may lighten I suspect, but let’s see if my hypothesis is correct.)

12  L to R; Pink, Blue and Black

Sample fuzz check at application Will the  hold last Is there any discolouration  at the application Is there any discolouration  over time other changes noticeable when applied or over time
None 4th fuzziest N/A N/A N/A N/A
Black Least fuzzy * see other Slightly shiny or more reflective Surface is compacted more than other samples also has the firmest surface
Blue Second least fuzzy Not noticeable Closest to None sample
Pink 3rd fuzziest Not noticeable 2nd firmest surface

13 table

Now we have gathered all the data to begin this experiment. We will have to return to this in a few weeks or a couple of months and see if we can see a change. By then I may have finally cleaned up my desk again, how does it get so messy?

Next week I will be off in Oakville likely working on the project I have started for Glenn. He has had only had one picture felted for him so far so I think he needs a sculpture. Here is the fabric that I hope will be part of his accessories (the sculpture, not Glenn).

14 it’s not the plaid I was looking for but it may work.

Have fun and keep felting!


Moms Birthday present.

Moms Birthday present.

Last week ( I showed you what turned out to be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Chickadees! He is Humongous!! (There may have been a robin secretly involved in his parentage. Some illicit tryst perhaps?)  As I said last week, I mostly followed Sara’s instructions and upgraded the wire for Mega-chickadee. The wire gauge was defiantly a success there was just too much of it.

A bit of historical interlude (I will get back to felting shortly I promise)

When I was much shorter and could still climb trees, my parents bought land adjacent to a lake but way up a steep slope, so reasonably safe from lake attacks. (You do not want to ask me about the long weekend before I started grade 13. Never trust water!) A small cottage was built looking out across the lake and we enjoyed watching sunsets, sailboats and the local birds, including the great blue heron and the loon family.  Mom and Dad enjoyed the Chickadees, Wrens and hummingbirds particularly. I spent many years bringing mom wonderful presents, of Frogs, in various sizes and shades of green. I finally gave up on my quest for the perfect frog, when Mom rejected a tree frog. it was perfect! How can you object to those huge cute eyes, the sucker tows and cool colours that made him almost invisible sitting on a tree! But no it was like all the other frogs I had brought her. Mom said, “it’s an outside creature take it outside right now!” “Aw, Mom!!!”  I got the same response for grass snakes, garter snakes and black rat snakes (I did not try the snake that looked like a Mississauga rattler but without the rattle). She even rejected turtles, including the almost impossible-to-catch, soft-shelled Mud turtle!!! Look at the nose on one, it’s soo cool!!!

Mom’s birthday is coming up fast and its going to be one of those big number birthdays. This year will be her 90th! So i will have to chose her present carefully! I know frogs, snakes and turtles are out as presents. She did like the small birds at the cottage, but the chickadee I just made would be unacceptably large. The armature would make a fine robin but she still blames the robin for taking out the original railing on the path down to the lake. The robin was a bit Rubenesque and it often hopped down the skinny birch tree that had been used to create the railing. On one trip to the cottage, we realized the railing was broken and lying on the ground! Stupid robin I bet it was jumping on the railing again!! – so no, I had better not make a robin.

She would like a chickadee; they are always so fun and will yell at you if you didn’t fill up the bird feeder fast enough. The ones in my side yard get particularly annoyed with me if I’m out and haven’t topped up the feeder.  Ok, I will have to make a smaller armature at least half the size, maybe a bit smaller.

I am pleased with the armature wire gauges that I had used for Mega-chickadee and they should work for a closer to normal size bird too. The body is 20ga steel floral wire. I measured from the foot, leg, body the added the length for the neck/head. I wrapped the neck/head in black floral tape and then cut the excess off, Which I used for the shoulder/body and tail.  I used 26-gauge floral wire for the tows and extra leg supports. I was enthusiastic in the wrapping of the legs to provide lots of support for posing the little guy.

1 Mega-Chickadee and 2 smaller Chickadee armatures

I selected a short, superfine, highly crimpy fibre from a fleece I had purchased from the Wool Growers Co-Op, (possibly a Shetland). This is the same fibre I used for the mega bird legs too.  I pulled out my scary-looking Viking combs and put them to use. I drafted out a narrow sliver and wound carefully around the wire. Unfortunately, earlier this morning I was moving small plants in pots in the front garden, one of the pots broke and I broke one of my talons much lower than they normally break. OWW!! ( I trimmed the nail down and had to use the left hand as my primary winder.  (One of the few positives of my particular learning disability is my weakness for the concept of left and right, which means I have two lefts or two rights and can often use the wrong right hand to do things. Silly brain).


Ok, the left hand is not as good at photography as the right one is.  It may be because all the buttons are on the wrong side for the left fingers. Can you get a left-handed camera? My thumb should be heeled by the weekend but now I’m curious about left-handed cameras…. Focus, back to felting!!

3 legs done and the first under-layer of core wool added.

4 comparing the two new armatures

I did not use the floral tape with its waxiness to increase adhesion on the legs but the wool stayed in place well. I was starting to worry I had guessed the nose (beak) too long. I can trim the nose back if it seems too long but let’s add more wool and find out if it still looks long.

I put away the Viking combs and pulled out the hand cards. I had made a large purchase, from World of Wool, of 2kg of white core wool. The texture is soft but a bit clumpy so just pulling out of the bag to use was not drafting as well as I would like. When I did a quick couple passes with the hand cards I created a lovely soft, lofty, easy to draft out mini batt. From which I could easily pull a section to draft and wrap with.

I used a bit of Corriedale blending of the colours licorice and slate to wrap the beak.  if you can, most living things will look more realistic if you blend more than one tone or colour. In the case of black if you can make that darkness with slate and a really dark brown or green or even a bit of red you will get a much more interesting black than using the colour “out of the tube” as it were.

Then I added more of the core wool white to build up the chest back and head.

5 It’s amazing how much bigger the bird is than the armature.

6 A bit more wool to the front of the face to get a better shape and the beak now looks like the correct size.

Oh good the nose is not too big!! The head, on the other hand, does look a bit tall and large. I need a quick trip back to check my photo reference to get the shape and angles on the head.

7 Here is Mega-Chickadee, normal chickadee and extra armature.

A bit fluffy but coming along nicely. It is now time to mix up more dark charcoal, this time to add the markings on the head.

8 it’s nice to see where you are going! So, I added the eyes.

9 Still a bit too tall so worked on compacting the top of the head.

The armature is strong enough to hold a pose of the head. The legs are also supporting the body weight. This was a good choice of wire gauge.

10 posing the armature and getting the curl in the toes.

11 I think it needs a bit of a creamy tone to the under-wing and sides of the body.

12 much better.

Now that is what I basically want. The core wool does have a bit of kemp, not a lot just the odd bit that protrudes, as well as a light halo of wispiness.  The poor guy seems a bit harry. Ann sometimes Shaves her wool to expose silk fibres, it works wonderfully. I think some tiny scissors may work for my purpose.  Now, where did I put those fine embroidery scissors? Hummmm……

13   Standing on the scissors will not keep me from trying to trim up the flyaway hairs. Is this a subtle hint not to trim anymore?


Need for more Experiments!!

I think I should make a couple of samples of hairy surfaces and try a thin application of hair spray or fixative to see if that will keep the fuzziness contained.  I would want to do a time test to check for yellowing or other discoloration to the wool if either spay is applied.  But for now, just the very basic trim has neatened up the surface of the chickadee greatly.

14 a view of the back

Next, I am off to IKEA, well in the morning, now it’s quite late since I got distracted again while writing this blog. There are bell display bottles “BEGÅVNING – Glass dome with base 7 ” tall”. Yes that is for the morning, “Yawn” I will let you see what I find tomorrow.


Day 2 the “Framing”

Oh, the Excitement!! A trip to IKEA!! (OK it’s only 5 stop signs away from the house. Well, 4 stop signs on the road and 1 in thier parking lot. It is very close, but it’s been over a year since I have been there!!) I consulted the web page and notice that the cafeteria is open for take-away food. Gravadlax or Poached Salmon? Yummm. Ok grab the camera and the Chickadee and headed off to IKEA!

15 the exciting Begavnings in their natural environment!

16 they come in two sizes!

17 the options at IKEA, If I could do woodturning I would consider the glass covers and make a wooden base.

I decided on the smaller size Begavning. Now off to get lunch to bring home.

As a fabulous treat, I went to the cafeteria and found that it was indeed open and you could eat in if you were spaced apart. I sat way at the back of the dining area in a section all by myself. It felt so odd to be eating in public and so tasty!

18 what a treat!

19 I think someone wants my dry cracker. Good thing chickadees can’t open zip lock baggies!

While i was shopping I also found a wooden articulated hand, a pepper grinder and then an umbrella weighted base in AS-IS! I LOVE trips to IKEA!

I brought home the display jar and tried the chickadee in it. The photo shows more reflection than is seen in person. Yes, that is what I am looking for.

20-21 almost ready to wrap

Do I need a piece of corkscrew hazel to give a bit of height? I tried one piece but was not convinced. I think I should add a couple of sunflower seeds and let that be the narrative.

22-25 The photoshoot

Mom’s 90th Birthday is on the 08th of the 08th, I have ordered Chocolate chip cookies from Ann (her favourite) and I have the chickadee done. It will be wonderful to see her. I hope she will like the little guy. I bet she says “at least it’s not a frog” when she opens it!

PS; Don’t tell Mom what she is getting, its a surprise!! (She doesn’t read the blog!)



2021 OVWSG Fiber Poker (Felting)!!

2021 OVWSG Fiber Poker (Felting)!!

Quite a few years ago, as a way to give a fun summer challenge to guild members, the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners guild executive decided to make a summer poker challenge. But since we are not a card-playing-poker-guild we would do fibre poker instead. I think it was Shirley Browsky who set it up (she has her OHS master Spinner (1991) and is completing her master weaver Certificate). she made a deck of cards listing different types of fibre, different techniques, thicknesses, colours and things to includes like feathers or beads. We drew 4 cards from the deck and could re-select one if we wanted to.

1)  2014 the drawing of the cards

Even after trading in one card for another, we occasionally wound up with conflicting cards, which made the finished item extremely hard to complete. There was also a deck for weaving created. Over the years, more cards have been added to the deck and for the summer of 2020, a felting deck was created. This year, each deck was updated and divided into 4 suits; for felting, it was Fiber, Colour, Technique and Other. This greatly reduced the likelihood of getting impossible conflicts in cards. (Use only plain weave + include overshot).

Cards would be drawn at the June meeting and you would have until the September meeting to create your yarn skein, woven sample or project, or your felted item. The September meeting would be a double show and tell meeting, a sort of what I did on my summer vacation and the poker challenge completed projects.

2) This is my spinning challenge from 2014. I think it was; include Found objects, use Locks, Pigtails and it was either use more than 2 plys or over twist.

3-5) Carl ran Fiber Poker in 2017 with a spinning or weaving option. He carefully wrote down everyone’s picks.

6) This is Ann’s finished skein.

7) A particularly interesting solution to one challenge was seen for “include Locks”

I had not been participating the last few years, due to working on the library architecture migration project; we can chat about that some other day if you are curious. This year we were in lockdown and with the most massive part of the library project done. (There are still a few small manageable chunks left to do.) SO, I can have fun rather than just watching what everyone else has made (and taking pictures of course).

This year the draw with the new decks was over email. I requested a felting challenge and the email arrived of what elements I would have to include. Nothing conflicted and I could do all the elements without researching.  The problem was more what to pick?

8) 2021 my cards

OH my, so many options running through my head!! Slow down and write them down

  • Stained glass with fine yarn using a blue 2D picture with 3D wire element finishing embellishment with beads. Going from 2D to 3D is lots of fun. I have done quite a bit of that with the Guild art show for Canada’s 150th. Keep thinking.
  • Landscape with blue sky as a prominent feature. Wet felt background layout yarn for cloud edges, water ripples, with a tree or rock edges. Lay over yarn with thin wisps of wool, building back words to the backing base. Work the back dry then flip check wet and felt. Let dry enough to Add wire elements to the backing side to push out rocks/trees add edge stiffness to the piece. Add fibre and felt to attach the wire. Push stretch out 3D areas. Let fully dry and add beads. Hmm, that sounds like fun but let’s keep thinking.
  • Hedgehog, yarn for spikes, make a blueberry or blue flower. Use an armature –mouth can open, add beads for eyes. – 1.5 (14ga) aluminum, high twist 2 tone yarn may have to spin it. black beads, white, beige and light gray and brown back. Research: “There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in New Zealand” Also; adult size of 6–8 inches, short legs, but hedgehogs are equipped to waddle around with the help of an about a half-inch long stubby tail for balance. They can lift their underside completely off the floor and run very quickly for short distances. domestication will have five toes on their front feet and only four on their back feet. Spines only grow to be less than an inch long but are sharp enough to provide defence. the quills, which are modified hollow hairs.  For domestication purposes, the white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris, was bred with the Algerian hedgehog, Atelerix algirusThe structure of their teeth, including two frontal incisors for 36 altogether, They prefer a cat food with meat or poultry listed as the main ingredient, and definitely with a high protein level. a supplementary diet including insects or mealworms. Some additional treats could be boiled egg, fruit, crickets, or vegetables.

Maybe not, i did one (with a soap inside him) recently for Glenn. (he named him Crevice)

9) Robins nest from a hanging basket at my mother inlaws’.

  • A real Birds Nest arrived from Oakville – make a bird with an armature to go in the nest. Oh, I like this idea. Let’s look at it further.

My favourite colours are blue and black. (ok my favourite colours remind you of a bruise at least it’s not one of those awful green and yellow bruises!) A blue jay is too big for the nest, research birds that are blue in the Ottawa area of Ontario. Birds I like; crows (too big), Blue Jays (too big), chickadees (well they have black but not blue), most of the birds of prey (too big).

Include Wire well that is easy. Add an armature. Didn’t Sara have proportions for a wren recently in a video? Yes. What is she using for her armature? 22ga for legs, it looks like floral wire, 32ga for toes and a pipe cleaner for the body. Hmmm, I do not think that has the strength I want and I don’t have a 32 (I checked my samples). Ok, 20ga legs and body, 26ga toes. Wrens and chickadees’ are close in size. This should work perfectly!…. I carefully watched and re-watched the first bit of the video as she is working on the armature to figure out the size. Leg measurements check, body and toe pieces I have an estimate but I left the wire longer so I could trim to size as I work. This allowed for more support wrapping on the legs, which I had wanted to add while watching the video.

Include Beads Or Sequins: birds need eyes! I have at least 2 sizes of glass beads in the small box of beads. I switched that part of my collection into a different box when I rebuild my office shelves (moved the massage and computer reference stuff out and moved wool, wax, wire and beads in. ok where on the shelf did I put it and why is it not labelled yet? (Another job, add it to the list).  I guess I should either not clean up or remember where I put things!  Ah, one little bag of the right size, perfect! Now how to attach it?

Use Thread Or Fine Yarn: do I know where my beading needle is? ….no. Will one of the long sewing needles in the giant pill bottle by the window work? Maybe… Yes, not all the beads are exactly the same size so some fit over the eye of the needle and some don’t. I pick two that fit. Now for the thread. I just got a couple of huge bobbins of industrial thread for making bags (a shop that made bags was closing so I scored white black and a green, no blue) I picked up some quilting thread that may be a bit better size and it will still be strong enough. What do I find for colours? Black, white and a different green… there seems to be a theme here that doesn’t include blue. Ok, I like black too. Black, it will be. Any other instructions? let me check. No, that’s 4 and I have them covered.

Now to watch the armature section of Sara’s wren video.

Part 1 is here;

Part 2 is here;

Sara (Sarafina Fiber Art) has a slightly different approach to felting than I seem to be developing. She is more additive and has been working on techniques and vocabulary that can be reproduced by others. She tends to wrap the armature, then makes shapes from the wool and adds them to the armature. (Thus, additive; like sculpting with clay). While I start with the armature and wrapping, I usually add loose wool and sculpt it down to what I want. (Thus more subtractive; like sculpting with stone. Just keep poking and compacting until you get the shape.) I am adding wool in sections and layers to build up muscles but I don’t tend to pre-build the muscle and add it on.

Since I had never tried to make a bird before I should probably try to follow Sara’s instructions and see how that goes… or how long that lasts before I wander off-topic and do my own thing. (I am a challenging student.)

As I said, I watched and re-watched the beginning of Sara’s video to get the armature correct. I modified her wire suggestions to increase the armature strength. For the body and legs, I selected the 18-inch long floral wire in 20ga steel (I used a magnet to pick up a part that fell off the table.)  I measured and cut the legs then added the 26ga garden wire to create the toes and trimmed the excess. I then folded the 18-inch floral wire (20ga) following Sara’s measurements twisting the wires together and attaching the body to the legs. I formed a small triangle for the body and left the rest of the wire to support the tail.

10)  Leg-wire adding the wire for the toes

11) The body added to the legs with the extra wire left for the tail

12-13)  Added black ½ inch floral tape to the beak and neck.

Ok, time to look more closely for reference photos for chickadees. Oh my, there are many chickadee types! Our local one is the black cap Chickadee. Let’s try to find shots from various directions. Why is it so hard to find a shot of the back of the head? I guess it’s hard to sneak up on a chickadee or photographers just don’t think of that as a chickadee’s best side.

Time to add fibre

First, try on the beak, it was a dark grey long-staple fibre but it just didn’t look right. Next, I tried a bit of black merino roving but I wasn’t too happy with that either. Let’s leave that a moment and look at the legs

For the legs, I selected an extremely short crimpy brown/beige fibre.   Although the baggy of fibre was unlabeled, I think it may be a bit of extremely fine Shetland. It is lightly washed and still has a bit of lanolin in it. I drafted out to about an eighth of an inch width started at the top of the leg and worked down to the toes.

14-15) Head and feet

I am still considering the black but let’s add the body and start the neck.

16-17) I anchored one end of my roving and added layers following Sara’s Instructions. It’s starting to look a bit more bird-like.

18)  I continued to follow instructions (mostly), adding a roll of wool for the chest and to build up the back.

19) I am working over a cheaper quality pool noodle.

20)  Yes, that looks a lot more bird shaped now. I don’t like that grey tonally. It’s too dark and flat. That’s ok. I have more fibre options.

21)  Blending with hand carders

My options in Corriedale are Liquorish (black), Slate (dark grey), Fog (med-light blue-grey), Grey (med-Dark Grey), White Core wool world of wool. A bit of Fog,  grey and a tiny bit of white and I had what I wanted. I again did not completely blend the fibre to a uniform colour since nature tends to be more creative than flat colours.

22)  lightening the back colour

Now it’s time to consider the tail. The Chickadee seems to have a reasonably long tail so let’s trim a bit off the leftover wire and let that support the tail. I didn’t want to fold over the ends so I used the floral tape to keep them from poking through.

23)  needs a tail

The nose was still bugging me so I took off the merino and replaced it with Slate Coriadale. Ah, much better. I then blended the slate and Licorice to get a non-flat colour for the black head markings and build up the top and sides of the beak.

24-25)  Oops, I got distracted watching the Olympics while I worked  (there was no blood shed but audio-books are safer when felting). At this point I have the wing shapes done but still need to add the feather detailing. I will leave that for later. I just have them held in place with a pin. I think I need a bit more rounding under the wings and the head and markings still need a bit more shaping. I also need to add eyes.

A pause while I go look for the box of beads. I will get back to that in a moment.

Through today I have been sitting in front of the computer (you can see the messy desk piled with wool and implements of wool torture and maybe the Mountain dew I was drinking). Just off to the right(?) is the phone which today is the bane of my felting. After someone wanting to clean my ducks, (how silly, ducks are self-cleaning. it’s the pond they wash in that would need to be washed – I don’t have a pond or ducks), multiple probably robocalls that there is no one on the line so I hang up and finally I got this one. Oh, I have chatted with their co-workers before this could be fun but it’s interrupting my felting.

Transcript: Ring!!! “Hello?” Long pause, “Is this Mrs. Glenn Martin? Noncommittally “this is Jan, Who is this?” “This is Microsoft service department about your computer.” I interrupt “which one, I have a few? If you can tell me the operating system I will know which one you want to discuss, I have some that don’t go on the internet too.” Silence……Click. She gave up much more quickly than I expected. It usually takes them longer to give up. Maybe I sounded like she had interrupted important felting?

After a bit of a search I found the small box of beads and yes I have 2 sizes of black glass beads. The bigger ones look like they will be perfect for this size bird. Now, where are the beading needles? I have a long needle that worked if I was careful selecting the bead (some had larger or smaller openings)

26) adding beads for eyes

So by bedtime, I had got this far. The eyes have been added and the felting highlight around the eye has been added. You can see the notes I took while watching Sara’s video. Unfortunately, I was partway through watching the videos when I heard her say she was working at a larger-than-life, size. Drat!!! Well, that explains why a chickadee fits in a robin’s nest!

27) still needs to have details added to the back and wings but that will have to wait until after the next library day. I promise I will show you it when I am done! I may make another which is more appropriately sized.

Have Fun and Keep Felting!!


Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

When last we chatted, we looked at a few of the holders I have in my collection of felting needles while we weighted for the post to arrive from China.

After a wait for shipping, the 3 needle holders arrived, one after another. All arrived with needles intact but the packaging was dented and squished. A bit of bubble wrap may have been a good idea.

Remember I suspected that some of what is being sold are seconds and some are overruns of other people’s orders? Well, I think this line is seconds. The holders are not helped by the poor protection during shipping.

squished packaging of the first of the 3 needle holders
second package arrives even more beat up
The third package arrives not as badly dented, none had bubble wrap

21-23 the arrivals, packaging gave its life for the contents to be safe.

Out of the three I purchased only one was able to separate, which is important since it allows access to change needles.

24   1 of 3 opens.

The other two seem to be jammed against the edge of the inside of the handle. Even the one that opened does not have even spacing around the needle holding section. I think I can fix that!! I have a large file and a nail file that should help. I have some very fine sandpaper ….somewhere in the basement……well let’s start with the files.

Here is the one that opened but is sticky.

25-29 How the holder comes apart and goes back together

in the last picture, you can see the uneven spacing between the two parts of the holder. This could be from the wood swelling, the varnish is sticking or the screw joining the parts together may be bent.

With one of the two problematic holders, I was able to push the interior away from the sticking spot and get the parts apart.

30   Two open, one to go

half round rasp file used on the interior of handle portion
my weapons of sticking removal the rasp and the nail file

31-32  I used the rasp file on the interior of the handle which did remove a lot of roughness.

33  Ah yes, this one seems to have a slight tilt to the screw which may have caused the rubbing.

34 Putting the flat side of my rasp to work.

I then turned to filing the sticking spots on the interior of the needle holding part. I put the two parts back together just till they started to rub and marked the spot with a sharp fingernail. (Glenn says they are very sharp) if your nails are not quite as sharp I guess you could have used the awl or a mettle nail file.

35-39  I repeated the pattern of; sanding, checking, marking and then more sanding.

40 When I got it close, I switched to the nail file. (I promise I will go find the fine sandpaper later!!!)

That is two working and one to go! I couldn’t nudge the third one so I tried to get the nail file in and possibly file in place on either side of the sticking.

41-43 working the file into the spot that seemed most stuck

44 AH! Success!!

45  the spacing between the interior rim of the handle and exterior rim of the needle holder are not yet parallel, keep working at it.

I continued with more sanding and checking until it finally seems to be working.

46   Now I have 3 working handles! 

I will eventually find the really fine sandpaper (still somewhere “safe” in the basement)  to give it a final touch-up.  Overall If these go on sale again I would get a couple more. they are comfortable to my hand and the needle spacing is reasonable.

47-48 the Needle holders even come with “helpful” instructions!

Their helpful instructions are technically written in English but have some similarities to my spelling, while each might be considered an attempt at English, both will require a bit of interpretation for the meaning to be obtained.

Even with the need for a bit of work and adjustment, I think these will be a good addition to the options I have for holding needles. Just so you don’t think I only use needle holders I do also use the cheaper option of an elastic to hold two needles. I adjust the needle spacing if I need to by using my fingernail. (It’s a bit like using chopsticks but you’re are stabbing not picking something tasty up.)

49 the no-handle two needle option also works but is not as comfortable on the fingers

50  Here is another shot of a few of my needles and  holders

Since I started writing this I have spotted an aluminum 6 needle holder that looks intriguing, yes it’s on order and should be here within a month or so.

51 Aliexpress “Felting Needle Handle w/ 6 Needles”

Happy Felting and good luck on your needle holding quests!

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 1 while i wait, consider needle holders

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 1 while i wait, consider needle holders

Wooden handled 3-needle holder  Part 1 while I wait lets consider needle holders (this may be of more interest to newer Needle felters)

For the armature study group, I wanted to find as many examples of different gauges of (mostly Aluminum) armature wire as I could. I found only a few gauges locally, so went online to find more.  I spotted a few on Etsy and a couple in US stores but found the widest selection from China.  The last option (China) had the best prices but had the longest shipping time.  Ann had shopped there for various small wet felting items and had some suggestions. Similar to E-Bay, check the sellers’ record, read the reviews, check for free shipping and similar listings by other sellers and watch for the price to drop. Similar to early E-Bay, some sellers at Ali-express are selling Overruns (working items) others are selling seconds (substandard, not all there or not working) so watch closely for the comments.

 1  a few of the wire gauge samples

While I was shopping, I spotted a wooden needle holder with 3 needles I had not seen before. The design looked good, the reviews were mostly good with the worst being that needles had broken in shipping (so poorly packaged). Seeing as I have a good supply of needles and would really like a couple of the 3-needle holders, this did not deter me so I put in 3 separate orders and then waited.

While we wait, let’s have a look at a couple of questions and look at a few of the needle holders I have collected.

Now, why would I want a 3-needle holder?  I have a similar wooden handed 8-needle version as well as the fake clover tool with the needle guard that holds 7 needles and the metal 20 needle holder from The Woolery.  Or you can use the lower-tech – elastic wrapped around 2 or 3 needles and skip the handle altogether. The holder is there to make the needles easier to handle and work in a hopefully ergonomic and comfortable way. Both the multi-needle wooden handles and the plastic fake clover tool are comfortable for me to hold. I have two types of single needle wooden holders that I have not used often because I find the off center placement of the needle disconcerting. (I know if I would only use it a bit more I would get used to it.) The single needle skinny handled one (Ann got a couple of those) is not comfortable but the single needle slightly thicker handle is a big improvement. I may try to add a foam collar to both of them to make the grip more comfortable.  Foam callers are used on pens or pencils to make arthritic fingers feel more comfortable when writing or for the very young learning to write. You can find them under a google search for “pencil grips” in case you got the skinny wooden holders (there are a couple of different sizes for primary and regular pencils).

2  This I spotted at <>. Dollarama and Dollar Tree used to carry something similar so check there too.

I already have 2 types of plastic 3 needle holders that look similar to each other.  Both have a handle that is a bit bigger than a good quality pen and it is reasonably comfortable to hold. Unfortunately one has a design flaw. I should tell you quickly about it while we wait for the new wooden ones to arrive.

 3  Blue 3 needle holder (2 similar designs)

Since they are using the same packaging with a squirrel on it, let’s call the closer one with the see through arrow (A) and the one behind it with the Fin on the handle (F).

 4-5 A the hole in the handle

Option A.  I have bought a few of style A and have had poor results with them. Along with a few odd breaks (the cover broke off and now that one can’t be opened.) It is also very challenging to change needles with the small holes you need to fit the needles through at the end of the cover. The reason that I am running with 2 needles in both of these is because it is so hard to change the needles.

   6-9 F handle with a fin on it

Option F. this is the one with the fin on the handle. Other than a jammed-on needle cover (which I eventually got off) these have all worked. With the open end of the needle cover, it makes it much easier to change the needles.

      10-14 Fake Clover tool

I have purchased a number of the 7-needle fake clover tools.  Many have been assembled incorrectly or have been miss printed so the red dots that should indicate locked or unlocked guard position is backwards. Once you know that your holder is lying about being locked, you can just disbelieve it which makes it safer. After you safety check it,  it’s wonderful for picture felting in 2D and some 3D work too.

15       20 needle holder (the Weapon)

Let’s take a look at one more holder. This time the 20 needle holder from the Woolery. It’s made of aluminum which is more durable than the plastic ones. With aluminum, it’s important to not over tighten it or it may stick. I have 2 pieces of shelf liner stored with it just in case it is sticking. It is a bit heavier than the plastic or wooden ones but is not unreasonably weighty.

 16   the weapon unleashed!

All three of these tools have a maximum number of needles they can hold but as you can see I often load less. Again looking at the previous examples you can see the spacing of the needles varies between the holders too.

Why might this spacing matter to you?  Well, the spacing of the needle and the gauge chosen will affect the ease of penetration as the needles are impacting the fibre. There is an increase in resistance after a short amount of poking in the same spot when needles are closer together. If you need to still increase the density of the area then shifting to a finer gauge needle or switching to a wider spacing of the gauge you were using will let you keep working in that area.

17  20 holder with 12 needles loaded

As an example I have the 20-needle holder, It looks very scary when all needles are loaded. I was starting the background of a felted landscape and wanted to lay in a quick background. I usually use my 10-needle bar tool (also from the Woolery) but could not remember where I had put it. So I pulled out “the Weapon”! After a couple of pokes, there was too much resistance to continue. All 20 needles were trying to affect the wool beneath them and were quickly causing the entanglement to a point that it was difficult to push the needles into the fibre. Instead of swapping out needles to a finer gauge, I cut down the numbers of needles used going from 20 to 12, which worked very well. This allowed for more space between the needles and less likelihood of adjacent needles trying to work with the same fibre at the same time.

I started to review the mechanics, origins and variations available of felting needles.  This started looking a bit more like a book again.  (I am trying to be a bit less verbose, it’s not working.) So to review, the notches or barbs, on the edges of the needle will grab fibres as it enters the felt dragging the fibres with the needle as it continues into the felt. As you remove the needle, the fibre stays in the felt where it was pushed by the notches. The only exception is a reverse needle which pulls fibre from within the felt as the needle is removed (the notches are in the reverse direction).

After watching videos on the GroZ-Breckert (German felting needle manufacturer) website, I have a hypothesis for what my fingers are feeling (palpating) as the needle enters the fibre and makes the entanglement that is felt. We know a notch will catch fibre adjacent to it. With more notches, (3 per side rather than 1 or 2) or more sides, (a star rather than a triangle) you will affect more fibres in the adjacent area and create greater surface displacement (make a dent). Usually, you will reach a point where you feel resistance to the insertion of the needle. When you have adjacent needles working in one spot (affecting the same set of fibres) you also notice this resistance. The variables will be gauge of needles, style of needle and number of barbs per side as well as the length and type of fibre.  (I bet someone has a formula for that!)  As the adjacent needles are repeatedly inserted into a spot, you are likely to feel the resistance increase. This will be quicker with longer fibres, top, than with short disorganized fibres, roving or batts). My suspicion is that the adjacent needles are starting to try to interact with the same single strand of fibre. This will resist being pushed farther into the web of felting since you are pushing on 2 ends of the same fibre. Shorter fibre staple lengths will take a lot longer to get this effect than longer staple length fibre. NB: when working with dry short fibre, particularly wools, please wear a mask. No one wants to get wool lung. It’s kind of a career-ender. I wish I had a microscope to see if my hypothesis and what my fingers seem to be feeling is correct.

18-19 very poor sketch of the notches interacting with fibres (i am out of practice!)

I suspect my previous career and working with so many armatures made me sensitive to the feeling of the needle as it moves through the wool.  If you too have been noticing this feeling of resistance and tension in the wool but have not yet achieved the density you had desired in your felting project, there may be a few things to consider.

To counteract this resistance:

  • spreading the space between needles (having many different holders with different spacing’s is quicker to grab and keep working than taking needles out  to space them.)
  • working with fewer needles (just because the tool will hold 20 needles doesn’t mean it has to hold all 20),
  • shifting to finer needles as an increase in tension is noticed,
  • not working in one spot but trying to work across a larger section.
  • Using an ergonomically comfortable handle will keep you from using a killing grip on your needles and will hopefully let you enjoy felting longer (doesn’t solve the problem of resistance but it is helpful to consider). You can also use different handles for different gauges to make them easy to identify.


Over the years I have collected various styles, sizes and types of needle holders to have a variety of spacing and number of needles. As well as to show students what options are available.

My one cautionary tale is one of my oldest holders made from a wooden round cabinet doorknob and a small block of wood with holes for the needle to pass through. The screw that connects the two pieces is on the outside of the part that holds the needles.  You need a long screwdriver to undo it and your hand is just above the points of the needles. Don’t slip off the screw!! It is much more dangerous an arrangement than necessary!!! (Don’t buy one of those If you ever find one.  it’s not worth the danger changing needles will eventually be.

20   Some of my collection of needles and holders, there are quite a few more with my class stuff.

Now getting back to those wooden 3 needle holders I ordered from china… i will tell you that they have now all arrived (that’s the good news!) I will tell you about the bad news next post.

Have fun and Keep felting!!

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 2

In an earlier post we found out that 3 breeds of sheep were created by Agriculture Canada mixing existing breeds to create a sheep that would give; multiple births, fast-growing lambs and ewe’s with good mothering instincts. At first, their goal was to make a breed of sheep for research purposes but as the project continued they developed into 3 separate breeds; the Rideau Arcott, the Outaouais Arcott and the Canadian Arcott.   Since they have been bred mostly for their meat, the fleeces around here are variable often strikingly different between individuals in the same flock. The Rideau Arcott’s fleeces I have worked with before, on my highly technical scale, have ranged from OOOOH! all the way to Ick!

This being the first Canadian Arcott fleeces I have worked with I am testing their qualities and seeing what they may be best for. If you find a Canadian Arcott, it will likely be more lustrous than the Rideau Arcotts, and less variability between individual fleeces. (This is a strong rumour and your Canadian may vary a bit from the breed standard. It’s always best to look at each fleece as an individual)

Last post I tested Ram #2 (it’s ram number two because he was the second one out of the bag.) His ewes are employed as lawn maintenance specialists at a local solar farm.

We found that the fleece worked well with both combing and carding preparations producing a niece yarn from each. I had kept the combing waste and had carded up extra fibre to try the next set of experiments with it. So let’s see what I found out next!!

Comb waist needle felting test

Let’s see what the comb waist is like for felting (I have had very good results from some of Bernadette’s Combing waste fibre for both core and outer layers) she has very good fibre so even the waste is good!!

Ram 2, even in this relatively clean section I have sampled, had some VM (Vegetable Matter) which the combs separated brilliantly. This meant my sample section had VM amongst the fibre short bits and naps. This will be a good test of some of the lesser quality fibre from this fleece.

33 test with comb wast

This is not as fast to needle felt as a Shetland but it has springiness and lustre. For an understructure that needs to be relatively firm but have some give that springs back, it might be perfect. (A belly perhaps?)

34 close up of needle felted ball-ish shape.

I was using a courser needle I think it was one of the T-36’s for this sample. It created a slightly dented surface but if I had switched to a T-40 or paid more attention to how I was poking, I think it would have been able to make it a bit smoother but it was quite acceptable for an underlayer. I did notice a bit of a very fine halo that is more visible in the shadowed areas.


Wet Felting with Carded wool

Now the last consideration, can it be wet felted. I have a feeling it may not be good since it shows signs of stubbornness with the lovely fine crimp. But let’s see.  There is always hope until it is crushed mercilessly.


So let’s try the carded fibre and layout a sample. To give it the best chance for felting I laid thin wispy layers in alternating directions North /south then east /west. I repeated until I had a puffy pile about an inch thick.

35 approximately 2.5 inches square

I had received a number of small bubble wrap bags with the larger needle felting tools (the 3 needle holders were all very poorly packed and had no bubble wrap)


36 bubble wrap bag that needle felting tool cam in.

I found one of the smaller pouches and placed the layered fleece inside with the bubble facing in. now to add soap and water. Hmm, maybe I better try and start it first in my hand then put it into the bubble wrap.

First, this wool is not a sponge. I used a lot of soap and warm water to wet the fibres, some of which collected in the bottom of the bubble wrap bag. I also discovered bubbles do not make good waterproof bags, they drip. So I put it into an extra-large sandwich bag to contain the wetness.

37 Ooops this bag leaks in the corners!!! need better waterproofing!!!

38 XL sandwich bag!! that will make felting safe!!

I started with gentle caresses across the bubble wrap then moved to gently rubbing it between my hands. I focused on working in both vertical and horizontal directions. The wool has spread out but doesn’t feel like it’s grabbing yet. Let me find a video to watch and I will keep going.

39-40 taking a quick peek

41 cant see what I’m doing too many bubbles!!!

As the soap built up I went and rinsed some of it out.

42 43  There does seem to be adhesion! But let’s see if I can get a bit more. I put it back into the bubble wrap bag and put that into the sandwich bag.  Now, to add more enthusiasm to the rubbing!

44 Now off for a rinse and see what we have and is it felt?

45 Drying, look how thin it is. There was some shrinkage as well as some migration at the edges.

46 Yes, that is defiantly felt! with the lateral migration, it is very thin.

47 no longer the about 2.5inch square I started with.

47 it certainly isn’t an inch thick anymore!

Ann wanted to know “Did it shrink at all? When I have felted some of the “nonfelting” wool before it didn’t shrink. It did stick together but as you say, you could pull it apart. It would make good sheets of batting to go in a quilt

I don’t think it would be a good one for quilting it flattened too much. I think it may have shrunk but it also spread so I think it spread about an inch but it is also a lot thinner than it started. It did shrink if you consider it vertically even with the displacement into extra width.

This might be effective when mixed with some more enthusiastically felting sheep and then used for a super thin light summer scarf or shawl.  It may be a good base to build up from. I may have to do another sample to see how it reacts with different sheep and other fibre

it is softer in texture than the spun yarn. I could probably tear it apart if I really tugged a bit.  It is holding to the pinch test but again if I was more aggressive I could likely pull off the uppermost layer.  So a bit more aggressive felting might have helped its cohesiveness. Even with that stated it is at the stage that it is definitely felt and not fibre. It kind of reminds me of cookie dough that looked thick as it went in the oven but when cooked spread into a puddle

I think this would not be a top choice for most wet felting projects but some of its properties may be useful. I think this may be more of a fleece to look at for weaving. Its low elasticity would defiantly be a plus when making a warp!

PS just got my second covid shot yesterday and it may be bright and sunny out but I think it’s time for bed. this time I got the Phyzer version and it’s much nicer than the AZ (i feel like I was kicked in the arm by a small mule then climbed a large mountain.) if I can avoid getting covid it will all be worth it!! have fun felting and I will chat more when I wake up.


Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 1

Canadian Arcott Ram #2 Part 1

A quick review of the Acquisition

1-2 scenes from last week

I told you last post that I had re-bagged the two Canadian Arcott Rams. They looked quite well skirted but one seemed more careful with his personal hygiene than the other. I started with Ram #2 who seemed to enjoy his dust baths.

3 Ram #2 4 Ram #15 #2 unwashed sample

Getting on to the Washing

Glenn got one of the washing buckets out and I pulled out the strainer buckets and divided the fleece into 7 portions, 4 quite clean and 3 less clean.

 6-8 test washing of some of the cleanest looking parts of ram #2

This year I tried elevating the washing bucket so it was easier to lift and lower the strainer bucket within it. This was easier until it was time to dump the water out of the bucket. I lifted the strainer buck out and left it hanging to drip on one of the blacksmith hooks. That went well but as I started to tilt the bucket to pour out the dirty water it started to splash on the asphalt driveway. It was determined to get me wet with all the splashing! Luckily, I had thought ahead and worn my rain boots! So my feet remained dry but the lower part of my jeans may now need a wash (but with cleaner water this time)


Glenn brought the RV hand washer and spin-dryer up from the laundry room (it just sat there over the winter)

11-12 Glenn Helps with the spin cycle.

After a quick spin, it was onto the drying rack.

13 Now a pause, while the wool dry’s

 14 Glenn takes time to smell the roses.

And now back to work. The test washing of ram 2  is ready to take a look at.

15 now it’s time to eat ice cream with strawberry and think of the different fibre preparations I would like to try with this fleece. let me go find my hand carders and my mini combs! (but after I finish the ice cream)


Ice cream break!

(its a long post with lots of pictures!)


Testing to find out the properties of this fleece

Now that we have the Canadian Arcott (Ram #2) cleaned let’s make a few tests to find out what this fleece wants to become! not all fleeces are good for all purposes, so we should get curious and try a few options. this will tell us more about this breed I have not tried before.


Hand Carding the wool Test

Let’s see what happens when we try hand carding. I have a few hand cards, I chose the ones I like the best with the curved backs and have a nice carding cloth. I got them second-hand and have not tried to figure out the teeth count I should probably figure that out eventually.

16-17 rolags from the Hand Cards

Yes, that feels quite soft and lofty but there is definitely some lustre too. This could be interesting as knit socks. If only I Knit!!

Carded spun sample

I used the carders, created rolags and used the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 (EEW6) to spin the singles.

I plied on the spindle since I didn’t want to switch bobbins for a small sample

18-19 2 ply sample

20  I hung the wool to dry in the window. Even without sunshine, it dried quite quickly.

21 washed 2 ply woollen prep.


There is a bit of elasticity in the woollen preparation but not as much stretch as other fleeces I have spun. I think it would make a good blanket or throw if woven and used as warp or weft.




Hand Combing the wool test

Let’s see what happens when we try the Roger Hawkins Combs.

22loading the comb

23 First Pass

24  Second Pass

25  Third Pass then Drafting off the comb and the comb waste



Combed spinning sample

I then took some of the combed fibre and spun it on the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 (EEW6) as I did with the carded sample.

27 EEW6 with 2 ply sample

It was easy to spin.  I plied on one of my drop spindles since I still didn’t want to change bobbins for the short sample I had created.

28  Washed locks, combed fibre and 2 ply yarn.

29 the unwashed 2 ply samples.

You can see the halo already. I will wash and dry the rest of the sample. I made a mini skein, washed it, swung it around the bathtub, whapped it on the side of the sink then hung it up in the window with a small weight.

30  Hanging in the window to dry. Unfortunately, this seems to have inspired darker skies and rain!


33 washed 2py combed top

When dry; the yarn feels coarser than I had anticipated. It is not as soft as a Merino, more like a Corriedale but with less elasticity. There is very little stretch in the yarn so I am now curious as to how it would work as a warp for weaving. This breed may be ideal  for warps.

Comparing the Woolen (carded) vs the semi-worsted (Combed) yarns. The Woolen does have more loft, bloom and halo and slightly greater elasticity. Both would work as weft but I suspect the Combed will be a bit better weft since it has less bloom or halo to interfere in the heddles.

Next, we will check out the felting properties of this sample of Canadian Arcott. We will use the comb waste to check its ability to be needle felted and some of the Carding to check if it will wet felt. Ann is thinking it will not. Let’s see what happens next week!


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