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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.
Armature experiment 2; Adhesion and Rotation of the wool on wire

Armature experiment 2; Adhesion and Rotation of the wool on wire

While making samples for the study group investigation of wire for armatures I have noticed that there have been differences in getting the wool to adhere to the wire and sometimes this seems to be leading to rotational movement of the wool on the armature.

While the rotational movement of upper quads on many of the leg samples would be reduced if a pelvis/hips had been added. I was still interested in investigating further.  Since there may be a shape I would like to make that does not terminate with a hand or foot.  Maybe a tentacle or spout?

The underlying problem may be adhesion to the wire. When twisted there is a bit of improvement in wool adhesion over the single untwisted wire.  This could be improved by adding a pipe cleaner (now called “Chenille Stems” since there are fewer pipe smokers who need to clean their pipes) which allows the wool something to grip as it is wrapped.

Sample 1; Untwisted 6ga aluminum wire with pipe cleaner on the loop half of the sample and Floral tape on the second half.

1 Pipe Cleaner wrapped 6ga aluminum.

One of our study group had been instructed to add tape to specific areas of her armature. I had at first thought this may be for added strength or stiffness to that section. Then, wondered if it was for improved adhesion to use the wool to strengthen the section with tape. I did a sample of a single 6ga/4mm wire with pipe cleaner on half the length and floral tape on the other half to compare adhesion. I had the upper quads on the leg sample to use as a bare wire sample.

Floral tape is a strange thing to work with. It is dry and a bit wrinkly until you give it a gentle tug, then it turns sticky especially when wrapped over itself. I did discover the stickiness does not last forever or even very long. So, only wrap the section you will be working on.

2-4  Pipe cleaner and Floral tape over a single wire

In sample 1; 6ga aluminum ½ Pipe Cleaner (loop end) and ½ floral tape.

Rotation is present, greater in the pipe cleaner section than in the floral tape.

Flexion test;     – both sections will make a sharp bend but are vary stiff due to the gauge.

I am also curious to see if with a weaker gauge wire if a duct tape or gorilla tape may give restrictions to bending in the section where applied. I may try a sample with the floral tape over the top since I suspect the adhesion will not be enhanced with duct or similar tapes.

5 Duct Tape and Gorilla tape. (Gorilla tape is an extra sticky extra strong version of Duct tape.)

I sampled with 18ga aluminum so it would show flexibility more than the 6ga I had been using. Note that the aluminum I have presently at this gauge is intended as picture wire and it is not coated. If you are selecting aluminum, try to perches the coated wire since it will not leave dirty marks on your fingers.

6-7 Residue from uncoated aluminum and what was on the empty plate (in case you were curious).

The two wire samples were about 10 inches long, which I divided into approximately 3rds. 2/3rds I twisted together and one-third was left single.  I put a small open loop on the single end and the fold on the other end created a longer loop. I wrapped as tightly as I could the middle section with gorilla tape. This covered about half of both single and double twisted 18ga wire.

8-9 bare wire and gorilla tape and sample covered in wool for flexibility test

In sample 2; 18ga aluminum ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape.

Rotation is present and seems equal in all sections.

Flexion test;       –  single could make a sharp bend

                            –  Taped section could make a curved bend

                            –  Doubled could make a sharp bend

 

For sample 3, I used 18ga aluminum as before,  ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape. This time I added floral tape over all sections in hopes to increase adhesion

10-11 Bare-wire, wire with tape added (about 6 wraps)

12 Test bending with tape to see how the tape was resisting making a sharp bend.

13 covering wire and tape with Floral tape with the hopes of increasing adhesion and decreasing the rotational movement of the wool around the wire.

 

In sample 3; 18ga aluminum ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape. Floral tape over all sections in hopes to increase adhesion.

Rotation is minimal to not noticed across all sections.

Flexion test;        – single could make a sharp bend

                             – Taped section could make a curved bend

                             – Doubled could make a sharp bend

 

14 Sample 3 with wool, checking flexibility in all test sections.

The use of tape may be helpful in spots where you want to allow a curve but not a sharp bend. The amount of tape (number of wraps) will change the amount of flexion in the wire. If you want to use tape to restrict a sharp bend, more sampling may be required. While the gorilla tape adhered to the wire and itself, the wool did not adhere well to it without the addition of the floral tape. The use of the two tapes together may have merit in a particular application.

 

The Rotational movement component may not be a problem when working on a large or thick figure or object but may be more problematic on fine legs or other skinny appendages. In this case, the assist of floral wire may be very helpful.  Another future investigation for thin appendages would be to investigate the use of waxes to assist adhesion.  Wax has also been used to create surface smoothing as seen in some felters’ bird legs. Although that may partly get beyond the parameters of wire, it may be well worth further investigation. unfortunately, I will leave that for another day.

PS; while Glenn was spellchecking (if there are more spelling errors blame me I think I have broken his spelling), he suggested I try the sticky cloth medical tape it may give an improved adhesion over the bare wire. I suspect it would likely have a bit more flexibility than gorilla tape and be a bit more expensive than floral wire. (Drat now I have to go look and see if we have any medical tape!!)

 

Investigation of 6.5mm and 7mm aluminum wire (the heavy stuff)

Investigation of 6.5mm and 7mm aluminum wire (the heavy stuff)

I have been working on more samples for the study group, I hoped you might like to see some of my investigation of the heaviest gauge of aluminum wire (6ga/7mm) we were looking at. It has come to my attention that it is also Palm Sunday. (I am glad I had included Palms in my samples!)

1 Part of the 7mm samples

I know most of us will not be making armatures that would require this gauge, but if you are wanting to make something quite large or you need it to have very strong legs this may be an option for you.

For both the 6.5mm and 7mm wire, I found it helped to wrap the foot loop wire with a layer of wool before I started to build up the foot itself.

The twisting of the 7mm wire required anchoring with the large welding pliers. (These were a fabulous find at Princess Auto. Yes, in the welding section. Did they not know they are well suited to make ninety-degree corners in armatures so should have been in the felt section? Oh right they don’t have a felt section yet.)

Here are photos of the 6.5mm wire is being wrapped to form the support to attach the rest of the wool for the foot.

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4-9 foot development leads to a leg.

With the 6.5mm I used the wire untwisted with no augmentation or secondary wire. While I did not find this particularly challenging I do see that some felters may find the lack of grip on the wire a bit annoying. While the gastroc (calves) at this size were very stable and quite firmly felted the quads did have the ability to rotate slightly. This I did find annoying. I suspect this would not be as much of an issue if this appendage had a pelvis. So if you are making a shape that ends in a cylinder shape you may want to investigate other options than a plain wire.

I would investigate Sara’s wax products to give a bit more stickiness to the wire or try tacky craft glue. Other possibilities to investigate would be Pipe cleaners possibly paired with floral tape if the pipe cleaner was not gripping to the wire itself. I have not investigated the life expectancy of floral tape so I can’t guarantee its longevity.

For the 7mm sample, instead of the open foot loop, I folded back the lower section to make it doubled to the patella (knee). This made me thread the short section of roving I was working with through the foot loop to cover the wire. It was a bit fiddly but was worth it to have a base from which to build the foot.

The lower leg to knee was very easy to wrap. Remember when you are adding the wool in thin layers to make sure that when you start to get close to the end of the fibre spread it out so it’s quite thin and work back over what you have already applied. When you get to the end of the fibre keep turning the appendage as if you were adding more fibre while rubbing and smoothing the fibre you had just laid down. If your application is firm and built up in thin layers you will have very little needle felting needed to get this under layer to stick to itself. The preparation of the fibre will also make a difference, stripped batts work better than top but top will work.  it’s just a bit harder for this particular application.

When I had completed the appendage, I found that there was even greater rotation in the larger gauge wire. This may have been due to the under layer being a bit looser than I could have wrapped it. I did a second sample and yes the quad still had a bit of rotation but not as much as the first sample. So I suspect part of the rotation is a looser under layer.  I have made a sample with a pipe cleaner wrapped around half of the appendage and will see if that reduces rotation but I will get back to that one later.

12-13 next sample to address the problem in quad movement

Leaving the legs for a moment, I went on to the next sample, which was a hand with wool. This I consulted the bare wire samples I had taken for each gauge. After consideration, I started with the 20ga hardware wire (steel) from Dollarama for the fingers and 6ga for the palm and forearm. Unfortunately, that sample made like the hand from the Adams family and the thing crawled off. (I am sure IT will return the Thing shortly).

14-15 consulting the wire samples

To make the fingers I used Sara’s “Digit widget”. I have previously used my tapered mettle seed planting measuring guide for little fingers on my mice and the mettle ruler for the fingers on the Mer’s.

16 the finger former implements; mettle ruler, seed depth guide, Digit Widget.

My second ample was 20ga aluminum from AliExpress for the fingers and 6ga for the palm and forearm.

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17-18 Fingers

At this point, the weather outside had stopped raining and we had a break. During which I rushed (ok, slow shuffle) outside to attend to the overflow for the rain barrel that had come adrift as well as fill the bird feeders. (I got scolded by a chickadee as soon as I stepped out of the door!!!) . I got three tomato pots and one tree moved from the front garden, where the pots over winter, to the driveway.  Then my back said, Are you nuts? Did you just move a potted poplar tree? Well, we are not moving the next one!! We are not doing anything that requires sitting or standing for at least the next day!!! If we don’t decide to yell at you longer so I crawled back into the house took off my boots, by this point that was a big accomplishment and crawled into bed with a hand, one needle and a small baggie of wool. So, I apologize for not grabbing the camera, so it would be in reach to document the finger creating. Thus there is a bit of a jump in photos while I am adding wool to the fingers, palm and then to the wrist.

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19-21 (the Palms of Sunday) the wrist still needs a bit more work, but the palm is close

I am not quite happy with the hand yet. I think I would be having an easier time with scale if I had been building from the arm down as I usually do with full figure sculptures. This way I am trying to guess the forearm thickness to match the hand to. I found the aluminum is a bit soft but may be able to stiffen it a bit more by more felting. There is enough grip strength to hold the felting pen without dropping it. But I would like it to be just a bit stiffer. Therefore, I may investigate shifting to a stronger type of wire or a heavier gauge of aluminum since the fingers are still quite thin at 20ga aluminum. I will find the 18ga aluminum and try that next.

We had a quick trip out to Rona to look for pot saucers (no luck) and while there, I checked out their wire selection. I picked up a brass and a copper as well as another un-coated aluminum. The new wire seems to be hiding in the car may be under the big bag of potting dirt Glenn put in the back. Once I find them, I will make samples and add them to the collection.

The 6.5 and 7mm would be a gauge to investigate if you were building a 3D picture that needed a supportive tree trunk or branch something would be hung from. You will need reasonably strong hands to work with it especially if you are working with it doubled. If you have a desperate need, you may consider a bench vice and substantial pliers to assist you in the wire twisting (no wimpy pliers for this gauge!). Glenn has a cool blacksmithing tool called a bending fork but I do not think I want to stick the aluminum in the forge! He also has a couple of jigs for bending “S” hooks which might be fun to play with. There is also a large leg vice sitting by the “small” anvil.  I will let you know if I sneak out and play with his tools.

On a different topic, I just heard that “littlelaurelfibre” on Instagram, has tried to heat the bee-combs from Princess Auto that I was telling you about in a previous blog  https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2019/10/15/a-cheap-alternative-to-wool-combs/ .  instead of an Oven, as was used in making plastic armour, she used a heat gun. (she has a great photo of the before and after on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CM5ToLnJw37/?igshid=duidf6r2yckg&fbclid=IwAR1Qj3-1gKu5GURshhce-DGhGl0F5ZUBAw7kNqByQZXYJ0E0RymCKhXdDG8 . The Heat gun did the trick perfectly! She was able to adjust the angle from the handle to the tines so it would better suit our needs (instead of the bees).  Now I will have to send Glenn to the “room of tools” in the basement and see if he can find the heat gun. I was sure we had one!

Have fun and keep felting!!

 

Distractions while working on the Armature Wire Study group homework!

Distractions while working on the Armature Wire Study group homework!

As I mentioned earlier, the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners guild had decided to try 3 study groups starting in February. One on weaving, one on spinning and I had the Felt study group looking at armature wire. We were going to look at different types of wire, in different gauges and in different combinations. To see how flexible they were and what size of sculpture might be appropriate to use them with.

We started on Feb 24, 2021, at  07:30 PM and ran for 4 weeks till Mar 17, 2021.  I had ordered a lot of different aluminum wire online and had found quite a bit of non-braided wire at the hardware store and Dollarama.  I was doing quite well until last week!

As we came out of lockdown, we had the opportunity to do fun stuff in a limited way again like have a guild library day!! Ayah!!! Getting out of the house, pulling and bagging books to ready for pick up, the Anticipation!!! Then the horrible realization that the car still wants to quarantine in the driveway, watching the buses go by. After a quick consultation from the nice CAA man who said he has seen a lot of this problem, suggested we wait for the next warm snap and see if she will start. Unfortunately, that would be after Library day!!

0.5 This is the Sunday of Library day (Masked Librarian receives book return). Saturday Elizabeth, not pictured but also masked, helped with book pulling and bagging while I dealt with the circulation database and added new items to the library.

I was very grateful for 2 of my very wonderful friends who gave me lifts down and back to the guild library while my Kea Soul sat in the driveway refusing to stop self-isolating. I rather overdid it even with their help, well I do not get out much now and wound up back laying down how frustrating. As the 3 days of warm weather arrived, on day 3 she started!! 2 trips to the car doctor and a rather hefty bill and she is now fine.

Besides library and car surgery excitement, I have been organizing and participating in the “Armature Wire Study Group” through our local guild. We were making samples of various gauges of wire, single, twisted, and then felted over. We had a number of different kinds of wire, copper, steel, rubber coated steel, stainless and aluminum. We had gauges from 6 aluminum to 26 steel floral wire.

For my samples I have been making appendages, well, 15 twisted wire and 15 wool covered legs with feet, 4 wire arms with different gauges of fingers on hands and 22 samples of each wire I was able to get. (there are a few that still have not arrived yet!) All the appendages are hanging up beside the desk in little baggies, with labels, notes and wire samples. I had wanted to do samples of two different gauges of wire as well, but am running a few days behind where I thought I would be. I still have a day so I may get a couple of the options done but without a wool covering.

 

1-3 all the samples (This is part of tonight’s zoom meeting for the study group)

The EXPERIMENTATION –Loop joint Samples

One of the participants had wondered about increasing articulation at the joint. I decided to try a simple loop to loop connection and a loop to loop with lateral support. The idea was to keep the “bone” sections from bending when it’s not appropriate. I sampled 2 connecting loop options in 9ga aluminum which is quite heavy. The first was two loops set perpendicular, at a 90 deg. angle to each other. The second was the same configuration but with 18ga aluminum secured above and below the joint and acting as the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL) to this mettle joint.

– to try to give articulation in one plane of movement. Using 9-gauge Aluminum wire.

8 the bare armature with the first joint attached. Joint 1

Joint 1

2 loops locking together, the lower turned so the main articulation swing will be front to back. This will give hyper-extension but may be reduced by wool over layer.  Wool does provide increased support but still allows more lateral shift than wanted.

– Freely swings to the front and back (anterior/posterior movement).

-it also swings freely from side to side (Medial / lateral movement).

-the joint can not be positioned to stay in one location other than what little support the wool is giving it. (This joint needs emergency surgery to correct for the lack of both the lateral and medial support ligaments!!!!

Joint 2

Loop at joints – with double twisted wire of the same gauge creating a loop for superior articulation. Augmented by 20 gauge aluminum wire (at sides of joint for adding grater lateral support).

-lateral support from wire greatly reduces lateral shift in the joint almost all the movement is front /back, anterior/posterior.

-again positioning is not an option other than the restriction from the wool covering the joint it can be moved but will not stay if released. moves more freely than just a single or twisted wire.

Conclusions: will not work for posing a figure but may be of use if you need a flexible joint that returns to its resting positions. This may be an option for some other project, but not for the project I want to do next.

We will have one more meeting in a month to report after we finish all our samples and exchange information. So I may be able to give you an update on a bit more of our findings. This looks like it was a good felting question to investigate

18 Articulating swing arms for webcam and tablet

I bought some new equipment to help with my zooming and after much surcharging for improved lighting. Eventually, I remembered the box with the magnifying lamp picture on it was not empty. (I had moved it when I was trying to sort out the office so should have remembered more quickly that I had it.) I got out my light for de-hairing Qiviut fibre to augment by poor office lighting. Of the new stands, one is designed to hold a phone, (if only mine would let the zoom app lode and open) but also how has the attachment to hold a webcam pointing at the desk and the other is holding Glenn’s older small tablet. I got Miaka’s email to log in through the tablet, so it could take a picture of me. It’s all been very exciting and a bit of a steep slope on the learning curve!!

It’s now getting quite late, which is why my spellchecker is not available (I think sleep spellchecking may be no better than me believing Microsoft word when they tell me “that is defiantly the word you meant”!!! I will hope that it doesn’t lead me too far astray.)

There are rumours it is getting warmer and there may be spring soon. I saw strawberry leaves poking through the fall leaves on Friday (car doctor assessment day) but by Monday (day surgery car day) they were all dead again. they always seem to be a bit overenthusiastic. I know that soon we will all be out Felting Alfresco again!!!

Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

A few weeks ago, there was a question about the Fox picture in the bog banner. With the re-cropping, you can just see the eye and a bit of the upper face. I was sure I had blogged about the workshop I started to create this in but neither Ann nor I could find the post. I promised I would re-post it after the Hedgehog of Love posts were up.

Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

Sunday, August 19, 2018 from 09:30 to 16:30 Teacher: Megan Cleland
Level: Beginner to advanced Language: English

Getting to twist the first time:

In August there is a fibre festival just over an hour away from Ottawa in Quebec.   I went for the first time a few years ago carefully printing out the instructions from Google maps (I didn’t own a GPS).  I jumped in the car and headed east across the border and down highway 50.  Now I know you likely had not noticed I am SEVERELY and utterly dyslexic.  I am even dyslexic in French (much to my grade 7 English teachers horror.  “What do you mean you can’t have 3 vowels and 3 consonants together?  The French teacher said it was fine.”!  So that was the end of my French classes. Too bad I really liked French there had been no reading or writing up to that point!)  Anyways to get back to Twist, I headed out with the instructions to turn north at the town that made me think of pineapples (Papineauville).  Yes, that should have made me think of grapefruit (pamplemousse) but I really am dyslexic bilingually so I slaughter both English and the bits of French I still remember. 

As I mentioned it’s just over an hour away from Ottawa and I was diligently checking each off-ramp sign I approached to see if any of the letters looked similar to what I was looking for.  That year there was a lot of road work and a lot of dead skunks.  It was past an hour by the time I reached Meribell airport (that’s really getting a bit close to Montreal!) so I turned back.  There had been no suggestion in the instructions you had to pass the airport.  On my way back I passed Montebello, which I remember passing the first time. Then I reached a sign that had been missing driving east; Papineauville and Saint-André-Avellin.  Turning north I found the town and the festival only I was really late!  I found out the sign was down due to the construction.  DRAT!!!

This year Getting to the workshop location:

I cannot spell but I am not a dumb as I look.  I asked Google Maps again to find the location of the workshop I would be attending;  ” Staffroom ADSPN”.   It told me this place would be 2 blocks away from the recreation center Twist was being held in.  so I did a street view and discovered no, it’s across the street from the back of Twist! You won’t fool me twice!!! I checked when I attended the 3d sculptural workshop, yes, it’s across the street.

Our Teacher was Megan Cleland who has a background in Fine Art (Painting).  She lived on a sheep farm for 10 years in Australia then moved back to Canada bringing her fibre with her. (I don’t think she brought her sheep).

She had requested we email her which of her sheep pictures we would like to do or if we had felted before we could select our image. So I did some digging through the internet and found a few photos I thought might work. 

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I narrowed the selection down to these shots.

I decided on the fox with the seal as runner up. I got an email back that she could only see half my fox could I send it again. So I sent the fox, the black and white and the colour separation. Ah, there is only half a fox.

Arriving at the workshop there were a lot of animals chosen but I had the only close-up. Ok, it is going to take me longer than the class to do this.

Our teacher is approaching needle felted felt portraiture was more like a watercolour painting; using layers of blended hues to produce the final colour.  

She handed out our photos with the out lined colour separation in grayscale like the third picture I had done.  We also received the prefelt for the picture backing, a bag of fibre in colours that would be appropriate for the picture that we could blend from, a foam pad (dollar store for kneeling to garden on), half a pool noodle as a needle rest and 2 felting needles.  She asked us to bring a pair of sharp scissors and a tablet or phone with our image on it.   I also brought candy and a bottle of Mountain Dew –for the caffeine.

I was very excited about how we would be transferring the image to the background.  Could it be the use of a Lucy? (A projector used in Illustration and Commercial art applications)  Are we going to grid and scale the pictures up? Would we be using a light table?  – I knew that commercial and fine art background would come in handy!  Yes, it was the last one just less hi-tech; we used the window.  She suggested a couple of types of pens used by quilters.  We used a blue ink that was to disappear with heat I think.  Quite a bit of it rubbed off on the side of my hand so I may try a different type next time.

She works starting with the Eyes and nose then adding in the darkest areas, then working out from there.  I had a commercial art teacher who painted watercolours.  His preferred method was to paint the whole painting then soak it in the bathtub to remove most of the pigment leaving only a stain behind. He would repeat this over and over but in the end, his painting had a Luminosity that was amazing.  But it was a very slow way to work. I usually approach felt more like a cross between Oils (work from the background to foreground) and Acrylics (application of carefully blended paint). Although, I did tend to use my acrylics paints with more of a watercolour wash technique. Back to the dyslexic confusion I mentioned before.  I know how I would approach this so let’s see what her methodology creates.

Just after lunch.  I have the eye basically blocked in but it needs more work same with the nose.  I have started on the dark areas

By the end of the workshop, I am not close to finishing and am feeling very slow but had a blast and am pleased with what I have done so far.  This is definitely slower than my usual technique, but let us wait and see the final result.

I got a chance last weekend to do a bit more between photography and a bit of shopping at the Almonte fibre fest.

Here is how far I have gotten at show and tell for the OVWSG guild show and tell (I had a lot of show and tell including 2 new to me, flax wheels, one Mini Electric spinning wheel, a tensioned lazy Kate and skein winder, both by Alvin Ramer, the 2 baskets I made at the blacksmithing conference and the Fox from the twist workshop, still in progress. It was a busy summer!)

The workshop with Megan Cleland was a lot of fun and I gained new information and experience. The garden kneeling pad from Dollarama is a great idea and did not absorb fibre like the foam pads do (even with the plastic cover still intact). She will be using rigid foam insulation for her next extremely large life size portrait. The half a pool noodle needle rest was a cool idea and the consideration of using fibre colour similar to layers of watercolour is quite intriguing.

She will be coming back to the Ottawa area and will be teaching in other locations both later this year and into the next. If you see her workshop you may want to take it.  Check out her Facebook page for what she has been creating! https://www.facebook.com/InTheLineofFibre/  I hope you get a chance to take a workshop with her too.

Update: Thursday  in Kanata 9am-7pm

I had the opportunity to continue working on the fox during the Kanata Games Club board game convention last weekend. While Glenn played 18xx train games, which are extremely long and full of math, I got to have fun and felt.

I found that checking with the camera helped me to see where I needed to adjust the fox’s colour.  It was also interesting to check out the back of the very thin felt we had been given to work on.

Friday I spent working on the guild library so I was back to felting on Saturday 11am to 9pm; this time downstairs by a window.  Then later I moved upstairs (someone brought garlic dinner so I evacuated).

Back Sunday to Kanata for the last day of the Boardgame (and Felting) convention.  Today the church was booked so we were at the community centre behind the church.

I got to the point around lunch when I was finally happy with the general look of the fox and decided to try single muskox guard hair as whiskers.  I was suspicious they would be too thin and need to be augmented by gluing a few together to give them more visual weight. 

 I like the concept but I think using the glue to beef up the size of the whiskers should work.  So by 3-ish I started another picture; this time sheep! But that’s for another day!

PS: Update on the foam kneeling pad from Dollarama. It worked very well for the fox but by the time I started to work on the next piece I was noticing bits of wool sticking and the foam is degrading in the areas most poked. So it works very well for a short time (30+hours?). But if you are really layering lots of thin wisps of fibre it will die. But at only a couple bucks it’s affordable and there is the second side to still use!!

I hope you have enjoyed the reminiscence about the fox and how it came to be. The banner at the top of the blog is a combination of Spinning, weaving, many kinds of felting as well as equipment for all these activities created or belonging to Ann or i. We stuffed it all into our cars and dragged it down to the guild studio to do a photoshoot for the blog heading. it was quite the assemblage of felting, spinning, weaving, basketry (to hold the fibre) and fibre prep tools all adding up to a pile of fibre fun. But that is another story if you would like to hear it sometime.

Wet Felting for Valentine’s Day!! Day 2

Wet Felting for Valentine’s Day!! Day 2

Day 2

After leaving the hedgehog overnight to dry on the air filter, he had successfully completed his mission to dry.  

I could now begin to add a bit more width to his cheeks. Next, add his coat. I chose an Icelandic fleece using the outer guard hair part of the dual coat as the bristles and bits of the inner coat to help space and increase adhesion of the guard hairs.

27 time to consider the face and coat

I separated the tog (outer coat of guard hairs), which is less inclined to felt when wet, from the undercoat which is soft and crimpy. To separate the two types of coats, hold the tips and base firmly and gently pull away from each other. Sometimes it takes a bit of a rhythmic tugging to free the tog. Once separated, I could use the tog to start building the outer prickles for the hedgehog.

I used a 38 star needle for most of the felting (except the ears which I also use the fake clover tool with T40’s loaded). I lay the guard hairs down, attaching across the locks then laid in a bit of the under coat to increase adherence. I worked the needles at low angles to almost parallel to the fibers catching a few fibers in the barbs at a time and pushing them into the layer of felt over the soap bar.

I added a bit of the under coat to give extra adhesion.

I then folded up the tips which had been pointing away from the fibers I was adding to.  Again securing them into the under layer of felt above the soap.

Occasionally I would add a bit of the under coat to the folded tip side too.

The order of addition was backwards to the layering I usually do when I want a coat to lie naturally. Since I wanted this to stand up, I needed to increase the density of the coat so it would not lie down. This time I starting from around the face (in white) then switching to the darker part of the coat, worked back towards the butt. I left the butt ends a bit shorter than the tips as I laid them in.

Once I got his coat on, I brushed and lifted the ends with the mini carder (dog brush). This fluffed him up nicely.

He is a cute little hedgehog! Here is a shot of the underside so you can see the bar of soap which is the base.

45 the soap base

Laying in the coat which is quite tightly packed took most of the day. I finished him after dinner and did the fluffing. So this would not be a economically viable option for mass production. There are a couple other options that may work faster such as using a section of the washed fleece and attaching it to the underfelt more as a blanket rather than a few locks at a time. I suspect it would not give the density that adding locks as I did allowed.

Finishing touches

Poor little guy, doesn’t suspect his life will be full of wetness then getting dry just in time for the next wetness to set in. I bet he would drip dry quicker if he could hang up.  I should add a “rope” for this soap.  I looked first at a piece of Kumohimo but the cotton fiber seemed wrong.

46 kumohimo option

So, I took the brush waste from the mini carder and added some of the washed locks and drafted it out. By adding a good deal of over twist with one of my spindles, I quickly had a two-ply yarn that could be mistaken for a rope.

I added the rope with a bit of needle felting along the edges of the underside of the soap-hedgehog using a bit of the under coat and pulled apart bits of the extra yarn to help secure it.

50 adding the rope to the soap

Ah, that’s better a way to dry faster and a loop handle so you don’t have to pick him up by his nose!

51 “please don’t pick me up by my nose!”

Last thing left to do. It is Valentine ’s Day after all, so He needs a Heart! I hunted around, found my bag of various red coriadales, choosing Nutmeg, and hand blending it with some of the reddish brown undercoat from the Icelandic fleece. (Colour should never be flat! Unless you are doing something graphic)

A few quick stabs and I had the shape. Now to add it to the right spot. Hmm, there is not much wool on the underbelly of this hedgehog! So, I was very careful in the angle of felting. The needle does sink into the soap fine but leaves a stinky soap smell on the needle and a bit on the wool as it emerges. (Just a warning – make sure you keep the angle of entrance and exit the same or the soap will want to break your needle)

55 “the Hedgehog is in the bag!!”

Now I just have to wait to find out if Glenn likes his new shower time friend.

56 “Glenn, can you meet me in the bathroom to unwrap your valentine’s day present please?”

      57- 62  the unwrapping, he found the Heart!

Yes Success!! I will try to get a shot after his first shower experience and see how he holds up!

63 First Shower! one bedraggled hedgehog

Epilogue

There seems to be a strange moose in my bed but he does have a bag of chocolate Easter eggs so I guess he can stay! (This is Canada, you do find moose in odd places here, often in swimming pools)

E-1 What is that in my bed?

 It is normal to see the triceratops, Cthulhu (who is somewhere else today) and the Balrog in bed. The moose was a surprise so was the chocolate, he can stay.

the last word from Hedgehog:

“Oh the Humanity!!! i give you my soap so you are clean!! Now i drip!!! Oh the wetness!! Oh the horror!!!”

Wet Felting for Valentine’s Day!! Day 1

Wet Felting for Valentine’s Day!! Day 1

Oh NO! I got distracted! I will get back to work shortly but I was so inspired by Alex’s Ladybug or Bird and was wondering if a hedgehog would work with a bar of soap? There was also a suggestion of a heart of soap for valentine’s day…… hmmmm. I wonder if I can combine that?

Bad Brain!!! Stop thinking and wondering where the soap stockpile is stored! No! It’s wet felting! It involves getting wet!! NOOOOOO! Remember brain we like needle felting partly for its DRYNESS! Even if there is occasionally a bit of blood, it’s not as wet as wet felting! ….hmmmm.

I think Glenn would like a hedgehog soap for Valentine’s day, it will last longer than chocolate or flowers!, (the flowers without roots that is.)  Oh well, I guess it must be done, I will get wet! Step one, I will need to clean the bathroom sink (yes there is almost no counter space in the bathroom so it was messier before I neatened it up a bit).

Let me think, what will I need? Fibre, soap bar, a container to work in (the drain is problematic so let’s use a plastic box to work in), I need to find some bubble wrap and maybe a zip lock bag would help contain the wetness? I blended up a bit of white and beige for the nose and over felting fibre.

I discovered that the soap hoard is woefully low at least of my glycerin soap (remember to add that to the shopping list). Luckily, Glenn’s giant package of smelly soap from Costco was only half gone! He probably won’t notice one is missing until after Valentine’s Day right? (he didn’t)

Day One:

I quickly noticed that the sink is not a comfortable work high. I wonder if I flip over the storage box and use that as a table surface. Yep, much more comfortable. Remembering the instructions from Alex and his Mom, the fibre must encompass the soap. Then the fibre and soap are secured by putting it all in a nylon and felted. I don’t have nylon. I also want to have more fibre on the back than the belly as well as having a nose and face at one end.

Layout

I alternated thin layers making a shape that would wrap around the soap and then added more in the middle and towards one end.

 

A bit more in in the butt I think then wrap and a bit of needling to hold everything together.

 

He needs a nose; a bit more poking will fix that. Better check photo reference! I watched (listened to) a few YouTube videos as I continued to needle felt until the general shape was achieved.

I found a small piece of bubble wrap (I spotted the larger piece after I was done) and an extra-large sandwich bags.

10 ready for his bath!

Now the hard part, I have to get the wool wet so that soap (Liquid Lavender and cucumber you can see in the photos) and agitation can do their work. Hedgehogs’ first bath!

I got a flash of a brilliant idea! If I put the wet soapy hedgehog and the bubble wrap in the extra-large sandwich baggie I could sit and watch the impeachment of the neighbour’s ex-president. Rather depressing, but it will keep my mind off the possibility of impending wetness. (I will work in the plastic bin in case that happens).  The seal was stressed but as much as the soapy bubbles tried, only a few escaped.

I started softly, gently, caressing the fibres. Slowly increasing my pressure until I was massaging with some enthusiasm (I have a license for that!). Unlike work, I used bubble-wrap on this patient, focusing on the nose and the general body shape. I built up so much soapy lather that it became hard to see the hedgehog! After a few impeachment presentations, I felt I had achieved Felt!! I also had not sprung a leak and got wet!

Time to rinse out the suds and make sure the felting worked! (really I can’t see much in all this soap!)

I brought the Hedgehog back to the office so he could dry and finish watching YouTube, maybe I will have to give him eyes so he can better see what is happening. In the meantime, he is practicing some form of Yoga nose stand. I wonder what that pose is called. (Balanced nose drying?)

While I know watching a naked, eyeless, hedgehog dry is absolutely fascinating, and is worthy of hundreds of photos, at every stage of wet to dampness to ultimately dryness. I can see that you may have other things to do so I will resume once he has accomplished his mission to dry. So I will pause today and resume to see if I can add spines and other important parts.

To be continued on Day 2!

 

Mer Hands and Armature Study Group

Mer Hands and Armature Study Group

This past week in Ottawa was cold, with a few days that were not overcast and gloomy. We even had a little snowstorm and lost power for a few hours.  Since I couldn’t work on the computer and the lighting was off for colour work I tried to wash the dishes, no hot water…. Ok, how about cleaning up the dust bunny I spotted in the dining room the vacuum is right there… oh….. I will get the broom… Well, it was not all bad, I didn’t have to vacuum and Glenn brought home Fish and Chips as a treat for dinner!

 1 Ice on the window to inspire you!

So when the sun came back I made the most of the good light and blended some yellow-ish skin tones for Mr. Mer. I was focusing on his hands and building up his forearms (lots of arm curls and extensions to build up the biceps/Triceps now wrist curls to build up the extensors/flexors in the forearm) I suspect he would just like me to add a bit more fibre to him so he can skip the exercising!

 2 Mr. Mer, Miss Mer and Mrs. Mer.

It has been a while since you saw the understructure for Mr. Mer but the armature for the hands is floral wire doubled over and twisted. The rest of the body is 12 gauge aluminum. The armature was then wrapped in part of an alpaca bat I had used with all the Mer’s.

      3-8

The top layer is blends of Corriedale in cream, yellows, greens, blush and browns aiming to be similar to the underside of a northern pike with a suggestion of skin tone. I want to layer over a few more tones but I think he is heading in the correct direction.

 9 its hard to see with the wet window but there are gusts of snow on the other side of the glass

Today has been bleak and snowy, but not as cold! So I finished off my notes for the study group on armature wire. I have the outline written. It took a while to try to source locally some of the wire gauges we will be investigating. I also made a list of some of the online options. I wound up with five pages for the outline and shopping notes! I got them off to the registrar so she can send them out as registrations come in. The OVWSG study group web page is now live! The first few fellow studiers have signed up! I hope the rest of my wire orders come in soon!! We are starting 23 February 2021 running weekly on Wednesday (Zoom meeting 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm Local Ottawa time) until 17 March 2021. Because we are Zooming we can be accessible to more people. Please take a peek if you would like!

 10 Mr. Mer is demonstrating how well his new fingers work by holding the first wire order that has arrived. (Approximately 10 gauge Aluminum.)

 11 This is an assortment of wire collected locally in Ottawa at; Dallerama, Home Depot, Walmart. I also found some 12 gauge aluminum wire at McBead Creations but it’s not in the picture! (the 11 gauge steel is what I used in the Quadra-dents and is too stiff for most armatures. But does make excellent weapons!)

I hope this will inspire others to try study groups as a way of learning remotely while we are still stuck at home. At least the commute to work is quick for some of us? And hopefully, the rest of us are having fun felting!!

12 Mr. Mer shows off his fingers

2021 First Quarter Challenge Researching

2021 First Quarter Challenge Researching

I am not as far along on my challenge as Ann is. She was showing hers off last night at the social (on Zoom). I hoped you might be both curious about my research progress and may find inspiration for your own challenge. I am looking at Art Nouveau, which starts before our challenge period but extends through to 1910. It draws influence from the arts and crafts movement, craft revivals and the introduction of Japanese prints to England and Europe.

Art Nouveau, “ornamental style of art that flourished between about 1890 and 1910 throughout Europe and the United States. Art Nouveau is characterized by its use of a long, sinuous, organic line and was employed most often in architecture, interior design, jewelry and glass design, posters, and illustration.”

in Architecture one of the earliest to use the art Nouveau style was Victor Horta who’s most famous town home in Brussels predates the challenge, but Hôtel Tassel is a particularly good example of the organic fluid style of Art Nouveau with structure and patterning inspired by nature.

1-5 Victor Horta; Tassel house Brussels. Exterior 1893, Railing details, Staircase, Stained-glass.

Another example of this style is in commercial illustration, (for which I have a particular fondness) was the work of Alphonse Mucha.  He was a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Nouveau period.  His distinctly stylized and decorative posters often encompass organic flowing lines. He often used circles or arches to highlight his subject and embellished them in lavish flowing fabric, flora and hair. He is most famous for his Theater posters, particularly of Sara Bernhard. He also did other commercial art designs and large murals for the exhibition of 1900. He produced portraitures in New York while getting backers for his work the Slavs but this is just after our challenge time period.  

I purchased prints of his while I was at University and again after graduation. I only have one of them up at the moment, Media, since I have many bookshelves and little wall space. In grade 13 I was one of 2 girls who read the part of Medea in English class. The teacher suggested the boys should be careful of both of us since we both seem to have enjoyed reading the role.

6-9 Alfons Mucha; Medea 1998, The Pen 1899, Laurel 1901, Cycles Perfect 1902

in Laurel of 1901 and some of the top decorative elements of the Pen 1899,  you can see the arts and crafts inspiration from the textiles and wallpapers of William Morris.

10-11 William Morris;  1896, 1897

In Art Nouveau, I also get to see some of the Norse art of the Urnes and Oseberg style. this may be why I am so captivated by its flowing linear quality.

11.1 Urnes Style Norse art on Stave church

While I have been delving into hours of looking at the amazing graphic linear design I also was finishing off the main guild library lists for 2021; Topic, Magazines, Author and Title, submitted the outline for the armature study group and am finalizing the supply list for it. 

Then I got a message reminding me I had promised to get a photoshoot done for the armature study group sign up page. Ooops, OK change of plan where did I put the wire, oh yes in the white bucket beside the computer desk! I re-piled my partly cleared desk with various packages of wire, so much for cleaning up my desk. Now, how can I display all that in an aesthetically pleasing manner?  Mr. Mer volunteered again (I suspect I will never convince him he should be a fisherman after this.)

I used my chair as the backdrop and draped a throw Glenn gave me over it. I selected the 11 gauge steel (grate for quadra-dents not so much armatures), the 12 gauge aluminum and 20 gauge floral wire. I suspended the 11 gauge wire with a piece of kumihimo I had just finished since it was too heavy for even a Mer-man of his excellent physique to lift.

I suspect all that looking at all the Art Nouveau may have unexpectedly influenced the photoshoot! I had not been thinking about it at the time I set it up but see what you think.

Here are a couple of shots from the photoshoot.

12-13 Mr. Mer Posing with Armature and Quodra-dent wire

I pulled one of the photos and stuffed it into “PhotoPad” which is a free photo editing software and started to play using the Cartoon edit feature I got this.

 14 Cartoon edit from PhotoPad

With a bit of stretching of the image, it changed to this.

  15 added stretch to JPEG to create proportions of the theatre posters of Mucha.

When I played around in Microsoft Word, I did a bit of artistic photo editing and got this.

  16 Microsoft effect “Photocopy” with increased contrast and saturation.

I have gone from 3D felt to 2D flat, like the prints by Mucha. I’m not sure this is it. It’s a bit too stylized and abstract but I like the flow. Is that frothing sea foam crashing behind him? There is definitely something here.  I will think about this for a while.  Now I wonder where this will take me as I continue to consider the first challenge of the year.

Mr. Mer Considers a New Career in Modeling

Mr. Mer Considers a New Career in Modeling

Mr. Mer had so much fun with last weeks’ stretching and mirror blog that, if you don’t mind, he would like to do another one.  But he was very insistent that he needed to hit the wool before the next shoot.( He wanted to increase his bulk, especially in his upper arms and quads. I am not sure why a mer-man needs quads but ok, fine.  I did some quick colour blending with the hand carders to help him out.) Unfortunately this past week in Ottawa has been overcast with grey clouds, drizzle and today, more snow. So not the best weather for colour blending but I did my best. 

While I worked, I figured I should explain to him why we can have problems with the muscles in the neck and into upper shoulders.

Colour Work

“Think of your head as a bowling ball balancing precariously on a short Dowel. To help keep it from falling off there are two sets of cords at the front and 2 sets at the back.” I said as I brought wisps of the green colours from his fishy parts up to integrate it with his low and mid back. Then as I continued to explain, I added a yellowed skin tone base and more definition in his arms.

The front cords are called SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) which is one of my most favorite muscles in the whole body!! You have one on either side of your neck and they are amazing! Their name tells you where they are going and where they have been. They attach on the skull at the mastoid process, It’s a bump behind your ear, then head inferior to split and attach to the superior medial clavicle and the superior border of the Manubrium which is the top bone of the sternum.  But wait, this muscle gets even better! When you use (Contract) only one of the two you get Ipsolateral contralateral rotation!!! Is that not the coolest thing ever!!! Ok that means that it tips your ear towards your shoulder and then rotates your chin in the opposite direction. Now you see how cool it is!!

Balancing with the two front cables (SCM) are the 2 back cables called Levator scapulae. They’re cool too.  They are the elevators of the scapulae (shoulder blades). The inferior attachment is to the superiomedial scapula and the superior attachments are to the transverse processes of the upper 4 cervical vertebra. Think of them as like the Darth Vader of muscles. They can get the Suboccipitals or upper traps in trouble then look all innocent and claimed they didn’t start all the unhappiness.

Levator scapula is located under the upper traps muscle, which you can see draping over the upper back and shoulder.

The felting needle indicates the area of the superior attachment to the transverse processes of the upper four cervical vertebrae.

The felting needle is a little high but is trying to indicate the inferior attachment which is to the superiomedial scapula

Today we are going to look at Levator scapulae. Which is used when you stare (it stabilizes your head); at your artwork, the computer, a good book or where your needles are heading so you do not stab yourself. The longer you work without remembering to take a break, the grumpier they tend to get.  Luckily, there is a stretch for them. Think of it as “visually checking to see if your armpit smells”. You are just looking out of the corner of your eye.  You don’t have to get your nose into your armpit (that would be very uncomfortable). You may have to adjust the position a bit depending on the section of the muscle that is tight. Some patients find it feels like the correct stretch when they are looking out of the corner of their eye towards their thigh rather than their armpit.

Now if Mr. Mer will stop hamming it up with dramatic death scenes we can break down the stretch for you.

Pre-stretch consideration

Make sure you move only in comfort.  A feeling of pulling is fine but not a feeling of pain. If pain starts, back up just a bit on the movement. My teachers suggested it was preferable to do the movements separately, tip and then rotate. Add the pulling with the arm if needed. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds but stop if it is uncomfortable.

Step 1

Mr Mer has been felting with his right hand and has been finding tension building in the Right Levator scapula so he tips his left ear towards his left shoulder. Make sure both shoulders are down and relaxed (they will sometimes try to help by coming up. That isn’t really helpful) If you need to keep the shoulder from cheating sit on your Right hand or hold on to the seat of the chair with it.

Step 2

While keeping your ear close to your shoulder rotate your head so you are peeking out of the corner of your eye at your armpit.  Sometimes you will find the feeling of the stretch by looking more at your thigh that is ok too.

Step 3

If you feel like you would like a bit more intensity to your stretch, you can use the hand of the arm you are looking towards and gently rest it on your head. If you feel like you would like to increase the stretch try a gentle pull diagonally, down towards the thigh.

Adjust the angles until you feel the tugging of the stretch from the top of the shoulder blade to the upper neck. Sometimes you feel the edge of upper traps on the top of the shoulder.  It’s still a good stretch but you’re one muscle over from the one you are looking for. Keep adjusting ear tip and head rotation and add a bit of a tug until you find that “AHHHH” spot.

 Mr Mer says he is feeling half relaxed and will do the other side after the blog is done. “Don’t forget to use your Mirror to check your shoulder isn’t trying to be helpful and sneak up while you are doing your stretch”

Sometimes in the planning stage of a project we can spend a lot of time web surfing, looking at information for what must be only minutes but strangely seems to have been hours when I consult the clock! Mr. Mer and I hope this stretch may help if you too get lost in lots of great idea generating hours on the computer!

Add a Mirror to Your Studio Space to Reduce Shoulder Tension

Add a Mirror to Your Studio Space to Reduce Shoulder Tension

Happy 2021! 

Since more of us were staying at home last year, some of us have overindulged our enjoyment of fibre to keep us happy during confinement. Whether you are wet felting, dry felting, damp felting, spinning or weaving, if you continue having fun too long without breaks, someone will get annoyed with you. Sometimes it’s your neck or your hands and wrists or your back. Sometimes you catch yourself slouching or sometimes you hear about it from your body later.

There was a question online about muscle pain from needle felting. It got me thinking about work.  I do miss work.  I was an RMT. I spent many happy years chatting with grumpy muscles and they’re usually less grumpy owners. Most of those 25 years were with people who worked in high tech. There were lots of shoulder, neck, back, arms and some low back complaints. Felters and other fibres artists often have the same areas yelling at them. After having a thorough chat with their muscles (a therapeutic massage), I would send them back to work with homework.  I gave stretches for specific muscle groups and often suggestions to help with spatial or time awareness. (Your RMT or PT can tell you which stretches to focus on from what they find during your assessment)

Pain is the body trying to get your attention. it’s trying to tell you something; often to request you stop doing what you were enjoying doing. If you read one of my textbooks (the red one, by Kessler, Management of Common Musculoskeletal Disorders. another of my memorable textbooks was called Myofascial pain and Dysfunction by Travel.) Dr. Kessler has some interesting insight into pain. He suggests you can suspect if it is a nerve pain or a muscle pain by the way a patient describes it. Each has its own vocabulary. Nerves tend to be; “sharp,” “stabbing,”  “lancing,” “searing”, but can also be “numbing”, “freezing”, “burning”, “chilling”. While muscle vocabulary tends towards; “aches,” “stiff,” “tight,” “hard,” “weak”.

 

Here is the cover of Kessler’s Textbook, In case you are really curious and want to read about this too.

While this seems to be a large vocabulary, it is not nearly as helpful as the body hopes. You get the message quite clearly but the interpretation of what exactly is the problem and sometimes finding out who sent it can be a challenge. With some pain, the spot you are feeling it, may not be the muscle that started the yelling. You may be feeling levator scapula yelling but it may have been the upper trapezius that started it or the other way around!

I have an odd way of looking at physiology but patients seem to have understood the analogy.

The brain is very good at ignoring the daily mumbles and complaints of the body. You spent years at school sitting and taking notes to practice ignoring your muscles.  The brain will often tell the muscle “I’m busy, call back later”. The muscle can be put off for a bit, eventually to get their complaint heard by the brain, will have to increase the volume or scope of their complaint and keep calling back. The brain will eventually answer and be surprised to hear the muscles are so angry!  If you can catch the muscle annoyance (tension) before it wants revenge, adjust your posture and maybe take a quick stretch break, you will be able to keep doing what you were enjoying for longer!

Unfortunately, when Levator scapula and Upper traps particularly are involved, it can be hard to be aware that they are misbehaving before you get yelled or screamed at. One way to catch them is to use a Mirror. Position The Mirror so you can clearly see how you are sitting or standing to work and the distance between your shoulders and your ears. (while you work, shoulders will often try to drift up and foreword.)  

(Mr. Mer, has been trying to build up his Quads and hasn’t notice his shoulders are elevated.)

Ask your shoulders, “shoulders are you being good?”

They will answer, “Yes of course we are!”

Do not believe them and check the mirror. Drat! They’re gossiping with the ears again!! When the muscles have been annoyed for an extended period of time telling the shoulders to go down directly often is unsuccessful.

The Shoulders says, “You put me here, so this must be the right spot!” and refuse to go any lower.

If it is true that they have grievously lied to you and they are up visiting the ears again… tell them to go up, just a bit, to get their attention.  Hold that position for a moment, then tell them to drop. (relax them as much as is comfortable)

Mr Mer’s shoulder are up towards his missing ears and refuse to go down when asked.
Mr Mer pushes his shoulders up just enough to get there attention and holds them for a few seconds
Mr Mer relaxes his shoulders and lets them fall lower than they were when he was working.

Shoulders will be shocked and apologetic!

Exclaiming, “We are sorry and will never do it again!”  

Be patient with them, realizing they have severe short-term memory issues and will likely be gossiping with the ears again soon.  (you don’t have Alzheimer’s, just your shoulders)

Finally, tell them to slowly roll backwards in as large a circle as is comfortable. (You do not have to practice rolling forward since most of what we do is in front of us). You can roll one shoulder at a time or both together. Whichever feels comfortable. 

Rolling his shoulders backwards was hard for Mr Mer since he was balancing on his tail and finn

 Since they tend to be less than trustworthy when asked directly if they are visiting the ears, check on them visually in the mirror regularly.  If you spot them drifting up or forward try another shoulder lift and drop, then backwards roll to remind them to behave.

As the shoulders drift up and forward (elevation and protraction) you can have compression of the nerves in the front of the shoulders. This can produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, and decreased Range of Motion in the shoulder arm and hand (depending on what part of the nerve bundle is getting squished). So check your posture and position occasionally while felting/spinning/weaving using your mirror.  

Door mirrors usually go on sale in August and September for students going off to school. They are inexpensive and can be propped up against a wall or if the wall isn’t in a convenient spot a chair will do. As long as you can see yourself, while you work, felting, spinning or weaving, the mirror is in the correct spot. By glancing over occasionally, you can check up on your position and adjust yourself.

Also, watch for the height of your work surface, which can add to muscle irritability if it is too high or too low.

Time:  Another factor is how long you are working. If your project allows you to stop and start it will be easier on your body.  I used to suggest a cassette tape recorder and a half-hour cassette of your favourite music to work to. When you hear the loud click at the end of the side or realize there is no music it’s time to get up and go flip over the tape.  Another trick for remembering to take breaks was drinking liquids (not too much coffee or you will be awake all night!) the Brain is very good at ignoring muscles until they are extremely displeased but it will always answer the phone if the bladder calls! Personally, ice tea is very effective.  Sometimes you don’t even have to drink it, just look at it and the bladder gets nervous.

Mirrors can also be used to look at your work and give yourself a different perspective on your piece. If you are debating a composition or are not quite sure it’s right, It allows you to check your proportions when the image is reversed.

Last thing to think about; the smaller the muscle group used the quicker it will fatigue. So try to avoid tiny finger movements if you can use your hand, arm or shoulder. Sometimes fine motor detail is all that will work but try to do little micro-breaks to keep them from fatiguing or intersperse them with larger muscles working.

I hope this will give you a tool to help reduce tension and let you keep having fun longer so we can have a fabulous new year!

Mr. Mer gets back to work with his shoulders much more relaxed.
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