Ok, what is a “nal” and why would I bind one? Well, if you have an interest in Viking textiles (yes I have the Icelandic variant warp-weighted loom to prove it!) then you may want to learn how to Nalbind. (yep that would be me please!) This fall the local Ottawa Valley Weaver’s and Spinner’s Guild offered a workshop on 4 Wednesday evenings to teach an introduction to Nalbinding.
So now you know the where but may still be a bit confused by the what (it is) and why (would I want to do it).
“Nålebinding (Danish) literally ‘binding with a needle’ or ‘needle-binding’, also naalbinding, nålbinding, nålbindning or naalebinding” I first saw it spelt with the double A (I have always liked words with double A’s). * I already love this word, look how many different ways you can spell it and still get it right!
The what: there are multiple spellings depending on your location. It is usually described as a “type of single needle knitting” which is not at all like knitting. it is produced by a series of interlaced loops but unlike knitting it creates a more dense and stable fabric. if you use a pair of scissors and cut knitting it unravels, if you get a hole or slice in your nalbinded it will remain intact and not run or unravel.
When I first bumped into Nalbinding it was in the early 1980’s in articles on early medieval archeology. I was not able to find much information in English and it was mostly flat pattern analyses that were too much like some of the knotwork patterns to consider a true road map of instruction to recreate the process. Keeping the yarn looped and flat, while trying to stitch into the previous loops, was a bit of a disaster. It was well before the helpful Mr. Google and the wonders of YouTube. So, I put the hope of learning to make warm socks and cool hats aside and focused on my beloved Fragment #10 from Birka Sweden (Broken Lozenge Twill!) and making a ¾ size Icelandic variant warp-weighted loom. I measured from the inside of the trunk of my hatchback to the back of the seat, to get the height of my loom. It’s good to think ahead about how you are going to transport it.
1) Flat pattern diagram of Nalbinding similar to diagrams I was looking at in the 1980’s you can see working flat would be a difficult way to work with yarn.
The next time I bumped into the opportunity to take a workshop in January(?) 2010, with a fellow Medieval enthusiast who had kept researching and been introduced to the thumb method of working the loops (so much easier than the flat table method!!). She brought in samples of her work including a sock, mitts and a hand puppet
2-4) Samples from the first 1 day nalbinding workshop, laptop and samples with notes and nalbinding, close-up of the blue and grey sock, mittens in two patterns (thumbs to the side and thumbs underneath)
We used big lofty yarn and made a rectangle, which we were to join one end to the other and make a tube.
5) getting started with a needle and a single wool yarn
Well, that took an odd turn…. I seem to have developed a Mobius strip, not a tube! But I had a lot of fun so it was all wonderful!
6) My tube was not tubular… it just kept going and going.. it was a Mobius tube!
7) close up of Mobius tube
8) Mobius tube
9) following the working edge of the Mobius tube
Life got busy again and I did not keep practising (how can you do better than create infinity?) so I forgot how I was doing the loop and where the needle was going. Later that year I did take a hat workshop with Ann McElroy. It also did not turn out as she expected but I loved it. someone else loved it too since it disappeared while I was eating at a restaurant.
10) Bad photo of me smirking while wearing the new hat
I also got a Road Bug travel wheel from Merlin Tree out of Vermont for Xmas, from my husband….
11-12) Both sides of the new travel wheel “Road bug” by Merlin Tree out of Vermont, wet felted hat and edge of nalbinding at guild show and tell.
So speed ahead to last week, and I again attempted to overcome my befuddlement and learn to Nalbind hopefully without the infinity component! I again arrived extra early (about 7:30 a.m. for the 7 p.m. workshop, that’s ok I had lots of library work to do before the workshop started.) I had cleaned up the library work, neatened up the studio and had it ready for Meriam, our teacher. She set up a display of her work and a few books that might be helpful.
13) The display of samples and reference books.
14) The class notes, water cup (yes that is a skull), my scissors and pen, as well as the yarn we will be using
For our first night, we started with the Oslo stitch. Tail by the palm, wrap around the thumb making an x and pinch it with your first finger and thumb…. OK, I have nails, long nails at the moment. At this length, they should brake and be short in a week or so. In the meantime pinching it as required is a bit awkward but not impossible. We progressed from practising the starting loops to making the first few stitches. Oh no! I have got to work on even tension!! We also were shown and then practised, splicing our singles wool yarn. At the end of the workshop, we were sent home with homework (Practice starting, making a line of stitches and making splices.)
15) First night’s class and homework
I was pleased with the homework, it did look a bit better than the first try but I was very slow. I am still working on getting an even tension.
Today I went in early (8 a.m. or a bit before?) to keep working on sorting, checking and pricing the donated books given to the guild library. I have already written a separate database to help sort and track the books. I have been checking the library database and the shelf location to make sure we have a copy and that our copy is in good condition then checking online for the price range that the book is selling for. (Some are out of print, some are rare so I can’t find them and most I get a good idea of a reasonable price) I am getting them prepped for members to look through at the October meeting, (which is getting very close!!) Lastly, each book is tagged with an ID number and its price.
The studio also had a new loom being set up and the drum carder in use in the morning. there was a team for the 100-inch loom working upstairs too.
I took a quick break to watch and chat with Marie from Living Felt in Texas. I would like to make the bat she was making today but I can see a few modifications I would like to try! (Maybe if I get my blog post finished early I will get that started and maybe finished before going back in to work on the library?)
About an hour before the second night of the workshop was to start, the strange loud noise I had been hearing outside finally appeared in the studio window. Isn’t that a pavement stripper? (No not that other kind of stripper just working on pavement) sure enough, it started in the bike lane, pealing the pavement away. It wound up working straight through the class but moving farther down the street so it wasn’t too disturbing.
16) Stripper of Pavement, the things you see looking out the studio window!
Tonight we reviewed starting and making the Oslo loops (I unknowingly had been doing a Danish version which seemed completely right at the time.) We then learned how to make our first line of stitches attach at the beginning and end to try to make a tube (not the Mobius strip I had created last time). We then were shown how to add the next layer of our tube.
17) Example of increase used to create texture as well as make the circumference bigger.
18) reviewing starting
19)showing where to start the second row
20) My second row looks much better than the first row did
21) my yarn splice. I seem to be good at this part!!!
I likely had too much fun today since my thumb and index finger kept spassumming toward the end of the workshop, while I was pinching the yarn. I will have to do more hand and finger stretches before nalbinding. (Maybe not shift and lift books all day before class!)
Before heading home, we were shown increases and practised increasing on every stitch. This gave a wavy edge.
22) Increasing in every stitch gives a wavy edge
When increases are used in a less extreme way (not in every stitch), you can make a hat.
23) hat made with increases in nalbinding (it has a different beginning but we will look at that in lesson 4
By the end of day 2, I have gone from absolutely no tensioning to a bit more consistent to adding a second row. We were sent off with homework to start another length of nalbinding single-layer chain and use it as the basis to make a tube. Then do that again and again! Practice makes…. well it’s getting better..
I will continue my homework, interspersed with more Library work and maybe this afternoon I will take a little time and make that bat Marie was showing on YouTube yesterday. (It was very cute… but I think it needs a bit more bite! Have fun and I hope our weather doesn’t look at the calendar and we wind up in a chilly wet fall. I prefer the slow lingering end of summer with warm days and cool nights (but no frost, I am so picky!)
When last we left off we had considered where we get our needles and the pros and cons of buying from the manufacturers or the resellers. We also reviewed the parts of a felting needle and the gauges we usually use (there are more gauges and shapes that we don’t tend to use too.)
Keeping track of your Needle Gauges
Usually there are a few ways to do something and you can decide which way works best for you. I do only have a few absolute rules about needles, here are two that I find useful;
-the sharp end goes in the felt and not in your fingers (this reduces the use of bandaids)
-an unmarked needle that has left the box (or original packaging) does not return to the box (It keeps the needles in the needles boxes from getting mixed so I am sure of what is in each box).
Now, let’s look at a few options on how to keep them organized once they have left their needle box or packaging.
Option 1 (one supplier or being extremely organized)
If you acquire only one colour system (use only one suppliers) or if you carefully kept track of each needle, use one gauge at a time, then return it back to its original packaging when you are finish using it, you will always know what needle you are using. If this is working for you don’t change, unless it’s driving you mad. If this obsessive-tidy-neatness-technique dose not sound like you, we need a few other options. (I am not in this category)
Op.1 one supplier or
For one supplier, It is easy to keep track of what needle is what gauge as soon as you learn the colour system your vender uses.
You only have one place to buy needles!!! This can limit acquisition opportunities. (NO!!!!)
You have to be very organized, if you are working with more than one colour system.
Ann’s Option (2):
Re-colour to your own colour code. There are a number of ways to do this, the most common I have seen is Cheap Nail Polish (another reason to visit the dollar store). You may try warm (Red is a 32gauge) to cool colours (46Gauge is an Ice Blue). Or you could just go for odd colours that are on sail. Just keep track of what gauge is what. Some of the holders do not suggest using painted or coloured needles with them. If your favorite holder is one that does not like painted needles, leaving the needles un-coloured and just labeling the holder, may be the way to go.
Another ways to colour needles would be a spray paint for mettle like Tremclad or similar products. (Cover the working part and tips of the needles when you spray or you will reduce the effectiveness of the barbs.)
I have also seen a product described as “Tool Dip” used to coat the shank of the needle up to the crank. It was described as being more comfortable to hold than the thin needle on its own.
For my students I have used coloured kids hair elastics from the dollar store augmented by ones I have found on line. The best ones I have found were small circular ones that seem similar to the more expensive ones used to make bracelets. There are also hair elastics that are more plastic and less rubber that are larger but tend to brake quickly.(Try to avoid those.) 7) colours of elastics that go with each needle box I have presently.
Option 2 Re-colour
You chose the colour system
o Some colours chip, rub or flake off, leaving you guessing again, what the gauge is.
o You need to acquire the colours of paint or dip and also have the mess and time of labeling each needle.
o May not fit in all the holders after the colour is added.
o Elastics will eventually brake and you are left with an unmarked needle (unless you can identify it by its lacking from the ones that remain.)
Option 3.1 (Grouping on work surface)
If you have Lots of unlabeled, unmarked or randomly coloured needles stuck into something waiting to be used (Yes that sounds like me.) I often use two similar working methods to keep my needles sorted when using them. On both my foam (pool noodle foam kneeling pad) and the thick wool pad, I keep track of my needles by where their located on the pad. From left to right I have them grouped in course, medium, fine and extra fine if I have one.
8-9) Working on the whispering sheep. Foam kneeling pad from dollerama. Keep working needles grouped by gauge in the top portion of the mat.
If you have trouble remembering where each group is located, draw, sew or otherwise indicate the parking spots for your needles. Usually at the top of the mat is best, since it is not in the working area, you are less likely to accidently brake the needle by knocking it with your hand as you work. Try to be attentive to what your working style is and adjust the location to best suit you. (NB: if you have the pink, blue or red pen tool, which holds 1 to 3 needles. try not to stick them into the foam it is very easy to nock into them. Since they are taller than the average needle, they can easily snap when nocked by your hand or forearm). (Well, if you have an accident, at least that would mean you might be able to go shopping again!!)
For the firm felt pads similar to those sold as quilters ironing pads (.5inch thick) some are very firmly felted and can be resistant to needle penetration. If you have one of the extra firm options please see “Option 3.2 (Adjacent storage)” for some suggestions.
When I am working, the needles are stuck in across the top of the working surface. For storage in my foam pad (foam like pool noodles), I again group the needles but move them to the top edge of the pad. Don’t leave them in the end of the pad when you resume working. You can hit one of the stored needles and break one or the other, or both.
10) Diagrams showing the top end of a foam pad. The needles are first shown on the top for working (grouped by gauge), then the end of the pad for storage and travel. (Push the needles in so they don’t catch and brake during storage or travel. Remember to move them all back to the top surface when you want to resume work.)
Op.3.1 Grouping on work surface
Needles are close to hand
Works well on larger and softer work surfaces
– Needles are safer if stored deeply in the end of a foam pad for storage or transport. (storing at the end doesn’t work for all surfaces)
Storing needles in the work surface Can accidentally brake needles off in the pad if not careful.
– If needles are forgotten in the end of the foam pad, needles can be broken when work resumes.
– Before you dispose of degraded foam, check for needles stored in it.
– Not good for thin hard or side-less pads.(some have slopes rather than sides)
Option 3.2 (Adjacent storage)
When I am using my 6” x 6” wool pad, there is often no space on the pad to hold and store needles. When I can’t store them on the pad, I have used half a foam pool noodle (on sale in the fall when outdoor water activities become chilly and challenging). Again, pull out your permanent marker, and label where you will put each gauge or grouping (course (32g) / medium (36g-38g)/ fine (40g-42g)/ ex-fine (46g)). if you need to, add a spot just past “course” for reverse needles. That will help keep you from grabbing them by accident, (which could happen if you were storing them just by gauge).
11) Half a pool noodle derived in sections labeled by gauge.
If you want to upgrade the look of your studio or work space,(pool noodle may not be the accent you had in mind for your desk?- they do come in other colours and shapes and you can use English spelling instead of mine.) I have seen and admired very cute tea cups filled with wool that can also hold needles like a pincushion. I would suggest if you only use one tea cup, using sections of different colour wool to suggest where to store each gauge or using a needle and thread to mark out the parking spots. If you have a bigger work surface, maybe a selection of tea cups, one for each gauge and for specialty needles would work.
Op.3.2 Adjacent Needle Holder
Using an adjacent space allows more workspace on your pad or work surface.
Not attached to work so may get separated (mysteriously wander off).
Option 4: Use a needle holder and label the holder.
I have a number of different needle holders. The holders I have can hold from a single needle up to one that will hold 20 needles. They make work faster and most are more comfortable than holding a single needle. Getting a collection of some of your favorite holders/handles shapes allows labeling each holder with the gauge in them. If you keep the needles not yet in use separately stored and labeled, then you can be sure to switch out the occasional broken needles with the correct one. I know my fake clover tool has T-42 222’s. If I can find the 10 needles I just bought (found them!), the Twisted/Spirals 40g’s, I can label the other punch tool so I will visually know which is which.
If you securely use painters tape on the holder, than mark the tape, you can change both the tape/designation and set of needle you are using until you have enough holders for each gauge/shape you would like to have in them. The multi tools with closer needle spacing work best with fine gauge needles, whereas the wider spaced multi tools can accommodate courser needles. Remember if your holder can hold 7 needle, you don’t have to put all 7 needles in.
12) a selection of needle felting holders, there are examples of holders that can hold as few as one needle to one holder that can hold 20 needles.
Ergonomically speaking the single needle used directly in your fingers can become uncomfortable with extended use (muscle cramps and spasms can occur). Some felters will find it uncomfortable much faster than others will, especially those with finger and joint conditions such as arthritis. Recently a larger version of the single offset wooden holder has become available which is, for most people, more comfortable than the thinner version. If you do not find the pen shaped tools comfortable, then try the more nob shaped ones. The Nob shaped handles come in a couple sizes but usually have the ability to hold more than one needle, you can always decide to have only one needle seated if you need more control.
To reduce the likelihood of injuries, you can try to use larger muscle groups (larger muscles fatigue slower than smaller ones). Keep changing which joints are doing the primary work (shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingers). Take brakes; drinking tea or water will have the bladder help remind you to take a break. Slow down on the enthusiasm of both the rate and depth of stabbing the wool (remember working depth –the fiber is moved by the barbs so the depth of the barb is important. Do not go deeper than you need to accomplish what you are doing. Adding an appendage requires greater depth than blending a surface colour. A door mirror can be helpful if it is propped so you can glance at it intermittently as you work. Check if your shoulders are elevated or curled forward (protracted). When you are focused on felting you can forget about posture!
You know what needles are in use as long as you
Ergonomics – most holders are more comfortable than holding a single bare needle and reduces hand cramping and muscle fatigue.
You need holders for each gauge and shape of needle you have purchased. (Some of the holders are quite pricy)
Not all shapes are comfortable in all hands it may take a few options to find the ones that work for you.
Comparison set of needles.
A few of our local resellers have “sample or variety packs”. These are a group of needles in a variety of gauges and sometimes shapes. If you have an example of the main gauges you can compare the size of the working part from a needle you know the size of to one you are unsure of. With spinning, there is a tool that allows you to check the size of yarn and the angle of twist. For knitting, there is a tool with different sizes of holes to determine unlabeled knitting needle gauges. We don’t have a similar one yet for felting needles, hummm…. Let me think about that. If I could find my wire pulling plate that may be worth trying. (If only I could remember where what safe spot I put it in is… Drat oh well it might even be too fine!)
13) A set of needles from one of the china Resellers, Fibercraft has a larger sample pack but i didn’t find mine this is a smaller sample pack of star needles, Olive Sparrow has a set of needles in different gauges, and shapes.
Looking at the needles
I have a good ring light with a magnifying lens in the center. I purchased it for pulling guard hairs out of Quiviot fiber. It would also be helpful for those who are not as short sighted as I am, to look more carefully at their needles. Don’t just look at the gauge, sometimes there is an obvious difference between needles such as the 38g is a 333 barb needle the 40’s have the 222 barbs. While the 42 is a spiral 222 and the 46 is a crown needle so 111 barb designation. If you had a set like this, you could see the difference between gauges just by the barb number and working part shape. There are also different barb spacing, so that may give you a clue as to which needle you are looking at. This requires you either, have the original specifications, or you made yourself a note when you bought them.
14) Plastic vials with screw top lids. Add wool to the bottom so the needles don’t bang their tips on the end of the vile and dull.
Feel or palpate the needle (carefully)
You are likely also able to trust your fingers and carefully feel the working part of a known and unknown gauge needle. Palpation is a skill that gets better with practice but you can probably already tell the difference between course, medium, fine and extra fine. It is defiantly more of a challenge to separate the two fine gauges (40 and 42). It’s also helpful to use the feeling (or end feel) as the needle goes into the felt. 42’s should feel smoother, and effect less fiber migration than the 40g, which is technically courser. Palpation/Feel can mislead you on determining gauge; read the * in the “Con” column in the next table.
Another option is using a caliper tool
I bought a caliper tool for assessing armature wire as well as a couple metal plate wire gauges. (There are a couple of systems to size wire using the plates so it gets confusing. There is math involved when you look up how to use the info from a caliper with a wire gauge chart. Most of the charts I was looking at for armature wire didn’t get to the higher numbered gauges (40-46) which would cover our needles. If you have digital calipers that are fine enough to measure and compare to a labeled needle, with the unlabeled, then this is another option to sort our needles. If you don’t find a fine measurement caliper already in your studio or workshop and suddenly want to acquire one, I found calipers on sail at Princess auto. One of the groups using them are sheet metal workers, to gauge sheets of metal (seems reasonable). You may have a friend who has one, check and see if you can borrow it to see if it would work for you.
15) Digital Caliper from Princess Auto
Ultimately, I can work just fine not knowing the gauge of a needle. I can choose a needle by comparison of how they feel in use. Is it moving the amount of fiber I want it to? if not, I will switch to the other one. That said, knowing what gauge you are handling is preferable since it can increase the speed of felting (no searching and testing needles each time you need to change gauges). It also lets you quickly replace a broken needle, ether in a tool or a loose one you were using. (This requires you to store spare needles safely, and labeled with some basic info; Designation: (ideally gauge, shape, barb number, length), the source so you can reorder when needed (their web address or store name), cost per needle or per group when purchased (it’s not necessary but it’s helpful to tack).
2 groups of needles
-ones that are in use
-ones you have purchased and have not yet been pulled out to use. Labeled Gauge/Shape/# of barbs and where you got them (so you can get more)
You can compare the needle in use against the known gauges you have purchased.
Makes re-ordering easy
-Requires keeping track of your needle inventory
-Requires you write notes about each needle type (kept with the needle), where you got it and price.
-Requires that you find a storage option, that will be safe from humidity and prevent needle damage.
Look at the needle
You may be able to sort some needles by shape or barb number if you remember their gauge.
Memory….it can be a fickle thing…..
Feel / Palpation
You can often tell from the feel of the working part or the way the needle enters the felt if one needle is finer or courser than another even if they look very similar.
* You can get stuck looking at two T-40g needles that just have different barb number or spacing and not be sure if they are truly the same or different. (You may be feeling the difference in drag by the change in barb number or barb shape rather than the gauge itself.)
Wire Tools to assess the gauge
Cool there is a tool that may help!!!
Digital calipers (can get expensive), see if you can borrow a pair if you are determined to use them to match mystery needles to labeled ones.
-Drat the plate versions I have don’t go fine enough for our needles!!!
-the really fancy fine calipers are not cheap, so look at the sale priced ones or “student quality” rather than Professional as long as they go fine enough (46ga).
I hope this gives you a few more strategies to sort out Mystery Unlabeled Needles or even better, Fabulous free gifts of needle from friends! I am sure you have tried or thought of most of them, but I hope I have something new for you to try too. Have I totally missed a brilliant solution that you use? Please let us know! It’s great to share ideas rather than having to find the same solutions independently. Let’s not have to reinvent Animal husbandry and selective breeding for fine fiber!!
Have a fabulous last long weekend of the summer, and the fall fiber festivals are just around the corner!!
16) My small travel box of tools I have the single needles ether in a second small box or in the work mat depending on what work surface I want to take with me.(yes the Smarties are candy coated chocolate and I am sure are valuable indispensable inspirational tools.)
I had another question about needles. This time it’s about keeping track of your needles. On a positive note, if you have this problem you have enough needles to get them confused, Congratulations!! For those of you who only have a few needles and don’t have the problem of keeping track of them, I should give you the opportunity to expand your collection and be part of this discussion!
Where we get our needles:
If you are not buying from one of the various original manufacturers of industrial needles (Groz-Beckert and others) you are likely dealing with a reseller of smaller quantities of needles. Let’s start by looking at the options for needle acquisition.
If you prefer to go to the source you will get the best price per needle but do you really need 500 to 1000 (minimum order) of the same needle? (The shipping cost for a box or two of needles can be quite painful too!) If you are teaching, and supplying your students their needles for class, as well as doing your own felting projects, then you may go through 500 needles over a not unreasonable length of time. If you are only buying for yourself, I hope you are not breaking needles in quantities that make the purchase of 500 needles a financially good idea. (If you decrease your rate of insertion (speed) and are attentive to entering and exiting the felt at the same angle, it will save you a lot of needles, and will likely require fewer bandages!) (Also, I have a blog post I’m working on about safety implements for those who are either over enthusiastic in their stabbing or are still practising/perfecting their eye-hand coordination. My hand-eye coordination occasionally still goes wrong too!)
1) Groz-Beckert – needle board
Original manufacturers sell their needles mainly to people buying multiple boxes of 1000 to fit in their large industrial machines, used to make non-woven fabric. New needles are needed when the barbs become worn or a new type of product is required. (Different needle shapes and gauges make different types of non-woven fabric and can run the web through the machine at different speeds. Groz-Beckert has more than 2,000 needle options when you look at all the variables.) As you can see from the picture above these needles are not colour-coded since they have to fit into the needle bed extremely precisely. They have all their identification information on the end of their shipping/storage box.
2-4) Doer Needle boxes and Open box showing 100 needles wrapped in wax paper
One advantage of buying from one of the manufacturers will be, that you will hopefully have the entire needle code. This will give you more information about the needle and make it easier to get replacements when you are running low. The needles in the boxes above are from the Doer company and are wrapped in wax paper in groups of 100 needles all stored in a secure plastic box.
There is, unfortunately for us, a new trend with some manufacturers offering “added security” to their industrial customers. Instead of the helpful needle designation, they are adding “customer codes”. This is to cut down on industrial spying and fit with customers’ warehouse codes, which reduces getting mixed needles in the bed. Yes even in industry they can grab the wrong box of needles! “If needle types are mixed up and placed in a needle board, this can have a major impact on the end product. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to instant needle breakage due to the needles being overloaded. The result is machine downtime, additional set-up time for equipping the needle boards, and scrap material, leading to increased costs.” Unfortunately, their solution may lead to less information for our resellers.
Buying from the manufacturer
Price; per unit cost is cheaper than resellers’ prices
Price; minimum number of needles is usually 500 to 1000 of one needle size and style per box. Also, a box and shipping can be quite pricy.
Information on needle specifications is usually on the storage box.
For added security, ageist industrial spying some companies are dropping the standard “15x18x40x3 R222 G…” for “individualization” of package labels with no needle designations.
Companies not selling over-runs (from industrial orders) can sell you exactly the specifications you want, (overall length, working part shape, gauge, barb type and spacing, and point type).
Not all the manufacturers are interested in selling in “smaller quantities”, most have a 1 box minimum of each needle type purchased.
Keeping an eye on advances in the industry via the company’s websites, technical information or newsletters can keep you up-to-date with advances such as new coatings to prolong the working life of barbs or increases in the run speed of the machines. These innovations might be helpful to us if the needles have better flexibility while in use.
Not everyone is excited about modification in barbs or reading technical papers.
5)Sample of some of the resellers, note that the colour systems are different for each re-seller.
Many of the resellers of needles will colour code the crank of the needle to match their colour key of gauges and shapes. “Harrah, problem solved we can all have chocolate now to celebrate!”….. Not so fast, they are not all using the same colour key!!! So if you have more than one reseller you are dealing with, you need to know if this gold one is from Seller A or if the gold needle is from Seller B (or C or D or E….)? Unless you have only one source, you again can confuse what needle you are about to use.
Where can we find resellers?
Look for needles at Local stores, Fiber festivals and online at Amazon, Etsy, out of China and Mr. Google can help too. Try to support local stores so we can keep having local stores, if you can’t find what you’re looking for then check farther afield.
Most of the resellers are felters and understand the needles they are selling. They can tell you about the uses of different gauges and the differences between different shapes of the working part. Some can even explain the basic concepts of how the spacing and type of barb can change the enthusiasm of fibre moved by that needle.
Are usually colour-coded
There is no consistency to the colours used between most vendors.
Most have a selection of the available gauges and working part shapes
May not have the number of barbs or the shape or gauge you wanted.
You can usually buy single or small quantities
The cost is more per needle than buying a box of 500 or 1000
Cheap “Bulk Needles” sold in lots of 25, 50 or 100
Mostly don’t list gauge, actual length or number of barbs(“S, M, L”)
May not know the exact specification of the needle, other than the gauge so hard to get exactly the same needle.
Fabulous Free Needle(s)!
My not come with gauge (S.M.& L)
Might forget the gauge in the excitement of new needles
Now we have had a brief overview of where we get needles (and have given everyone a chance to get too many to keep track of), we can return to our question, Which needle is this?
(6) parts of a felting needle
Let’s consider the needle. By now, we are reasonably familiar with the parts of a needle. There is a wide variation in needles used in the industry, with over 2 thousand options from GB alone. The most obvious difference is overall length. The most common Needles (Triangles) come in needle lengths: 2.5”, 3”, 3.5”, 4”, 4.5”, 5” (most needles we see are either 3” or 3.5”, occasionally a 2.5” turns up.) so that may not be too helpful for us. If you have the option to have different lengths for different gauges that may be helpful but most of us already have lots of needles and almost all of them are the same length.
Let’s look at the shape of the working part, where the barbs are located. We can group our needles by shape reasonably easily. (Triangular, twisted/spiral, Star ether quod or tri, crown and the less common to uncommon; Conical needle, Teardrop, Vario barb and fork.) Unfortunately, the way we use them is by gauge, working from larger diameter-courser gauges to smaller-finer gauges, which is much trickier to guess by eye. While a 32g is drastically different when compared to a 42g, sorting a bunch of 40g’s from the 42g’s or 38g’s is much more challenging.
Let’s do a quick review of gauges (you can skip to the end if you have this memorized!)
Courser needles (32g and some people also list 36g)
for courser fibre,
move fibre more quickly,
good for building the under-layers of sculptures and used for adding appendages/parts.
Medium Needles (36g to 38g)
For medium fibre,
Not as aggressive fibre movement as the course needles,
Good for under layers of colour for a picture or more fine-tuning the shapes of a sculpture
Fine needles (40 to 42g)
For fine fibres
For the final layer or finishing work in both sculpture and pictures
Moves less fiber but creates less resistance and leaves less dent entering the felt
Extremely fine (46g)
For fine fibres
For the final layer or finishing work in both sculpture and pictures
Moves the least fibre, but creates the least resistance and leaves less dent entering the felt
Other needles that may be in your collection;
Reverse (36 to 42g) barbs pull fibre as the needle is extracted. Good for blending and for pulling up under-layer colours to create a nap on the surface.
Crown needles are easy to pick out with only one barb per side very close to the tip. They are excellent for shallow surface work or working on something very thin (pestle or wing membranes).
You may notice some resellers are less knowledgeable about what they are selling than others. I have found sellers, mostly on Amazon and from China, that describe their needles as “small, medium and large” which describes the length of the needle rather than the gauge. The ones I have seen with this listing have all been Triangle-shaped. Unless you are looking for an unidentified gauge it’s likely better to look at the ones that give you more information.
Part 2 will continue on September 12 with Keeping track of your Needle Gauges
Have a fabulous last long weekend of the summer, and the fall fibre festivals are just around the corner!! (except for those of you who are just about to come out of winter and begin spring!!)
Twist Festival August 10-13, 2023, Complexe Whissell 530 Rue Charles Auguste Montreuil,Saint-André-Avellin, Quebec J0V 1W0
1) Map to get to Twist from Ottawa
About 2 weeks ago my trusty Sherpa, Shark Boy and I, jumped in the car early Saturday morning for about an hour and 20 minute drive (there’s a detour so it’s a bit longer this year), to Twist Fiber Festival in Quebec. Last year I went with Mr. Mer on a quest looking for his Hair, this year his son, Shark-Boy, is in want of hair! So far I have tracked down and purchased some locks that look like they may be good for highlights. I have also traded and been given some white locks that can be dyed to the colour he is looking for but let’s have one last look for long locks before we go questing for the perfect die colour. (I don’t think any of the home hair dye companies offer something tailored to the young teen Mer-person, but I guess I could investigate further. If not, I do have food colouring, cool-aid and some actual commercial dyes.)
We arrived, found the special parking, and unloaded my comfy walker which I will be sharing with young Master Mer today.
2) Waiting in line for Twist to open (Shark boy sitting in his project bag which has been bulldog clipped to the backrest of my walker. I think he is admiring the colour of the purse of the lady in front of us.)
3) Sight map sign.
Twist is held at the local community centre in Saint-André-Avellin. There is a large arena and gym space as well as 2 large, ok huge, tents outside. There are also workshops held on the Thursday to Sunday. I have taken some excellent felting and spinning workshops here in previous years. (Sculptural felting with Marjolein Dallinga and felted portraiture with Megan Cleland.)
We headed first to the arena to see the giant pile of bags of fibre (decreased by Friday shoppers) at the Black Lamb’s booth then started the search for long locks.
4 -4.2) Awaiting the shopping hoards as Twist opens Saturday morning.
While looking through their fibres (and making the pile just a bit smaller), I spotted something as good as gold! 2 oak-handled Roger Hawkins mini combs!
5) Two sets of Roger Hawkins Mini Combs. I have a set and they are fantastic. I was tempted to get a second pair but left them for others to enjoy too.
A quick circuit of the Arena did not look promising for Shark Boy’s hair. There was again a lot of yarn for the knitters. There seemed to be a few more booths with fibre than last year. there were also booths with tools and supplies for weaving, spinning, Knitting, and Sewing.
6) Shark boy had fun trying to flirt with other guild members we saw while shopping.
7 -23)Slide show – first quick once around
24-28) Slide show – first tour of the Gym
29) There was a display of Centure Flashay finger weaving
There was a booth selling circular sock knitting machines that had a display of old machines. Some of the old machines are works of art as well as functional tools.
30-32Slide show – Circular knitting machine display
I checked in with my Sherpa before starting a more thorough look through the booths. He was enjoying his book and I got a report from another guild member he had been spotted earlier having a nap and snoring happily.
33) Shark Boy and my patent Sherpa.
I had only a few items on my shopping list; Shark Boy’s hair, fork needles and some interesting fiber. I got into the booth with the books from the slide show above, it had been too crowded when I went past the first time and I could not see the back of the booth. Eureka!! Long locks!! And in colours Shark Boy might like! he had a hard time deciding on 2 of the packages. I also picked a bag of mixed colour locks and one in extremely bright red that may help Mrs. Mer later.
34-36) Happy Happy Mer shark!
Still no sign of a fork needle, unfortunately, two of the needle felting suppliers that are usually here, are not this year. I did find 10 spiral needles at the black lamb, and there were a couple of booths with a few other needles but they were not prominently located and I already had plenty of the gauges they had available.
On to the last item on my list, cool fibre. I had spotted some in a booth in the gym but wanted to look a bit more carefully through a couple in the arena booths too.
37- 39) Popular fibre booth
This booth was quite busy so it took a bit of patience to get in and see their braids and batts. But it was worth the effort and I found 3 braids that were particularly appealing.
Twist did not seem as busy as previous years but it was steady. There were also threats of heavy thunderstorms throughout the day but held off until the late afternoon. The vendors I talked to said it was busier on Friday for shoppers, but the sales were better so far on Saturday.
40) late Saturday afternoon at Twist.
One of the vendors had some very nice raw fleece. She had brought a picker with her and I cot her using it. I have an old Patrick Green picker that needs sanding and cleanup in the basement. I will show you when I get working on it. A picker is used to pick apart a fleece to prep it for carding. I did buy a bit of her fibre (unpicked) I will show you later.
41-41.1) Swing picker in use
Shark Boy and I had done a pretty good job with our shopping and it was time to check in with my patent Sherpa and see if he wanted to have a lunch break and to show him our finds.
42- 46) shopping acquisitions before lunch
Heading to the car we checked on the sheep herding displays but the sheep or dogs were on brake
47) Sheep herding on the brake
We headed out to the other end of town to the restaurant, La Toquade for their fabulous “Club Sandwich au confit de canard sur pain an apricot, raisin et tournesol” Yummm…Cumfy Duck!!!
48) I have been thinking about this sandwich since Twist 2019
Last year, coming out of covid shutdowns, the restaurant was having staffing difficulties and was only open for breakfast, we both were very happy to see that lunch and dinner had returned. While we waited for lunch to arrive I went through the photos I had taken so far at Twist, there were a couple of things I wanted to go back and see if I could find.
A few last shots from 2023 Twist.
49- 53) A few more shots of booths at Twist 2023
The rest of this year’s Shopping;
54-56 ) little batt of expensive fibres
I picked up the small batt of super expensive fibres (try playing name that fibre before reading the 4 fibres in the batt),
57) a diz and diz hook (I added the leash to the hook so it won’t wander off),
58-59) a heat shaping felt sheet,
This felt has an odd feeling closer to non-wool craft felts but much more substantial. (I will investigate that further at another time).
It was a long day of shopping, photography and fantastic food. Now that it was time to head home, the forecast rain finally arrived. Even Glenn bringing the umbrella in could not forestall the water any longer. We have had a lot of rain lately, a full sponge as it were, so what was not an extremely heavy rain was lingering on the road longer than usual. This gave the car the fun of trying to hydroplane on the road to the highway as well as on the highway. We stopped under a bridge, got out the GPS and fled the Highway to the slower driving back roads until the rain gave up. After we won the debate with the GPS who wanted us to take the ferry across the Ottawa River, we returned to the highway and safely made it home.
I hope you have enjoyed our shopping trip. I always enjoy seeing my fibre friends’ photos of festivals I can’t get to, it’s cheaper and lots of fun cheering on their shopping!
Recently I was asked more questions about needles. (I do love finding out about needles, how they are used in industry and how we use them by hand. I hope you still have a bit of curiosity about them too, after all my enthusiastic chatting!) To answer the second question, I still want to get my hands on a forked needle (how can I be fair in my investigation if I don’t actually get my hands on one?) A quick review, In industry there are two types of structuring needles. Structuring needles are not technically felting needles (since they don’t make the felt) but are used to create surface texture on non-woven material. One is the Forked needle, and the other is a crown needle (which we have chatted about before. If you don’t remember that chat you will find it here; https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/07/19/a-question-about-crown-felting-needles/) Since I have not had success locally finding a fork needle, let’s turn to the other question about needles. It involved one of the Needles found in the group of needles which do make the industrial Felt.
Does the twisted (also called a spiral) needle twist as it goes into the wool?
Ok, this is a question about mechanics, and how the needle works. So let’s review the parts of a triangle needle and compare that to the twisted / spiral needle.
1)Parts of a regular felting needle and parts of a spiral needle
We can see that all the usual parts are present with a spiral / twisted needle. The difference is in the working part. you can see both clearly have a triangular cross section in the working part but the spiral/twisted needle has that triangular shape rotating in the cross section through the working part.
2) Twisted Needle showing close up of working part
Let’s have a quick review of what shapes are most common in the cross section of the felting needles most often used by hand needle felters. Our most common shape is the triangle, but the 3 and 4-sided stars are also quite available. While some are not as common, there is a spiral or twisted versions of each of the three main shapes.
3) Common cross-sectional shapes of felting needles
Let’s go back and look specifically at the spiral or twisted shaped needle. If you look at the cross-section of the spiral at various spots, you can see that it is a triangle rotating around a central point.
4) Cross sections of a twisted needle across section of the working part 5) Looking from the tip up the needle through the segments shows how the tip of the triangle changes position up the length of the working section. (i have updated diagram 5 to more clearly show the location of each edge.)
As you know with all needles, the barb is located on the edge of the needle. With most needles, the barbs are located vertically, one above the other, along each edge. There will be one, two or three barbs per side depending on the specifications for that needle.
The exceptions, for vertically stacked barbs, at present are; the Crown needle (which only has one barb per edge), the fork needle (that has no barbs and a cylindrical shaft) and the spiral needle (whose barbs follow the curve of the needle’s edge). The last exception to the vertical barb rule, is more of a technicality; the conical needles has barb aligned vertically but because of the taper in the working part, it will engage fibre laterally (we can chat about that further in another note. If you are curious?)
So as the spiral/twisted needle is inserted into our felt how is it engaging the fibre it catches in its barbs? it is grabbing segmentally as each barb enters the web of fibre. It will create more of a circular Spiral of engagement rather than the three barb points a regular triangle needle will engage.
Here are two ways to visualize how the needle’s barbs are grabbing the fibres as they enter the web. As you know the barb will engage (grab) the fibres it encounters which will be at or close to the surface of the felt web of fibres. For clarity of the diagram, I have had the barbs that are deeper in the web engaging with fibre closer to the barb. If I had more correctly illustrated the crossing fibres, which the barbs are affecting, all the fibres would be at or near the surface layer(and the diagram would be a confusing-looking mess!)
6) How each barb distorts the web in a different position as the needle is inserted
I am hopeful you can see the spiral engagement of one edge, then the next, then the third. I have added colours (Red, Purple and black) to the edges to try to make it easier to see how the spiralling of the triangle shape interacts with the order of the barbs as they encounter the fibres.
Here is another way of looking at the order of engagement of the barbs around the centre of the needle.
7) The order of barb engagement
A few more particulars about Spiral Twisted needle
If you read the technical details on the Groz-Breckert site, (one of the needle manufacturers, this one headquartered in Germany) you can find that Spiral/twisted needles are available in:
gauges from 38G to 42G
Length of 3 or 2.5 inches
Usually has 2 barbs per side, but only one barb style is common
has a modified barb arrangement (spiral location around the needle)
the needle placement gives higher fibre engagement
the needle is a bit stronger from barb placement (in the felting machine, both the “machine direction” (8%) and to a lesser degree “cross direction”(4%).) It may be a bit less prone to breakage with small vector changes if used by hand! it would still be better to try to go out at the same angle that you inserted the needle.
it is listed as having more chance of splitting fibres when using microfibers (we should be ok we tend to take our frustrations out on natural fibres such as wool, silk, alpaca, dog or cat hair)
Fiber transport is listed as “Substantially Higher” for a twisted needle, rather than a regular (triangular) needle (of the same gauge and barb shape).
It can move about 10% more fibre than a standard felting needle with the same barb dimensions. (It is More Aggressive when compared to the same gauge and barb style of a standard needle)
Uses industrially are; Automotive sector (visible areas such as trunk lining and other non-woven surfaces) and Filtration fabrics.
8) Doer Industries (China) 38G-222 Triangular Spiral (they also have 40G-222 with the same barb spacing.)
Hand Needle Felting Uses;
Good fibre movement(more than a Triangle needle of the same gauge and barb type)
Good for compacting fibre or generalized initial sculpting. You may find it a bit aggressive for fine detail at larger gauges. Try a finer gauge if you find it more aggressive than you desire.
Used on a sharp angle (surface work), good for catching loose fibres that need embedding
Good with short fibres will grab and embed them quickly
If you require a 42G needle but don’t have the patents that such a fine gauge requires, a 42G Spiral needle may be for you. (it’s a little bit faster!)
May not be as effective when multiple needles of this type are used close together (held together with an elastic or some holders with close spacing) you may find with medium to longer fibres you are trying to engage the same fibre with adjacent needles
Let’s consider the question, “So, Dose the twisted needle twist as it goes into the wool?” What do you think so far?
I know you will remember that the needle itself is descending in a straight line, it is not moving other than in one vector (up and down in this depiction). There is no rotational component of insertion necessary. The movement of the needle descending into the fibre is creating the spiral engagement (grabbing) of the fibres. So technically, the needle is not turning in a spiral but the engagement of the fiber is interacting in a spiral. Each barb has not rotated but descending in a straight line. The fibre cot by the barb is also descending in a straight line, but as each barb above it engages fibre it will be grabbing a bit that is offset from the barb below it. This gives an illusion of spiralling while engaging a more even amount of fibre surrounding the needle than a regular triangular needle would (with barbs stacked vertically in 3 spots). So the answer would be “the needle no but the fibre looks like it is from the surface but is actually not.” Well, now you are likely disappointed after such a long explanation. But there is one more thing to consider.
That being said, it is possible to turn a needle as you insert it into the felt. Rotating the needle can be used to grab flyaway fibre, or catch something that is loose on the surface. It involves rolling the needle between the thumb and first finger. This is not a good long-term technique since it is engaging little muscles that get tired more quickly than larger muscles and can be strained easily when compared to larger muscle groups. Instead of spinning a triangle needle trying to grab fibre, you may find that a Spiral/Twisted needle is a bit easier to engage loose fibre.
I hope this gives you an overview of the spiral or twisted needles. Their a bit more aggressive than an equivalent triangular needle, so they may be helpful for finer gauge work if you are not patent. I hope, if you get the opportunity, you will try them for 2D or 3D felting.
PS; the needles will work without having to know all the details of how they work, but knowing may give you creative ideas and inspire you to use them to solve challenges while you’re felting. Even better, I did not add any exam questions at the end!!!
I am still not up to the next step in the phone-carrying project, mega-stega-blob (fibre layout and wet felting come next). No, I am not just avoiding getting wet! I have tried to do non-offensive activities beyond lying down, watching movies and reading my audiobook (mostly not all at the same time). Monday I got to the guild studio and worked on the library (the books felt heavier and more tome like than usual.) Tuesday I pulled photos then pulled weeds, while sitting and started my blog chatting with you! Since I am still waiting for a few items from Aliexpress to arrive, (they may be in a literal slow boat from China) I think I should consider a few other aspects of the topic they will cover. (Ooh I’m being verbose, cryptic and obscure! I am defiantly feeling better!)
Recently I have had a few different questions about aspects of safety. I want to chat about how to keep you and your needles safely not attached to each other, by stabbing, poking and other forms of impalement. I have been making a chart of the different types of options and want to also test them, with Ann, with the enthusiastic needle felting tools we both purchased last winter. The chart is underway, but with more possible safety items on their way, let’s wait on that aspect of safety.
Instead, let’s turn from the sharp pointy blood-inducing excitement of needles to something softer that can also be dangerous to felters. Wool (and other fibres). What could be dangerous, concerning or even caution inducing about wool? It’s so soft and fluffy! It has that lovely sheepy aroma when it’s fresh off the sheep. Sometimes it’s even still warm if it’s really fresh off the sheep.
skirting dirty raw wool at the OVWSG studio.
Ok you can get muscle aches or strains washing it, wet wool is quite heavy and moving big bins of water around can defiantly get painful. When I phoned my doctor to mention my tetanus shot was due and I was about to wash a bunch of dirty sheep fleece, she had me come in the next day to get my booster. (This was near the start of covid when restrictions were most enthusiastically applied, so I was very surprised at how insistent she was that I should come into the office and have the tetanus shot before working with dirty wool. I would rather be safe than sick or sorry. Even if it means getting the other kind of needle.)
Most of us avoid any thoughts of buying aromatic wool, tetanus or the fun of skirting a fleece by just purchasing prepared fibre, usually even pre-died.
So if you are avoiding working with raw wool in your endeavours, have we avoided all potential problems with wool? No, but don’t rush off to throw out your fibre horde of fabulous feeling fibres and colours!! The precautions for wool are quite specific and can be mitigated. As you probably remember I love anatomy, physiology and pathology. I know not everyone is quite so excited about how it all works or how it all can go wrong! So I will not get into the details of alveoli to capillaries’ oxygen exchange (whew, I bet you are breathing a sigh of relief and thankful there is no exam at the end of this post!!) You are likely already aware but I do want to mention a bit about the historical problem with the wool-to-yarn industry.
For many activities or professions, there is a pathology associated with it.
Tennis has Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis),
golfers can get golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis) or
Weavers can get Weavers bottom, (a false bursa on the ischial tuberosity). Weavers get their pathology from many hours of rocking side to side while sitting on a hard loom bench.
By the time of the industrial revolution and the introduction of large mills, we see a rise of a pathology with wool (Wool Lung) and a slightly different one (Byssinosis) associated with breathing in cotton dust or dust from other vegetable fibres such as flax, hemp, or sisal. This was exacerbated by working with the fibres in enclosed, poorly ventilated areas (the mill buildings) for long periods of time (working for years, at 6 work days a week).
The pathology wool lung is neither as cozy nor warm as it sounds. (Wool lung sounds like someone kindly wrapped your lungs in a soft fluffy blanket of wool.) The way the pathology works is that small airborne particles lodge in the lung. Over time these partials make breathing increasingly difficult and interfere with the lung’s ability to bring air into the body. A similar problem can develop with breathing in dust from other vegetable fibres. If you are a weaver look under the loom after you have woven a tea towel with tow linen, (for non-weavers, you probably have a lot of dust and bits of broken fibre under the loom to clean up.)
There is another potential problem with wool, (even if you skip working in an early industrial mill, and avoid raw fleece processing), is the nature of the fibre and its ability to get airborne. Think of it as the quality of fluffability. Finer fibres, shorter fibres and older brittle fibres that can break into even smaller pieces will all become airborne more easily than courser, heavier, and longer fibres. I have found that I have the most airborne fibre particulate from older dry short fibres. Fine fibres that attract static can also be problematic.
Grater fluffatude: Fibers and parasitical are more likely to get airborne.
older fibres that are dryer and prone to breakage,
less fluffiness: are Less likely to get airborne
less fragile fibres
In my stash, I have many types of fibre. Some are brand new and recently acquired and some are quite old, second-hand acquisitions or appreciated gifts of often unknown age. I have a few bits in the fibre stash that are brittle and quite suspect but are just the colour I wanted. So if I don’t want to just avoid using fibre that I suspect may have nefarious plans for my health, there are ways to keep us safer. (Re; not wanting to throw away fibre may require Fiber AAA: I have trouble throwing out wool, I know it’s a problem but the first step is to admit it is a problem.)
Most fibre we use is not a problem or is only mildly so. If we have decided to keep a fibre we know or suspect is problematic, that the fibres are likely to get mobile and try to end up in our lungs, what should we do to reduce this possibility?
There are a few things we can do to mitigate getting fibre, dust, and bacterial content from the fibres, into our lungs.
Keep the fibre from getting in the lungs: (its so much nicer when wool is on the outside of the body)
Protect your lungs. We all have N95 masks from the pandemic. There are also wonderful repertory masks, with even finer particulate-blocking abilities. (They are more industrial looking and are not as stylish as the blue medical ones from covid). (There is more about this at the end of the blog)
Improve ventilation. This can be working in an outside studio (when weather permits), or using a good air filter if you are working in a smaller indoor studio. I would not suggest an oscillating fan near your fibre work to improve air circulation, that can go terribly wrong –think parts of your 2-D picture can decide to just wander off as the fan turns farther than you thought it was set to turn!!! I guess that mountain was not inclined to be there, (like the Frank slide the mountainside got up and left!) we will now have to add a grassy plane or maybe more sky?
Label your stash, if you cannot part with something that is problematic, (but the colour, crimp, or lustre is just too good to part with) label it or leave a paper mask with the bag so you will remember to avoid getting wool on the inside of your body.
Be aware of which fibres are likely to get airborne (short, brittle, older, or finer) and protect yourself if those are the fibres you need to use in your projects.
Check with your Doctor, If you are going to be working with raw wool or doing fibre prep, of wool or other fibres, you may want to check your tetanus shot is up to date. We used old slightly rusty hackles when processing flax and I have never seen a sheep have a thorough bath before getting their haircut! So, I suspect the enthusiasm of my doctor to make sure I had mine was not just her wanting to stab me with a needle. (really I don’t bug her very often!)
Reduce static: Ann had a spray bottle to mist fibre as she used her big drum carder. This reduced static and thus reduced the amount of fly-away fibre. Misting wool, if you are needle felting, may be problematic if you get the wool too wet. Wet wool can reduce the life of the needle. I have heard that leaving a dryer sheet, (or a piece of cloth that had been soaked in fabric softener (unscented) and left to dry will work) will reduce the static in fine loose fibres like angora rabbit.
Use the weather to help you. (this is probably more of a sub-point to #6 (maybe 6.1) but it’s nice to have lots of options) Use the weather to help you keep the fibres in line. if it’s humid, as it tends to be in parts of our summers, fibre is not as likely to get airborne as it will if the humidity drops which happens in our winters.
read #1 again and don’t forget to wear a mask if you are working with problematic fibres.
Masks a quick overview of options:
Dusk mask, medical mask and 3 types of fibre (Short turquoise, older dry brown top and unwashed short locks)
Masks come in various options, from large full-face and half-face air filtering masks, (they look very cool and Sci-Fi but may not be the strong fashion statement you wanted to make while working.) I have a half-face mask with the lovely double respirators but took it to a workshop and now I can’t find where it is. If you ask Mr. Google to show you a “Half face woodworking respirator mask” you can see ones similar to what I picked up at Princess Auto on sale. There are other options that are less striking in their fashion statement in case your workspace may be visible to others. (this may be a good option if you have preexisting respiratory issues.)
I also have what used to be sold as a painter or dust mask (possibly for automotive painting?) the Dollar Store used to have them regularly. They hold the mask away from the nose so are more comfortable for some people.
“Dust mask” in packaging N95 designation
You may still have the blue paper filter masks that were very popular (or unpopular in parts of Canada and the States). I was ahead of the crowd and had one hanging by my office desk for use with old dry wool well before covid arrived. I have since used up all the masks I had for work and for wool, stupid covid.
Short fibre, this particular fibre is standing in for some of the equity short but much more fly away fibre that is hiding in the basement and would not come out for the photo shoot.
Not all fibre has this problem, in fact, most do not, but if you bump into some that make your nose twitch and your Kleenex seems an odd colour when you sneeze (the colour of the wool you’re working with) then its time to grab a mask, improve the ventilation, use an air filter in your studio or use the outside studio, and reduce the static/lack of humidity. Once the offensive fibre is well embedded in your wet or dry felting, it should not be a danger to us or others, being that it is no longer airborne. (Well, unless you are using some fabulous aroma added to your felting work and there is a lot of wool sniffing going on!) hummmm….. no don’t get distracted!
I am hopeful I will be back to the Mega-Stega-Blob soon! Have fun, stay healthy and keep felting.
I had another little oops on Friday. I was sitting and bent forward…and felt a little pop, froze to assess what I might have done. Decided it didn’t seem too bad until I tried to straighten up. That did not go as well as I hoped, but I got myself back to the computer and tried to keep working on a comparison of needle felting safety devices notes I had been working on. That didn’t last long and I wobbled off to lie down. If I had got the memo that bending foreword was forbidden on Fridays I would have abstained from that offensiveness movement.
Instead, I had to accept my back’s indication/insistence that I should wait on the article I was writing and get back to focusing on another short chat about Mega-Stega-bag-blog. So let’s see if I am up to transferring photos and giving you a progress report. (Lucky you, a less verbose me! Since this is the first day, Sunday, that I can type (leaning forward and sitting seems to offend whoever I ticked off greatly, while lying down was the only acceptable orientation the last few days). so to appease my demanding back it’s back to the bag:
A week ago Monday I was back in at the guild studio working on the library, dispersing fleeces and continuing the calculations for the resist for my new phone holder.
1)From 12 bags to 4 bags, with 2 spoken for that should leave 2 left to find homes.
2) This is the modified Dewey architecture we are using for the OVWSG library’s collection.
I went with a process format for classification, if you are curious I can tell you about that sometime. I will try not to get too distracted today or I will not get this blog done. I will give you the topic headings in case the photo is not as clear as I hope. (I have the OK drugs for my back, not the really good ones from the last time.)
000’s Programs, publishing and people (biography)
100’s Law and Business
200’s Studio and Guilds
300’s Fiber Sources and Preparation
400’s Colour and Dyeing
600’s Spinning and Post Spinning
700’s Fine art/ Design and Weaving
800’s Post Weaving
900’s History of Textiles
I added a few more books to the OVWSG guild library collection. I need to add the new donations to the database before updating the subject, author and title lists on the guild website. Then it was time to take a break and I got started on the stegosaurus expansion to create the purse resist. (It was one of the few days I did not do library work through the social.) See I did get back on topic!
3) Vertical lines have been expanded.
4) You can see how well-folded the paper under the pencil has become.
Now I am ready to work on the horizontal lines.
I used the same technique as the vertical lines; measure the distance along the line inside the Stego-blob on the piece of paper. Fold the paper in half and then fold the half in half again. Take that length and add it to each end of the line on the outside of the blob.
5) Measuring from the edge, where the line and outline meet to add the amount of shrinkage to the shape.
I had to add a bit more paper to my graph to get the head and tail horizontal expansion plotted, but eventually had a spot where the plotting overlapped. If I had wanted to be exact in my expansion I would have added I diagonal element to fix these troublesome transitions. Instead of adding another step, I went with Ann’s suggestion of just estimating, and drawing a line.
7-8) After estimating the line in the two areas where the horizontal and verticals did not agree, I was ready to cut out the new larger shape of Mega-Stega-blob!
9) Remember to use your paper scissors, not your sewing or fibre scissors!!
Ann was very curious to see the difference in size and shape between the original side panel of the giant Stego-bag and the new Mego-Stego-Blob, so we checked.
10) The new shape should make a bit more diminutive purse.
I will add the legs in four extra resist pieces (oh drat I will have to scale that up too), but I did leave the original attachment sites marked on the template. I also have the plate locations marked too. The plan is to add the legs to the body resist to be felted at the same time as the bag. The spines and plates I want to pre-felt partly leaving a fluffy attachment end so I can make them very firm. I had considered wire augmentation for the spines, but have not decided whether to include it yet.
My next step will be to consider the colour so I can lay out the wool. Unfortunately, that will not be this Monday. My goal for the day will be getting to the guild, which I am hoping I will be up to. Possibly adding a few more books, and then getting myself back home! But for now, I think it’s time to go lie down again.
This will be just a wee tiny post compared to my regular verbose discussions. I have been a bit run off my feet with fun layouts and drafts for various proposals for the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild. I am also involved with the monthly summer library days and the guild got a gift of 10 sheep and 2 alpaca fleeces, my car is still a bit aromatic. Since I am sure more changes on layouts are awaiting in my email, I better tell you about the continuation of the Dino bag quickly and then get back to work.
When we last chatted about the Stegosaurus, I had just been dealt a crushing blow by numbers, evil uncaring numbers who thwart my want of a phone-carrying device!!!
From my misinterpretation of Ann’s suggestion, I had wound up with a much bigger carrying device than originally intended. What do you mean you did not mean 50% added to each side?
1) scaling up, a bit over-enthusiastically
A quick review:
I had created the shape I wanted and then added gussets for the top and bottom. (This is how you can make a sewing pattern. But unlike sewing patterns felt patterns need a lot more “seem allowance” for shrinkage. Figuring how much was where I derailed.)
After a bit of Consoling from Ann (it was such a cute dinosaur and I had been so careful in the measuring and redrawing!) Ann reviewed the math (ick) half of the distance, then half that again and put the halved half on each side. Ok, I think I can’t screw that up twice (don’t tempt fate but really I think I got it this time. <mutter mutter stupid dyscalculia>)
Next, we considered how to add the gussets to the side section.
2) Adding the belly gusset to the body shape
Ann suggested lifting up the legs (to be added separately, which I had considered as an option as well) and then drawing in half the belly gusset.
3) talking about adding the back gusset
Again take off the plates and add half of the back gusset.
The plate can be made separately. Which will allow them to be heavily/ stiffly felted. If I then leave a fuzzy end, I can attach them to the body partway through felting.
4) side panel of Stegosaurus with legs and plates folded up, ready to be traced to make a new template.
Now to create the new pattern.
5) drawing half the width of the belly and back gussets onto the side pattern
I traced the stegosaurs then added the half belly and back gussets to the body shape. I marked where the legs and plate went for reference. I have now achieved Stego-Blob!!
Ok, let’s try again on expanding the pattern:
When I weave, I usually measure my warp length with a string with knots marking the loom waste and the halfway point in it. When I made tamari balls, I used a folded paper band with pins. I am going to avoid the ruler I used last time with those untrustworthy misleading numbers and resort to a reliable piece of paper I can fold in half and then half the half.
6) Drew a grid over the new shape and found a scrap paper to use as a measuring tool.
I did use the ruler to make the graphed lines but carefully ignored most of the numbers.
7) graph overlayed on the blobby shape made by adding the belly and back gussets to the body.
On each vertical line, I took my scrap paper and matched the distance from one side of the stego-blob to the other along the line. I folded that distance in half on the paper then folded it in half again. That distance was then added to the top and bottom of the line and a point was plotted.
As I got closer to the head and tail you can see (in picture #6) that the increase is greatly lessened. By the time I had all the vertical lines plotted, Ann was looking a bit concerned by the curvature around the nose and tail.
I explained this was only step one in the expansion plan. Step two would be to plot the horizontal lines next. Then as step 3 would be to average the two plotted dots and figure out the new outline. Ann said she would just estimate and go from there.
Oh no, time to stop!! A tornado warning just went off on my phone. No wind outside but that may literally be the calm before the storm. When we chat again, I will let you know how the horizontal lines go and then average the points to make the new MEGA-Stego-Blog!! (only 6 pages in Word, It is a tiny blog today.)
Update: looks like there was a tornado in Barhaven, it’s a suburb in the southwest end of Ottawa and North of Ann, it’s located between us. There is another band of the storm system coming later this afternoon but most of it should be south of both Ann and me, just in case it is more aggressive than it looks on the weather map I better get this posted!!! yep, the tornado alert just went off again but there is sunshine coming in my office window, so I will keep working on this rather than hide in the basement, but I will keep an eye on what’s happening out the window, just in case the weather changes its mind. (There is lots of comfy soft wool to keep me safe in the basement, but just not the specific wool I need for projects I am working on!!)
Now a momentary pause from my last post and the horrors of math gone wrong.
Instead, I shifted gears back to a project I had started working on a couple of weeks ago but the deadline is now coming up quickly. As you may remember reading, as a commemorative of their parents, I had made each of my brothers-in-laws (there are 5 brothers in total), a chickadee.
1)Chickadee feet, birds in progress for the 5 brothers from 2021
We recently had exciting and unexpected news from one of the brothers. He had been contacted by new family members and was able to arrange a first meeting at the end of June. I wanted to find a good way to have them feel welcome. When we lost both my in-laws, I made each of the five brothers a Chickadee. (There is a post about that somewhere in the blog.) We all have fond memories of sitting on the back patio, or washing dishes in the kitchen sink and watching the birds, there were only a couple of bird feeders but so many birds!! The blue jays, cardinals, robins, finches, sparrows, other little ones (that I wasn’t too sure who they were) and the determined throng of chickadees. (There were also crows but I think I was the only one who liked them, plus an army of squirrels, oh and the occasional very cute rabbit.) I have inflicted photos of most of them on you already! Well, maybe just one more to inspire more felted birds.
2) Blue Jay steals Peanuts in Oakville
What we found out was that the brothers have gained a sister! (Ancestry has made a match!) And she has sons so we now have two new Nephews!!! (New to us, they are a bit older than brand new nephews usually are). We knew that Brother #4 and family would be visiting in Ontario and could travel closer to the eastern end of the province so may be able to arrange a meeting. With a flurry of e-mails, all was arranged.
We were grateful to my brother and his wife for lending us their cottage. This is the cottage from my childhood, where I honed my by-hand-hunting-skills with the local frogs (bull, leopard and occasionally tree frogs), snakes (black rat, Garter and grass snakes) and turtles (Snapping, painted and soft-shelled mud turtles). Unfortunately, I think my hunting days are behind me.) My brother focused on sneaking up and decapitating unsuspecting wildflowers (hunting) which were more appreciated by my Mom than my much more difficult to catch gifts. (Who could possibly say no to a tree frog? Ok, it was my Mom.)
We went up after work on Friday, it was a bit overcast but was forecast to be a hot weekend and it’s always cooler at the cottage than in the city. I packed up my box of chickadee supplies and was determined to finish all three before the new relatives arrived!
It is a fabulous spot looking out into the trees well above the level of the lake. It was a very inspiring spot to work. As you can see I took over the dining table and then spread to the coffee table. Felting is lighter to transport than spinning or weaving but it sure can take up a lot of space when it escapes from its confinement!
3)Wool expanding to fill the space provided (dining room table). Large windows showing trees and tiny glimpses of the lake, far below.
4) I did leave my hubby a bit of space to read his book.
The Mer’s had come with us, as well as Miss Manta. The Mer’s tried out the teal chaise longue before checking out the window view. Once the Mer’s were happy, I got to work on finishing the Chickadees.
5) Necking on the chaise longue
I had gotten all three armatures wrapped in wool and to the point that they were ready to have their top coat added before leaving Ottawa.
7.1- 7.5) Adding tail colour and underwing detail
One of the beaks was not behaving as well as I would like. I noticed the wool on the top upper end of the beak was just a bit looser than when I had wrapped it and was looking a bit fuzzy. This suggests I either did not use quite as thin a bit of fibre or I had not kept wrapping and rubbing the fibres long enough after running out of wool on the beak. Under the wool is floral tape which is embedded with wax but I found it was not quite as sticky as other times (it may be the section of the roll or its age? I don’t do a lot (or any) wrapping of flowers so I’m not sure of all the factors. It could be that I just didn’t pull that section quite as enthusiastically and did not activate the stickiness correctly.
If I have a bit that should be tight (tips of claws, beaks) and is not up to what I would like, I can add a bit of conditioned wax. Wax on its own can dry too brittle or not penetrate the wool, so something that makes it more pliable when dry is preferable. I did not have my wax mix from Sara (Sarafina fibre arts) so I resorted to a dip of wax from a blue candle that was conveniently sitting on the hutch. I first tried using the end of a felting needle to transfer the wax but found the wax cooled too quickly and did not penetrate the fibres, instead sitting above the felt. I cleaned off the unhelpful wax and finally just put the tip of the beak into the wax puddle, which worked. I rubbed the wax as it cools and found it had penetrated into the wool nicely. (I bet the little bird will not be looking for seeds in wax candles again!)
I don’t think I have shown you this, it’s another way to make a line on the surface of your felt. I wanted a line on the back that was visible, but not as hard-edged as one that is created by tacking down at one end and then drafting out. (I did use that technique along the wings.) For this I started with a wisp of fibre blended to the colour of the line I wanted, laying it over the area the line would go. I used a needle (I think it was a T-36 or T-38 ( a finer gage would not entrap as much fiber so it would just take more poking and could make a finer more wispy line.)
9) Step 1 lay a whisp over the area to add a line and (poke/stab/impale) embedding the fibre in the general line-ish shape you want.
10) Lift the fibre up (vertically) away from the felt.
If you were wanting a semi-hard edge colour change you could flop the fibre down on one side of the line and blend away, but I wanted to see a slightly indistinct line so I lifted both sides up and used my curved blade embroidery scissors, you can see on the table, to remove the excess fibre.
11) the excess fibre from the whisp has been cut away leaving a line embedded in the surface of the felt
You may already know this way to make lines and have used a similar technique when adding fur to a sculpture but without such enthusiastic trimming. I figured I should mention it in case you had not yet investigated further and seen further possibilities. The only drawback to this form of line making is that the wisp can obscure where you are laying the line if the “wisps” is not as wispy as a wisp of fibre should be! (Well, that is the start of a good tung twister I am sure one of you can expand on that thought!) I have been finding the curved blade embroidery scissors work very well on curved felt surfaces. This red handled pair I found for sale online out of China.
When I had the backs ready I created little wing shapes in 3 pairs. I added detail. I had made a special trip to get a brighter white fibre. When I tried it on the first wing, I found that it looked very odd compared to the other tones. So, I went back to the off-white/natural white which looked much better.
12) Once I was pleased with all the wings I added them to the little bird bodies.
13) Here all the wings are on and looking good.
One last step to do, now where is the thread, giant bead needle and the little black beads go? Ah! Not to panic the thread and needle were in the bottom of the little toolbox and the beads are in the bottom of the box marked Chickadee!
14) Eldest Nephew of brother #4 joins the Mer’s admiring the lake (through the trees)
Saturday afternoon Brother #4 and his family arrived and were impressed with the cottage. (Thank you again to my brother and his family!)
15) I had just finished putting on the eyes and tucking each bird into his little box when the new members of the family arrived.
I am not sure we were quite what they were expecting. (I hope we didn’t disappoint them too much!) I think my new sister-in-law may have been a bit overwhelmed but they were all fabulous!
16) New Nephew #1, New Ant!, New Nefue #2
They did seem quite interested in the needle felted birds (as well as the Mer’s and Miss Manta (who seems to have dodged all the photos), so I sent both my new nephews off with a bag of felting needles carefully labelled with gauges for them to try. I am determined that there will be a next generation of felting, spinning or weaving but I had thought it might be my nieces on Glenn’s side or maybe a niece on my side. This is fabulous I may have two more nephews to confuse with fibre!! I wonder what their thots on spinning wheels are? Maybe next visit! (I don’t want to frighten them!!)
It was fascinating to suddenly notice similarities between the nephews and their new uncles. I think nature is winning out over nurture again but all in a very good way.
17) New Sister, New Nephew #2, New Youngest Uncle, New Nephew #1
We had a wonderful visit on Saturday afternoon and evening, then they returned on Sunday morning for breakfast. It was sad to see everyone headed home, but I am hopeful we will get to see them again soon. We lingered to do a final clean-up of the cottage. While we were sweeping, vacuuming and collecting laundry, we found the Mer’s were cavorting or maybe that was air swimming, it’s hard to tell.
18) the Mer’s having fun at the cottage.
Once we had persuaded everyone into their project bag, we took a moment just to enjoy the quiet (ok there were sea-doos and the loons and some other birds and that daredevil squirrel…) for a moment, before heading back to Ottawa.
19) Hubby taking a moment to relax and read his book.
The lighting was truly fantastic and the living room made a perfect chickadee finishing spot.
20) one last look before heading out and back to Ottawa.
As we got closer to town, we noticed that haze was back, and then that the smell had returned …. More forest fires still burning. I was hoping so much that all the rain would have dissuaded the hungry flames.
It was a memorable weekend, it’s not every day your hubby and his brothers get a new sister and two adult nephews! They definitely seem like part of the family, Art, Music, and I suspect a lot of reading! I hope they will get to meet the other brothers/Uncles soon. In the meantime maybe I can distract them with a bit of needle felting! Or maybe they would prefer wet felting? Or maybe both!! I have pointed them to the blog, and Sara and Marie’s YouTube felt-a-longs, I can’t wait to see what they make! Maybe some more Mer-People? The Mers should have relatives too!
PS Happy 4 of July to our southern nabours and family!
This past weekend was Father’s Day and to celebrate we went off to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum to watch a blacksmithing event. This year the workshop was to create a replica antique door latch (Norfolk Latch). It was a 2 day workshop and fascinating to watch most of it. Blacksmiths and blacksmithing are very photogenic, with about 430 shots from Saturday and only 290 from Sunday (the battery died and the backup was in a similar state of uselessness. Don’t panic!!! I promise I will not show you all the photos but there were a few that you might enjoy.
1 the Norfolk Latch that was being recreated, a rolled collar on round stalk (it will be part of the handle)
2 brushing scale off the tenon of the handle created a spark, tongs in front of a lit coal forge.
There were 10 students, an instructor and an assistant. There were also blacksmiths who were not participating but were still watching and enjoying the demonstrations.
3 thick smoke hanging in the air from 10 coal forges starting up.
This is not more smoke from the wildfires, this is 10 coal forges starting up under one side-less barn building.
After the weekend of photography, it was back to fun in the guild library. I added a new magazine, got the library open and ready to use, collected incoming books and got the outgoing ones ready to put into the circulation file. Since the library is now in hand I would get a chance to draw out a couple of options for the wet felting purse. (See I did get to felting!) I had wanted to try the Stegosaurus 3d bag which will be much trickier than the manta ray purse option. Remember I like my felting dry, I can wet felt but making my own shape for a resist is not a common occurrence. Let’s see if I can work this through (With little math and minimal spelling!)
Option 1: this was a more cartoon proportion of a stegosaurus.
4 very simple shape with legs the same length front and back.
Option 2: is still quite cartoonish but the back legs are closer to correct
5 still simplified but more anatomically correct than the previous Stegosaurs.
Next, the phone test;
6 laying the phone over the two drawings from #4 and 5 to make sure the phone will fit.
As much as I prefer the more realistic version, there is better space in the more cartoon one. Ok, so I should polish that one up a bit more.
7 expanding the scrap paper so I can add a better angle and length of the tail and the tops of 2 plates.
Next, trim the sides so I can figure out the gussets for both the back and belly
8 taped strip of paper to figure out the belly gusset of the dinosaur.
First attempt at the belly gusset;
9 estimating gusset for under tail, body, neck and head.
I checked the fit by using painter’s tape to set in the belly with the side
10 Belly gusset fits nicely with the side.
Once I liked the belly I started to work on the back gusset and taped that in to check the fit.
11 inside view with back and belly gussets in.
12 adding width to the head and marked where a zipper would go if I choose to use one.
I wondered if I could attach the belly with the body between the legs and see if I could join the two parts
13 The belly is attached at the belly and behind the legs but not on the neck and tail.
The belly strip would only be half the width but I would have to raze the tail and head. But that might work. I will get a second opinion from Ann when she arrives. I had a quick message chat with Ann to review percentages and shrinkage for firm felting. We decided on 50%. So, I needed to scale up from the finished paper size. I started by measuring the longest and tallest sections.
14 the longest line through the body and the height through the front leg.
I then took it further and graphed the general shape so it would be easier to scale up
15 1-inch graph added to the body.
I tried to estimate the height and length but was having trouble scaling up the legs and still having space for the belly…. Ah. I started at the centre and between the legs and worked out from there.
16 I have most of the body estimated adding half to each side. The graph is making it easier to scale up.
17 This is what I had graphed out by the time Ann arrived. (there was a lot of measuring and adding while I was unsupervised.)
18 Ann lay the paper mock-up on top of the resist
Ann (who is very experienced with wet felting resists) said she thot something looked a bit off. Other than the spikes I was sure I had carefully added the same amount all the way around. Oh…. You meant to add half of what I had, not half on all sides. Sorry, I think I am thinking in 3-D again.
So I now have a shoulder bag-sized dinosaur, not a phone and i-pod audiobook reader sized bag. Well, I could add wool and a couple of spindles at this size but I probably better go back and reconsider my math. I will probably just use the calculator I found last week and had meant to use and totally forgot! (I should never trust my own ability with numbers it is just as bad as my interpretation of spelling! It’s like interpretative dance only much more interpretative.)
So it’s back to the drawing board! Or, I could make it all out of dry… no be brave! I can always wear gloves and keep dry!! I will have to have a little pause and get back to working on 3 more chickadees which I may need for this coming weekend. I just need more hours in the day but for tonight it’s way past my bedtime and I will shortly either fall backwards off my stool or face-plant my keyboard. I will keep you updated with the horrors of math or if I just decide I will make a bigger purse!