Browsed by
Author: Lindsay Wilkinson Artwork

I’m a passionate wet felt-maker living by the sea in Whitstable, Kent, UK & working out of a small studio in Faversham, Kent. I draw a lot of inspiration from the beautiful coastal scenery and local wild birds which can often be seen in my felt work.
Finding Focus

Finding Focus

It’s the new year and here we are in England with what I’m calling the ‘new abnormal’: all non-essential shops closed; travel only if necessary; people working from home wherever possible and, for many of us, very limited direct contact with people outside our household.

If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d have liked a long stretch of time with few commitments that I could dedicate to felt-making, I’d have jumped at the chance.  Be careful what you wish for. 

Towards the end of 2020 I had several events to aim for so was able to focus on making things for those. Here are a few of my favourites: a succulent holder, nuno felt vase (with glass interior) and needle felted mince pie.

I have plenty of sales and exhibitions booked throughout 2021 but no way of knowing whether and when they will take place. I have notebooks full of ideas but feel I need to find some focus to direct my efforts and get the creative energy flowing. 

I really enjoy learning new skills and developing my felt-making in different directions. So, I decided at the turn of the year to sign up for some online workshops. I’m mostly self-taught as a felt maker but now I’m asking myself ‘why do I want to reinvent so many wheels?’.  I’ve long wanted to take Fiona Duthie’s workshop ‘Fibre + Paper’ so when I saw she was running the workshop in March 2021, I eagerly signed up.  I then find myself tapping my toes impatiently and thinking ‘I don’t want to wait ‘till March!’.

Fortunately, in February Fiona is offering another class I’d like to take ‘Ink on Cloth’.  Yep, I’m in for that too.  Still the toe-tapping: ‘what about January?’. 

The Felting and Fiber Studio to the rescue: Teri Berry was offering her bag making class starting 7 January.  Perfect! I’m in for another class.  Well, you can’t say I lack enthusiasm!

While I’m waiting for the class to begin (yep, still with the toe-tapping) I decide now is the time to retire an old friend.  One of the first things I felted for myself about 9 years ago is an iPad cover. I carry my iPad mini with me everywhere and the cover is worn out.  It has done a great job – it even outlasted the first iPad – but the corners have rubbed away and it’s looking very shabby.

I may have mentioned before (more than once) that I’m an avid charity / thrift / op shop enthusiast and have built up an impressive collection of second-hand fabric, mostly scarves and mostly silk. I have a dig around and fish out a very fine small silk chiffon scarf with leaf prints. Left – front, right – back, middle – action shot! I’ve carefully controlled the shrinkage so it fits snugly: it slides out when I want it to and not when I don’t.

I enjoyed working with the silk so decide to make some more samples.  One issue with fabric of unknown origin (and often even with fabric of know origin) is that you can’t be sure how it will felt. Here’s the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of each sample.

Some kind of velvet devore?

A woven cotton or linen?

A silk and cotton mix – I assume the background is silk and the slub lines are cotton

Definitely 100% silk (it still had the label in)

All are interesting. I chose a similar wool colour to the background silk colour as I want to focus on texture and print.  I particularly like the leaf print one and will definitely use that at some point. 

Next, my patience (!) has been rewarded and the bag class is starting.  First is an animal theme phone or glasses case.  I consult the interweb for animals that have big tongues and decide on a gecko.  I’m rather fond of geckos, though I’m not sure I’ve ever met one. 

I’m pleased with the result, although admit it looks rather more like a frog or an alien.  I was going to trim the tongue but decided to leave it as it is. I’ve taken to calling it my alien frog bag.  I made it to fit my phone but it’s actually a bit big so I’ve now added a thin green leather strap with some Chicago screws. Next time I’m invited to a ‘BYO alien frog bag’ event, I will be all prepared. 

On to the next, bigger bag, with integrated straps and internal pockets.  I have a fair quantity of nice natural grey Corriedale top and decide I’ll use that for the outside.  I’m on a roll with recycling the silk scarves so select a few with similar colours.  I’m not sure grey will be the best background so, in an unusual fit of sensibleness, decide to make some samples. 

I prefer the lighter colour behind them. The bag will be fulled very hard and I think I may completely lose the silk.  Little lightbulb moment: why not prefelt the silks with a light colour wool to help preserve some of their colour?

I prefelted some pieces of silk.  I even got a bit jazzy with the one with large spots, with fawn Corriedale and charcoal Merino.

On the left: the bag laid out with (nearly) all the surface decoration ready for wetting down. I did move things around a little afterwards but forgot to take a photo. On the right: the flap detail of the final bag

Finished bag

It’s not perfect (eg I put 2 pockets inside but they are on the front wall of the bag instead of the back and it’s a bit wider than I intended) but I do like it and will enjoy using it.

So, what next? The third bag is a backpack.  I’m wrestling with myself over whether to use wool I already have or wait for some I’ve ordered to arrive.  I have a studio full of wool but want to use a medium or coarse wool for durability and don’t have much of any colour or breed in sufficient quantity.  I made a sample yesterday of potential wool candidates but am a bit underwhelmed. There’s a black dyed Perendale batt, grey/brown Finnish top, light grey Swaledale top and natural white batt (can’t remember the breed) but I’d have to mix them and that’s a lot to have going on.

I decided too to make a paper template of the finished bag to help me work out the resist and stop making bags bigger than I intend. Ha, ha, I do hope I don’t start calling this my toilet seat backpack.  And that brings me right up to date.

All being well, I will have the backpack done to show you in my next blog spot in March, along with some makes from the Ink on Cloth workshop.

I’m enjoying the learning and Teri’s class is excellent.  The instructions are clear and detailed. She has been positive and encouraging and very quick and generous in responding to my extensive questions about clasps, straps, bag design, wool breeds….

Are you struggling to find focus, or maybe finding new ways to learn and different things to try?  I hope you’re able to do a little fibre work and I wish everyone a peaceful, happy and creative 2021.

Felting Beaches

Felting Beaches

In my last blog I looked at different ways I’ve tried to represent sea and water in wet felted pictures.

Felting Sea Patterns

Looking back at this link, I realise I sold the sea picture I used as the blog header this week. Happy times! A couple of people asked in the comments if I’d also show how I’ve made beaches, so here we go.

The beaches where I live are mainly pebbles, but there are sandy beaches a little to the east and I’ve used both types of beach in my pictures.

Whitstable West Beach: the pebble beach at the bottom of my road

Here’s a picture of two Sanderlings at Minnis Bay: a lovely sandy beach with chalk rocks embedded in places in the sand.  I’m starting with this as it was an early picture and the first time I thought of using a blue cobweb felt overlay to represent a wet beach reflecting the sky. It’s a technique I like and use quite a lot.

Layout for and final picture “2 Sanderlings, Minnis Bay”

There’s a pewter-coloured base for the sand and light prefelted sections and silk fabric pieces for the chalk with a bit of darker shading around them

Here’s another Sanderlings picture, also at Minnis Bay. This time I’ve used a few different sandy shades to add the idea of shade and texture in the sand.

3 Sanderlings, Minnis Bay

Pebble and shell beaches are more common in my pictures as this is what I see when I walk near home. There are quite a lot of variables in how I create them. Some choices are for ‘artistic’ reasons (how do I want this to look and feel?), some for experimental reasons (what would happen if?) and some are entirely pragmatic (what suitable bits of prefelt and felt offcuts do I have kicking around at the moment?).

This is a Big Wave picture that is now owned by a friend of mine. Here I have cut up felt and pre-felt into pebble shapes and put them on a base of several layers of sandy coloured wool tops. I then laid a bit of blue cobweb prefelt and silk over the pebbles nearest to the wave to give the impression of the remains of a previous wave over the pebbles before wet felting everything together

This is a similar picture where I’ve added more patterned silk scraps (recycled charity shop scarves) which are topped with wisps of wool to help them felt in.

Here I’ve taken a different approach. Whitstable is on the north Kent coast of the UK. It’s famous for oysters and has a very long history of oyster catching and farming. Empty oyster shells are piled up on the beach next to a local restaurant to be reused for farmed oysters. When it’s quiet, turnstones pick over the shells, ferreting out bits of left-behind oyster. I love the turnstones! You can see one in action in this video and hopefully see where they get their name from.

Turnstone picking over the oyster shells

I’ve made a few turnstone pictures. In this one I prefelted lots of oyster shells for the foreground then snipped up loads of different coloured tapestry wool for the beach as I wanted a more distant background impression rather than individual pebbles. The tapestry wool is all from charity shops: I really like recycling old and second hand materials.

It took a surprisingly long time to snip all that wool into a large plastic washing up bowl ready to mix it up and lay it out on top of sandy wool layers. It also made a bit of a mess as the felting threw up lots of loose wool strands because the fibres were very short.

“Turnstone Dining at the Royal Native Oyster Stores”

Another experimental approach was a picture I made earlier this year using pieces of recycled silk (cut from charity shop scarves, of course) on top of a couple of layers of wool tops with some wisps of wool on top for colour and to help attach the silk. This gives a different feel – more impressionistic – but still (I hope!) the impression of a pebble beach.

This penguin picture was a commission. Unusually I was working from someone else’s photo rather than my own observations and pictures. By necessity the felt picture is similar to the original photo (though I had to give the penguin on the right a proper head!). I custom made various sheets of light grey pebbly prefelt which I cut up to make this beach as there’s quite a lot of it so I couldn’t just rely on scraps.

And finally, I think this is my favourite beach so far (maybe apart from the oyster shells). It includes several of the techniques I’ve described. I pre-made some shell shapes and used prefelt pieces for pebbles. There’s lots of silk too – I think I may have put down a whole sheet of silk on top of wool layers then added the rest on top of the silk. This gorgeous ringed plover was standing on a shingle spit that juts into the sea just along from my house and I felt this was a good representation of that particular terrain.

Do you have a favourite? Or anything you don’t think really worked? I’d love to hear your views.

Felting Sea Patterns

Felting Sea Patterns

I made my first felted picture maybe 8 years ago. It’s a seascape with a curlew based on a scene I’d photographed. I realise now I haven’t ever completely moved away from the sea and the birds in my felt making.  The picture is still hanging on my living room wall, though it’s not really my favourite.  I can see too much that I’d want to change.

Looking at the dark water I see I included strips of ribbon as well as nepps, locks and some non-wool fibres – probably bamboo. A little while later I made a second curlew which I much preferred. In this one the sea is slightly more abstract with silk hankies representing sea foam.

Second Curlew

I live by the coast and seem always to return to the theme of water – specifically the sea and even more specifically the water near where I live, some of which is technically an estuary: the mouth of the river Thames.  I’ve been looking recently at how I’ve tried to represent the sea in felt, then trying out some new water experiments.

In my last guest blog I showed how I made the watery background to my dark-bellied Brent goose. Here’s a reminder

Dark-Bellied Brent Goose

Brent goose: making a felt picture

This technique of laying cobweb pre-felt on top of base layers was something I worked out for myself and often use as I really like the effect

The first picture, ‘Winter Sea’ I made entirely using this technique. For the second picture ‘Big Wave 3’ I used straightforward tufts of different coloured wool for the darker water but a cobweb strip in front of the wave to suggest water from a previous wave.

‘Wide Sea Pattern’

For ‘Wide Sea Pattern’ I’ve added some silk fibres to enhance the foamy effect.

I’ve also tried nuno felted seas using large pieces of fabric. I’ve made two pictures of a lovely little ringed plover I watched a short distance from my house.

In the left picture I used a UK charity shop wool scarf that already had a crimp. I ran pewter-coloured merino wool on the back in only one direction to enhance the crimp, which I hope gives a distant wave-like pattern. In the one on the right I used some very dense silk (from a US thrift store sarong) which I only partially felted in as I wanted to keep as much as possible of the sarong’s watery pattern (also, the silk was VERY dense!). 

Thinking about how to represent sea patterns, I have spent a little time recently looking at photos and videos of how people do this when drawing or painting the sea, and wondering if I could use some of these ways of looking at and representing sea water in wet felt making.

Experiment one: I laid out two pewter merino layers then a fine horizontal layer of blues, which I pushed apart with 2 pencils hoping to evoke a choppy sea.  Then, I suppose because I thought the darker tones may get lost, I added some more dark wool into the gaps.

I ended up with something that looked very flat – perhaps like dappled water but not what I had in mind.  I wish I was more strict in sticking to my original intentions: I think it would have been better without the dark wool I added at the end. Maybe I’ll come back to that in the future and do the experiment properly.

Experiment two: Estuary Water. Next I wanted to experiment with the dark colour of the water.  Out came the trusty drum carder and I blended pewter, beige and green wools which I laid horizontally on a vertical layer of mixed pewter and beige.  I made a single layer of mixed blue prefelt that I pulled apart and laid on the top.

I call the result ‘Estuary Water’ as there’s often a lot of muddy sediment in the estuary which gives it an opaque, brown look.  I like it but haven’t decided what to do with it yet – its dimensions don’t fit any standard canvases or frames. Maybe I’ll use it as the background to something else.

Experiment three: I decided to made some smaller felt pictures that were just sewn onto stretched painters’ canvases rather than being framed behind glass. Focussing on the sea water: this time I snipped into the prefelt blue layer with scissors after I’d laid it on the background.

I like this effect and could maybe take it a bit further in the future: make some bigger cuts or more of them.  I stitched these onto pre-stretched canvases that are slightly smaller than the felt so the canvases aren’t visible when looking head on.

Experiment four:  Harbour Water. I took a photo of the water in the harbour a few months ago that I found interesting and wanted to investigate in felt. 

‘Harbour Water’ Photograph

I’ve thought for a while I’d like to blend just two colours with each other and black and white and this seemed like a good opportunity.  I used the drum carder to blend duck egg and teal merino wool with charcoal grey and natural white in various proportions.

I then made prefelts which I cut up and placed on a background of teal (1st, vertical layer) and duck egg (2nd, horizontal layer)

Quite interesting but I liked it a lot better before I’d felted it. I had a second go, using a piece of the duck egg prefelt as the base, which I like slightly better.

I like the shimmery water better than the round sections, which are a bit too round. Again, I’ve stitched the pieces of felt onto smaller canvases so they can hang but appear to be floating. I will look at them for a while until I decide how and if to develop the ideas further.

Experiment five: Choppy Whitstable Waves.  In July a customer asked me to make her a picture similar to one I had but in a smaller size.  I tried to use some of the things I’d seen in videos of how to paint water using acrylics and adapt them to my local sea colours and patterns and the medium of wet felting.  I laid out darker ‘windows’ at the front of the waves with some water being pulled upwards by the wave (with the top fibre running upwards) then blue sky reflections made from cobweb prefelt sitting behind the wave foam.

I feel this has some potential.  I particularly like the wave second from bottom and am tempted next to make a single long wave using this technique.

At this point I had to break off to set up my harbour hut exhibition for a week.  Interestingly, the customer didn’t like the smaller picture I’d made as much as the original and decided to buy the bigger original instead.

I still find sea patterns endlessly fascinating. Each experiment seems to ask more questions than it answers and produce new avenues to investigate.  I have no doubt I’ll keep on coming back to sea patterns (and birds) again and again.

Are there any effects here that you particularly like or don’t think worked so well?

Do you have a theme, subject or colour-way you keep going back to in your work?

Brent goose: making a felt picture

Brent goose: making a felt picture

I love the sea and sea birds of the coast where I live and I often incorporate them into my felt pictures. 

 

A couple of years ago I was watching some dark-bellied Brent geese swimming in the sea and feeding along the shoreline a few miles east of my house. They’re smallish geese that breed in northern Russia and over-winter in the salt marshes, coast and estuaries of the South and East of England. They don’t populate large areas so are on the ‘amber’ UK conservation status list. I took some photos (one with a bonus curlew!) which I looked at again recently when I was thinking about creating a new felt picture. 

 

I decided to use as the background a piece I made a few months ago. I’m a little obsessed with trying to capture the many colours and patterns of the sea here. Sometimes they become stand-alone pictures, sometimes they are combined with a bird and other times they hang around waiting for me to decide what to do with them. 

 

With this one, I made two pieces of cobweb prefelt (one white, one blue) which I laid on top of a pewter-colour (all merino wool) and wet felted them together. 

 

background layout
Background layout ready for felting

 

I thought it would serve well for this picture and was pleased to be using something I’d already made: saving time and freeing up storage space.

 

I did a quick sketch to help me decide on the size of the goose and cut it out to check the size and position and how it would sit in the frame. I realised its head was a bit small but this was only a guide and I’d sort that out later. 

 

first paper sketch 

 

I made some light prefelt for the goose’s wing and belly feathers using natural carded Norwegian batts as I wanted short fibres that would give me lots of colour mixing. 

 

One of the challenges was the potential wool migration between the black and white of the bird’s back half so I made a firmer white prefelt to lay as the top white layer which I hoped would minimise the bleed between black and white. 

 

Here is the rough layout for the bird (just before I added the white prefelt) and what it looks like after felting and fulling.  I made it bigger than I needed so I could trim it to the final goose shape. It’s easier to take away than to add and it needs to be a bit bigger than the final bird to allow for needling the edges into the background. 

I had a bit less definition in the grey/brown and white wing feathers than I’d hoped for. I should have made the prefelt a bit firmer (note to self). But I thought the white prefelt worked well. I kept checking the composition with the paper sketch, the background and the frame.  

 

Next I trimmed the goose nearer to size, using the paper template as a guide. 


 

Normally my felted birds sit on top of their backgrounds.  I needle felt them on which makes the picture more 3 dimensional. I hadn’t really thought through the fact that this one is in the water so some of the sea is in front of the goose. 

 

I pondered this for a bit. Maybe felt a wave to go across where the bird enters the water? How about cutting the background and slotting the bird into it? Not something I’ve done before and it felt like a rather brave irreversible step but I decided to go for it. 

 

Once the goose is slotted in, it’s time needle felt it into place and add some more detail. I faffed about with the shadow / reflection for a while, added more definition to the belly and wing feathers, added the white neck pattern then spent a while getting the eye and beak as I wanted them. 

 

 

final goose
Dark-bellied Brent Goose

Here’s the finished picture just before I framed it.  Framed it’s 64 x 64 cm (approximately 25.2 inches square).


Do you think cutting the background worked?  I wonder what other solutions I could have tried.  What ‘brave’ decisions do you make in your textile work?

 

 

Dipping my toe back in …….

Dipping my toe back in …….

During most of the Covid 19 lockdown in the UK I couldn’t travel the 8 miles to my studio. I did bring wool home, but I haven’t made much felt recently. Early on in lockdown I decided, while the weather was good, to focus on my long-neglected garden. I thought it would take a couple of weeks to knock it into shape. The weather stayed good so I stayed in the garden. 10 weeks later I found I’d slipped into gardening full-time.

As the only fibre involved in my garden project was the permeable membrane under the reclaimed brick circular patio I built…

brick circle
Very proud of my reclaimed brick circle!

View from brick circle
View up the garden

….that adventure doesn’t have much relevance here. So, I’m going to tell you about my first felt-related venture back into the outside world.

One outlet for selling my work is a beach hut gallery in Whitstable harbour (the coastal town where I live). It’s an open-air market offering locally created art and craft plus international food. I’m a member of a group called ‘Made in Whitstable’ which rents one of the harbour huts year-round and we share the time there between 7 individuals / groups.

As it happens, one of my weeks in the harbour came very soon after open air markets were allowed to reopen in England on 1st June. What to do? The leap from venturing out only once a week (to food shop) to market trading seemed quite daunting. After much thought and discussion (via Zoom and FaceTime, of course) I decided I’d give it a go.

clean hut
I gave the hut a good clean as it’s been empty for a while

The market organisers have done a lot of work to put in safety and social distancing measures in preparation for reopening. I visited the market before it reopened to have a look around and see what other traders thought.

I then filled the hut with my pictures (about 50:50 felt and photo canvases). I only took felt that was behind glass as felt asks to be touched and I couldn’t be sure that was safe. I stocked up on hand sanitiser and antibacterial cleaners. I made various signs to cover different scenarios. I thought I’d probably only take card payments, though I did have my cash bag and disposable gloves just in case.

inside hut left
Inside left

Inside hut left felt
Some of the felt pictures

inside hut back
Back Wall

inside hut right
Photos on the right

I planned mostly to stay outside the hut when open but I had two fallback positions in case there were too many people. First, I could cordon off the entrance so I could be in the hut and other people could look in but not enter. Second, I could close it and go home at any time.

I had a few ‘social distancing’ nightmares in the nights before opening the hut and did feel quite anxious as I took the short walk from my home to the harbour on the first day.

Hut with barriers
My hut with barriers & tape

There were lots of barriers and hazard tape everywhere; signs reminding people to keep 2 meters apart; a one-way circulation system with arrows on the floor and boxes drawn around the hut entrances. It looked a bit like a crime scene!

My first day, a Friday, was very quiet in the morning. People seemed to be a put off coming into our part of the market. At lunchtime it started to rain, so I closed and went home. Saturday and Sunday were warm & sunny. Whitstable is a very popular day / weekend trip destination within easy reach of London and can get very crowded, especially with good weather. Was this going to be a problem? No!  There were lots of people on the beach and the food huts were busy but the footfall in our area was low.  By Sunday the barriers were slightly adapted to improve flow. By Monday, even more so. There was always the option of putting in more barriers or limiting the overall numbers but these weren’t needed.

market and relaxed barriers
Sunday

hut with no barriers
Monday

 

Sales overall were disappointing but I don’t regret having a go. It was nice to chat to people, even if it was from at least 2 meters away. There were some issues with queues near the food huts but people are tackling them and they didn’t impact on my area. My next week in the Harbour is in late July and this has given me a chance to try things out; to see how it works and how it feels. Indeed, the chance to dip my toe back into the water. I can look forward to the next time with more confidence that I can cope with and adapt to the new environment.

whitstable panorama copy (2)

Learning from Samples

Learning from Samples

I’ve learnt many things since joining this forum but one of the most useful is the importance of making samples when trying something new. It saves so much time and lets me develop an idea quickly without wasting materials. Sometimes I’m trying to achieve a specific effect and sometimes I just want to see what happens if…..

As I can’t go to my studio at the moment because of the pandemic lockdown, I’m working small on the dining table at home so samples are a good option.

I’ve been thinking about trees and bark recently, including looking at the different lichens on trees and investigating how to represent them in felt.

I’m an avid charity shop moocher: always on the look out for second-hand yarns and fabrics I may be able to use in felt-making. I bought a charity shop scarf that included some pretty flowery mesh and decided to make a sample to see how it felted (or not) and whether I could use it for lichen.

flower fabric
a rectangle of the flowery mesh fabric

I started with a square of the fabric and felted it onto some white Finnish wool batt.

flower fabric white sample
a square of the fabric when felted

I like how the flowers crowd together and how the mesh disappears so I decide to try another piece on a darker background. This time I cut more random shapes of fabric, leaving space in between.

flower fabric grey sample
Pieces of the fabric felted onto grey

I really like this effect too but, looking at it critically, I realise it looks much more like barnacles than lichen (shells being another of my felting passions). So, off I go on a little diversion to wet felt a mussel shell with barnacles.

Returning to the lichen theme, I absolutely love the tiny worlds that grow on trees.  Here’s an example from a small twig from a pear tree in my garden (about the size of my little finger).

lichen photo close up
Pear tree lichen close-up

How gorgeous is that?!

I’d nuno felted silk when making lichen on the tree stump I showed in my last blog. I decided this time to make a piece of greenish prefelt with Perendale batt and Merino tops to see what effects I could create. I stitched, added small resists and tied in marbles in a random way to the prefelt then felted the sample to see what would happen.

This has some potential but I didn’t work on the finished felt for too long as I think it’s too thick & hairy for the delicate world of lichen.  I can still learn a lot from the shapes and effects. Next time I will start with a thinner merino prefelt and work on organising the composition. Or maybe I’ll make another sample. I love the discs on the lichen so will certainly try using a different resist technique next to work on these.

Finally, I’ve made a couple of samples this week to see how to resolve a problem I’ve created. I wanted to see if I could make a chinese lantern fruit with its beautiful lacy dried husk skeleton. (I don’t have my own photo but if you put chinese lantern plant in your search engine you will see them.) I jumped straight in and made the berry & stem without deciding how I’d make the husk skeleton & how I’d fit the two parts together. Clearly I don’t always take my own sampling advice!

chinese lantern berry
Chinese lantern berry and stem

My first question is ‘what’s the best felting technique for representing the appearance of a dried husk?’ It needs to be very lacy but very firm to hold its shape. I think I will have to use strips of prefelt for the 8 main veins but I’m not sure what to do about all the small ones.

I start with one sample laying out cobweb felt and trying different things on top: a loosely spun 100% wool yarn, some prefelt and some wisps of merino wool.  In the final stages of fulling I cut out a few sections to emphasise the shapes.

I decide to develop the yarn idea and this time lay out the yarn first then some merino and silk batt along the lines of the yarn.

I like the effect in itself but I don’t think it will allow me to make a felt that’s firm enough to hold its shape, which needs to be large and strong. Also, it’s not really delicate enough and I’m doing so much cutting out that I may as well make a solid strong 3D shape, possibly with yarn on top to guide the pattern and create texture, and then cut out rather than trying to follow the lines of yarn. That’s parked for now in the ‘needs more thought’ box!

I hope I’ve shown how useful samples can be, if you need convincing – as I did.

Do you make samples? What do you do use them for?

 

3D wet felting experiments (part two)

3D wet felting experiments (part two)

In my last blog spot I showed how I made a sprouting seed pod as part of a group of 3D wet felted objects I’m calling ‘Lifecycles’ that I am submitting to an open exhibition.  You can see that blog here if you missed it or want a reminder https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2020/01/13/3d-wet-felting-experiments-part-one/.

The second piece is a fallen tree branch with fungus and lichen. My ideas is that as one thing dies (the branch) it gives life to others (fungi etc). This will tie in with the sprouting seed pod (a new tree) and maybe I’ll add a couple of other things too, yet to be decided.

Wondering where to start with the texture I take myself off to the local park to look at different types of bark.

I am particularly taken with these very ridged examples and wonder how I’d go about creating that texture in wet felt.  I happen to have some off-cuts from the seed pod on my work table – a piece of fabric, probably linen, I found in a charity shop and felted –  so I decide to see what it looks like if I lay those under some new felt.  Keen to do things properly (and not waste time) I make a sample.

I am still experimenting with using wool batts from different breeds of sheep (rather than merino tops) so put together natural brown and grey Shetland and Finnish wools plus a little dyed green Perendale including a couple of bits of prefelt. You can just see the ridges when felted but I want more so try cutting into the surface. I really like that effect.

Sample of recycled scarf felted to become lichen

I try out some pieces of a (charity shop) hand dyed silk scarf for lichen and like those too so decide to get on with making the log.

I make a sheet of nuno felt using the recycled fabric which I cut into uneven strips.

Using a large rectangular resist I lay out 3 layers of wool on each side, wet it down, and add the felted linen strips on one side in what I hope is a bark-ish pattern. 

I cover these with two more layers of mixed brown and grey wool then add the surface decoration including prefelted discs for fungus and some marbles under the largest green section.

Surface of side one laid out

I would normally lay out the whole thing before starting to felt but there is a lot going on by now that I don’t want to disturb by flipping it over so I start working the first side to try to get it stable before finishing the second side layout.

On the second side I add yarn, locks, nepps, slubs, silk noil, nuno prefelt, pieces from a striped charity shop silk scarf….I am really starting to enjoy this. It’s a good job there isn’t a kitchen sink nearby as I might throw that in too. I’m thinking that as the log will be lying down, this will be the under side so it doesn’t matter if I don’t like everything. I could even cut bits out.

It takes quite a long time to rub and full this woolly smorgasbord, working hard into all the grooves. As I finish working it I decide it looks better standing up and so the log becomes a tree stump. 

Final tree stump from the front

In the end I decide not to cut into the surface as there is plenty of texture and I also leave the marbles in as I like the green knobbly bits (visible in top picture). 

What next? I’ve been mulling over how the pieces will be displayed together and decide to make a flat piece of ‘woodland floor’ felt for them to stand on.  I start with a piece of mixed leafy-coloured prefelt.

I cut the prefelt into rough leaf shapes and lay them on some layers of brown wool.  I can’t resist adding a little bit of 3D so felt some thick green rope to look like new shoots emerging from the ground. 

Finally I make an autumn leaf to highlight the annual cycle of a tree’s dying and renewal. 

Here’s the final piece.  Have I captured the idea of life cycles?

Final “Lifecycles” piece

And yes, Lifecycles has now been accepted into the exhibition so will be on display at Beach Creative in Herne Bay from 20 March to 2 April as part of the 3 gallery exhibition ‘Map’. If you’re in the Whitstable, Faversham, Herne Bay area do pop along to the Fishslab, Creek Creative and/or Beach Creative Galleries and check out how other people have responded to the Map challenge (dates vary slightly). I know some of my friends have fabulous work in the exhibitions so I think they will be hugely varied and interesting shows

3D Wet Felting Experiments (Part One)

3D Wet Felting Experiments (Part One)

Some people close to me are giving up eating animal-based products this month – Veganuary – while others give up alcohol – Dry January.  As I’ve set aside some time for playing with 3D wet felting this month I’m going for ‘experimentanuary’ which is much more self-indulgent and shouldn’t be compared with the other examples but what the heck?!

I’ve had various ideas simmering in the back of my mind for a while, so now is the time to bring some to the boil:

  • Last summer I noticed some particularly lovely fungus growing on a dead tree trunk.
  • Since the wonderful Gladys Paulus seed pods workshop I did in November I’ve been thinking about how to felt sprouting seeds.
  • A couple of months ago I saw a call for submissions for an open exhibition across three local galleries (Creek Creative in Faversham, The Fishslab in Whitstable and Beach Creative in Herne Bay) with the title ‘Map’ – to be interpreted as widely as you like. 

From a sprouting seed to fungus on a dead tree I’ve been mulling over the idea of ‘mapping’ life cycles.

First I think about texture. I’ve stitched a piece of thin grey Shetland wool pre-felt into ridges with no specific end in mind so I loosely wrap it around a lozenge-shaped resist covered in 2 layers of wetted brown Finnish wool – all from carded batts – to see what happens (I usually use wool tops so this is another experiment). 

First experimental pod

The remains of the ridges give an interesting texture and I like the top where pre-felt was lightly pushed together – it reminds me of the ‘seam’ on a walnut shell. 

I remember some thick lacy fabric (maybe linen) I’d found in a charity shop which created an interesting texture when I felted a sample so I dig that out and decide to give it a try.

Sample of second-hand fabric when felted with merino wool

I cut out two egg-shaped pieces of the fabric and a slightly smaller resist (to give me a seam round the middle), lay three layers of white Finnish wool on each side of the resist, put the fabric on top and add some tufts of wool on top of the fabric, particularly round the edges.

Here’s the pod as I’m ready to cut out the resist and start fulling more vigorously and the finished item – which I think looks rather like an almond / walnut hybrid. I like the texture and shape.

I wonder what would happen if I used darker wool under the fabric and if I didn’t put any wool on top, so I decide to have a go. 

I’ve already made the ‘sprout’ section from a green dyed Perendale carded batt with two leaves at one end of a felt rope, unfelted wool at the other end so I can felt it into a seed pod.  Using the same resist I snug the unfelted end of the sprout under 3 layers of natural grey Shetland wool and add the fabric.

I put the unfelted end of the sprout next to the resist
Shetland wool added

As I rub the pod I wonder if it was wise to try the fabric with no wool on top because it doesn’t look like anything is happening for quite a while but it’s one of those times when you just have to have faith in felting and keep going. I’m relieved when I look side-on and see the wool hairs coming through. 

Looking at the edge I can just see that the wool is coming through

Here’s the pod when it’s dry.  I knew I would need to stiffen the stem for it to stand up in the way I want.  Although it’s fulled very hard, as soon as you tilt it it won’t hold the weight of the leaves. I got some advice from the forum here on using GAC 400 so thought I’d try that.

Finished felting but the stem needs stiffening (it’s leaning against the wall!)

Here’s where I’d like to be showing you the finished pod but unfortunately I bought the wrong product (GAC 500 instead of GAC 400) so I’m now waiting for the right product to arrive before I can go ahead.

While waiting, I’ve made another seed pod based on something between a sweet chestnut and a hazelnut using 3 shades of Finnish wool. 

I’ve also made the rest of the ‘lifecycles’ pieces….or at least I think I have, but I keep thinking of other things I could add, like maybe a stag beetle, so who knows?

There’s a danger of this becoming a very long blog because I’m having so much fun. How many pieces will I submit to the exhibition? Will my entry be accepted? The submission deadline is later this month so I don’t yet know the answers to those questions. In my next guest blog spot I’ll show how I developed the log with fungus and lichen, a piece of (mostly) flat felt for them to sit on, and let you know what happens about the exhibition. 

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