When I discovered felting in 2007, I finally found the creative outlet for which I had been searching. I love that the versatility of fiber allows me to “play” with a wide variety of materials including wool, silk, fabrics, yarns and threads. Creating one of a kind fiber art pieces to share with the world fulfills my creative passion.
It’s amazing how my slow stitch project is moving along and almost complete. Twenty to thirty minutes of stitching per day definitely works for me and even though I have been working on this project for a long time, it has been a fulfilling project. I have enjoyed seeing the piece slowly fill in with thousands of stitches.
Here’s where I was the last time I showed you the piece in mid June.
I added a lot of foreground stitching. The bit on the top left shown here is still a little pale for me. It jumps forward in front of the foreground bush in my eye. So there will be a little more stitching there.
I added some running stitch in the distant trees with a “grey” thread. It leans very heavily to purple but really works well to give these tree trunks a bit more definition and to move them further into the distance.
Here is where I am now. It’s getting very close to finished. A few more areas of darkness perhaps. Lindsay asked me a while ago how I decide when it’s finished. What I do with a piece like this is to get to the point where I think it might be finished and then I hang it up on the wall in my studio so I can study it. I look at the piece from different distances and different angles. I give it some time to “rest” and then I add what I think is still needed based on the assessment I have done. Or I pronounce that it’s finished. What do you think?
I have been working on more nuno felt pieces to use as backgrounds for nuno felted landscapes. I usually create these and then decide how to move forward with stitching and embellishment.
Usually, I use white prefelt with dyed silk but I decided to use black prefelt with this one. I usually rotate and look at all possible ways to use the backgrounds. With the piece in this direction, I see pine trees. What do you see?
Here’s another background using black prefelt. I’m thinking about adding birch trees to this one but I haven’t made up my mind about any of these yet.
A lot of my landscapes end up being in the portrait orientation but this one is definitely in landscape orientation. It reminds me of the woods with pine trees and yellow flowers. The upper right hand corner looks like deciduous branches with leaves coming in from the side.
Green fields with flowers? Perhaps pine trees in the distance? What do you see?
Another floral landscape with bluebells and beargrass flowers? Perhaps the orange is bushes or trees with leaves turning colors in autumn? Or maybe it’s grasslands with flowers?
One way that I sometimes use to decide on a design is to put the background photo into Photoshop Elements and layer another photo on top of the background. This is the first background in this post with a photo of service berries and leaves layered over top.
And here’s the green background with a photo of a grass field with some white flowers in the foreground layered over top. I really like the “misty” feel of this one. But how to achieve this effect on the actual piece? Perhaps some layering of silk organza or sheer fabric?
So instead of my usual find a landscape in the background and enhance, this time I think I will try to use the layered photos as inspiration and work from that angle. It’s always good to try something new. I will show you my efforts in upcoming posts.
It has been wonderful to get back together with my local artist group. We have all been completely vaccinated and have started our monthly meetings again. It is good to get out of the house, share our work and try out a few new techniques.
We recently tried some natural dyeing. Paula had a bunch of natural dyes and some earth pigments. This post is definitely not meant to be a tutorial because we didn’t follow any instructions, didn’t use any mordants and really just winged it. So the thread that I dyed is definitely not wash fast, color fast, light fast etc. I’m sure that there are specific ways we should have used each dye but we were just playing around.
Paula mixed up the various powders with water as well as coffee, tea, beets and avocado pits and skins. No mordants were added and we didn’t soak the fabric or thread beforehand except to get it wet. Before we arrived, she put some small strips of cotton fabric and some cheesecloth in the dyes to show us what the colors should look like.
So here are Paula’s control samples. If you click on the photo, you should be able to read the headings to see which colors are what. As you can see, some of the dyes worked better than others. But it was good to see what we could expect. Thanks Paula!
Then we put our threads in the different colors and left it for several hours. After that, we removed the threads, squeezed them out and put them in baggies to take home.
I did rinse the threads lightly when I got home. Except the indigo ones which I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed with little success in getting rid of the fugitive dye. I was pretty impressed with the colors that we achieved with so little effort. This is the 6 stranded DMC cotton. I didn’t keep track of the different dyes as it didn’t really matter to me and I wasn’t planning on repeating the process. The light blue one is Butterfly Pea and any of the really dark blue ones are indigo.
Here’s 8 Perle cotton.
And 12 Perle Cotton.
These are crochet cottons. I decided to try these as they are a similar weight to the 12 Perle cotton but significantly less expensive. I haven’t tried stitching with them yet. The really light one on the bottom left is dyed in beet. It definitely doesn’t dye very well without any mordants.
I also had this cotton yarn meant for weaving on hand so I dyed some of it too. It’s good for couching or laid work.
Here is the lace weight wool. The green in the upper right is from Matcha tea. It’s a lovely soft green. I’m always surprised how the wool and the cotton dyes so differently. I know that it does as I have dyed loads of threads but somehow it surprises me every time. 😉
I did dye one piece of fabric which is hemp canvas. I dunked it in the indigo and pulled it straight out. The indigo was very strong as you can tell from the darkness of the thread dyed in the indigo. We had a great time and I ended up with some fun colors.
Happy Independence Day to those readers in the US.
The last time I showed you my Autumn Nuno slow stitch piece was back in April and it looked like this:
I have been continuing to stitch on this piece for 15-20 minutes per day. I have been concentrating on the bottom left corner and bottom foreground to fill in the vegetation/foliage in those areas.
Here’s a close up of that area which has the first pass of seed stitch and just needs some of the lighter areas filled in a bit more. I also think I need to evaluate the values once I’m happier with the foreground.
And here’s what the full piece currently looks like. You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them. So progress is being made, albeit slowly. I’m still enjoying the daily practice of hand stitching, adds a little zen to my day.
One year ago today, we adopted this little guy from Mission Valley Animal Shelter. His name is Edgar and he was a stray so we don’t know his breed or his age, but he has added so much joy to our lives. I thought you might want to help Edgar celebrate his adoption day and see how he is living his best life.
I recently sold several pieces of work at Bigfork Arts and Cultural Center in Bigfork, Montana and I took a new set of framed pieces down. But summer, the tourist season is upon us and I needed to stay ahead and create some new work. I found some pieces of hand dyed silk that I had in my stash and put a stack of prefelt and the silk together so they are ready to felt.
I started with this piece of silk which has been nunofelted to white prefelt. I fold over the edges and what doesn’t stick to the back with felting, I hand stitch in place so I have a nice edge. This piece is approximately 7″ x 11″. Once felted, I look at the piece from different angles and “find” my landscape.
Next up, I free motion machine stitched the background picking out the mountains in the background and some rocks in the foreground.
Next, I decided to add a foreground tree, my go to foreground. I used a variety of hand dyed cheesecloth layers for the main branches and trunk of the tree. But the result wasn’t what I wanted. The background didn’t have enough depth, I needed more change in value and contrast. So I peeled off the tree which luckily came up in one piece.
Then I used a thickened acrylic ink to add darker values and contrast to the landscape. That definitely adds more depth.
Now to look at the tree in place on the background. Much better! Now to stitch the tree. I tacked it down with hand stitching to keep the cheesecloth in place. You can skip that step but it is harder to keep the foot of the machine from moving the cheesecloth out of place. Once it was hand stitched and holding in place, I went back to the machine.
And here’s the finished piece. I am calling it Twilight as it reminds me of a sunset in the mountains. I’m happy with it and I’m glad that I took the time to add some depth to the background before I stitched the tree.
In Part 1, I showed you my design process for this challenge. It’s based on Art Deco ideas and color schemes but I created my own design.
The first thing I needed was to buy some black wool yarn. I was going to order unspun yarn, which I think would work best for this technique but I didn’t manage to get it ordered. Instead, I went to Michaels (hobby/art store) and purchased this cheap, wool yarn. At least that made it so I could move forward.
Next I placed my enlarged design under a piece of plastic so I could follow the lines with the black yarn first. You need to work upside down with this technique. So the black goes on first. I wet down the yarn per Ildi’s instructions on her recent felt wall hanging post. If I had been paying more attention, I would have looked back at Ildi’s design and seen that it was much more spread out than mine. But on I went.
Here’s the layout after I had laid down all the wet black wool yarn. I found it was easiest to cut all the lengths that were similar and wet them down at once. The yarn had a tendency to just lie on top of the water and not get wet. So I took 6 cut lengths at a time and dunked, patted and pushed the water into the yarn. Then I laid the yarn length along the pattern, sometimes squeezing the ‘corners’ to get a sharper turn in the yarn. I cut off the extra lengths as I worked.
Then I started laying out the colored wool. This was wet down in advance too. It was a bit awkward filling in the areas to start but I soon got the hang of it. I pinched off a bit of fiber, got it wet and then ‘smooshed” (that’s a technical term) it in place. My estimates of the amount of wool needed also got better with practice. I filled in the background color too to make the first layer of wool level. I did look at Art Deco color palettes and chose one that was similar using what I had on hand.
Then I added more of the background wool on top. I wanted it fairly thick so that it wouldn’t shrink too much and squeeze the design down even more.
I covered the wool with a sheer curtain and pressed the air out and added a bit more water to get everything flattened out. From the blue green side, I folded over any stray fiber and made a kind of circle with the background. I figured I would cut it later if I wanted everything to be even.
Then I spent most of my time rubbing and putting pressure on the blue green side. I didn’t do much rubbing on the front design as I didn’t want it to shift. I always use a piece of corrugated rubber underneath the felt while I rub and have the felt covered either with plastic or sheer fabric. Once the design was set and everything was staying in place, I fulled the piece with a rolling pin and with hand pressure. I didn’t do any throwing, rolling or heavy rubbing.
Here it is after felting and fulling. I was surprised at how straight my lines stayed. I did do a little stretching along the length of the lines if they started to get wonky. But all in all, I thought the method worked great. It does take a long time to layout but the design stayed put. The cheap wool yarn worked fine so I didn’t need the more expensive unspun yarn. But I think unspun yarn would felt in more easily and perhaps have less “hairiness” when felted.
And here it is after I cut the edges. It would make a nice hot mat or a design on a bigger felt piece such as a large tote bag. The piece is about 10″ in diameter (if it was a circle). I’m not sure what I am going to do with it. Thanks Ildi for the idea and thanks to Lyn and Annie for another good challenge. Art Deco is an interesting time period to use as an inspiration!
The second quarter challenge is to be inspired by the 1920’s and I decided to look at some art deco designs for inspiration. What I noticed most was repeating patterns, many with floral themes. During this research time, I was also inspired by a recent post by Ildi K. and thought I might want to give her technique a try. So why not combine these ideas into one project? Then I remembered that I had already done some design work based on Montana wildflowers in my Level 3 Art and Design class. Maybe I could use some of those floral designs and create my own “art deco” pattern?
This is a Mariposa lily. It blooms in June or July here.
These are some quick sketches using that flower shape but creating a simplified design that was more abstract.
I used the final design in several ways on paper. I could have just used one of these as my final design but I had noticed that many art deco repeat patterns were in squares or triangles. I thought perhaps I could fit the flower portion of the design into a triangle.
So on graph paper, I created a triangle pattern and fit the flower into it. What a jumbled mess! Obviously, I don’t create repeating patterns much. It’s way too busy for me. But perhaps if the triangle lines were more visible?
So I darkened the lines of the triangle and I liked this better. I think it would be better with a blank triangle in between the floral design but I left it as it was.
Now if I was going to do this in felt, I needed to enlarge the design. So I expanded it by 200% on my copy machine and then just used one portion of the design. Next up was to figure out a color scheme and see if I had the correct materials on hand. I thought I had some unspun yarn in my stash but I was wrong. I felt that would work best for the outlines so I have to order some before I can get started on the felting portion of this challenge.
I sold three of my landscape pieces in March and I need to get more down to the gallery shop soon. So I took five pieces to be framed and I needed to make a few smaller pieces to go in ready made frames. The first one was easy, I made a replica of the holiday exchange card of winter time birch trees. I wrote a post about creating it here.
Here’s the second version. I forgot that I had used two layers of prefelt for the birch trees so they weren’t as white this time. But to me, it just makes it look colder!
Then I needed another idea. I have been watching some artist spotlight videos on the Youtube channel Fibre Arts Take Two and had seen one about the felt maker Kristy Kun. There were several short segments in the video that showed a bit about her process which looked interesting.
Then I walked by this small piece in our living room that I created in Level 3 Art and Design. It’s made with paint, gel medium and cardboard. Perhaps I could recreate this design in felt? And I could attempt some three dimensional felt on the horizon line with a similar method to the video I had just watched.
I first laid out wool in similar colors as the original. I should have noticed at this point that the horizon line was too close to the center vertically but I missed that.
Then I laid out some strips of the dark red and black mixed together in different sizes.
Then I began felting. I only wanted to go to the prefelt stage with both of these elements. The red bits reminded me of bacon the entire time I was felting.
The strips seemed too wide for what I had in mind, so I folded them in half lengthwise and ironed them. Once I figured out what I wanted the arrangement to look like, I began stitching them in place. I used a thread that would blend in so I wouldn’t need to take it out.
Suddenly, I remembered that I was supposed to needle felt these in place before stitching. No worries, I went ahead and needle felted the already stitched pieces and kept going. Once everything was in place, I felted everything together. I spent a lot of time rubbing the strips in place and making sure that they were holding on to the background felt. I even tried a little underwater felting as I had seen in the video.
Here is the end result. I am happy with how it came out and it is well attached between the strips and the background. It didn’t shrink down as much as I wanted so I will need to find a bit larger frame for it. And I might remove a bit of the bottom to make the horizon line a bit lower. It was a fun experiment and hopefully, someone will love it and take it home.
Post edited to add final photo.
Here is the final photo of the piece in it’s frame. I did trim a bit off the bottom to change the horizon line a little. The frame is 8″ x 10″.
I haven’t updated you recently on my slow stitching project. I hate to admit it but after my last post in January, I got out of the habit of daily stitching. It’s amazing how easy it is to stop doing something and then find it hard to get back into the habit again. But I did start stitching again towards the end of March and I have made a little progress.
Here’s the entire piece now. I have added some darker values in the foreground trees, added a few leaves down in the trunk areas and stitched some of the “shrubbery” to the left of the trees. I also added some darker values in the middle ground area to give it more depth.
Here’s a closer look at the area to the left of the trees. I am planning on continuing the stitching in the foreground areas to give the look of bushes and undergrowth. So the slow stitching will continue. I could probably forgo the stitching in the foreground but I like the look of the dense stitching and want to cover the entire surface. It’s not about the time spent on this one but the journey.
I thought it would be interesting to compare a very early photo on the left to the way it looks now on the right. A bit different?
This is a guest post from Ann B. Thanks for the post, Ann!
After reading Karen’s post on how she found her inspiration for her entry for the International Feltmakers Association proposed online Exhibition, I was encouraged to have a crack at it.
I had found it extremely difficult to find inspiration from the theme of their previous exhibition, which was “Kaleidoscope”. I have a very literal mind and could not think of how to portray that idea – I don’t/can’t do non-representational, but I must try to think “outside the box”.
At first I found it impossible to think what to do. First I looked up “reconnect” in a good dictionary – the Cambridge dictionary said:
1. “to join or be joined with something else again after becoming separated”
2. “to improve a relationship that has become less good or less close”
3. “to make you feel or understand something that you had stopped feeling or understanding”
4. “to create a relationship with someone again after a period of time”
as well as the obvious of reconnecting a disconnected phone call or internet link.
How on earth was I going to depict any of that? Initial thoughts ran along the lines of the connecting stitches in garment construction, and the more obvious stitches connecting inserted lace and tapes and how to use this in a felted piece. All this was going round in my head, when I happened to notice one of my husband’s photographs of the Scissor Arch holding up the tower in Wells Cathedral pop up on my laptop screen saver and this brought my attention to connections with the past and the future.
I started to mull over the idea of a piece of felt with the scissor arch as cut open channels on a piece of felt, which were then sewn together again, i.e. reconnected.
I cropped the image and printed a grey scale picture so that I could more easily gauge the colour values, and I subsequently decided to stick with the grey scale as it seemed to add to the drama of the image.
I then made a tracing of the main features, leaving out a lot of the detailed glimpses of the crucifix, the Jesse Window, the organ and the vaulted ceilings behind the arches. I used this to plan the piece: what prefelts I would need; what resists I would use; the order of placing resists and layers of prefelts. I wanted to start dark and come forward into the light, so that the arch itself would be white. I decided originally that there would be a minor variation from the greyscale palette – I would use the fact that the vaulting of the ceilings was picked out in gold paint and I added pale yellow to the list of prefelts.
This picture shows the prefelts I made, but in the end I did not use the mid grey, nor the yellow.
I made a couple of photocopies of the tracing so that I could cut out templates for the resists and the prefelts, and then I cut them out. I made a “crib sheet” setting out the order in which I needed to work – I have been known to forget what I was supposed to be doing halfway through a project, and I didn’t want to do that this time. I have not attached a copy of this as you probably wouldn’t be able to read my scrawl.
This picture shows the resists and templates after use. In fact there should be a resist in the shape of the little curly topped bit shown centre bottom. Unfortunately it’s still in the piece somewhere I couldn’t find it so left well alone. It was supposed to reveal the white base of the picture being lit from the Jesse Window shining through above the organ.
Once I had finished the initial fulling, I cut out the resists, (those that I could find) the resist for the scissors was cut at the cross so that I could pull it all the way out, as I did not want to cut the channel just above the cross. The top of the arch and the lower “legs” section I did cut all the way so that the darkest grey would show behind the white. I then inserted a piece of metallic grey fibre inside the top channel so that when the stitching reconnected the cut edges it would resemble the slashed and pinked work in Tudor costumes. I then finished the fulling, sealing the cut edges. I then set it to dry, but unfortunately I did not pay sufficient attention to where I laid it to dry as it has a distinct lean to one side at the top, and I didn’t notice this until I came to photograph the finished piece.
Although I had abandoned the idea of adding the pale yellow prefelt inside the top of the scissors arch to try to echo the gold paint on the arches there, I decided to pick out the nearer arches in gold thread and used a back stitch. I decided to stick with gold as the only colour in the picture and reconnected the cut channels with two goldwork yarns using sorbello stitch, which is an embroidery stitch used for insertion work. Using some silk yarn which I had hand dyed variegated grey many moons ago, I emphasized the edges of the scissor legs and the circles connecting them to the walls of the cathedral.
Having abandoned the yellow prefelt, I wondered what I should do with the blank space that left me with. I’m not sure why I decided to add the masked face instead. It just seemed the thing to do as we have to wear the things so often at the moment.
By this time, I was heartily sick of the piece anyway, so I took the required photographs, filled in the application form and sent it all off; and lo and behold I eventually received an email confirming that it had been accepted for the Exhibition.
This is the finished piece and the close-up of the Sorbello stitched lower arch.
This is the link to the Exhibition on the IFA’s website . If you click on an image it takes you first to the part of the submission form with a description of inspiration etc, and then to more photos of the work. If you click on those images you can see the complete photograph – in some cases they had to be cropped to thumbnails for the general exhibition page.