A few weeks ago I experienced the delight that is the Auckland Fun Felter’s Retreat, 2 full days of felting bliss! 🙂
We were 13 like-minded ladies at a retreat centre, tucked away in a quiet and leafy corner of west Auckland, we had the entire centre all to ourselves and were blessed with some lovely weather.
Jenny, our organiser extraordinaire, asked if anyone would be willing to teach / lead a short workshop on Saturday morning. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to teach face to face since 2019 so jumped at the chance and then immediately panicked that I had nothing to teach this incredibly creative and experienced group (most of the members have been felting at least as long as I have!).
After several weeks mulling it over and talking to other AFF members I settled on “animal textures in felt”, I thought this would lend itself to a series of pre-prepared samples that we could discuss the potential pitfalls and then each member could incorporate one or two into their own project. This group is so experienced I couldn’t imagine any of them wanting to waste their precious felting time watching me laying out fibre over a resist.
We all arrived on Friday afternoon, settled into our rooms and started playing with our fibres in the main hall. After talking to a few members I realised not everyone would be happy for me to share some samples and tips on how to achieve different effects, they wanted a project to follow…. my heart sank, I hadn’t planned for this, how was I going to come up with a project that included, fur, scales, eyes and locks before tomorrow morning?!!
So it was that Fugly was born….
A little pod critter, with eyes, scales on his back, a lambs tail and an unfortunate ear-hair problem – for the record I would never normally recommend trying to cram so many different techniques onto one item but now he is finished I do find Fugly quite endearing 🙂
To my surprise most of the group also made pods that incorporated most or all of the techniques and we ended up with a ?gaggle, ?fright, ?laughter <insert collective noun of your choice here> of funny little monsters:
This weekend was such a success we agreed to do it all again in just 6 months time! 🙂
I always look forward to each new iteration of these classes, its always exciting to see how each new group of felt-makers will interpret the weekly tutorials, looking back at the photos in the class galleries it is hard to imagine they were all following the same instructions! 🙂
These are just a few of my favourite creations made by students from previous classes.
If these photos have whetted your appetite and you would like to see more the full galleries are here:
With the weather warming up, we have been looking for some garden furniture ever since the most severe lockdown restrictions began to lift in September, but almost all of reasonably priced wooden furniture has sold out and no-one knows when more will be delivered. Living at the bottom of the world has its advantages but access to products and materials while shipping containers are in disarray all over the planet due to the pandemic is not one of them. Most imported items, from cars to sofas, have been subject shipping delays of a year or more.
We ended up settling for a garden lounge set that isn’t as comfortable as some of the display sets we looked at, the seats are a little too long in the base but that is easily fixed with some additional cushions. I spent this weekend making a set of cushions and some matching fabric coasters / “wrist-warmers” for the the chairs.
Cushion covers are very easy to make and a great beginner’s sewing project so I thought I would share my method with you. I hope this isn’t too patronising for the more experienced sewers among you.
I started by cutting 2 squares of fabric, the same size as the cushion inserts, plus a 1cm ./ 0.5″ seam allowance on all 4 sides. A 60 cm sqare cushion needs 2 pieces of fabric measuring 62 x 62 cm.
Placing right sides of fabric together I stitched along what will become the bottom edge of the cushion cover, leaving a 1 cm seam. If the pattern on your fabric has a right way up, making sure this seam is on the bottom will ensure your zip is out of sight on the finished cushion.
Press the seam open with front of the cushion facing towards the table (I was lazy and pressed it open with my fingers rather than getting the iron out, as you can probably tell from the crumpled state of my fabric! 🙂 ):
Lay the zip, right side down, so the teeth line up with the line of stitching. Pin into place and using a zipper foot, sew down both sides of the zipper tape. Tip – the zip does not need to be the full width of the cushion, I think the zipper looks more professional if it stops an inch or two before the edge of the cushion. You can cut the nylon zips to make them shorter if you have one the right colour but it is too long.
Sew across the top and bottom of the zip so the zipper will not be able to run as far as the metal staple.
Using a seam ripper, remove the stitching holding the two sides of fabric together, stopping approximately 2 inches before each end (and before the line of stitching you placed across the zip).
Open the zip enough that you can easily pass your hand through the hole.
Fold the 2 squares of fabric so the right sides are together again, pin into place and stitch around the 3 reamining sides, leaving a 1 cm seam allowance from the edge.
Open the zip the whole way and turn the cover the right way out, I like to use a chopstick or pencil to push the corners out so they are nice and square.
Insert your cushion and close the zip! et voila!
I also made some fabric, wrap-around coasters to protect the arms of the new furniture from the condensation cold drinks often shed in our warm, humid climate. I started by making a sheet of felt and cutting it into four rectangles.
Then, using the chairs as a guide, I cut out a rectangle from each end so they would wrap around the arm either side of the upright piece of wood.
I cut a slightly larger rectangle of fabric and trimmed it so it was about a cm wider than the felt shape (see the piece on the left) before using fabric glue to fold over the edge of the fabric and tack into place on the felt.
Once the glue had dried, I stitched around the edge of each shape before attaching a piece of velcro to 2 tabs on each coaster and wrapping around the arm of the chair.
I am looking forward to spending the rest of the summer sitting in our “granny and grandpa” chairs on the veranda now 🙂 Fingers crossed the chickens don’t roost on the chairs and poop all over my new cushions….
Since we moved to our new home in May we have been steadily adorning the walls with the pieces of art that moved with us, as we were deciding what to hang where, Mr TB pointed out that more than half of the art work on our walls is made from wool. I couldn’t disagree but still felt compelled to make a new piece to hang in the hallway, opposite the front door. Something colourful and cheery to greet any visitors. Much to my surprise, instead of complaining that we have too much wool on the walls, Mr TB helped me hang it…
I really wanted to play with a piece of silk purchased at Fibretron (a fibre festival in Hamilton, NZ), it has this wonderful wavy texture and can be peeled into fine sheets a little like silk hankies. I used some to decorate a large sheet of felt, layering and blending different colours as I went.
Once felted, I cut up the sheet into large petal shapes and continued felting them while shaping and blocking them, before laying them out to find an appealing arrangement.
At this stage I felt like the centre really needed something, a complimentary colour perhaps? So I had a play with some different colours…
But they didn’t quite feel right.
I have recently been playing with making different sculptural flower shapes and had one sitting on my bench. This looked much better, this is the piece after I had started gluing and sewing the petals together:
I tried making another central flower in the same blues as the large petals but it didn’t look half as good, it’s funny how some, unplanned, random elements just work together isn’t it? More on the blue flower at the end of this post…
Here is the final piece assembled and hanging on the wall:
It had been hanging on the wall less than a week before one the fluffy terrorists discovered that, if he jumped really high (4 feet off the ground), he could rip the petals off and add to his collection of toys. So far the hanging has lost 2 petals….
There were quite a few pieces of felt left over after making this hanging so I re-purposed them to enlarge the small blue flower I made with the intention of it becoming the centre:
Now I feel inspired to make a whole bunch of these to create an artificial flower bouquet….
Summer has finally arrived here in Auckland, I hope the weather is being kind wherever you are.
The last few months have been life-changing, first moving to New Zealand in March, two weeks in quarantine, buying a new home (complete with 12 chickens), starting a new job, adopting two kittens, finding Auckland Fun Felters (AFF) and the wonderful felting activities on the North Island.
AFF are affiliated with Creative Fibre, I first found Creative Fibre online before we left the UK and confess I was worried when I read their interests lean heavily towards spinning and weaving, having belonged to a Spinners Weavers and Dyers group in the UK where felting was a dirty word and the committee behaved like felt-makers were contaminating the purist application of spinning, weaving and dying I was a little hesitant about joining.
I am so glad I took the plunge and went along to my first meeting in May, AFF are true to their name and such a fun group of ladies, and everyone is obsessed with felting and the associated skills. I immediately felt like I had come home 🙂
Each meeting involves a show and tell and announcements of upcoming events we might be interested in, at my first meeting that was Woolfest in Kumeu (held annually north west of Auckland). I arrived after lunch and most of the crowds had already been and gone, it was rather lovely being able to get to all of the stands without having to fight my way through:
Back to the AFF show and tell, Lynn took us through a collection of gorgeous items our members had made:
These tiles will be crocheted together to make a blanket that will be raffled at next year’s Woolfest:
I managed to make one during our session on Saturday, the only rule is that that the design had to use just straight lines, I can’t tell you how desperate I was to add a red dot to the middle, some of my triangles became a little curved during fulling too:
After the show and tell, Lynn demonstrated how to make silk paper using spray starch:
These elegant little bags are an example of what can be made with the papers:
Another benefit of belonging to this group is the extensive library, including the back catalogue of my favourite magazine, I think I have died and gone to heaven!! 🙂
And just to show what a small world this is, I discovered Robyn (a fellow FFS member and a former student of my hat class) is also a member of AFF! Robyn is working on a blanket square for her own personal blanket.
That reminds me, lots of keen felters have been asking when the concertina hat class and the felt bags classes will start again, I am delighted to announce the next iteration of both classes will start on 19th August (registration will open a couple of weeks earlier on 4th August). If you would like to receive a reminder when registration opens please email firstname.lastname@example.org saying which class you would like to join.
More information about these classes can be found here:
After months of planning, panicking and packing we finally landed in Auckland on Saturday 20 March 2021. This post is about my experience of Managed Isolation and Quarantine in New Zealand, on the surface a very specific situation but thinking about it, our 2 weeks in isolation has many correlations with the shielding so many people in the higher risk groups have been doing for the past year.
Before we left I knew I would need some supplies to keep me occupied in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), I packed a selection of watercolour paints, paper, and a sack of wool tops and some pencil roving to crochet with on the 26+ hour plane journey.
Having such minimal supplies with me, I felt challenged to use / reuse what we had in the room. I saw this limitation as a good thing, sometimes having too much choice can be overwhelming and to be honest I still enjoy the quizzical looks and eye-rolling from Chris as I gleefully retrieved what he thinks is rubbish from the bin.
For my first piece of felt in New Zealand I thought I would experiment with adding a hole to a book resist. I started with a simple, 3 page, egg shape cut from a plastic chocolate bar wrapper.
Laying out wool on such a small resist was very fiddly but with patience I achieved this shape (apologies for the very poor quality photo).
I probably should not have been, but was surprised that I could not persuade the top of the egg (around the aperture) to expand more, the act of adding a hole to the resist, severely restricted the space inside the egg around it.
Taking influence from Maori symbols and tattoos I added a spiral motif which symbolises new beginnings, growth and harmony; an appropriate sentiment at this juncture in my life. When I cut it, I had intended the spiral to sit on the base of the sculpture but now it is finished, I see a bird with a flamboyant plume of feathers on its head and it makes a small pot.
The meals here have been very good and interspersed with pastries, cakes and fruit salads making it hard to go more than 2-3 hours without eating something, not good for the waistline but with every meal delivered in a paper bag we were accumulating rather a lot of bags so I set about trying to up-cycle some of them with mixed results!
After some fiddling I discovered the “string” handles on the paper bags could be unravelled and they contained some really lovely textured paper strips in a surprising range of colours.
I haven’t made anything with the twining techniques I learned from Mary Crabb for a few years so set out to see how much I could remember….
As it turned out, I could not have timed my incarceration better, there have been a host of free tutorials and videos posted over the last couple of weeks to keep me entertained. Too many in fact, I haven’t been able to find time to engage with the textile.org stitch-along.
The IFA had their AGM last weekend and published a series of videos from 4 renowned makers for their members (these will be available for another 6 months if you are dithering about joining). I was a bit limited with my colour choices and did not have half the materials suggested for Fiona Duthie’s tutorial but am still really pleased with how my interpretation is coming along. I plan to work on it some more once our shipping container arrives in May and I can see myself rearranging the tiles ad infinitum, these are 2 of my favourite arrangements (so far!).
I have been watching some of the Sketchbook Revival videos too. This is a free annual event were approx 20 different artists give a 30-60 min presentation. Most are “how to’s” or sketch / paint-alongs, I find some of them can be a bit hit and miss but am sure there is something in there for everyone! It is still running for another week or two this year, you can sign up here.
It has been nice to have the space and time to draw and paint mandalas too, not something I do very often as I doubt any of them will make it beyond the pages of my sketchbook but they are very meditative to do and a good option if you have lost your creative mojo.
While I didn’t manage to crochet on the plane, after a dubious first attempt I did manage to complete this crochet pot from Corriedale pencil roving. I will felt it, dye it and add a face (fox?) before using it as a planter.
The hotel we are staying in have gone out of their way to make our stay as bearable as possible, each meal was delivered with a little inspirational quote (apologies if I have duplicated any), if you click on the photo it should enlarge for you to be able to read them.
As I write this we are in the final 24 hours of our stay, the sun is shining and we have just received my final covid test results (negative), 1 more sleep to freedom! See you on the other side!
Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei (that’s all for now) folks 🙂
Here we are in January 2021, with Covid vaccines being approved and hope for brighter, more normal days just over the horizon. January is traditionally a month for reflection and making plans for the future. This year more than ever and I have an additional reason to be focussed on the year ahead….. my partner has accepted a job offer from Aukland University, so we will be moving to New Zealand in March / April.
Part of me thinks, the middle of a pandemic has to be the worst time to make such a drastic move but then, is there ever a good time? At least New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world who have a managed to control the virus on their shores and, consequently, are leading a relatively normal existence.
We made the decision to move in November and have been decluttering ever since, I am horrified by how much STUFF we have accumulated in our 10 years in this house. In many ways it has been a lovely trip down memory lane, finding trinkets and photos that have languished in a cupboard or box for 10, 20, even 30+ years.
While my felt samples aren’t quite that old (the oldest might be around 10 years old) they did bring back many happy memories as I was sorting through them, trying to decide which ones to keep.
Some of them document some interesting ideas, techniques and experiments that I thought might be of interest to you too….
Colour blending techniques:
When we felt, we are encouraging the fibres to mix and mingle, so when we apply layers of wool in different colours, the colours also migrate and mix, a little bit like mixing paint. This first technique is something I try to get my bag class students to incorporate as it makes for an easy way to achieve subtle tint / tone graduation on the outside of the bag:
The more this piece is fulled the greater the effect the black and white fibres will have on the colours on the front. By adding a mid-grey between the black and white you can achieve a more subtle change of tone to the coloured side of the felt.
Mixing different colours is also possible and this is so much fun for anyone interested in colour-theory. For this next sample I laid out 2 fine layers of different colours of merino over a green base. Up close (if you click on the image it should enlarge), you can still see the distinct colours in a random marbled pattern but from a distance the colours blend and because I have used colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel, the resulting blends are dulling the top colours and edging them towards greys and browns.
This sample was made by nuno-felting some hand-dyed cotton muslin to merino wool. Then painting on devore paste, leaving it work its magic for a few minutes before washing the paste out. The paste dissolves / etches away the plant-based fibre (cotton) but leaves the animal fibres (wool) in tact, the grey wool can be seen where the violet / red cotton has been removed.
Layering different materials / fibres
This next sample is one of my favourites although the technique is nothing particularly ground-breaking, it is strips of hand-dyed prefelt, laid over hand dyed habouti silk on a merino base.
This is the back, I really like the way the prefelts on the front have created a subtle, embossed effect on the back.
Adding locks for texture
When most of us think of adding locks to a piece, it is to add lots of fluffy texture with the locks only attached to the base felt at their base but on a workshop I took with Heidi Grebb we explored laying out locks much as you would a final layer of tops….
By laying different coloured yarns (ideally different weights too), it is possible to create felt that looks a lot like tweed. If you use yarns with a high wool content, they will felt into the wool base on their own. If using yarns with a higher synthetic content you will need to add a very fine layer of wool fibre over the top to help anchor the yarns into place.
This last sample is my favourite, perhaps I should stop calling it a sample and think of it as a mini work of art instead… It is three, silk cocoons felted between several layers of Bergschaff.
I hope you found these samples / techniques interesting, if you have any questions about them, please ask!
As part of my mammoth clear-out I have a couple of items listed on Ebay that UK residents might be interested in:
A whole Wensleydale fleece, I am gutted to be leaving this behind but I know NZ border biosecurity will incinerate it on sight and that would be even more heart-breaking: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/333851163732
Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂
Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now, I think it would make some wonderful textile Christmas cards and gifts. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!
Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis to create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.
Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.
This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:
Some useful tips before you start:
set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
work on an ironing board
1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).
2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.
3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.
If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.
4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.
5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.
Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.
Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.
If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:
If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:
6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.
Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.
It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:
It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:
Our group met again last night to add some embroidery to our designs, this is how far I managed to travel in the couple of hours we had together.
…and a little sneak peek of my most recent foiled “painting”.
July has been another crazy moth, since the UK government announced almost everyone must wear a face covering in shops as well as on public transport I have had almost no time for felting. When I started making masks for friends and family in late April I never for a moment thought I would sell more than 1,000 and donate several hundred more. It has been a strange time but I hope my efforts are in some small way limiting the spread of this nasty virus.
In amongst all the furious cutting and sewing my online students have been keeping me sane, unwittingly allowing me to live vicariously through their posts, revelling in their felt-making while I could not make any myself. Thank you all, you have no idea how much solace and inspiration your beautiful felted creations have provided over the past few months.
I hope you all enjoy their works as much as I did….
I am frequently asked about how to make a concertina style witch’s hat so, finally, and long overdue, I got around to making one this week. I am relieved to discover the plan of action I suggested when asked how to make one does actually work in practice 🙂
A new set of class dates has just been agreed, you read it here first!
Registration will open on Sep 15th, with the first felting tutorial posted on Sep 24th and the forum will remain open for sharing, discussion and questions until Nov 15th.
If you would like to receive an email notification just before registration opens please email email@example.com indicating if you would like to hear about the concertina hat or the bag class (or both!).