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Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

EYE’s Residential Weekend.

EYE’s Residential Weekend.

It’s been a long time coming but last weekend I taught my first face to face workshop of 2021 at Cober Hill near Scarborough. Originally booked for summer 2020, this residential workshop for the East Yorkshire Embroiderers had to be carried over to this year due to the Covid lockdown restrictions.

I did wonder if it was too soon for some and if numbers would be depleted but it turned out the ladies were very keen to get back to normal! Nineteen of the twenty ladies booked for the weekend retreat turned up, sixteen came to do the workshop and three came simply to chill.

Cober Hill was built in 1890 and was purchased by Arnold Rowntree, former Liberal Member of Parliament for York, and nephew of the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, in March 1920. Rowntree had a vision for it “to be a place of joy and beauty, …a centre of refreshment and inspiration for many of those engaged in difficult public services… I hope experiments in Weekend Schools, Winter and Summer Schools of various kinds and of longer or shorter duration may also be tried there…” The venue, with its gardens, tennis court, croquet lawn, theatre and numerous other communal spaces, has an annual programme of craft workshops as well as hosting private groups, businesses and schools.

The theme for our weekend was “trees” and the aim was for the students to combine layers of fabric and paint with machine and hand stitching. The finished work could then either be backed as a quilt or mounted in a frame.

After dinner on the Friday evening the group were shown examples of my “tree themed” work and I talked through the techniques I had used to create them. The ladies then started to plan their designs based on images they had brought for inspiration. Not everyone wanted to do trees, one lady chose to use the techniques discussed to do a moon gazing hare while another went completely “off piste” with her abstract take on an owl!

Maggie went her own way with an Owl.
Dorothy and Debra painting their backgrounds.
Ann laying down the background for her tree silhouettes.
Melanie painting her background layer.
Rachel’s background is painted and now she’s working on her foreground layers.
Sandra adding detail to her foreground trees.

With the bulk of the painting completed and dried on Friday evening the ladies could concentrate on layering and stitching their fabrics on the Saturday.

Hilary’s background has been painted and now she is starting to layer fabrics to create her forest.
Rhona’s moon gazing hare is taking shape.
Dorothy’s forest is pinned and ready for stitching.
Evelyn’s work in progress.

I think the surprise of the weekend was Melanie who only came to Cober Hill to keep Ann, her grandma, company. This young lady doesn’t have the use of a sewing machine and had never done any free motion stitching before…..she borrowed Ann’s machine and took to it like a duck to water!

Melanie’s lone tree is starting to take form.
Rachel adding her gate and railings.
Ruth is beginning to add hand embroidery to her tree.
Debra used lots of free motion stitch on her version of a tree canopy.
Using the same image as Debra for inspiration, Carol chose to give her tree canopy autumnal colouring.
Judy’s version of my Walk in the Forest.
Hilary made good use of zig zag free motion stitch for trees in the distance.
Margaret’s version of my Three Tall Trees.
Dorothy added hand embroidery for foreground grasses and flowers.
Melanie’s finished work…..fantastic to think this was her first attempt at machine sewing and hand embroidery!
Rhona’s moon gazing hare…..what this image doesn’t show clearly is the addition of black beads which adds texture and sparkle when you see it close up.
Close up of Sandra’s finished trees.

What I hadn’t realised at the outset was that none of these lady’s had done anything like this before, so for some it had been a steep learning curve! It was great to see everyone throwing themselves into the task of painting, layering and stitching and the results speak for themselves! By the time we left Cober Hill on the Sunday there had been some terrific work created. I hope some of my students will continue to develop these techniques alongside their more traditional skills. At least one of them has since bought herself a soldering iron for doing more of this kind of work which was music to my ears!

I just want to say a huge thank you to the EYE’s group for inviting me back to teach their 2021 residential and for being such willing students and wonderful company. I shall look forward to working with you again at some point in the future.

The EYE’s class of 2021.
Olive Sparrow Giveaway Winners and Second quarter challenge, stitching all done

Olive Sparrow Giveaway Winners and Second quarter challenge, stitching all done

First things first:

The winner of the 100 grams of premium washed Teeswater locks is Sttamburo

The winner of the 150 grams of Swiss mountain batt in your choice of colour(s) is Darrel

Congratulations! Monica will contact you via the email you provided.

Now my stuff

My heat erasable pens arrived. They come as a pack of refills and some empty pens. I got one that came with 4 colours, white, red, blue and black. That should cover all possibilities.

I picked the white. I think red would have worked too.

 

Onto the last part of the design. Diamonds were a popular repeating pattern. I better check to see if this will work the way I think it will. I did not do my usual quick sketch but using a ruler. Are you amazed?

Yes, that should work fine, real diamonds and not just squares on point. Now let’s see if those pens work. A straight line to work form. I may stitch that in too. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, even smooth felt is very textured.  The tendency when a pen doesn’t write is to press harder. That didn’t work. A light touch was much better.

 

 

A couple of weeks has passed since I did the lines. I decided to use yellow for the lines.

 

 

I really like how the yellow looks against the green but it didn’t look complete so I added some red and black french knots in the middle

 

Next was finishing the sides. I decided to use double-fold bias tape. I like double fold because it’s easy to sew on invisibly. the bias I like to use with felt is a fleece bias. It blends with felt so nicely but isn’t as bulky as using felt. I had black and green that would work. I chose the green as it was such a good match.

If I had easy access to my machine I would have stitched the first side with it. You can stitch in the ditch of the fold and it’s invisible. That is the way I do it when I put a bias tape on the brim of a hat. As it was, I just stitched both sides by hand.

 

I think it looks good.

 

Next is sewing the pockets and filling them up. I should have that done by next time. I have almost a whole month to get it done and still be on time.

 

 

Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Fibre 3, 2, 1

Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?

  1. Swiss Mountain Sheep (Walliser Sheep – Valaise Blacknose —

I just love this fibre because it makes both amazing wet and needle felted items. It comes in batt format in 49 dyed and 9 natural colours. At 27 micron it is a rougher fibre and has a moderate staple length of 3-5cm.

I fell for this fibre not just because of its felting qualities, but also because the product is made by happy sheep that spend their summers up in the high Swiss alps — travelling on ancient roman roads to get there. After they are shorn in a traditional manner, the wool is transported to a small Swiss family business where it is washed only with washing soda (aka sodium carbonate or soda ash is a natural cleaner and a powerful water softener. It’s very basic with a pH of 11). The washing process is environmentally friendly and the wastewater is safely returned to the local mountain stream. The wool is dyed carefully and without any harsh chemicals — using just natural vinegar and acid dyes. The wool is dried outside on warm metal roofing (weather permitting). In winter the warmth created by the dyeing process is used to heat the building.
The fibre is exceptionally clean as the carding machines have special vacuums installed to remove VM (Vegetable Matter naturally occurring in sheep fleeces) and ensure it doesn’t get back into the wool.

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Due to the ease of felting with Swiss Mountain Sheep wool, kids love working with it. The fibre can also be laid out very thin to create transparent felts.

Combine Swiss Mountain sheep with Maori or other Bergschaf yarns. You can also combine it with 18/19 micron to create an inner layer that is next to skin soft when making garments. I love making slippers with an inner layer of 18/19 micron merino batt or Kap Merino and the outer layer being Swiss Mountain, combining softness with hard wearing wool.

 

  1. Yak and Mulberry Luxury Roving

A custom blend made for The Olive Sparrow — this is a commercially triple-blended roving/top which mixes the silk with the yak to create a lovely variegated roving. Although it requires some gentle coaxing to wet felt due to the high content of mulberry silk, the resulting felt is an absolute dream to wear right next to the skin.

The yak fibre is naturally fawn coloured, the mulberry silk is undyed.

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To produce yak fibre for felting, the soft fine under hair is the desirable element of this animal’s coat and is removed commercially by dehairing, which separates the soft under hair from the coarse outer hair, known as guard-hair.

This also makes a lovely spun yarn.

Using acid dyes on this fibre is very interesting — the yak and its brown/yellow undertones combined with the undyed silk to absorbs colours differently and will make mottled/variegated tones. As the fibre is very fine, it lends itself to be dyed after felting or spinning.

 

  1. Mint Fibre

The fibre length is 75-80mm.

I love using mint fibre in the same way as mulberry silk — the softly off-white colour and the slight mat sheen give a look between the extra shiny mulberry silk and the much softer gloss of tussah silk.

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Mint is a new biodegradable cellulose fibre that is infused with mint powder that is extracted from peppermint leaves. It does not smell of mint and has a lovely soft and cottony texture. This soft golden fibre has antibacterial properties and natural cooling properties. Mint infused roving can be dyed using natural plant dyes and mordants or other dyes suitable for cellulose fibres. Perfect for spinning and blending with fibres such as cotton, silk, wool and Linen. Great surface inclusion for wet felting. A wonderful vegan needle felting alternative.

 

Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?

 

I use my ball brauser — I generally have two on the go at the same time. I also love the hand-pumped vegetable sprayers from the garden centre to wet-out large areas. When doing a sculptural piece, handheld massage tools make shrinking of specific areas very fast. Thin painter’s plastic as one layer on bubble wrap — and I always use the bubble side down when initially starting to felt.

Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?

Having been blessed with learning handwork techniques from grade 2 onwards, my arsenal of techniques means that I often will blend them all together in a project. Because of the shop keeping me quite busy and still being needed as a mother, most of my creative time I spend making dolls or knitting simple items. Yet especially in doll making, I frequently wet felt garments for the dolls. Doll making lets me use all my skills. In wet felting, I love making long voluminous shawls — generally using at least a 4m length and 30” width. I also love working with Teeswater locks — washing, sorting, dying them. I sew them into wefts for my dolls and use them as fringes in shawls.

 

General Questions

What is your business?

 

The Olive Sparrow.

Good Hand-Made Goods made by You and Me

Here is a bit of background information about how this all came to be:

The Olive Sparrow is me, Monika Aebischer, I am a felter and a natural fibre doll artist. I quite proudly call myself a crazy when it comes to collecting books about wet and needle felting.  In a previous life, I was a mixed media artist with work in galleries across Canada. Sadly during the 2008 financial crash, the art market collapsed and I was forced to re-invent myself. As I had fallen in love with felt making during my student years at the Ontario College of Art and Design and had taken some wet felting workshops in Switzerland, it seemed to be the right direction to go. It also worked very well with my doll making — I needle felt the heads of my dolls and also make felted clothing for some of them. While growing up in Switzerland as part of my apprenticeship in selling women’s clothing, I studied fibres and textile manufacturing.

 

 

The Olive Sparrow shop started as a way to bring supplies to my felting students — I taught a 5-day felting intensive workshop at Loyalist College for 4 years every summer from 2011 – 2015. Every year I would import specialty felting fibres from Europe for my students. These students then wanted to purchase fibre after the workshop. Learning that there are several Fibre Festivals around Ontario made me realize that there was an opportunity to share these fibres with other felters. My painting studio slowly turned into a shop — alongside my selling on Etsy. I decided that the shop was going to focus on Felting supplies and not be another general fibre shop. I also decided that the focus will be on European felting fibres, rather than local fibres.

 

After 20 years in that space, I was forced to move in 2018, as the old building was being turned into condos. Now located in the East end of Toronto, the shop is in an industrial building — and open by appointment. There are about 600 square feet full of fibre, commercial 100% wool felt, Waldorf doll supplies, Sajou notions from France and select other items. The shop is also somewhat flexible, in that it can be transformed into a workshop space for 1-3 students.

Before we were in this Pandemic, the Olive Sparrow could be found at various fibre festivals — Twist, Picton, Woodstock, Peterborough, Knitter’s Frolic, Kitchener/Waterloo knitters festival, and other smaller events. 2020 has meant a focus on building out the online presence and extending inventory.

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What kind of items do you sell?

Too many to list, however, here is a sampling —

18/19 micron roving in over 100 colours

24 Micron roving

Swiss Mountain Sheep batt

Kap Merino

19 micron merino Batt

Pre-felt (both in 40 x 40 cm sheets) and by the meter

Margilan silk

Maori and Maori/Bergschaft batt

100% wool felt by the sheet and many colours by the meter

Unicorn Power Scour

Premium locks – Teeswater extra length

Wool felt balls/hearts/stars from Nepal

Silk – Mulberry, Tussah

Viscose

The Olive Sparrow is an official DHG Dyehouse reseller — carrying all of the pre-felt colours, as well as an extensive selection of 19 micron roving, 19 micron batt, sari silk waste, mulberry silk and a variety of other fibres.

 

What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?

Unique premium products from Europe — all our goods are imported from Europe. Volume discounts to help small-scale makers. Teaching workshops – private and customized — creativity counselling. Very hands-on knowledgeable. A brick and mortar shop that is open by appointment and sells online.

Where are you located?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada – at 19 Waterman Avenue — which is an industrial area just south of Eglinton and just off the Don Valley Parkway.

 

Where can we find you on the internet?

www.theolivesparrow.com

 

Monika is doing 2 Giveaways

To enter leave a reply below. Do not post your email but make sure there is one associated with your post. You can’t win if we cant reach you. The two winners will be announced on June 4th

 

Giveaway #1 — 100 grams of premium washed Teeswater locks 12″ undied/unsorted ready for you to decide what you want to do.

Giveaway #2 – 150 grams of Swiss mountain batt (you can choose the colours if your name is chosen)

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Two weeks ago I took advantage of Covid restrictions being lifted for self catering holidays in England and took off for a weeks holiday in one of my favourite UK destinations. Rothbury in Northumberland is a small, picturesque town nestled in the Coquet Valley.

Looking towards the town centre from south of the river
Heading downhill from my apartment into town

Unfortunately the weather forecast was looking bleak but I was going to make the most of it. I set off with my car packed with as much crafting gear as I could fit in i.e. fibre and felting equipment, fabric, sewing machine, etc, etc the plan being to have a relaxing break, do a little walking and create a piece of work inspired by the Northumbrian countryside. I would return home feeling refreshed, fit and with a finished piece of work…..if I only managed two out of those three (and I did) I wouldn’t have guessed which would have fallen by the wayside!

The view from the patio was pretty good.

Although there were occasional (very) heavy showers and lots of cloud the weather turned out be a bit better than I had expected so it made sense to pack a rucksack and walk during the day and leave the creative stuff to do in the evenings.

Rothbury is a great base for anyone who likes walking with beautiful scenery and lots of trails in the surrounding hills, forests and along the riverbank. Plus it’s only a forty-ish minute scenic drive to Beadnell on the coast, another favourite haunt, with almost deserted beach walks to Dunstanburgh castle heading south or Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle heading north.

Climbing the hill behind my accommodation gave stunning views of the Simonside Hills on the opposite side of the valley.
Crossing the river and heading for the Simonside Hills
A terrific downpour has just passed over!
One of my favourite lunch stops on the riverbank
Harbour at Seahouses
Pace Hill is a tiny spit of land jutting out into the sea just to the east of Seahouses Harbour.
After clambering over the rocks I reached the curious stone construction which turned out to be a Grade II listed building dating back to 1886. It was built to store gunpowder used in blasting when the Long Pier and New Harbour were being built. On the horizon to the left you can just make out one of the Farne Islands.
Lunch stop on the Harbour Wall on my way to Bamburgh Castle
Approaching the imposing Bamburgh Castle from the south on an almost deserted beach.
This is one of my favourite images of the castle and will definitely inspire a textile piece. I’m seeing the background and castle painted and the foreground grasses stitched.

I also came home with lots of dry stone wall images…..as if I don’t have enough already!!

Although I had every intention of being productive in the evenings the combination of loads of exercise, beautiful clean air, wine and a well stocked book shelf in my apartment, meant I didn’t get much creative work done at all while I was there! Who cares!! I had a terrific time and came home with a few of what I refer to as my ‘bacon rashers’ (lengths of abstract felted pieces, often with fabric included) in colours and textures inspired by my walks. Plus all the inspiration I needed to produce a large abstract mixed media piece based on the Northumbrian countryside including those beautiful rolling hills.

‘Bacon rashers’ formed from a variety of fibres and silk fabrics drying in the sun
Pinning together with sheer fabrics to try different layouts.

Since getting home the rashers, plus various other slivers of sheers and painted Lutradur, have been assembled onto a background of painted Lutradur measuring 110cm x 60cm and are now being stitched in position.

So far so good but the top left corner needs some thought.
A few extra pieces of felt have been made to fill gaps while a fine tip soldering iron is used to cut the slivers of painted Lutradur.

Now I’m happy with the placement of all the pieces it’s just a matter of adding more free motion stitching until it tells me it’s done. Lastly I will make a wooden framework to mount it on and then it’s ready to include in the ”Final Show” (of the now defunct CCN group) Exhibition at the Sam Scorer Gallery in Lincoln from the 8th June.

It’s still a work in progress but the end is in sight!
Giveaway Winner and Another Little Bag

Giveaway Winner and Another Little Bag

 

First, the part everyone wants to know, who won the Custom Fibre Chest. The winner is Karen Cantwell. Congratulations, I am sure you will enjoy your basket of goodies. For everyone else get a Free goody bag if you place an order this month. Just mention you saw it on the Felting and Fiber Studio Blog. 

 

And now the less exciting part,

I decided to make another little bag to keep things in my basket organized. I am going to use some thick prefelt I have. The nice thing about the thick felt is you can split it and cut away a layer so you can overlap the edges and not have a thick seam.

Here’s the layout ready to wrap around. I use a felting needle to keep it all in place before wetting.

I thought it would make it more versatile if it had a little loop so it could be attached to something if I wanted to use it somewhere else, maybe attached to my sketchbook. to add it I used the offcuts from pealing the prefelt and some of the yarn I am using to decorate it. It’s handspun wool and silk. This is the back with the loop wrapped up so it won’t stick down. I needled the ends of the yarn down.

And this is the front. I may embellish it after it’s felted. I will see what it looks like. It looks very blank at the top but I will be cutting that later to make a foldover flap.

 

It felted down really well and you can’t see where the joins were. The join is right down the middle top to bottom.

I added the pen for size and a little piece of white felt so you can see where the opening is. It didn’t show with the black on black. I will probably add a magnetic closure if I have a small enough one. If not I will add a snap.

 

I love the way this yarn worked. This yarn is handspun. it’d shredded sari silk and wool. I don’t remember spinning this but looking at it I think it must be mine. Firstly it is a very small amount and I typically do this. The other is how it’s plyed. It looks like it sat in a center-pull ball or on a spindle a long time before plying. When you do that the yarn sets and when you ply it, it doesn’t really look right until you wet finish it to give the yarn back its spin energy.  I almost never bother to wet finish my yarn because I won’t be knitting with it. Essentially I’m lazy about it, what can I say?

I didn’t look at this too closely before using it, I just liked the colours and thought they would look good on both the black and grey. Now looking at it after felting I suspect ( I would have to go look to be sure) that it was plyed in the wrong direction. I plyed it in the same direction as the spin so added more energy rather than plying in the opposite direction, removing energy and balancing the yarn. If you look at the yarn now you will notice it sometimes looks like two parallel yarns and sometimes one wrap around the other and that seems to be happening in the same direction as the single yarn.  It didn’t just all unravel because I have tacked down at both ends.

It is another fun thing about making your own yarn. You can do some cool stuff on purpose or by accident. It fun, you should try it. It’s all the same supplies you already have. You just need a cheap drop spindle. You can even have lots of them, cheap and expensive and still not be in as deep as one spinning wheel.

 

 

 

Meet the Supplier: Marie Redding Arts

Meet the Supplier: Marie Redding Arts

Fibre 3, 2, 1

Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?

Silk, silk and silk! It goes with everything and always improves any project I create. I consider it a ‘workhorse fibre’ due to how adaptable it is. Even the smallest amount does wonders and I consider it essential for any of my personal projects, or where I want to really wow someone.

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Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?

  1. A felting rolling pin. I start all of my felting projects with this. It takes the hard work out of felting and I don’t have to roll the felt up, I can work on it flat. Within minutes I can have a large piece of felt that is ready to be developed further. 
  2. My trilobite finishing tool. I use the tool at the end of the felting process to give a sheen and smooth finish to my felt. It works especially well when I’m using silk.

Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?

I looooove *gestures at the void* how can you ask me to narrow it down?! I suppose if I had to choose, I love making nuno felted garments using fibres I’ve dyed myself.

General Questions

What is your business?

Marie Redding Arts

 

What kind of items do you sell?

Felting, weaving, crafting, knitting materials, tools and supplies. I also create and sell my own yarn and locally sourced sheep fleece and locks.

I supply a wide range of wooden tools which my master carpenter makes just for me,  to my designs.

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I ship worldwide and have customers in every country which has enriched my experience and consider myself very lucky.

I’ve recently started creating spirit dolls on a custom basis as well. They’ve proven to be very popular with my customers.

 

What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?

I have a unique eye for colour and use books for inspiration, such as Alice In Wonderland

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I make sure every order that goes out is special and contains little gifts. I also pride myself on being a one stop shop and cater for all my customers’ needs if I can,  with a very diverse range of goods. Being plastic free as much as possible is important to me.

 

Where are you located?

Herefordshire in the UK

 

Where can we find you on the internet?

My Etsy store is here https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MarieReddingArts and you can also find me on Facebook too

https://m.facebook.com/mariereddingarts/?ref=bookmarks

Giveaway

Marie has done an amazing giveaway of a felting basket of goodies. To get in on the draw leave a comment below. Make sure there is an email attached to your profile so we can contact you. (don’t post your email ) If we can’t contact you we will pick another number. Marie will use a random number generator on May 4th to pick the lucky winner and I will announce it in my blog post on May 5th.

A luxury mixed media treasure chest in a gorgeous wicker hamper, ideal for a gift or a treat just for you. A bumper haul of mixed media fibre in your chosen complementary colours, merino wool, hand dyed silks, beads, hand dyed nylon sparkle, hand dyed locks and Teeswater fleece, and a gorgeous piece of luxury fabric to top it off! Presented in a beautiful wicker hamper which can be supplied gift wrapped at no extra cost, with a gift message or blank gift tag. This kit has no plastic packaging as I care about the environment.

 

 

Meet the Supplier – Sara Quail of Unicorn Fibres

Meet the Supplier – Sara Quail of Unicorn Fibres

Fibre 3, 2, 1

Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?

1. Viscose tops – I really love working and experimenting with this plant based fibre. Created from regenerated wood pulp, viscose has all the look and feel of silk tops, without the static when you draft it and it is considerably cheaper. A brilliant fibre for adding some lustre and surface interest to wet or dry felted projects. You can make fibre sheets in different densities and use thin wispy sheets for layering or thicker ones for cutting out shapes. Being a similar micron, viscose integrates really well with 19 micron merino roving. You can card it with other fibres, lay it out thickly or thinly for different effects or blend colours together. Being a smooth manmade fibre with no scales, it won’t wet felt on its own, but only needs a surprisingly little amount of wool fibre to get it to all hold together.

2. Merino roving – Like many felters, I am a fan of combed 19 micron roving. It is easy to work with, quick to felt and ideal for wearables and many other projects. After a visit to the DHG dye-house some years ago, I am still in awe of the complex process and scale involved in processing, dyeing and creating commercial roving from raw fleece.

3. Uniblends – Our exclusive Uniblends are my dream fibre. Custom blended, they combine the qualities of viscose and 19 micron merino wool. I love to use it in one-way cobweb layouts – it drapes beautifully, reduces pilling and is less itchy against the skin than using wool only. Using Uniblends speeds up the laying out process as the fibres are already combined and you don’t have to worry about embellishing the other side! You can also add additional viscose if desired, 2-directional layouts give a heathered effect and it spins well too.

Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?

Well, apart from my 2 hands, I use my homemade mega felting tool and ball brauser constantly. Ball brausers are fantastic water sprinklers for speedy wetting out of a project and with a little care, can last a very long time. My biggest tip is to never to leave it standing with the spout in water or soap solution for any length of time. This prevents rust potentially settling in and snapping off the sprinkler head. Shown here with a ball brauser for scale, my mega felting tool is pretty large. I have made smaller versions but this one is great for large projects like making wraps, garments & scarves. Glass décor beads have been glued to a rendering tool, sourced from the local hardware store.

Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?

Nuno felting without question. My preference is to use embellished prefelts rather
than applying roving directly onto fabric, using hand dyed Margilan silk or cotton gauze.

General Questions

What is your business?

Unicorn Fibres is an online business selling supplies for wet felting, needle felting
and associated arts.

What kind of items do you sell?

Lots of Fibre, Hand dyed fabric and Tools for felting. We stock 19 micron merino roving in +100 colours – solid & variegated colours, merino/silk blends & our exclusive merino/viscose Uniblends.

Our range of carded wool batts is growing and particularly popular for needle felting along with Corriedale roving.

Over 45 viscose colours available as well as hand dyed Margilan silk and Cotton
gauze for nuno felting.

Ball brausers and a variety of tools for needle felting.

And if you are stuck for a gift, eGift cards too!

What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?

 Along with having considerable felting expertise, we are focused specifically on the needs of felt makers/artists. Our aim is to keep prices low and service high.
 Weight options – Fibre can be purchased from as little as 10gm (0.35oz), up to 1kg (2.20lbs) bumps. Flexible quantity options to suit your needs.
 Custom products – Our Uniblends are created exclusively for us and a dream to use.
 Bundles – Merino and viscose bundles are offered to make colour choices easier, quicker and a little cheaper.
 Hand dyed gauzes – Margilan silk gauze and Cotton scrim with characteristic colour nuances to enhance nuno felting & other textile projects.
 DHG reseller – We are an official reseller for DHG products who use ethically sourced fibre and create their products to the industry’s highest safety and environmental standards.
 Shipping – Turnaround time for orders are generally same-day and we dispatch orders really fast, twice a day. All stock is onsite, so there are no drop shipping delays.

Where are you located?

We are an online business in Perth – a pretty idyllic spot, at the bottom left hand side of Western Australia. Close to amazing beaches and a city that sits on the Swan River.

Where can we find you on the internet?

https://www.unicornfibres.com.au/

Sara is very kind and generous and she is doing a giveaway for all of our readers. Please read the instructions below to enter. She has also given our readers a coupon code for a discount for a purchase of Uniblends from her site. See below for details. Thanks Sara!

Giveaway and Offer

Two Giveaways –

For one international and one Australian recipient:

You can win a bundle of Uniblend rovings – 6 x 50gm (1.76oz) packs in colourways of your choice, inclusive of shipping.

Giveaway is now closed.

Offer

Use coupon code: UNIBLEND10 for a 10% discount on our exclusive range of Uniblends – stunning variegated extra fine merino wool and viscose roving blends.

Prices include 10% Australian tax, but are excluded at checkout for international
shipping addresses.

Hexagons and Holes

Hexagons and Holes

OK, I have to hold my hands up yet again….I hadn’t looked at my diary yet this month and so completely forgot about today’s blog post!! It’s funny how it’s so easy to forget what you should be doing when you really don’t have anything much to remember anymore, thanks to Covid!

Thank goodness for our quarterly challenges….always a handy blog subject when you’re caught out last minute! I’ve really enjoyed the first one of 2021 which was to make something inspired by the decade 1900-1909. Lyn gave us lots of examples of people, events, etc from that era which could be used as a starting point to fire our imagination and get us thinking about what we were going to create. As soon as I read the dates I knew instantly that I would be using the book Art Forms in Nature as my main source of inspiration. The book is a compilation of illustrations by the German botanist and zoologist Ernst Haeckel.

I’d bought the book about a year ago having accidentally come across Haeckel’s illustrations during an online search. Although based on reality they are very stylised and have an instantly recognisable quality which has led to them being used as inspiration by artists and designers from the Art Nouveau period through to the present day.

A recurring shape seen throughout this book is the hexagon, hardly surprising as it’s everywhere we look in nature……from the basalt pillars of the Giants Causeway to honeycomb, it’s also found in the eyes of insects, tortoise shells, fish scales and as a cloud formation around the North Pole of Saturn…..the list goes on and on!

There are lots of fascinating facts about hexagons in nature which I hadn’t ever given a thought to in the past, but that’s a great thing about doing these challenges…..you never know where they might lead you or what you might discover.

I like working in 3D so decided to use the hexagon as a raised surface decoration for two wet felted samples. They were both made with the same size resists using Bergschaf fibres and each piece is approximately 32cm across and about 5cm high.

The first was a very simple form which can be open or closed. The second was created using exactly the same template but what was negative space on the top layer in the first sample became positive space in the second, creating a totally different look.

The domed shapes were created using differential shrinkage so didn’t need padding but I’ve added it anyway so I could get a little more height in the centres. I’ve also added a few Colonial Knots to one of them.

I don’t do enough sampling so I’m now working on some more designs of this size but, rather than keeping the backgrounds circular, I’m thinking of cutting them into hexagons so I can join them together without gaps as one large “sampler” Wallhanging.

Another challenge I’m currently making for is titled “Filled Holes” and this is one I’ve set for my local Belchford group. It came about during a Zoom meeting when Lucy showed us a project she had done for her college course. As you can see from this image Lucys is very small, the holes have been made from magazine pages and some contain found objects.

I set off with the intention of making circular holes in fabric and using a soluble backing to fill them with free motion stitch. As often happens before I knew it I’d veered off and ended up with something completely different! I found some fabric I had stamped with leaves and acrylics and another piece that I’d rust dyed ages ago and done nothing with. The one painted with acrylic was quite stiff and so perfect for creating raised domes (this must have been at the back of my mind since the hexagon samples). The other had small rust marks from washers and bolts which could be framed by allowing them to peep through the holes.

I’m really happy with how these three pieces turned out, and each little hole does have a rust print “filling”, but are they “Filled Holes”? I’m not totally convinced I’ve met my own brief so next time I will show you what I did when I returned to my original idea of using the soluble fabric and the free motion stitch.

Source of images.

Giants Causeway: https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/giants-causeway-p696331

Insect eye: https://nautil.us/issue/35/boundaries/why-nature-prefers-hexagons

Tortoise shell: https://www.tortoiseowner.com/can-tortoises-turtles-live-without-their-shell/

Honeycomb Cowfish: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/acanthostracion-polygonius/

Saturn: https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/hexagon-abounds-in-the-natural-world-153183

Hello From Romania

Hello From Romania

This is a guest post from a new contributor to our site. Please welcome Ildi Klozsi!

I’m Ildi Kolozsi from Romania, Europe. I live with my family in a small village in Transylvania. I started working with wool about 18 years ago, and from then on I have had a special connection with this material.

The wool is part of my life, sometimes I dream of my next project or work. I love to try new techniques.

I also teach adults and children, I think that it’s very important (for everyone) to recognize the beauty of this natural material.

The project that I have showed you in this post was made for a custom order, she wanted something with birds, not too much color and inspired from nature.

I love to felt bird designs, maybe because I live close to nature, I’m part of this.

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