Every summer my weavers and spinners guild does a fibre poker challenge. You can choose weaving, spinning or felting. I am doing spinning and felting. This post is about the spinning challenge. I haven’t started my felting one yet.
In these challenges, they make up 4 decks of cards. The cards for spinning are Fiber, Colour, Type of Yarn and General Design. You pick one from each to get your poker hand. You are allowed to return one and draw another.
Fibre: surprise us.
Colour: dark rich colours
Type of Yarn: thick and thin
General Design: include locks
I decided I wanted to try spinning some of the silk hankies I have. these looked like dark rich colours. Well, not that dark but not pastel.
I looked up what was the recommended way of prepping them for spinning. It was to poke a hole in the middle and stretch them out. Most of the drafting is done in the stretching out. I did 2 of each colour. They stretch quite far. I am sure I could have stretched them at least twice as long but I didn’t want my yarn that thin.
I also have to do thick and thin. I decided the easiest way to do that was to use the required locks to create the thick parts. I think these are Bluefaced Leicester.
I don’t have a spinning wheel. I like to spin small amounts, so I use a drop spindle I have quite a few.
After I finished the 4 silk hankies I made it into a center-pull ball. My original intention was to ply one end against the other.
But then I changed my mind. I spun some purple silk top to use as the other ply.
I made it into a center-pull ball as well. I put one small ball on my thumb and one on a finger. I used a little painter’s tape to keep the outside thread from unravelling as I will be pulling from the center, then I can control how fast it pulls out. I like painter’s tape as it’s just sticky enough to hold but comes off easily without grabbing and pulling the fibres and doesn’t leave any sticky behind. If I was going to store the ball I would tie the two ends together instead.
Somehow I guessed right and had just a little more of the second simple single than the first fancy single.
That’s my laptop lid so as you can see there wasn’t much extra.
I wound it off into a skein. It looks a little wobbly at first but it needs to have a bath to let the spin show what it’s really like. I used the small extra piece to tie the skein in 4 places. I wanted the 4 ties because I am very good at tangling skeins.
Here it is after its bath and hang to dry. I didn’t use any weight to try to set the yarn, I wanted it to be its natural self. I am quite happy I managed to get a nice balanced spin. I took to pictures flipping it over so you can see both sides.
I spread it out more and took a close-up. I am really please with how this came out. It was difficult to get the locks in because naturally, the twist wanted to go to the thinnest part.
I hope you like it too. It was a bit of a challenge but that’s the point, get you doing something you wouldn’t normally do. I could have wished for some action shots but it’s hard to spin and hold the fibre and hold the camera. It puts me back to wondering why on earth my prehistoric ancestors got rid of the prehensile tail, it would be so handy.
Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!
Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.
In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.
To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.
I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!
A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!
I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.
Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.
I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!
So far so good.
Research & idea gathering
More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.
By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.
I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.
I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.
A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.
I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!
Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.
The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!
Developing the raindrops idea.
The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.
Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!
The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.
Organised chaos and smoke screens!
Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.
The published 1998 Calendar photo
Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!
Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.
I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!
What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!
I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.
A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊
I have finally finished my pouch. Yay! I am not sure how big I want the individual spaces in the bag to be so I have just basted the divisions for now. If they are working fine I will sew them in permanently.
Here it is full of things. and some things that didn’t make it in. As you can see it’s not dedicated to one kind of thing. It’s a way to keep all the smallish stuff from filtering down to the bottom of the basket where they are hard to find.
and all rolled up.
Here is the basket. First I put the liner in. It’s a thick, fairly stiff fake silk scarf. I can’t imagine it was nice to wear which is probably why it was in the secondhand clothing store in the first place. It’s great for this job.
Adding everything into and onto the basket.
There was even room left to add my guild library books when I got back to the house.
I am sure you are all as tired f hearing about the basket organizer as I am so it is now time for something new and more colourful. I have been seeing felted rocks popping up on Facebook a lot. I figured they looked like a pretty obvious and easy thing to make, so I will give it ago. The first one I did use floor underlay resists. I started with a pebble. I covered it completely in wool.
I cut out a resist a bit bigger than the wool covered pebble and then added the top put the resist on the top of the rock and folded the wool around. then I cut a bigger resist and did it again and marked the top. It was a bit awkward. I should have worked the other way up but where’s the challenge in that. LOL.
It fulled down quite fast.
time to start cutting, I rubbed each cut to heal it before doing the next cuts. I don’t think you can see it but the bottom of each layer is fully attached to the one below it.
I sat it on a green lid to dry, looks really striking there.
That worked quite well. Now for a different way.
For this one, I used plastic wrap to keep the layers separate. I cut a small hole in the underside so the layer would be attached to each other.
I wrapped the last layer in plastic I just rubbed it and rolled it around in my hands as if I was making a felt ball. I did it longer to make sure the inside layers were felted as well. While wrapping I lost track of the top and bottom. Naturally, I picked the wrong side to mark. I cut the first hole and it was attached to the one below so I kept cutting down to the pebble. I planned to stretch each layer, but with it being quite small there wasn’t much stretch or even room to get anything in between the layers to try and stretch. so In the end I just fulled it tight around the rock.
Here is how they compared in size before felting
And how they compare with my hand to show the sizes
See Lyn, not felted rocks but felted rocks. Ha Ha Ha :O)
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.
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.
As I added layers the layout grew beyond the template outline so I trimmed it. After leaving it overnight it had mostly dried. It made it easy to cut and separate the layers for later.
I originally thought I would do diamonds but after sever attempts I couldn’t get them all the same and it looked odd so I went with rectangles.
I wanted to do some waves on the back. when I looked at the art deco waves they were not even lines but they got thicker and thinner.
It looks a bit messy but I think it will be alright after felting.
It turned out pretty well, not too much shifting. after drying I decided it wasn’t wide enough. I wet it down and pulled it top to bottom and then ironed it for good measure. Now it’s not quite as long to will fit things that are a little taller.
When it’s folded up the back will look like this:
The front closed will look like this:
The inside looks like this:
I have decided to do some stitching on it before sewing it up and dividing it into sections. I am not sure what yet. I think I may outline the waves in a dark yarn to smooth them out and a diamond pattern on the blank flap and some lines or something in the squares. I will be looking up some colour palates of art deco.
This last week I decided the scarf I use to line my basket needed a wash and my basket could use a hose down. It is quite an old apple and is pretty dry. The basket masters say either dunk it in a bucket of water or hose it down every once and a while. It is an old apple picking basket and I love it for taking it everywhere with my stuff in it.
And this is all the stuff that was in it and will go back in it plus the 3 more spindles. It’s like a purse or backpack you just keep adding more stuff until you have to clean it out. The bag of yarn may go to the studio and a new one started.
There was more in it, that is just what is going back in it. You can see why I need it more organized. I thought I would make a roll-up pouch, like an artist uses for brushes. This also gives me an opportunity to do the 2nd quarter challenge. Art deco was often a repeating simple pattern. So I can do that on this piece and maybe be the first to complete the challenge. (insert maniacal laughter here)
I had to figure out how big I wanted the finished piece. the blue roller mat is 12×18 inches so I tried folding it like the finished piece. This is too short but think the length is good
Here is the layout. this layer is on the bottom but will end up inside the pouch. Some Bambino wool from World of wool. It is quite shiny. I can’t figure out which one. The picture of the mixed bag is pretty accurate but I can’t match it to the individual pictures.
The blue background seems to have turned it orange.
I then added 2 layers of white merino and a final layer of this lovely blue-green merino called Malard, for the outside.
I wet this down and cut out some prefelt pieces for the decorations but that’s it for today because it’s time to take the puppy out, feed the lambs again and make some raspberry scones. More to come. I hope I can get more done tomorrow morning. I will show you more next time.
This is a guest post by Ann B, one of our fabulous readers and forum members. She is planning on updating us as she makes progress on her project.
Having decided that I needed (and I do mean needed) to make another picture, I hunted through my design source photographs and fell in love (again) with the picture I took of a horse grazing on a hill in Devon. This was typical Devon, lots of hills and trees and (best of all in my mind) no people or buildings in sight. This is the original picture above. What appears to be sky at the top is in fact distant hills. There is no sky at all in the photograph. I was a little disappointed as I love using silk fibres and neps to produce a realistic sky, but the distant hills would be a good challenge in colour blending and matching. I also felt that the photo was a little dull, there having been plenty of clouds about on the day that I took the picture, so I decided to “photoshop” it a bit to brighten it up.
This is the result. There isn’t a whole lot of difference – I still wanted it to look natural – but you can now
see the fields on the hill right at the back, and in fact I think that there is a building on
the hill on the right. Next I decided that I needed to work on the composition a little. The horse isn’t quite in the best position for either a “Golden Ratio” or a Fibonacci spiral composition. So I took the dimensions of the picture – I would do an approximate A4 size – and I worked out the Golden Ratio figures. I had (I can’t find it now) a book on art which showed how to do this and I made myself an
Excel Spreadsheet with the formulae and formatting which would work out the proportions for me once I had input the height and width measurements.
That would be measurements A-B and A-D on the diagram above. This diagram is not to scale, it merely serves to show where the measurements that the spreadsheet throws up will be. Below is the Fibonacci spiral which largely reproduces the Golden Ratio on one side of the page only. A second, flipped, image imposed on it would produce the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio calculations make it easier to get
the right proportions for a non standard shaped “canvas”.
The measurements of my picture are approx. A-B 26.5 cm A-D 20cm so not far off a square. The Golden Ratio figures would then be: A-G 9.9cm; G3-G4 6.1cm; G4-B 10.5cm, across the top and A-G1 6.9cm; G1-G2 5.5cm; G2-D 7.6cm down the side (I usually work in “old money” but it is easier for this purpose to use metric).
In fact I sub-divided the left hand and right hand sections again, drew out the lines on a piece of A4 paper and then sketched in how I wanted to lay out the various parts of the picture. I moved the horse further to the right; I placed the stream on one of the vertical lines; I placed the trunks of the trees on the left onto two of the vertical lines and various other changes of level and subject on or near to intersections of the lines. (This is the composition technique used by Constable in his paintings.) Here is the sketch.
Just to see what would happen I put a tracing of a single Fibonacci spiral on top of the sketch and found that it worked too. The horse was right where the centre of interest should be. The sheets moved a bit when I tried to scan them together but I think you can see what I mean from this:
So now I will sort out my backing felt and start to lay out the picture on it. I had tried to lay out the background colours on some white commercial prefelt and wet felt it but I had overlooked the fact that the prefelt would not shrink as much as fibres from tops, so that was a failure because the size was not right for my measurements. I have therefore cut out a correctly sized backing felt, again made from white prefelt, but of a much larger size so that I’ve got some left over for the next picture(s). I have made a tracing of the sketch and will use that as a template to mark out the placement of the main features by stitching through the tracing. Then I will need to blend some colours and start “painting”. (Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)
The last time I posted here (in January) I described my plan to take various online felting classes. With all my sales and exhibitions cancelled or on hold I thought this would be a good way to keep me focused and motivated during our 3rd pandemic lockdown. Here’s the link in case you want to look back to January’s post.
This time I’m talking about my online learning since then, including how it has led me in some unexpected directions.
I was part-way through Teri Berry’s bag making class, which was great. I made my third bag, a backpack, and am very pleased with it. I’d definitely recommend Teri’s class. The instructions were clear and comprehensive and Teri was very responsive to my many questions, thoughts and comments. I learned a lot about bag making techniques, which is exactly what I was looking for.
Because two of the bags I made are large, relatively thick, and have to be fulled very hard, I admit bag-making was rather harder work than I’d anticipated. I rent a studio in an old industrial building that is largely unheated so maybe mid-winter isn’t the best time to be working so much heavy, cold, wet wool, but it’s a minor point. I had to use plastic gloves for the first time as my hands became so shredded and I often went home with sleeves wet to the armpit!
I’d planned to take 3 classes over January to March but was irresistibly drawn to a 4th: a 2-session live international felt-along by Aniko Boros (Baribon.Hu) learning to make her beautiful felted tulip pendant with pebble inclusions. Having signed up I realised it was going to be difficult to find the colourful 14 micron merino wool I needed. I only had white. I’ve never dyed my own wool before but I thought, why not have a go?
I already had some acid dyes so I started off with some 21 micron merino before going on to the finer and more expensive 14 micron. Then I tried silk hankies, Corriedale tops, mohair tops, silk fabric, alpaca & nylon …. nothing was safe. I had a blast. I had no idea how much fun dying would be.
Then it snowed and I thought ‘ooh, I could try snow dying’. That turned out to be great fun too. On the right are just a few of the snow dyed fabrics.
I had several colour choices of dyed 14 micron merino by the time Aniko’s workshop came around. The workshop itself was really interesting. A clear and detailed PDF was sent in advance and turned out to be very helpful on the first day when the sound or picture dropped out occasionally. It meant I could see what I needed to do next so was able to keep up. I’m pleased with my pendant (although I still have to add a fastener) including how the dyed wool worked, and feel I’ve learned techniques I will be able to use to make my own designs. Also, it led me into the entirely unexpected joy of dyeing.
In the meantime I’d started Fiona Duthie’s online class Ink + Cloth. We practiced adding ink at various stages of feltmaking with loads of potential for using these techniques in future projects.
Above are samples of adding dye / ink before felting (on silk fabric) and on prefelt
These are samples of ink added in different ways to finished nuno felt with cotton and two types of silk. I’d found an image in the V&A museum online catalogue (a fantastic resource) of an early 20th century furnishing fabric with this style of lollipop trees that I was thinking of using for the 1st quarter challenge …but that’s a story for another time.
At the end of this I decided to combine various things I’d learned: to dye my own Corriedale wool tops for a bag and maybe to decorate it with inked or dyed pieces. This is still work in progress as I am not completely happy with it. I decided to let it dry and have a think before doing the last bit of fulling. After I’d laid out the wool I dithered over whether to add silk and prefelt pieces or not as I quite liked the wool as it was. At the last minute I added all sorts of bits and pieces without properly thinking through the design. I fear it betrays its history. A colleague who saw me rinsing it at the studio casually commented it was very ‘hippie, trippy summer-of-love’ which is absolutely not the look I was going for! I will come back to it soon. I included the strap in the photo to give an idea of what it will look like finished.
Now I’m part way through another class with Fiona Duthie: Fibre + Paper. It’s a fascinating process of combining specialist paper with wool. We started by making lots of samples: paper and felt, paper relief, extreme paper relief and paper with prefelt.
Above are samples showing different amounts of paper felted into 21 micron merino wool and bottom right combines prefelt and paper. They feel lovely and there seems to be so much potential to use paper with felt in different ways.
This week I made a vessel with paper embedded into the surface. It’s not perfect: I got a bit over-confident near the end and tore some of the surface (you can just see it bottom left, between the two ribs). I’ve been interested in shell shapes for a couple of years so I shall enjoy making more 3D paper & felt shell-inspired objects.
In the coming week I will be trying out adding colour and surface designs with ink and paint plus making samples with some different papers. Fiona’s classes have been really enjoyable with excellent PDFs, photos and videos and lots of class interaction.
All the online classes I’ve taken have been great fun and very inspiring. They have given me lots of new skills and techniques that I will be able to use in my work. And they have definitely achieved my other objective: they have been really helpful in keeping me learning, focussed and motivated during what could otherwise have been quite a bleak time.
I have been felting and stitching a little picture again. And of course, my favourite sheep will make an appearance.
I did a sketch of the idea I wanted, I don’t think I have the patience for proper drawing. I do a quick general idea. I used a thick piece of “almost felt” and made the blue sky and snow base, wet felting them together. Next, I used Blue Faced Lester lock to make some evergreen trees.
I added some paths for the sheep. Sheep like to walk the same path other and over, one after the other, even in a green pasture. Once they are where they generally want to go, they wander off. I have no idea why they like to stand out in a snow covered field, but they do.
I added all my trees and tucked the edges around to make it neater. I added some blobs for the sheep so when I add the stitching they will stand out a little more. I also lightened up the paths a bit.
I used french knots to make the woolly coats and some embroidery for the heads and legs.
I fiddled with trees a bit and added trails into where the sheep are standing. I tried t add some shadow under the trees but it didn’t look right so I pulled it off. The trees still need some snow. I usually do that last, I am not sure why.
My problem is the bottom right. It seems very bare. I don’t know if I want another sheep or something else. I thought of some little birds on the snow but think as this is a small picture (about 5″x6″, 12×15 cm) they might end up looking like sheep droppings. I don’t want a fence. Does anyone have any ideas? It may end up being another sheep.