One of the things that I have enjoyed doing over the last few years, is watching and chatting during live YouTube felting tutorials from Sara (Sarafina Fiber Art) and Marie (Living Felt). I have been inspired by projects shown by both felters.
As you probably have noticed, when seeing my adventures with the four-person Mer-family and their Mer-family pets, I don’t always follow the instructions exactly as suggested. In fact, I tend to fall off the rails…., wander off into left field, or was that right field?… ok, I tend to get distracted part way through a tutorial and wind up doing my own possibly completely different thing. I am not saying that is a bad thing. It can open new options and create something that is vastly different than the original tutorial goal.
For Sara’s Mermaid project (google You Tube “Mermaid Felt Along 1: Armature”, “Mermaid Felt Along 2 – Body Shapes”, “Mermaid 3: Wet Felted Tail” and “Mermaid 4: Finishing” to see what I was supposed to do), I deviated first by wanting to do a merman but felt he needed a family. Instead of using both wet and dry felting, I used only dry felting. With the change of scale and shape, I needed to augment the armature strength. Lastly, I made them Fish-People (Pike, Koi, Shark, and Arctic Char) rather than the more traditional mermaid shapes Sara was creating. I created some accessories for them and more will be needed. For the Mers themselves, I wandered off into thoughts of what kind of family pets would a Mer family have. So the addition of family pets was created, Miss Manta and Sharkette. This could continue to spiral outwards from the original tutorial with Mer-Nabours and other yet unthought-of Mer-friends and accessories! Years of enjoyment even for someone who really would rather not get wet.
Two weeks ago Marie, from Living Felt, out of Texas, sent me off on another spiral with her “Needle Felt Simple Animals: Bat, Owl, and Red Panda Forest Friends!”. This is a very beginner-friendly project, with simplified shapes and lots of explanations of tight wrapping to build up the core understructure. She did examples of blending and layering colours of fibre. All three projects were extremely cute. I am not sure I do cute, especially extreme cute, well not as cute and friendly as Marie can do at least.
Marie started by using a wooden skewer to tightly warp her layers of core wool, creating the basic shape. This got me wondering about other skewer like objects that you could use which I had on hand *actually I looked as far as the shelf beside my desk to find 3 options. I had also purchased at the Almonte Fibre Fest in early September, some short fibre Maori batts, one of which was white and another was charcoal. I had wanted to investigate working with short, somewhat springy, fibre and this seemed to be an excellent opportunity.
1) White Maori Batt, wooden skewer, knitting needle, one mettle chopstick
I decided to try the chopstick. It doesn’t have quite as much grip as the wood, but it’s not quite as slippery as the knitting needle. I like the slight taper, it was comfortable in my hand and oddly like the single knitting needle it happened to be sitting in a cup with my pens, markers, small files and metal pick set (that was for cleaning my drum carder, I don’t know why it’s here) by my desk.
2) selected a chopstick and Maori batt
3) using a chopstick to wrap fibre around and build up the core structure.
Adding thin layers of roving, wrapping tightly and tacking down, then poking from the base to further firm core layer.
4) Tearing off thin strips from the batt then drafting them to a narrow roving. This shows the VM and makes it easy to remove.
I found the white short-fibre Maori batt had more bits of VM than most of my spinning fibre. It was not a large problem and easily picked out before wrapping it to the core. It compacted to a firm core shape and was easy to work with.
Looking at Marie’s bat she used commercial felt to make the wings. While extremely cute you can’t pose or position the wings. Ok, I am going off instructions already! There are a few ways to add an appendage with wire to a body. This time, since I was adding a symmetrical structure, I chose to pierce the body with a floral wire (unlabeled but suspect it is 22g). I centred the body on the wire then folded each wire up at the point it pierced the body on each side. I then folded each half, in half, twisting to create the leading edge of the arm, leaving a loop to add the “fingers” at the end of each wing.
5) wire piercing body, centre body on wire and bend the wires
6)folding each wing wire in half
Next, I needed to add the “fingers” to the end loops.
7) wing one armature with fingers added and wire bent ready to add to bat’s right palm loop.
8) both wings have full arm armatures. note that the fingers have 3 different lengths.
I often make very thin wings for the little dragons I’ve been making. I usually wind up using a fine fibre combed top laid in thin wisps in various directions. I have also used hand-carded fibre such as on Mrs Mer’s Finns effectively. I was curious how the short fibre of the Maori batt would work for a top coat as well as for thin wings.
9) The Charcoal coloured Maori batt beside the small white Maori batt
I started with wrapping the body and armature.
10) wing/ arm armature and body covered in the short staple Maori
It was a bit fuzzy, but with further poking the surface became smooth and firm.
At this point, I again became quite distracted with another thought. Those scrawny arms are not going to be able to move those wings!!! So I had to add deltoids and bicep muscles, now he could try out his arms as we went to enjoy hamburgers at the butcher shop in Bell Corners (he did not have any since he doesn’t have a mouth or eyes yet it could get messy.)
11) Video: bat on a stick in KIA trying out his muscles before he gets his wing membranes
12) Ann checked how firm he was and laughed at his fabulous physique. (don’t tell bat!)
I made a couple of attempts with just the Maori but was finding I was not getting as firm and thin as I would like, so added a longer fibre in a thin web to let the Maori attach to it. when I had a thin layer of felt I carefully attached it to the fibre wrapping the wing armature. I bent the armature and then sculpted the wing membrane further. Once I had the wings looking more wing-ish, I made quick ears and added them.
I decided I wanted a more three-dimensional face (oh no deviating again!) so added a small nose and eye sockets which I filled with small beads for eyes.
Marie’s Bat only had its stick stuck in while she was creating the core shape. It kept your fingers and the sharp end of the needle well away from each other. She then removed it and added the layers of colour to make her cute bat. I like the bat-on-a-stick look and have kept it so far. Bat on a stick may be a cool Halloween hair ornament or a felting supervisor in a demo basket.
I have not had time to finish off the last bits for Bat on a stick he still needs his teeth, I tried to make them with the Maori white but was not happy with the first attempts. Next, I resorted to wet felting but I was still not happy. I have a couple more options to try to make tiny teeth. I am also considering feet or legs and feet, so I may be adding another part armature to finish him off.
In the meantime, I have been taking him with me to the OVWSG guild library. I am working through the last few years of donations, sorting ones to keep in the collection and getting the rest ready to sell. Bat has supervised as I wrote the database for the sale books. I am almost finished with the data entry for the books. The magazines that are extra I have sorted by title and year ready for shopping! (it was a big job)
13)just a few of the magazines being prepped for sale.
He also watched as I had my last of 4 evenings of nalbinding workshops which has been fabulously fun. I now know I can’t count since I keep losing track of where I am in my increases for my hat. I am off to find a stitch counter so I have a hope of getting the mythical (in my case) flat starting disk to make my hat. For this workshop, I do want to follow the instructions. (I have had a blast wandering off instructions for the felting though)
14)Thumbs up! Bat on his chopstick supervising from the shelf above the desk at the OVWSG Library.
Each trip to work on the library bat has accompanied me. He has found a spot on the shelf above the desk where he can sit in a clip on the extending magnet. He is giving me a thumbs-up on all the work! Even without his teeth or feet, he is very supportive.
I hope you too get a chance to watch some of the various online felt-alongs. You may also find inspiration in previous blog posts by all the fibre artists here. You never know what might inspire your next project, maybe you too will find a multi-year project! Or maybe just a quick little bat! (with or without a stick).