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Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

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 photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

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.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

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 final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

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)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

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.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Shearing Day

Shearing Day

Not long ago was shearing day. Before had we have to get pens and shoots set up to direct the sheep efficiently to the shearer. I had to go get wool bags, from the Wool Co-op I got half bags this time. The full-size ones are too hard to pack, they are taller than me. We also got my nephew to come and help out. Wrangling sheep is best done by young people, my son and nephew.

There is a crowding pen is at the far end of the shoot so the sheep can fairly easily be pushed into the shoot and past the one-way gates. You can see lambs on the right-hand side. They are small enough to pop through the fence and get out of the way. On the left are some late lambs from last year. They have been put there to be kept separate. They are too big to get back through the fence.

Despite taking many pictures most of them were terrible and I didn’t get any sheared sheep pictures because I had to grab the fleece out of the way as my husband handed the next sheep to the shearer. By the time I stuffed it into the appropriate bag, the sheep was long gone.
so here are the best of the bad shearing pictures. I am not sure that’s all the same black sheep but you get the idea. you can see how brown they look from being in the sun and weather and how black they are underneath.


I also have one lincoln sheep named Dolly. You can see how different her fleece is.

These are some of the wool sacks. I was sorting black wool I want to look at again and white wool I want to look at again and the stuff to go off to the co-op because I don’t want to look at it ever again. LOL

And some close-ups of some wool.

This one has so much lanolin the shine bounced the light and it looks grey.

It took about 4 hours to do 55 ish sheep. That’s about one sheep every 4.5 min. I know it’s no record but I still find it amazing. When it was all done we released the lambs to find their moms. There was a lot of noise while the lambs work out who mom is now she is sporting her new summer look. And the kids my 2 grandchildren and great-niece and nephew came in and gathered up all the little bits of stinky wool to play with. They had so much fun and smelled just like sheep in no time.


I wish I had better pictures for you. Maybe next year with no pandemic I can have Jan come play photographer.

My Wool Order Arrived Last Week.

My Wool Order Arrived Last Week.

I was excited to get my World of Wool order last week. As you can see they are taped, strapped and wrapped in plastic.


Box one is bulging. I wonder if sitting on boxes while they are taped closed is in someone’s Job description.

Despite the bulging, there are only 4 things in this box. This first is Batts. They are packed 5 /kg and take up more room because of that.

These bottom two are sari silk


On to the bigger box

All sorts of goodies. I bought some sample packs as you can see. I will keep one and sell the rest.

The second layer, some shetland for Jan, some peacock, to share with Jan and more sari silk


More sample packs



I took some pictures of the sample packs



And Constellation

The sari silk is what got me started ordering. They had it all back in stock so I could get the colours I wanted.


It is always exciting to see everything come out of the boxes. I sorted Jan’s wool. That’s the Peacock blend on top. It is very sparkly, we shared that one.

I am spinning the peacock right now. It looks really nice on my spindle.

And Bernadettes wool

Glitzy: merino colours (70%) with a touch of trilobal rainbow nylon (30%)


Merino wool tops (70%) and extra bleached tussah silk (30%)

And last but not least the sari silk blends, out of their bags.

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I will divide all the silk up into 25gram and 50 gram balls to sell. The bag is what I will keep. I just have to work out a price.

Next is taking more pictures. I need to take the mixed bags out to get better pictures and I need to work out prices. I plan to take individual pictures of the silk balls and number them. They are all different. I hope to sell it all locally so I don’t have to work out shipping.

2021 Third Quarter Challenge

2021 Third Quarter Challenge

The third quarter challenge is to felt, spin, weave, knit, crochet or sew something inspired by the 1950’s.

There was a global economic boom in the 1950’s, and in 1957 Britain’s prime minister, Harold Macmillan, is famous for saying “You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime … most of our people have never had it so good.”

Could you be inspired by ‘Fairy-Tales’?

In 1950 Walt Disney released the cartoon film ‘Cinderella’ – some cute mice and birds stitched her dress.

Walt Disney released 3 more fairy tale films in the 50’s: ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

In 1953, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was taken to her coronation in the Gold State Coach – it weighs over 4 tons!  The photo below is quite recent but it shows the splendour and fairy-tale quality of the coach.

In 1955 Walt Disney opened ‘Disneyland’ where children of all ages could enjoy a magic kingdom.  Below is the ‘Fairy-Tale Castle’.

‘Balmoral’ is a real-life castle in Scotland, privately owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, but it does have a fairy-tale look doesn’t it?

Hands up anyone old enough to remember how children played in the 50’s?

Before the electronic age, play was simple.  Go-karts and bikes made from bits and pieces found abandoned, ball games, hula hoop, hopscotch and skipping.

Some toys that were introduced in the 1950’s are still around today – humming tops, frisbees, slinkies and Mr Potato Head.

So all of you who didn’t put your hands up just now, have you seen photos of how the grown-ups in your family dressed in the 50’s?

Maybe this is the fashion that people aspired to…….

….. but the ‘best going-out’ clothes for many people in England in 1959 looked like this.  A day out on a coach was a special occasion and worthy of a photo!  Can you spot Lyn?


There was an explosion of colourful, wonderful art in the 50’s.

Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist, produced these works between 1953-58.


David Hockney produced a varied style of paintings in the 50’s…



… and Karen Lane ( showed her wonderful mixed media quilt on The Felting and Fiber Forum.  It was based on a 1954 self-portrait painted by Hockney.

The 1950’s was an exciting decade for space exploration.  ‘Sputnik 1’ was launched in 1957. It was a polished metal sphere 58 cm (23 in) in diameter with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses.

Of course there was a whole lot more going on in the years 1950-1959 than we’ve mentioned above, and we hope that you can find something that piques your curiosity/interest and inspires you to create something.  Please share your makes by posting a photo on THE FELTING AND FIBER FORUM in ‘Studio Challenges’.



Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk thrums are gorgeous, jewel-like bits of temptation, rich in colour, shiny and sparkly, promising all sorts of lovely uses that will amaze everyone. Or not. Silk thrums are one part of the left overs from the sari silk industry. This is what can’t be woven on the loom and has to be cut off. I would like to see how saris are woven to understand the way the wastage is generated, it still puzzles me, but silk thrums are available in vast quantities to crafters all over the world. The problem with sari silk, and its a huge problem, is how the silk is dyed. There do not appear to be industry standards for colour fastness. Silk is a tricky fiber on a good day, so if dyers can’t determine dye acidity, water temperature, water hardness, or can’t properly degum the silk, the dye will run. I decided to try to use this characteristic of sari thrums to an advantage to see if there could be any benefit to be had.

I took a brilliant red thrum, trimmed the ribbon end and trimmed some silk fibers. The ribbon was soaked in hot water to leech out the dye. The colour saturation was evident as soon as the ribbon was in the jar. The water was totally red, but there is no way to do any metrics on this because the original silk was dyed with an unknown quantity of dye. All this is just a “see if this works” experiment. I snipped a tiny quantity of silk fiber, set it aside to mix with the wool roving I had chosen for dying.

I spun the rest of the silk threads into a single ply yarn. I’m taking a liberty in calling this a single ply, it is in fact a multiple thread yarn. The sari silk is made up of extremely fine thread. I respun those into a single thread with added twist. I can’t show them to you because my camera just can’t pickup the delicacy of those threads.

It was difficult to spin at first, because the fibers are nearly 36 inches long and tended to get tangled. I’ll try a different method next time, but it is possible to spin this into a reasonably nice yarn. The single yarn is plied against some of the merino top that is the basis of the dye bath test. I’ll use this later as part of the dye test.

When I plied the single merino wool with the single red silk they worked well together This is the most durable, hard to break fiber I have ever handled. Silk really is amazing.

I presoaked the remaining merino, drained, opened it along a mid-seam, sprinkled the snipped silk threads all along the centre. I then rolled the merino into a tube and wrapped it with the ribbon from the soak jar. This was set in an acid bath and topped up with the dye water from the soak jar. I use an oven to dye my wool. I cooked this for about two hours at 100C/220F. I expected a more vibrant red, not the pale orange, but this is an experiment, so expectations have to go on the back burner.


How Do I Finish These?

How Do I Finish These?

One of my latest projects has been playing with Inktense pencils and pans. I used a 12” x 12” stencil that I had purchased from The Crafters Workshop to begin the outline for my buildings piece.

I traced the stencil onto a commercial cotton that had a pattern of newsprint on it. It was fun to give it some texture.

I don’t know how any of you work, but I’m not too good with planning my whole projects out from start to finish so I didn’t really worry about how I wanted to finish this piece while I was working on it. After I finished it, I decided that I wanted to put a border on it and incorporate stitched figures of people into the border. I decided at first that I liked the blueish space on the sides and the bottom and began auditioning border fabric with the idea of leaving that area as inner border.

Here are the little blocks of stitched figures that I hand stitched, and I washed over them using a watered down Inktense solution of Navy Blue with a bit of Payne’s Grey added to it. These were initially about 4 inches.

I tried a couple different fabrics and placements of the figures blocks.


I decided that I didn’t like the blue border all the way around it so I cropped off the two sides and the bottom and tried it with a darker inner border.

So far I’ve not been happy with any of my choices but I definitely like the blue outline being removed. But now the wash on the figures wasn’t blending, much too blueish. So after doing a bit of testing, I put a brown Inktense wash over the figures. They are darker in this photo because they are still wet.

Once I washed over them, it also changed the whole mood of the buildings and I basically had to start auditioning a whole new color palette. A big sigh was going on in my studio when I got to this point. What have I done??

AND THEN I decided that the little figures just weren’t going to work at all for me. I felt they detracted too much from the buildings.


So when I found the blue grey hand dyed fabric, I thought that one would do it. Sometimes simple is better! It kind of reminds me of when I’d stay in a hotel in the city and look out the window at the buildings across the way when the sun was shining on them.

Now what do I do with all those stitched figures?

I decided I would put them on the back of the building quilt. But when I got the back put together, I thought it could be a quilt on its own. It was too sad to think of them on the back where no one would ever see them. Especially after all the work I had put into stitching them all!

But it needed more work to be a quilt on its own. I took the whole piece apart and started over. I ended up cutting the figure blocks down to a finished 3″ square so I lost most of the white edges. A sad loss, but necessary so I could make both quilts the same size.

I have a lot of fabric, but do you think I could find anything to go with this weird blue/brown wash I had put over the figures?? I wanted to put the tree fabric in to give the feel of being in a park. But it also added to the weirdness of the colors.

It took me several days to get both of these little 18” x 18” pieces done. I’m happy with the finished pieces now but it was a rather agonizing process to get to that point. I have to admit I did learn a lot while going through it! Learning is good!

I call the building piece “Summer in the City” and the figures piece “Winter in the Park”.

Will I plan how I will finish my pieces better in the future? I doubt it. But now I have plans to create Spring and Fall quilts to go with these two using the Inktense pencils and I look forward to doing that and seeing what I learn from them.

Happy Creating!

Tesi Vaara

Glorious Devon Part 2

Glorious Devon Part 2

At the end of Part 1 I mentioned that I had made a tracing of the basic position of the main features of the picture, with the intention of using that to mark the important features onto the background by stitching.

These pictures show the tracing, and part of the initial background marking.

This picture shows all the marking out I have done at this stage, as I like to work these pictures from the far distance first and work towards the foreground, so that I have a better chance of getting perspective and depth right. The tracing is still intact as I have just released it from the backing by running a needle along the line of the stitches, cutting though the tracing paper without (so far) tearing it.

You may note that the tracing does not show the horse. I made a separate tracing of that, so that I can place it correctly when the picture is sufficiently advanced and so that I get the size right.

The next step is my palette of felt “paints” Having collected from my stash of merino tops those colours that I thought might be useful, and using my dog comb-carders, I started to blend various colours to create those I would need for the hill in the far background.

However as I was doing it in the evening, using my daylight lamp, I found that it is not really “daylight”, just bright. When looked at in the real daylight it was clear that most of the colours are wrong. After I had used them to fill in the far distant hills, I saw that they looked even more like sky than in the original photo. So I enlarged that section of the original photo and used that to recreate the palette.

The hills still look a bit on the blue side in this picture, but not as blue as I had needled into the picture. Also it is clear that in my picture I had not made the nearer hills misty enough. So I set to and removed all the colours I had added and did some more blending in the real daylight.  Here is what I managed to come up with by sitting beside the window while I was doing it.  It was a bit overcast  outside but I understand that that is the best light to work in if you haven’t got a north facing window.  Mine faces west and when the sun is shining in the afternoon I can’t see for squinting.

Here’s what I came up with. Much better.

I’m going to have to try to find replacements for the carders though, one of the handles has snapped off. My husband’s “patched” it with a bit of brass and some screws (he works in metal!) but it won’t last much longer. Mind you they don’t owe me anything, I bought them about 6 or 7 years ago and I only paid £1. each for them!

So now I have to go back to the picture and remove what I have done; and on Thursday, when my friend is reopening her workshop, I’ll have a full day to make a fresh start.  I can’t wait.

In fact I’ve just been to a second full day’s workshop so I’ve made fair progress.  I have added the Golden Mean lines so that I can make sure that I can show things that I want to emphasise where I want them to be “artistically”.

My last picture shows where I’ve got to todate. Watch this space!

Art Deco Lampshade (part 2)

Art Deco Lampshade (part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of this experiment (Part 1 was featured on June 20th).  If you have not already done so, you may find it useful to read the first part and then reading this will, hopefully, make more sense to you.

My first attempt at this experiment was not a complete disaster.  I was happy with the way the expanded design had shrunk back to its original size.  You might remember that because the layout was only one way (top/bottom) and little merino fibre was used (20 grams), I was working off a shrinkage rate of 100% on the vertical and 30% on the horizontal.  The pattern maintained its geometric shape which was a real positive.  However I needed to solve three issues:

  1. How to control the amount of viscose I used on the design (the viscose used for the first experiment resulted in the piece weighing over 50 grams when my previous lampshades averaged 30 grams)
  2. I needed to see if I could find a quicker method to lay the thin black roving I used for the outlines.
  3. I wanted to see if I could control the amount of wool fibre which travelled through the viscose (while at the same time fully felting the shade down to its desired size.

Three issues to sort.  I set to work.

Issue #1 controlling the viscose weight:

I felt it would be good if I could weigh out the viscose before laying it down. This might have been a straightforward exercise if I was working in only one colour but, given there were six colours to consider, (all of which covered different area sizes) it would be a big challenge to divide out the weights per colour.  For example, if I added 2 grams of each colour to the design the larger areas would be more scantily covered and the denser smaller areas might not let the light through.  Time to sleep on it!  By morning I felt I had the solution.  I would use viscose paper.  Last February I was kindly invited to make a video tutorial for my national association, Feltmakers Ireland and as part of my preparation work and work for the tutorial I made the paper.

Next I needed to make some pattern pieces from my expanded design which I could use to cut out the viscose paper. The symmetrical design meant that I could limit my pattern pieces so I noted the number of cut outs I would need for each piece.  Also, I worked out my colour scheme as some of the pattern pieces fitted into different parts of the design but required different colours.  Lastly, I weighed all the cut out pieces and was happy that the overall weight of the shade would not exceed my previous ‘successful’ ones:


Issue #2 Black Roving:

Next, it was time to see if I could tackle the issue with the roving.  You might remember that it was laborious to lay in the first experiment as the strands at the edges tended to ramble once I sprayed them with water.  This time, I decided to dry roll the strips of roving prior to laying it down.  It did not take very long and was quite soothing to do.  By the way, the wooden tray you can see in the photo has a non slip surface (Ikea) which is great for carrying drinks and also provides enough friction to roll the fibre.  I love multipurpose tools! I did not over-roll the roving – I just tidied it as you can see in the photo.

Then, I started outlining the design using the method Ildi showed in her wonderful blog.  I found it a lot quicker to lay out and the design stayed in place.  That said, I will investigate the pencil roving to see if there are stockists in Europe.  I sprayed water on the roving as I worked which helped keep it in place.

Next, I filled in the colour using my cut out viscose paper, spraying it with water as I filled in each colour.

After this, I laid out the merino tops (20 grams).  I decided this time to use a white for the background.  The layout of the merino is identical to that described in Part 1.  The method used for bringing the piece to pre-felt stage is covered in Part 1 so I will just insert some photos here (apologies if the narrative looks a little fuzzy).  When it came to joining the sides, I added a little extra viscose paper to cover the split (plus a little of the black roving for the lines):



Issue # 3 the transfer of merino through the viscose:

Once it was ready to roll, I rolled the piece leaving the decorators plastic and the resist in place.  I determined this time that I would use rolling to get most of the shrinkage so I kept rolling it until I was happy that it was well on its way to the final size.  (Apologies, I lost count!).  Also I wanted to handle the outside as little as possible so, when I removed all the ‘protectors’ I used gloves to handle the piece.  Then I turned the piece inside out and continued rolling.


Next, keeping the gloves on I did a little kneading and throwing but it was a lot gentler than last time.  Also, the duration was quite short as I was quickly reaching the required shrinkage.  I kept the measuring tape close by and regularly checked:

I turned the piece and, with the right side showing, fully rinsed the piece and compared the sizing and pattern to the one made in Part 1.  I knew immediately that the shade required a little more work as the central design was still an oval and it needed to be a circle.  I sprinkled it with a little hot soapy water and continued rolling until it was the required dimensions.  Then I rinsed it again and ironed it, shaping it as I worked:


Thoughts on the result:

I am quite pleased with the finished lampshade.  The colours were dictated by the viscose paper I had to hand but the overall result is quite interesting.  The colours definitely come into their own when the light shines through (yes! It worked!) I had mixed various colours when making the paper so I wonder what would be the outcome if each ‘page’ was a solid colour.  The outlines were pretty structured and the lines remained straight.  Also, because I ‘protected’ the viscose and either kept it covered or wore gloves when working it (and, of course, rolled it a lot more) there was very little transfer of fibre through to the viscose.  Part 2 was a lot more successful than Part 1.

The biggest challenge now is how to photograph using my phone!  To be honest, I don’t think the photos do not do it justice.  So I took identical photos, with a flash so that the colours are visible and without the flash (which shows the light shining through the lamp).  Here is the finished piece:


Art Deco Lampshade (part 1)

Art Deco Lampshade (part 1)

The thinking cap went on in bed the other night over what to do for my current blog piece.  I wanted to link it through to Lyn’s Art Deco challenge.  Two words came to mind while lying in the semi darkness – Tiffany Lamps.    Straight away I saw a big problem – I had happened upon the wrong period.  That said, the idea of producing a lampshade stuck in my head so perhaps I should research designs from the art Deco period that might translate unto a lamp.

I already had a lamp in mind – one that is readily available to anyone who has an Ikea nearby.  So I chose the Grönö table lamp.  It’s cheap as chips and a constant at Ikea.  Its dimensions are height 22cm and the width on each side is 9.75cm totalling 39cm.  I intended to have my layout running in one direction only (top/bottom) and from previous experience (using a different set of materials that included scrim) I knew that I was working to c. 100% shrinkage in this direction with c. 30% shrinkage on the width.

First task was to decide on pattern.  I had two criteria:

  • Symmetry
  • Geometric shapes

I felt that the main challenge was to produce a pattern that would end up resembling what was in my mind’s eye given that I would have different shrinkage rates on the finished piece (north/south 100% east/west 30%).  So, I set about drawing up the pattern as it would look in the finished size and then ‘grew’ it according to the expected shrinkage.  Normally, when I am upsizing a pattern, it’s a straightforward job.  I pop my pattern piece on a larger piece of paper, find a centre point on the pattern and then, based on anticipated shrinkage, calculate and mark out my new pattern points to enlarge the pattern.  Then join the dots.

First thought that came to mind was Kiss (keep it simple silly). I wanted to work in geometric shapes – I felt it was going to be difficult enough to grow the pattern without making it impossible.



After a few disasters I designed my pattern by working on half the height of the lamp.   I settled on the following:

Choosing colour would be the easy part, it was now time to give this pattern a growth spurt!  The pattern is about to grow from (cm) 9.5×22 to 14.5×47.  Time to get out the calculator and put the thinking cap on….  The pattern doubled in height and grew by 30% in the width Here is the result:


When the two sides are joined together they match up perfectly (what a relief):

Time to start working on laying out the design.  I wanted to try out Ildi’s technique using viscose for the colour.  I was working from the outside of the design (laying out the pattern first). I had no pencil roving so had to improvise with my tops, sectioning off thin strands of the fibre.  Next I laid down my pattern and some light decorators plastic so that I could see through to the design.  I ‘drew’ the pattern with the black roving, spraying it with water so that it would stay in place.  I was a bit unhappy with the edge of the roving as it strayed into the area which would be filled with colour and I spent some time pushing it back into place (there has to be an easier way to do this).

When laying out the viscose, I ‘tangled’ it rather than laying it straight.  I wanted it to replace the bandage cotton I used in my earlier lampshade so I needed the fibre to run in all directions:

Here are pics of the colour building up on the design:

Next it was time to lay out the merino fibre.  I used 20g for this purpose and laid out one layer in a ‘top to bottom’ direction, wetting it down with soapy lukewarm water:

Once a skin had formed, I added a light resist which I doubled over, placing it on top of the merino.  I added some strands of dry merino to the section where the two sides would meet and then, using the light plastic decorators plastic, I folded my sides over to join the pattern:

I wanted to tidy up the joins a bit so I used some of the thin black roving on the lines and some viscose on where the colours came together:


I then covered the piece with the decorator’s plastic and rubbed it to seal the ends.  Once I was happy that they were sealed, I removed the pattern from under the piece and inserted bubble wrap. I prepared my pre-felt (I like my sander).  The doubled over light resist came in handy as I was able to rotate the piece as I felted it, making sure that it did not develop edges.    Then I started rolling the piece (about 400 times each top/bottom, bottom/top; 200 each times side to side).  As the piece began to shrink, the light resist folded on itself.   I removed the decorators plastic.  When I was happy that I could move onto the next step I removed the resist.

I added hot water and fulled the piece, kneading and throwing it until it reached the desired shrinkage, 100% top to bottom and 30% side to side.  Once rinsed I ironed and shaped it.  I noticed a lot of the merino had travelled through the viscose – more than usual.  So I shaved it back.


The end result was mixed.  I was happy that the design had stayed symmetrical and that the shrinkage had returned the oval to a circle which was great.  Unfortunately the result was too thick for the piece to be used as a light shade (so I will need to find a suitably sized vase).   I had used grey in previous lampshades so I was aware that it should work as I only used the normal amount 20g. Previously, my working lampshades weighed around 30g.  It became clear what the issue was.  This lampshade weighed over 50g – basically the light could not permeate the viscose!  Lesson learnt!  I needed to find a way to control my viscose lay down.  Also, I was a bit disappointed with the transfer through of the merino fibre to the front of the piece, something I needed to work on.  Also I needed to find a way to prepare the ‘pencil’ roving so that it would be quicker to lay out.  Despite this, I loved the overall colour combination and it had sheen when it dried.  So there were many plus points in this exercise.

In Part 2 (coming 22nd June) of this experiment I will show you how I sorted out my issues.  Now I’m off to find a suitable home for my first experiment.

“Gates” Wet Felted Wall Hanging (red and white)

“Gates” Wet Felted Wall Hanging (red and white)

The story of these wall hangings started when I decided to take part in an exhibition. I wanted to create something with an ancient design but I wanted it to be integrated into our lifestyle and modern times.

So I decided to make a wall hanging with a gates design. Everyone has gates in his/her life. We have to go through them with a lot of work but finally we succeed. We can talk about emotional gates too, these are often difficult to manage in our life.

First I made the white one, I chose more natural colours.

The design is cut from prefelt and than covered with 3 layers of wool. 

I used a rolling technique , I worked about 4 days, but I loved every minute.

After a while I decided to try this design with other colours, same design with few changes, but the same inspiration . I like both wall hangings🙂

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