I just want to give you some background into this little story.
I was so fortunate when I got married all those years ago. Hubby came with a wonderful extended family. Lest I leave anyone with the impression of interference on any of their part, these were all formidable, strong women, born in the 1920s and 30s who were interesting and interested but never prying. Every single one of them was creative and all lived well into their 80s. Three are still with us and, despite the years, their characters have not changed. I feel privileged to have known them all for the greater part of my life.
So, back to my story. One of the aunts, Kathleen, passed a few years ago. In her working life she was the Head of an Arts and Crafts Department at College (adult) level. She was a great collector of beautiful objects and when she died she left me her collection of textiles. I used one of these to line the 1950’s style hat I featured in my last post (September 18th).
All the fabrics filled two cars so I decided to catalogue them when I got them home. I should mention here that my dining room was out of commission for some time while I carried out this task. I noted dimensions, cut a sample and categorised each piece. There were rich silks from her early travels in Asia, beautiful wools (Prato, Italy is embedded on the side on one piece), edgy cottons from the 60’s, fabrics with exclusive stand alone labels included on the selvages – all in all there were over 450 pieces, which I documented and stored in boxes. Realistically I knew I could never use them all so I shared with various sewing enthusiasts. My aim was purely to recoup the cost of all the storage boxes I had to buy so excited buyers got to enjoy top class coat weight 100% wool fabric for €15 (this was the maximum charged). In short, I shared some of the joy Kathleen gave me.
While sorting through all the fabrics I made two other amazing finds and it is one of these that I want to bring to you today. It was a sampler which my husband’s aunt no doubt picked up in an English or Scottish auction house at some stage in her life. I suspect it was an examination piece as the name on the side in perfect copperplate handwriting is ‘Edith M. S. Simpson No. 48’. The date, which is cross stitched into the top of the piece is 1900. The folder used to hold the pieces looks to be handmade – although a sewing machine has been used to bind the edges. Yellow silk has been hand sewn into the folder and acts as a backdrop for all the pieces. The samples are, in my mind, perfection. I hope Edith scored highly in her exam. I wonder what became of her. I hope she had a happy life but given the tumultuous events which would occur in the world throughout the following 20 years, I suspect she faced down many challenges and heartaches like many women of that era.
I hope you enjoy the photos and perhaps pause for a moment or two to think about Edith. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that all her painstakingly beautiful work would one day be shown to a worldwide audience.
With sincerest thanks to my husband Enda for the photography.
The closed pack. Still beautiful after 120 years.
For scale the complete pack is 22 inches by 15 inches (56 by 39cm)
The young lady herself – look at that copperplate handwriting
Inserting a patch and teeny tiny knitting. There are over 15 rows in the middle knitted sample and it measures only 1 inch square.
Cross stitching her initials, knitting on the round and a beautiful sock sample (heel) length 2 inches
More patching, on very fine wool this time. Look at the size of the cross stitches. Below decorative stitching gold and blue on linen.
More fine stitching (gold/blue) this time on fine wool. Gathering for a sleeve. A buttonhole the sample measure 3 by 1.5 inches.
Darning on fine knit:
Tiny gathers. I counted 66 gathers into the cuff:
I think this is a placket but happy to be corrected:
A patch. Look at the perfect matching:
A patch on fine wool. Look at the tiny cross stitches. There are also two rows of tiny running stitch around the triangle.
Not sure what the top piece is called. The bottom could be a decorative line of stitches for a collar:
A hand sewn French seam.
(Top) more fine gathering. Can you see the tiny little holes created by stitches in the bottom of the gathering?
It’s that time of year again, when the long warm summer nights are fading and the nights are drawing in. I love all the seasons, but the Autumn season is one of my favourites as I love the colour pallette nature provides, with its hues of amber, yellow, orange, red, brown and every shade in between. It’s the time when the earth starts going to sleep, sound in the knowledge of new beginnings in the spring.
As our blog this time falls a few weeks before that famous holiday date at the end of October, we thought we would make something that people would have time to make before the holiday period arrives. Hense, we made a pumpkin. I apologise in advance that this blog is not unique, as others have done this before but our original plan did not seem such a good idea once the pumpkin was made. I had planned to make one that could be used as a ‘trick or treat’ container. But once it was made, I just wasn’t sure that it would be strong enough to hold up to my plan to cut a 3/4 circle for the lid and still hold its shape. The idea was to find out who would be brave enough to slide their hand inside, to find out whether they were dipping into a treat, or a trick. Although the pumpkin held its shape well, I did not feel it was quite strong enough to fulfil the purpose, so I’m afraid I chickened out because I didn’t have enough time to make a second pumpkin if it all went wrong!! But it’s still something I would like to do in the future, now that I know the strength of this 3 layer pumpkin. So next time, I’ll make it with 4 layers!
I’ve made a small pumpkin before, using the method demonstrated by an American lady, in her weekly tutorials on Living Felt. That turned out really well so I decided to use this method again, only making the pumpkin much larger. I searched my house and garden for a circular template, and found a large green planter tray that I use to catch the water underneath some of my bigger pots. It measured 38cm (15″) in diameter and was perfect for the job.
Here you can just make out the planter tray, holding my palette of wool batts and merino tops. Also, you can see my first born little pumpkin that I made last year! He had to make an appearance (can’t have them feeling left out!)
I chose a two-colour wool for the outer layer, that was a combination of a yellow and red carded together. For the inner two layers, I chose a lighter yellowy colour, so that the inside of the pumpkin would be paler than the outside. (At this point, I was still planning to make the pumpkin trick or treat pot.) The red and yellow mix for the outer layer weighed 1.3oz and the yellow wool for the pumpkin flesh weighed 2.4oz, as I would need two layers of this colour. The merino tops were for decoration and accent colours on the outside of the pumpkin. I also wanted to add in some additional bits and pieces, to add interest to the surface of the pumpkin, so I collected some silk hankies that I already had in my supplies, and also some orange neeps and curly tops (which in the end I didn’t use in the wet felting process).
I love these colours!!!!!!!!!
I then started making my resist. Making the circle was the easy part, but I then needed to make eight petal-like protrusions, to form the lobes of the pumpkin. My partner did look at me rather strangely when he saw me rummaging through the crockery looking for a suitable saucer-like object that would fit nicely for the job. I eventually found a bowl that was a good fit, and used this as a template to make the lobes around my circular resist…
As usual, Eccles had to get involved! She is not a problem, but Elliot (her brother) decided to strike while I was looking for the bowl, and pinched three of the merino wool tops off the tray. By the time I came back, I had three bird’s nests which I then had to card to get them back into some sense of order! That cat has such a passion for wool, it’s unbelievable! I don’t have a photo to show, as I forgot to take one but he really made a mess of them! He also managed to pinch the little pumpkin out of its box where I had safely (or so I thought) hidden it. I later found it under my dining room table, where he’d left it after playing with it! I must be mad to have taken in another rescue cat, but she is adorable and I couldn’t resist! Here is Penny!
I think you can safely say she’s made herself at home!!!!!
Anyway – back to pumpkins! I then began laying out the fibre. I started with the yellow wool batt, putting two layers on each side of my resist. I added soap and water and covered with a mesh before gently agitating the fibres to start them knitting together. After a little gentle agitation, I flipped the resist before folding over the edges of the wool each time ready to start the next layer.
from this…………………………………………………………………………………………………….to that…
After putting two layers of yellow fibre on each side, it was time to put the red and yellow mixed fibre….
Here you can see I have put one layer and flipped the resist ready to do the other side. You can see the edges of the reddish fibre curled around the edges of the resist.
And now, the final layer…
I love the effect of the two-tone fiber, which shows well in this photo in contrast to the yellow above….
Now for the fun part!! Time to start the embellishments. I used some of the wool top to accentuate the lines in between each lobe, and I wanted to try out some silk hankies to make some sheen on the pumpkin. Here are the different designs I made on each side. I wasn’t sure how dark to go with the wool top lines, so chose a brown for one side, and a redder colour for the other. I went with an olive green for the silk hanky.
I left ‘tails’ at the edges, so I could wrap them around the other side.
Now to start felting. Recently, I purchased a sander because I do suffer a little with my joints. I hadn’t tried using it yet, but thought I would give it a try on this project. I would say at this point, that anyone considering the use of a sander in felting, needs to do their research. I was quite scared at first, as electricity an water (as we know) don’t mix. Also, some countries don’t have the safety systems built into their domestic electricity supply, so doing your research before embarking on using an electric sander is a must. But having done my research and purchased my sander, I thought I had better try it out. I only used it at the beginning of the process, and I was careful not to take the sander up to the edges of the resist, only using it in the middle and in between each lobe. But it certainly helped considerably, and after I had finished the project, I didn’t feel my usual pain and fatigue, so that’s good!
I can’t wait to make a scarf next!!!!!
After using the sander, I hand-felted the edges of the pumpkin, to make sure it was all nicely knitting together before I started rolling it. Once I saw the felt was starting to shrink, I removed the resist from inside the pumpkin. Easier said than done!! I didn’t want a large hole left in the pumpkin, but my resist was quite thick and firm, so it took some time to remove it as I also wanted to keep the resist for future use (I know, I’m a skinflint, but I’m also ecologically conscientious).
After the rolling was finished I fulled the pumpkin by throwing it a little until I was satisfied with the shrinkage. Then it was time to rinse the soap out, give it a quick soak in vinegar water to restore the PH levels and I always like to give a final rinse in water containing a nicely scented essential oil. I love to hold my small pumpkin and smell the fibre, as it often helps my emotional wellbeing at times when I am stressed. Is that strange?! But it works for me!
After removing the excess water by wrapping it in a towel, I then stuffed it with a shredded bed sheet. Wow – I was surprised to find I could fit a whole king-sized bed sheet in that pumpkin!
and then I tied string in between each lobe, so accentuate the shape as it dried
Once it had dried, quality control arrived for his weekly Chinese Takeaway! Alex checked my work and told me that he really liked the pumpkin.
By the look on Alex’s face, I can see I’m going to have to make another one because his sister Lizzy has been patiently awaiting a pumpkin for her new home!!
Once it was fully dry, I removed the copious amounts of shredded sheet from inside. It was at this point, I had cold feet about cutting a lid in the top. Although it kept its shape well, I was not sure how cutting it open would affect the stability of the structure so I decided at this point, just to stuff it and keep it intact. I will try this idea another time though, because I would like to make a felted ‘creepy hand’ to poke out from under the lid. Seeing people’s reactions would be funny!
I decided to make the stalk out of needle-felted wool. I chose different shades of green, charcoal grey and yellow to felt together to make the stalk. I also put a pipe cleaner inside, so I could bend the stalk into the shape I wanted. I also needle felted a leafy-looking base at the bottom of the stalk, just for effect and added some bright green curly tops to look like tendrils. I did make a pumpkin leaf for it, but in the end I didn’t like it so did not use it.
I quite like the yellow accents on the stalk……..
It didn’t take Elliot long to get involved! But then again, he’s the right colour isn’t he?!!
And here’s a photo taken in natural light for colour comparison……
Hi, It’s me again, out of sync. We had a scheduling problem so I have jumped back in and Ruth will be me later.
A while ago I collected some used coffee pods to try doing some felting with. This was inspired by Judit Pócs. She is an incredible felter and has an amazing imagination. https://pocsjuditstudio.hu/home I believe she used them in a felted ring, free workshop for people that are members of the International Felt makers Association when they had their online conference. I am not a member. Anyway, there were all over Facebook and I wanted to try them out. This is the first attempt.
These are metal pods for a Nespresso machine. I got them by asking on my local buy/sell/give group on Facebook. People with these machines do not throw the pods out they collect them in a supplied bag and then send them back to the company postage paid for recycling. At least that seems less wasteful.
They are pretty and come in two sizes
I had to flatten the pods first. The large domes are much easier to flatten nicely.
I laid out a thickish base and then added to the 2 kinds of pods.
Then another double layer of wool on top.
I felted in the usual way and then cut holes over the disk. I cut the wrong side first, naturally
This is where it starts to go downhill. The texture of the disks makes it hard to rub and heal the cuts. I am not the most patient with this step normally so this was frustrating and didn’t work well.
As a first experiment, this was a good learning experience.
Next time I will mark the top and put a piece of underlay over the pods to make a smoother surface to work on after I cut the holes. That should make it easier to make a better edge. I also think I needed a thicker layer of wool over the pods to get a nicer deeper edge. Maybe just over the pods and not the whole piece. This piece is a good thickness for bag/pouch. Also, as usual, I need to slow down and be patient.
I also made a piece of felt to try out some stitching with the Solvy water-soluble stabilizer. It’s not very exciting to look at and I will probably iron it a little smoother and flatter. I think I will add some needle felting to part of it before using it so I have the 2 textures to try on.
I like figuring out how things are done. I enjoy making samples/experiments much more than I used to. I think it’s all the covid lockdowns and there being no shows. There is not much point in making 20 hats and scarves if you have nowhere to sell them. Have you successfully figured out how to do something you’ve seen online?
I did finish the felting part of the 3 pieces I started last time.
First the lantern cover. I am not entirely happy with the way it felted. I was hoping it would be more solid. However, there was so much non-wool fibre it ended up very soft and holey.
It will still work for this application but it wouldn’t stand up to being a scarf. It looks cool just not what I planned. Sometimes that is the way it goes.
The first one is just on the vase the second is the lights turned on and the last is with the lights on in the dark.
The first picture felted up nicely. I used the thicker mostly felted prefelt I have and it is nice and firm after felting. It shrank a little but I was able to pull it back out to 5×7. I am not sure which way up it should go is it land and sea/stormy sky?
Or is it land and sunset sky? what do you think? I haven’t decided on what I will add to the picture now. Maybe some needle felting or some stitching or both.
The next one that wasn’t wet yet in the last blog also worked out very well. I felted it onto a piece from a fulled, woven wool coat. The fabric didn’t shink but the wool attached pretty well.
The embellishments are attached but look to be floating rather than part of it. I think I may rewet it and felt it some more. The embellishment fibres are not very well attached. I like it though.
After writing this I decided the wool was well felted so I would needle felt the embellishments in rather than rewetting it. They lost some of the brightness but I still like it.
I have an experiment to show you next time and maybe if I figure it out, some idea of what I will do with these pieces.
The fourth quarter challenge is to felt, spin, weave, knit, crochet or sew something inspired by the 1960’s – a decade that exploded with colour in art, fashion, homewares and music!
Although ‘pop-art’ originated in the 1950’s it flourished in the 1960’s, and Andy Warhol created many versions of his portrait of Marilyn Monroe …
…and Versace made a gown using Warhol’s prints.
Psychedelic and hippie art was everywhere! On posters, clothes, musical instruments and vehicles.
The world of pop music embraced the wildness of design in the 1960’s. Heinz Edelmann’s illustration style for the Beatles’ animated film ‘Yellow Submarine’ was revolutionary…
… and this album cover must be the most recognisable. Jann Haworth and Peter Blake designed the cover for The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
Peter Max was an influential designer. Below left to right: He painted this design for Capitol Records, this ‘love’ poster and he designed this fabric.
Flowers featured a lot in 60’s fabrics that would be made into clothes, curtains, lampshades and furniture.
Flowers were also popular in many wallpaper designs.
Mary Quant was an influential fashion designer in the 60’s – she did use colour but she’s well-known for her black and white designs.
And who hasn’t heard of ‘Biba’? This is one of her dresses. Photo courtesy of V&A.
Fashion was very flamboyant. Look at these ties for men. Photo courtesy of V&A.
And shirts could never be too colourful.
Machine embroidered clothes were very popular.
Jewellery was bold, bright and chunky. Photos courtesy of V&A.
Perhaps you remember the 1960’s? Perhaps you’ve only read about them. But we hope you find something in that decade to inspire your work. Please post anything you make on to the ‘Studio Challenges’ section on the Felting and Fiber Forum
So far you have seen the Poker Challenge offerings from Ann and Jan. We are all members of the same Guild. I accepted to do the spinning challenge only.
My cards were
Colour – pastels only
Fibre – must include mohair
Technique – lock spinning
Structure – lace weight
I had some really lovely, top quality, pink, super-fine merino, and some pale blue mohair locks. The merino spins into lace weight very easily, almost wanted to spin that way on its own. The thing I found most difficult was lock spinning.
Research online showed a whole range of techniques, so it dawned on me that lock spinning is what you make of it. The mohair was really slippery and a bit of a challenge to maintain control, but the results were a happy surprise. I decided to ply the mohair with the lace merino to give integrity to the yarn. Once plied the locks on the mohair opened, but were held in place with the merino and the end result was a luxurious, soft, lustrous yarn. Unfortunately, I am not the photographic genius that Jan is and even though I chastised my camera for not using a flash to show the gorgeous soft pink and sky blue of the final product, it ignored me.
So, I took it to the next step and did a purpose made yarn of my own design.
I ordered some wonderful dyed Teeswater first clip from my favourite wool dyer. It arrived all clean, soft, shiny and tangle free; this is a special treat that I allow myself every once in a while. I used this for the lace weight ply and used some of my own dyed mohair locks for the lock spun component. I have to say the Teeswater wool is exquisite. I flick card it open on both ends and remove any tangles by cutting the knots out. This gives me a staple of approximately 15 inches.
This was spun as close to lace weight as possible. And I know my wheel needs to be fixed, I’m trying to find a craftsman/woman who can do that, any ideas?? If you look closely at the first hook you will see the groove that is nearly cutting through the metal.
The mohair is not carded at all and only pulled apart a little bit to keep the lock integrity intact. Unfortunately, I have only a picture of similar locks. I used up all the others before remembering to take out my camera. The lustre of mohair is amazing and the softness of kid mohair is delicious. Adult mohair is not my favourite fibre because as the animal matures the fibre gets so coarse it can’t be used for next to skin projects and it loses its crimp and becomes a misery to spin.
The mohair was then plied with the lace weight Teeswater to give this yarn.
My plan, among several others I’ve discussed with you over the past few months, is to weave this into a winter stole or shawl. The Teeswater is long enough to take the abrasion of being in a warp, so to that end, I made the leftover laceweight into a fine three ply cable yarn. This keeps the colour grouping together. If I were to do this as a true three ply the colours would tend to get muddy and I wanted to avoid that. I think I have enough for the project.
There are eight skeins that weigh 645 gms. If not I can always spin more of the Teeswater and fiddle the design a bit. Motivation is now the issue. You all amaze me with the energy you have, the creativity you show and your unflagging drive, thank you for showing me a whole ‘other world of fibre art.
At the moment I seem to be really squeezed for time. I have managed to start 3 small things
First I wanted to do another vase cover. I used a bat that was made on a blending board. I pealed a thin layer and then filled in the holes. I like the autumn colours.
That is as far as that got.
Next, I wanted a little bigger landscape I could needle felt and stitch on, so cut a 5×7 inch piece of the soft thick prefelt to use.
I wrapped the wool around the piece so there won’t be grey edges.
And that’s as far as that one got. I have it rolled up with the vase cover so they can be rolled at the same time.
Then, oh my I still have a few min. I had some well-fulled wool fabric a friend gave to me. I think it used to be a coat. I cut out a small piece and brushed up one side with my wire dog brush to see if it will stick together well with wet felting. Then added some fibre
The difference is hard to see. the left is the unbrushed side and the right is the brushed side.
I had intended to just add 2 colours and felt it to use for trying out stitching on the new water-soluble stabilizer I ordered. But before I realized it I had made another landscape. Oh well, that’s ok, I will have to try again to make some practice pieces.
That is as far as I got with that one. I will probably wet it and add it to the other roll and then do them all at once. Maybe next week I will have them felted. With this time of year being very busy for me, it makes it hard to get some felting in. I try to get some in every week so I can share with all our friends and followers.
My original intention was to cover some canvas bases for exhibition pieces. I had purchased two colours, black and blue and, as I only used the black on the canvas’s I had the blue to play with. According to their website, the industrial wool is made up of 90% wool (Australian and South American) and 10% polyester. DHG also mention that “This felt can be used as a traditional felt (cut, sewn, glued) but also by exploiting its thermoformability.”
I decided to do a bit more research into the felt’s ‘thermoformability’ and my first port of call was the company’s website. I was able to download a short simple set of instructions on how to add form to the felt using heat.
I thought it might be fun to work on a project that would take in this quarter’s challenge which is focusing on the 1950s. It was time to put the thinking cap on and research hats of that era. I consulted my vintage ‘oracle’ (my daughter Katie) and quickly decided on a half hat. Katie mentioned that ladies wore these to accommodate stylish ‘front’ hairdos – the hair was curled to the front and back and that meant that these hats were placed on the back section of the head where the hair would have been flat.
She agreed to model the finished piece so I set about making a tin foil mould of her head. At this point, she refused to be photographed wearing a tin foil hat (after all, this young woman has a reputation to maintain) so here it is on a lifeless model:
Next, I took her measurements. I cut out a piece of felt 31cm (this was the measurement ear across the top of her head to the other ear) by 25cm (depth to allow for folds in the felt). I placed pins when I wanted the folds to occur then I started folding the felt:
The DHG instructions recommended that, while the felt could be pinned when it was being shaped, ultimately all shaping should be tacked in place. This tacking would remain in place until the piece had cooled down after it was ‘baked’ in the oven. All pins had to be removed as there was a distinct possibility that they would permanently mark the ‘baked’ felt. So it was time to secure all the shapes – I used polyester thread for this purpose:
The next task involved securing it to the tin foil mould of Katie’s head. More tacking.
Then, it was into the electric oven at 150 degrees centigrade (300F) for exactly 20 minutes. The instructions stated that if it was left in any longer the wool would burn. Also, temperature differed for lighter coloured felt which, it stated required a lower temperature of 130C. It could also be ‘cooked’ in the microwave (5 minutes at 850W). If I had used a microwave I could not have used the tin foil so I was happy to use the oven.
Once removed from the oven, the felt had to be left to cool fully so that the polymers in the polyester to set in position:
Once it was fully cooled down I removed all of the threads. It was a bit time consuming as I had fixed them firmly into the felt but that was okay. Here’s the result:
Next, it was time to cut out the lining. In keeping with the vintage theme I found a piece of wild silk that my aunt had given me. She was a fantastic lady and like the rest of her family, an artist to the core. She was head of the Art faculty in one of our Third Level (university) colleges and a great collector of fabrics all of which she bequeathed to me when she died. While the silk was not from the 50s it was pretty close to that era. So I cut the fabric slightly smaller than my original measurements and hemmed it using my sewing machine. Then I ironed in some pleats and hand-sewed the lining onto the inside of the hat.
As this is a half hat, I added a comb to the middle front of the hat and sewed elastic loops for bobby pins – one on each side:
It was then time to decorate the hat. Given that Katie planned to do something special with the front section of her hair, I decided to decorate the back of the hat. I used faux pearls which were mounted on thin strips of gold coloured wire and attached them with transparent nylon thread.
It was time for the photo shoot and my model did not let me down! It was lovely to see her dress up – full hair, makeup and vintage style frock. She has not had the opportunity over the past year and a half as we have been locked down for most of it. Thank you Katie for going to so much trouble.
I am pleased with the result. The instructions suggested using glue to help hold the shapes but I found that by taking time over the tacking and securing everything very well the folds stuck together during the baking process. It is worth noting that DHG state that one can expect lighter colours to darken a bit during the baking process.
Does this inspire you to try their Industrial felt? If so, what would you make?
A while ago on Facebook someone posted they had made felt covers for lanterns. they had ordered a workshop in a box with everything in it but I like to figure things out myself. They didn’t look too hard to do. I think someone here might have done something similar here too but I don’t remember properly.
I started out thinking I wanted a clear plastic cylinder to use as the base. I couldn’t find anything, except, of course, I could find them with other things inside them. But then I went to the dollar store and found a tall glass vase for only $4. Available trumps ideal every time.
I started out working out the size.
then I made a resist to those numbers and one that was taller.
For the tall one, I was going for a landscape feel, grass, sand, water, sky. The layout is very thin so later the light will show well.
The second one was my granddaughter, Autumn’s choices of colour and sparkle.
The felting was easy and fast as there wasn’t much wool involved.
Here is Autumn’s cover
And with a string of battery-operated LED lights inside.
This is mine. The darker blue of the deeper ocean looks very green now. I think the scrunching of the water area adds some interest for when it doesn’t have the lights on.
And with the lights inside
Although they both look interesting with the lit up even in the daytime.
There are lots of interesting things you could do by adding a hidden design that only shows up when lit. You could create a scene on the outside and hide things inside that change the scene when lit. I wonder if you could write a message that would show up when lit. that would be a challenge. I would like to try a thicker cover and see how it works with the lights. I may work this into a short workshop. A fun afternoon or evening making lantern covers.