A few weeks ago I experienced the delight that is the Auckland Fun Felter’s Retreat, 2 full days of felting bliss! 🙂
We were 13 like-minded ladies at a retreat centre, tucked away in a quiet and leafy corner of west Auckland, we had the entire centre all to ourselves and were blessed with some lovely weather.
Jenny, our organiser extraordinaire, asked if anyone would be willing to teach / lead a short workshop on Saturday morning. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to teach face to face since 2019 so jumped at the chance and then immediately panicked that I had nothing to teach this incredibly creative and experienced group (most of the members have been felting at least as long as I have!).
After several weeks mulling it over and talking to other AFF members I settled on “animal textures in felt”, I thought this would lend itself to a series of pre-prepared samples that we could discuss the potential pitfalls and then each member could incorporate one or two into their own project. This group is so experienced I couldn’t imagine any of them wanting to waste their precious felting time watching me laying out fibre over a resist.
We all arrived on Friday afternoon, settled into our rooms and started playing with our fibres in the main hall. After talking to a few members I realised not everyone would be happy for me to share some samples and tips on how to achieve different effects, they wanted a project to follow…. my heart sank, I hadn’t planned for this, how was I going to come up with a project that included, fur, scales, eyes and locks before tomorrow morning?!!
So it was that Fugly was born….
A little pod critter, with eyes, scales on his back, a lambs tail and an unfortunate ear-hair problem – for the record I would never normally recommend trying to cram so many different techniques onto one item but now he is finished I do find Fugly quite endearing 🙂
To my surprise most of the group also made pods that incorporated most or all of the techniques and we ended up with a ?gaggle, ?fright, ?laughter <insert collective noun of your choice here> of funny little monsters:
This weekend was such a success we agreed to do it all again in just 6 months time! 🙂
Recently, a local woman asked me to create a river view in felt for her. I created several watercolor sketches she could choose from so that we agreed on what the landscape would look like and what to include. The client lives on the Swan River here in Montana and decided she wanted a view similar to what she has behind her home.
After hand carding and blending colors, I started on the layout. I used a commercial prefelt background and mostly short fiber merino batts. Somehow, I wasn’t thinking correctly on shrinkage as I went with the idea that it would shrink 30%. But I forgot that I don’t normally full my wool paintings very hard as they don’t really need intense fulling.
I continued working down the picture laying out the distant trees, the river with the trees and mountains reflections and then into the foreground grass and lupines. At the same time I was laying out the big piece, I also laid out a smaller sample. That way I could try different options with final details and stitching. This shows the birch trees from silk paper that I was trying to decide upon. Luckily, I had made the birch tree silk paper several months ago at one of our local group meetings.
Here’s the small sample that I made. I tried the left tree trunk in prefelt and then used free motion machine stitching for the dark areas. The right tree trunk used silk paper which was painted for the dark areas. I also tried out some FME for the branches and the lupines. I didn’t feel that the FME was what I wanted for this piece and opted for the silk paper birch trunks. I had also used some brown/tan wool for the distant shoreline which was way too much if included in the original wet felting process. I ended up cutting out a portion of this sample so that the brown wool was showing much less. I then stitched the two pieces of the sample back together to give the feel of what I wanted in the large piece. This sample really saved me from making some big mistakes!
Here is what I had after wet felting. I had to full this piece very hard as the request was for a certain size. I don’t normally worry about size on my wet felted landscapes and I ended up cutting the edges because I had not figured the shrinkage correctly.
Next I started adding in needle felt details. I added more definition to the distant tress, added a shoreline and added some lines in the water to simulate movement.
Then I stitched some grass in the foreground and stitched down the silk paper tree trunks.
I continued on with details. I added some paint to the tree trunks, I couched down branches and added leaf details with needle felting. I added hand stitching in front of the trunks and some leaf details for the lupine.
Here’s a close up so you can see a bit of the detail in the foreground.
Then I found I already had enough green fabric that worked to finish the piece. My client is getting it framed with barn wood, so this is how I delivered the piece. And the wonderful thing is that she loved it. I’m so happy it worked out the way that she wanted.
After I had retired from full time work in 2006 I was finally able to join SNADS – our local amateur dramatic society. I live in a small market town in Dorset and SNADS was the main source of entertainment for our area at that time (as it had been since 1930, although newspaper archives indicate that it was around at least as early as 1883). I had seen most of the productions which they had put on since we moved there in 1999 and longed to join in, not only on stage, but behind the scenes. During any one year there are at least 4 productions – Pantomime in February, Spring Play in May, a Variety Show/Revue in the summer and the Autumn play in early October, and as soon as that was over, the round started again with preparations for the following year’s Panto.
We had a fantastic wardrobe mistress, but she needed help with costumes, especially at Panto time as there was so much to do.
My first foray into costume was to make a full head cat mask for the summer review. Two of our members were to sing Rossini’s Cat Duet and the director decided that it would be fun to have a disreputable tom cat watching them from the side-lines. I had recently learned to wet felt 3D items using a resist, so I made the mask from wet felted pieces and needle felted details. I didn’t want the actor’s eyes to show through and anyway, I needed to give the cat it’s proper “slit” irises. So I stitched into the eye holes a piece of doubled yellow organza and just painted the vertical slit. (It is quite possible to see what’s going on through organza if it is held close to your face.) How to give him a proper nose? I needled the correct shaped nose on the mask, then I painted on some artist’s gesso, let it dry and added some more. Gesso is textured so it was necessary to file the nose to make it a bit smoother, also the gesso is white, so I painted the nose with black enamel paint which I nicked from my husband’s paint store (he’s a model maker). After a couple of coats of that, Tom had a shiny(ish) black nose. Add some “bitten” ears and “wonky” whiskers and he was nearly done. The cat’s mouth was open – it allowed the actor to breathe and gave Tom naughty grin. Finally I gave him a pink tongue and white tips to his ears.
The next production that I was involved in was the pantomime Cinderella, written and directed by one of our members. I was asked by the wardrobe mistress if I would dress both the Fairy (“Fairy Nuff”) and Buttons’ dog, Beau. The director wasn’t quite clear about what kind of dog Beau should be, except that he was to be comic. So I did a sort of 3D needle felt sketch of the dog’s head as I saw it – black and white with one ear cocked.
However I’d got it wrong – Beau was to be a black poodle.
After some discussion with the wardrobe mistress, we decided that the actor would wear a black polo necked top, thick black tights and black gloves. I managed to find a piece of curly black faux fur to make a short jacket, with enough left over to make pompon for the top of the head and the end of the tail, the long dangly ears and wrist and ankle rings to simulate the correct style poodle cut. I was to make a full head mask. For this I made a wet felt hood using a resist and a further piece of flat felt incorporating some of the curly faux fur trimmed from the bought fabric. A lot of that moulted out though because it was nylon or polyester and very slippery. Enough was fixed in however to give the right effect.
I made a needle felted muzzle – again with the mouth open to reveal the red tongue and white teeth, and to allow the actor to breathe. The nose I made in the same way as for the tom cat – shaped with the felting needle, gessoed and painted. The muzzle was attached to the hood/face with stitching and felting needles. Some of the flat felt was cut to represent the dog’s lips and attached by stitching and needle felting to the muzzle. The “Disney-esque” eyes were again painted organza and were stitched on the inside of the mask.
The ears and head pompon were also stitched on. I added a piece of brown fabric and a belt buckle around the dog’s throat to simulate a collar and allow the mask to be firmly secured over the actor’s polo necked top. I have worn this costume myself a couple of times in subsequent Carnival processions – great fun.
Since the actress cast for the part of Fairy Nuff had a figure which could easily cope with a glamourous costume, for the base I was given a basque that fitted her. She was to appear out of a compost heap at the edge of the stage, so I set to and made lots of autumn coloured leaf shapes – mainly oak – out of different brown bronze and gold metallic organzas. I sandwiched sparkly bits between layers of organza. I machined stitched around the edges and along the veins of each leaf and then cut out the shapes with a soldering iron. This sealed the edges and prevented fraying. Then, with the basque on a dressmaker’s dummy I attached large pieces of bronze organza for the tail, and then added the strategically placed leaves.
The wings were made from two lengths of flat wire (originally from a pop-up fabric laundry container) covered with more organza, this time creamy white but with sparkles and sequins added. These were attached to the back of the costume by stitching the wire to the shoulder straps of the basque and covering the join with some dark bronze/gold chiffon.
The crown was made from bronze Christmas decorations (that year bronze was in fashion over here – UK). I used bronze plastic icicles, some foil stars and some more organza leaves attached to a head band. I can’t remember what the wand tip was made from – possibly a bunch of tinsel.
I actually got a speaking part in this Panto – only a couple of lines but a step up from what I’d had before. I don’t have a proper photo, this was before my husband had a digital camera, however I’ve managed to extract a clip from the video we had made of the show. It’s a bit fuzzy if enlarged but I think you can get the gist. I’m in the gold dress with my exclusive “Toilet Duck” perfume, and my punchline? “It drives the men Quackers!”
After this show, we had one final “adult” Revue and then we moved to where we are now based. Try this link it should show you the hall we left, Sturminster Hall, and eventually the Community and Arts building, The Exchange, which is now our home. https://stur-exchange.co.uk/about/ Unfortunately it seems that a second link, on the above page, may not yet be working – this is a new website in the process of being fully set up so here’s the brochure which was produced the year after it opened.
The staircase balustrade is wrought iron made by a local craftsman and represents the river Stour which runs through our town. All the Rooms in The Exchange are named after rivers and streams running close by, and it is just beginning to open again to live theatre as well as community groups.
We at SNADS started off our return with an Adult Cabaret a couple of weeks ago, for once without a male Balloon Dance or a ladies Fan Dance, but there was a Pole Dance!
More about my exploits with SNADS (including an explanation of the picture of the wicked queen) later. Watch this space.
I’ve just taken down my work from a Made in Whitstable group exhibition at a local arts centre gallery so thought I’d tell you about the felt pieces I had in the exhibition.
Made in Whitstable is a loose affiliation of artists and makers who have a close connection to the town, on the coast in SE England.
With a diverse artistic group it’s not always easy to find a title that everyone is comfortable with. ‘Connections’ seemed to offer enough room for people to work with in their various styles and mediums.
This exhibition was postponed from Easter 2020 so it was great finally to get some work out there, and to catch up (albeit at a distance and in a mask) with people I haven’t seen for a long time.
As I’ve described in previous blogs, this year I’ve been learning from online workshops. I’ve long been interested in both seed heads and shells and these have both continued to feature in my recent work. Reflecting on this, I realise they are all forms of natural protective cases and although it’s not a snappy title, I decided it was a good ‘connections’ theme for me.
This is a picture I made specifically for the exhibition.
These photos show the oyster shells laid out, prefelt shells in a single sheet, then cut up and laid onto a background of white Norwegian batt (lower half) and tan Perendale batt (top half). There’s a recycled silk scarf laid over the tan batt layers to give the impression of a pebbled beach in the distance.
Layout for the turnstone, using a combination of merino wool and prefelt; fully felted turnstone and a trial with two birds. I decided to go for just one. I needle felted the turnstone into place then added the eye, beak, legs and a few feather details
I also made some smaller pictures along the shell & seed pod theme
Top left: mussel shell with recycled silk sea, cotton scrim wave foam and prefelt pebbles
Top right: Oyster shell with mixed wool and yarns and fabric barnacles on a recycled silk background
Bottom left: pink shell on a recycled silk beach with cotton scrim wave foam and mixed wool and silk fibre sea
Bottom centre: paper felt shell on recycled silk background
Bottom right: Corriedale, silk and yarn background with multiple-resist circles, hand stitching and a sycamore key
I also had various 3D shapes in the exhibition.
Left – based on a eucalyptus seed pod. I made this in a wonderful workshop by Gladys Paulus in November 2019. I covered that workshop in my first blog for the Felting and Fiber Forum. Various wool batts and mohair locks.
Top right – conker made in two parts (using the stem technique I learned from Gladys). Outer made from Perendale and Norwegian batts, inner is merino wool tops
Bottom right – based on a hazelnut, also made soon after Gladys’s workshop.
Here’s a poppy seed head I made this year after Fiona Duthie’s Fibre + Paper workshop. Mulberry paper is felted into the felt surface. The paper adds structure, folds and pleats well and can be drawn on / painted. I painted this with watercolours. I had to make the top separately so stitched it on. A local craftsman made the base; the pod is held on a piece of dowel attached to the base.
This nigella seed pod is also paper felt but made side-on with pre-felted ropes and thicker wool sections (not prefelted) to allow variable shrinkage (learned from Soosie Jobson). I had a reclaimed jarrah wood and dowel stand made for this.
And finally, I included a few plant holders and some earrings.
Here’s my display area – I did put the cards (bottom right) on a small table!
There were lots of good exhibitors. Here’s a small selection: top left fused glass by Irene Southon; middle left acrylics by Josephine Harvatt; bottom left watercolours by Sarah Louise Dunn showing local sites commissioned by Whitstable Museum to illustrate a map of the town; right, prints by Linda Karlsen. Work by Irene, Josephine, Sarah and Linda (Wearartworks) can all be found on social media like Instagram and Facebook. They and other exhibitors can also be found on Made in Whitstable’s Facebook and Instagram.
The footfall was rather disappointing and I would guess that sales were down on previous years, but it was really good to get some work out on show and to see what other people had been creating.
As shops, galleries and exhibitions start to reopen in England and I have quite a few sales & exhibitions coming up, I decided to make another picture based a local coastal bird. I’ve seen quite a few redshanks recently walking along the shoreline and haven’t done a redshank before so I think that would be interesting.
I start by making some prefelt for the back and tail feathers in a muted pewter and white tone, plus some firm felt I will use for the orange/red beak and legs. (I forgot to take a photo of these.)
I have a composition in mind and I make a quick sketch to get the shape, stance and size of the bird then lay out the bird’s body using a base of white merino tops and the prefelt feather shapes. There’s not much detail as I will needle felt this in later. I haven’t tried this before but I needle felt in some of the feather detail part way through wet felting then finish fulling the bird.
I’m not sure what I was thinking (if at all) as I’m not happy with the loopy-ness of the needle felting or the direction of some of the feathers. I park it for now and get on with the background. One of the many things I love about felting is that you can usually continue to work on it until you’re happy with the result.
Onto the background: I have bits and pieces of natural coloured prefelt that I cut into pebble shapes ready to form the beach. The redshanks I’ve seen recently have been walking close to the water’s edge, either in the water or on the pebbles. Thinking about the water experiments I did last year I lay out 2 layers of pewter-coloured merino for most of the picture with a white and rusty orange section where the wave and beach will sit. I put long strands of blue tops in two colours running horizontally to represent the light reflecting off the water. I leave a darker section near the top with some of the pewter wool laid at an angle as if there’s a small wave coming in there, though in the final picture you can’t see most of this because it’s behind the bird.
Next come the pebble pieces and finally the foreground wave, as it sits on top of both water and beach. I haven’t tried using mohair for wave crests before so I run a wiggle of mohair tops along the water’s edge and onto small sections of the sea as if small waves are cresting there. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the water in my local sea / estuary so I know the colours and shapes well. The water is often choppy like this with small waves.
I wet felt the background then try out the bird body to see how they’re going to fit.
I needle felt the redshank’s body onto the background then add the legs and beak which I’ve cut from the red/orange felt. Then I add the eye and fiddle for a while until I’m happy with the bird.
The finished picture is about 50-55 cm square and will go into an oak veneer box frame that’s 64 x 64 cm. I took this photo in the evening, with electric light, so it’s a bit less yellow in reality.
As I didn’t take a lot of progress photos for my Redshank, I thought I’d add a few other things I’ve made recently. Like my felting friend Antje (who posted here recently) I took Judit Pocs’ milkweed pod workshop on 1 & 2 May. I direct dyed some 18 mic merino tops and some fine ponge silk for my pod.
It was a good workshop and I’m happy with the result. I got my dye ratios wrong which resulted in a lot of bleeding and dyed hands but thankfully it’s not a wearable so it shouldn’t now be a problem. I hope to use this silk pleating technique in future projects.
I realise the colours are very similar to the ‘hippy trippy’ Corriedale bag I was making when I last posted. It’s still work in progress but I’ve done some additional ink work on some of the silk patches and am part way through adding some stitching. I’m now adding some french knots in the rectangle near the top left. This combines some of the techniques I learned in Terri Berry’s bag class with some from Fiona Duthie’s Ink + Cloth workshop and my new venture into direct dyeing (using the Felting & Fiber Studio tutorial).
Previous picture on the left, current on the right.
As part of Fiona Duthie’s Paper + Fibre workshop I made a lamp shade (actually a sleeve that fits over a lamp). It’s interesting how the paper sections are barely visible when the lamp is off. I think I will make more lamps when I have time.
Finally, I’m making some smaller pictures to take the little beach hut gallery in Whitstable Harbour where I often sell my work. I’m in there from next Wednesday for 2 weeks. I’ve wet felted some mussel shells and am making backgrounds to set them into small box frames (without glass). They’re about 19 x 19 cm. Here’s one that’s nearly ready to go. The background is nuno felted with recycled silk and old curved lace. I just have to decide where to stitch the shell. What do you think?
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 had a whole day of no work and no grandchildren last week so I got my picture done. Although this is a good thing, I discovered all those little people’s interruptions are actually good. I rather overdid it with the needling and have aggravated my tendonitis again. I need a better needling pad. the one I have is quite dense. It’s good for travelling as it’s light and it does last well but it is too dense to be poking into all day. I know not to poke way into the foam but when you’re doing a picture you always seem to go into it a little. I got several suggestions for alternatives. Jan had a nicer kneeling pad that I will look for not so dense but still lightweight. upholstery foam is popular and a new one to me was rice in a cloth bag. I may try this for home. I think it would be heavy to carry around. What do you use?
On to the picture.
When I put the rock shapes in I wasn’t very happy that the stuck up a lot from the wall so I wet felted it again. It looked much better, more subtle.
Next for the wall was some moss and some shadows
Next was some shadow to the bottom of the rocks and to the gate.
I added some sheep, I know you are all so surprised. I added the trees to the place markers and some vegetation to the foreground.
That looks ok but it is kind of bare on the top left and the vegetation is a little boring so I added some more trees, another sheep( you can’t have enough sheep) and some french knots for flowers on the vegetation.
I hope to get a better picture of the finished piece. The camera really doesn’t like the fuzzy white. the piece is 7 inches by 9 inches. It should have been 8 x 10 but when I refelted it I shrank more. it hadn’t originally been very felted because it’s a picture and didn’t need to be. Oh well, I will get a frame and Jan will help me cut a mat to the right size.
Zed wanted me to include her thanks to all of you for your generous support. Here’s what she had to say:
Ruth, Please could you pass on my sincere gratitude to everyone who made a donation or bought an e-book or tutorial to support me at this difficult time. I was absolutely blown away by the kindness and generosity of so many people.
I’ve had very little motivation to felt or be creative at all for many months, and whenever I did try, it felt ‘forced’ so wasn’t really enjoyable. As well as the generous donations, I also received many comments and messages which have made me feel very appreciated and cared for. In fact, they made such an impact that I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I’ve been feeling so much more positive. And although I haven’t had chance to do any felting yet, (but who has over the holidays!?) I feel like I have a renewed love for it, and have had lots of ideas for things to make and write about. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays, and I hope the new year brings great things for everyone. Thank you so much 🙂
Now on to my regularly scheduled post!
Every year on the forum, we do a holiday card exchange where members make fiber art cards to send to their assigned partner. It’s a lot of fun and you get a great small artwork from another member of your “tribe”. It’s always fun to see what everyone creates and the cards are always so different. You can see some of them here. You have to scroll down and go through all the pages to see all the cards that have been posted so far.
My partner this year was Antje. She is one of our regular contributors here and I correspond with her frequently so it was fun to send each other a card. Since I was working on the concept of using stuff up, I searched in my studio for felt that would work for a holiday card. I found some screen printed red and green felt.
The red pieces had almost berry like shapes and the green had pine needle shapes. Perfect! I just had small pieces so I cut and stitched them into strips and then sewed them all together. I butted up the edges and zigzag stitched them together. They were a bit wonky but I didn’t need perfection. Once I had a post card shaped red and green felt, I needed to add an element. So how about a tree? I found a piece of white felt and cut a fairly wonky tree shape.
Here’s the card after stitching around the edge of the tree to attach it to the background. I then found some star sequins and did a little French knot to hold each one down. I then fused the felt down to a regular white card blank.
Then I found a nice font on the computer, printed it in “matching” color and added a holiday greeting. I did add a little surprise inside but forgot to take a photo of that before I sent it off to Antje. It was a bit nerve racking because it took over three weeks to arrive. I sent a package of wool to Lyn on the same day and that was received in less than a week. But a card in a standard envelope took what seemed like forever. Just when I was thinking I would need to make another card to send, Antje received it. Yay!
Then, just after Christmas, I received a package from Antje, much bigger than a standard card. What could be in there?
She did send this lovely card which is gorgeous. Such an innovative way to depict a tree.
But then, I also got these three items. The birch bark piece on the left is wonderful and since I love trees, it is going to find a prominent place in my home. I love everything that Antje sent me and it was such fun finding these extra surprises. Thank you Antje!
We would love to have you join us next year with our holiday card exchange. Join our free forum so you’ll know when to sign up.
Some of you may know that as well as being a felter I have recently developed an interest in basketry. Given that I love making 3D vessels and sculptural felt, this is probably no great surprise!
My preferred method at the moment is random weaving, as I love the organic, freeform texture of this technique. After starting with cane, I moved on to work with paper yarn, which I like much better. I think my textile background has instilled a preference for softer materials! 😉
I can also dye the paper with indigo or other natural dyes, like this piece dyed with eucalyptus. And untwisting the ends of the paper produces some delicate feathery effects.
I had the idea of combining felting with random weaving after seeing a photo of a cape gooseberry.
I thought that if the orange fruit in the centre was made from felt, it would make an interesting contrast with the paper carapace. So I wove the paper case, leaving a hole at the top, and then inserted a small orange felt sphere and stitched the two together with very fine fishing line. I then finished the top with some twining and a little tassel.
I decided to develop this further into a submission for an exhibition with the theme of “fragility”. With widespread concern about the human effects on our fragile environment, I read that scientists at Kew Gardens estimate that one in five plant species are in danger of extinction due to activities such as intensive farming, deforestation and construction.
So the idea for my piece, called “One in Five”, was to make five stylised seeds combining felt and paper yarn, to represent the fragility of the environment in general as well as their own precarious existence.
The second pod I made was based on a sycamore seed. I needlefelted the two seeds first before wet felting them, and then wove the paper wings around them.
I used a similar technique for the third seed, which was based on a bean pod.
The fourth seed was slightly different – no random weaving was involved. Instead, I wrapped several strands of paper yarn together, feathered the separate ends, and covered the wrapped ends with felt to resemble a dandelion seed.
It was a bit tricky to felt around the paper without making it soggy and droopy. So I ended up applying some matt varnish to the paper to protect it before felting, which worked a treat.
The fifth and last seed was the most difficult. I wanted to make a spiky seed case, a bit like a chestnut, but it was tricky to work out how. I eventually made a random weave sphere and then looped short lengths of paper yarn all over it. I started feathering all the ends, but then decided that the overall effect was too much and that I should just feather a few randomly. So I had to reloop quite a few bits of yarn!
Having finished making the seeds, I had to decide on the best way to display them. They would obviously look better suspended rather than lying on a flat surface, but in one of the galleries where this exhibition will be displayed we cannot hang things from the ceiling.
One of the other advantages of felt and paper is that they are both very light materials – each of the seeds weighs only a few grams. So I thought I could somehow mount a branch on a wall and hang them from that.
I spent days looking for the perfect branch. Luckily, we’ve had a few blustery days recently, so there has been no shortage of branches, even on London pavements! I finally found one that’s not too heavy, is an interesting shape and has some lovely lichen.
So then it was off to a photographer friend, Owen Llewellyn, to take some pictures that would hopefully wow the selectors and persuade them to accept my submission. After experimenting with three different backdrops we finally went for a plain grey background, though there also some interesting experimental shadow pics!
Anyway, it clearly worked, as I have just heard that my submission has been accepted for the exhibition, which will be on display in London at the end of May and Birmingham in October. Phew!
I sent a card to my partner for the Christmas card on the forum. holiday-exchange-2017 She has it now so I can tell you all about making it.
First I went through my old felt bin to find a thickish piece of felt and cut out a tree shape. It’s a blueish green even if it doesn’t look like it.
I then cut out some red prefelt I had for the background. I did 2 layers for each of these. I did the extra on so if this didn’t turn out I could go with plan B.
Then I roughly cut out a tree shape form a silk scarf I got at the second hand store. I then layers the pieces and wet it all and trimmed the silk a little.
Even with 2 layers the prefelt is not very thick so I added red merino to cover the extra silk and make it thicker and more sturdy. I cut the wool to give it a nice straight edge to put up against the tree and give a nice clean line.
After that was done I flipped it over and wrapped the excess around to the back. I wanted to make sure the tree would stick to the finished felt so I did some poking with my felting needles.
This after the fulling. I blocked them to square them up. The blue colour of the tree came through the silk more than I wanted so I gave it a shave to bring the green back.
I went through my stash looking for some fuzzy gold yarn to use as tinsel but instead found this yarn with beads that I think looks like lights. I sewed it on and then added some shiny pony beads as Christmas balls and a star.
I thought it looked ok but lacking something. So I added some 3D sheep. I think they improve it and make it look finished.
I printed off a post card template from the internet and using fusible web ironed it to the back of the felt. I forgot to take a picture of that but I am sure you all know what the back of a postcard looks like. I like it and my exchange partner seemed to be very happy with it. No I just wait for Canada Post to decide to get mine to me. I am hopeful it will arrive before Christmas.