A wonderful 4-week holiday in Australia, Christmas markets and hosting lots of family visitors mean I’ve done very little news-worthy felt-making since my last Felting & Fiber Studio blog. ‘Production felting’ is my own term for making lots of similar things for shops and markets. I did a fair bit of this in November and December: mostly printed tea light holders, printed wool ‘pebbles’ and Christmas cards. These were my 2022 cards: handmade felt with hand-printing. I extracted the tree from a larger, royalty-free, public-domain image and added the heart before printing onto fine flat felt.
I sold these through various outlets and sent a small number myself.
I’ve enjoyed making felt ‘pebbles’ for some years. Since learning to print on felt from Lindsey Tyson, I’ve been able to adapt photos of some of my Mum’s watercolour paintings to print onto the pebbles.
Alas, I left the base alone for a long time during a pandemic lockdown and it was attacked by moths. In a way, being eaten by moths was rather fitting: lifecycles in real life, but the moth holes meant I ended up cutting it up to make bookmarks (after some very hot washing). I did, however, recently sell the tree stump on its own and it now lives in Canada.
Pondering future projects for the tree challenge: I have a very tall, beautifully coloured ‘silver dollar’ eucalyptus tree in my garden.
The eucalyptus tree has potential for lot of other projects, including maybe using the leaves for eco printing onto felt. Eco printing is something I’d like to try, though whether I will get round to it remains to be seen. I don’t recommend any breath-holding for this.
Contemplating Caterina’s quarter-one challenge of making something practical that you can’t buy: one of my favourites is this case I made for my iPad mini. Nuno-felted with sections of recycled sheer silk scarf.
I know you can buy iPad cases but I like that this one is unique and fits perfectly without any fasteners. Because it’s an exact fit, the iPad stays put until you need it, then slides out easily. It’s getting rather battered now as I carry it around all the time so maybe it’s time to make a new one.
Felted vases and plant pots are also both unique and practical. Here are a few. I like that you can co-ordinate them to your décor, or to a specific plant or flower, or just go for colours and patterns you like.
And finally, here’s something that meets both last year’s challenge to complete some UFOs (un-finished objects) and this quarter’s challenge to make something that you can’t buy.
Here’s a pair of earrings that I started making a while ago using hand-dyed 14.5 micron Merino wool. I incorporated the earring post into the felt and some black sequin fabric inside using resists. These were inspired by the work of Aniko Boros and Judit Pocs.
As you can see, I got quite a long way along, but while I finished fulling the one on the left, I stopped with the right-hand one in the pre-felt stage. I’m not completely sure why: probably it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But it surely can’t take more than about an hour to finish that one, so I’m promising myself here that I will complete that second earring. The world will be minus one small UFO.
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas about different ways of taking on the challenges. How are people getting on with them? If you make something in response to these or any of our previous challenges, please do post your photos on the forum. We all love to see and be inspired by what other people are making.
I had a few weeks of sales / exhibitions coming up and was rather low on felt pictures so I decided to go on a little picture-making binge.
First an oystercatcher. I’m particularly keen on square pictures but I know some people prefer rectangles, so last time I had a batch of box frames made for me by my friendly local framer, I ordered four large rectangular frames – two finished in oak & two white wood. (Frame size 84 x 64cm / 33 x 25”)
I’m afraid I didn’t take many ‘in progress’ shots of the oystercatcher. I’d wet felted the bird’s body a little while ago. I then wet felted the background to fit the frame using a variety of pebble-coloured prefelts for the foreground, some incorporating bits of recycled silk scarves. The waves are merino wool with lots of small locks and some sort of tube of knitted yarn designed for scarf-making that I’d picked up in a charity shop. The patches of sea foam are bits of cobweb prefelt and I also included some blue cobweb prefelt to suggest light reflected from the sky. These were added to two base layers of pewter-coloured merino with additions in green and mink.
I needle felted the bird into place then needle felted in the eye, beak and legs, using orange prefelt and hand-dyed fine merino wool.
I wasn’t sure what I’d put on the right-hand side of the picture. I’d considered a second oystercatcher with its back to the sea but there wasn’t really enough room. I live in Whitstable, in south east England – a town famous since Roman Empire times for its oysters – so thought oyster shells might work well for an oystercatcher. I wet felted a pair of 3D oyster shells using bits of different recycled wool and silk yarn on the outside and some pearl fibre from World of Wool on the inside. I like the pearl fibre as it adds a sheen and is presumably made from the insides of shells (i.e. mother-of-pearl) so it seemed appropriate.
I thought it needed another shell so cast about in my stock and found a wet felted mussel shell to add to the collection. I messed around with the composition a little then needle felted them into place before framing. I now use sticky backed hook strips (like the hook half of Velcro) when framing felt – the hook strip attaches to the mount board and the felt is held in place by the little hooks. The felt can easily be removed without damage or residue if I need to move it or someone decides to reframe it.
Next up I made a very lightly felted cobweb prefelt to use in the next three pictures.
When making cobweb felt I tease out a piece of wool roving rather than laying out separate tufts of wool in a single direction. This is part way through the teasing-out process. I prefelt it very lightly – in fact it’s scarcely more than wet wool – so I can stretch it out as I apply it to a picture.
I then started on Summer Sea. Again a pewter-coloured merino base but with lots of other colours applied in wisps on the surface.
Then a layer of blue cobweb prefelt topped with some white cobweb.
Here’s the final picture ready for framing. I’m happy with this, even though the wisps of colour aren’t quite as visible as I’d have liked. (64cm / 25” square)
Next picture is a single wave. I start with 4 layers of pewter merino for the sea area and two layers of natural white for the wave and beach. In the past I’ve forgotten to take into account how much extra material goes onto the wave and beach. If I have 2 layers for the whole of the base, the sea part shrinks a lot more than the rest.
First I added some lighter grey/blue merino on the sea alongside some strips of darker blue cobweb prefelt. Then some cobweb prefelt in front of the wave to suggest water from a previous wave. Next I layered on broken baby alpaca top, mohair, silk hankies, wool locks and wool burrs to create the wave itself. I’ve also put a few strands of silk on top of some of the background waves and the wet-look front area to create sea foam.
Here it is from the side so you can see how high that wave is piled!
And here is the final picture. I spent a while when it was dry picking up some of the wave elements with a broken felting needle to enhance the 3 dimensionality of the wave before framing it. (64cm / 25” square.)
4th and final picture was a smaller one (framed size 43cm / 17” square) called ‘Choppy Sea’. Base layout is pewter with highlights in green and mink, with sections of blue cobweb prefelt and silk hankies for wave tops.
Here it’s felted and dry, sitting on top of its frame waiting to go in.
Again, I’ve used a broken felting needle to tease up the silk hankies that make the wave edges to enhance the depth. And here is a view from a low angle to show the 3D.
So, that’s how I’ve been keeping myself busy recently.
To end with, a few shots of these pictures in situ in a gallery.
These pieces didn’t sell in this week-long exhibition but some older work did – which is a great result for me. I like to live a while with the new pictures so we get to know each other but prefer older things not to hang around for too long! However, the last week and a half I’ve been in the beach hut gallery in my local harbour and yesterday both the oystercatcher and the single wave found new homes, which made me do a couple of very happy ‘shop small’ dances.
If you sell your work do you also get that ‘I’m not ready to let it go’ versus – ‘ok, you need to find somewhere else to live’ feeling?
More work on the ocean sunset. I got a few orange locks from Bernadette. I believe they are mohair, but she can correct me in the comments if I am wrong. They were nice and shiny so they went with the silk well
The next thing to do was to wet felt it. I popped it into a large freezer bag and added a little water. I have never done this method before. Well, a little is relative, right? After getting it all wet I drained out the water so it wasn’t swimming. Then I pressed it and it was still floating so I squished more water out and drained it.
The silk kept moving, no matter how gentle I was, so it ended up a bit stringy and not all in the right place. I still like it but it needs some fiddling.
I got out a fine felting needle and started lifting and moving the silk and flattening the horizon. Horizons are not wavy except in high seas.
This is how far it is now.
I was thinking of a boat silhouette but I may go with a whale tail this time. maybe a bird floating nearby. I am not sure. It also needs some colours reflected in the water. I may add bits of silk or maybe some of the coloured sparkle powder. I may not wait for them. I am wondering if I should spray the picture with something if I use the powder. Maybe a spritz of hair spray? Has anyone done anything similar?
More waiting now. I did do another small fast project I will tell you about next time to give you a break and build suspense.
As soon as I saw what Lyn was setting as our next Challenge I thought “but I can’t do that”. I have always stumbled when trying to understand Design because, although I can see pattern in a lot of things, I fail entirely in translating what I see into my work. I am very literal in my thinking, and when I see abstract pieces (usually “modern” embroidery pieces) based on images of say, a broken brick, or the reflection in a window, or a rusty piece of metal, or a “fractal”, I think to myself “yes, very clever, but why?” and “what would I do with it?” and “I can’t see that on my wall” (and just occasionally “I wouldn’t give that house room!”). This is why I tend to make my pictures or 3D sculptures as realistic as I can.
I was going to just not bother with this Challenge, and then I remembered that some years ago I had attended a course on Design – I had forgotten all about it and it is relevant to this Challenge.
In August 2015 the Association of Guilds of Weavers Spinners & Dyers included in it’s week long residential Summer School syllabus a course by Alison Daykin – “Design for the Terrified” and I was lucky enough to be allocated a place – most courses were usually over-subscribed. Here is the introductory list of available courses from the brochure for you to drool over!
The course was described as offering “help to ‘painting and drawing challenged’ weavers, spinners, dyers, or other textile practitioners, in understanding Design and using this in their chosen medium”. The brochure went on to say: “This course will provide simple, but effective guidelines in design, without the student feeling overwhelmed by theory. The tutor will also leave plenty of room for participants to express themselves in their chosen medium.
“By the course end students will have at least one sketchbook and understand the basics of: colour studies; textural studies; shape; line/stripes.
“Students are encouraged to make samples appropriate to their own textile skills. They may choose to bring their loom or wheel with them, or to develop further sketchbooks if they prefer.”
Frankly this description of the course frightened the life out of me and I nearly didn’t apply, not least because I would be foregoing the chance to take the offered very interesting felt making course. (It’s headline description was “… an ‘adventure with fibres and fabrics’, combining colour, texture and layering to produce felted fabrics for decorative purposes or garments” and that was what I was most interested in at the time.) However after exchanging a few emails with Alison, and reading the three blogs which she sent out about the course I decided to bite the bullet. The first blog post puts emphasis on your “Inspiration” and resulted in a further flurry of emails with Alison, since I had no idea what it meant or what my “Inspiration” should be in this context. She basically said that I should pick a subject which I found really interesting. I was undecided whether to plump for trees, which seemed a very big subject, or sea shells – almost as big but of which I had recently started a collection. In the end I went with sea shells.
The second and third blog posts and a “round robin” email from Alison encouraged us to bring along as many different types of art media as we might be able to lay our hands on, including different types and colours of paper and “mark making” equipment. In addition we were asked to only bring one image of our inspiration, but as many copies of it as possible. (As I hadn’t been able to choose just one shell my image consisted of most of my collection, which also included sea urchin “skeletons”.) We would also need to take a notice board (if we hadn’t already made a mood board – “Er …. what’s one of them?”) so that we could pin up various bits and pieces as we went through the course. We would also need the equipment and materials required to make samples in our chosen technique. As I didn’t know which shell would be my inspiration the “materials” consisted of most of my stashes of fibres, fabric & yarns! I’m sure you’ve all heard of the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” – very apt, my poor car was groaning when I set off with all this stuff plus clothes etc., and I had yet to fit in the friend I was giving a lift to, plus all her stuff and her walking aid. (She was still a bit frail after an illness.)
The Summer School was based at Moreton Morrell Agricultural College in Warwickshire, where (after we got lost twice on the way) I met Alison and the rest of the class members. There were weavers, spinners, an embroiderer and a felt maker – me. Alison showed us her own work, and took us through her process for designing woven fabrics for specific purposes, showing us her mood boards and pictures of finished fabrics “in situ”. Here is a much abbreviated view of how she followed one inspiration from an image of ancient ruins to cloth samples.
She then started us off on our own design journey. Alison suggested to me that I should pick my favourite shell from the picture of my collection and make an enlarged drawing of the shell, both in monochrome and in colour and using different media. I had a go at this, although my drawing skills are minimal. This was before she had found that we would be able to have access to the college’s print facilities, where we could get photographs printed, and colour and monochrome photocopies made on a copier, which was capable of enlarging. We all made great use of this facility – zeroing in on just part of our inspiration image and having multiple copies made on different colour papers as well as plain white – which enabled us to speed up our progress through the stages of the design processes that Alison had mapped out for us.
One of the “tricks” which Alison showed us was to take two images, cut (or tear) them into strips (leaving one side of the paper still intact, and then to weave the two images. This did produce some interesting results.
We also cut strips across an image and used this to reference yarn (in my case fibre) wraps. Using this method enabled us to achieve a colour swatch giving combinations, quantities and placement of harmonious colours.
Once we had all played around with these ideas for a day, we were encouraged to get on and start creating samples in our chosen techniques, keeping in mind how we might use the finished work. As I was interested in making felt for clothing and accessories, I had brought with me copies of designs from specific sewing patterns and tried to pick the patterns that would best suit. I had by this time branched out to using as inspiration two different Sea Urchin skeletons, one Cone shell (and when no-one was looking I did a bit of crochet based on the end of a Conch type shell).
As you can see, I’m still leaning towards the literal/representational side of designing.
Alison also encouraged us to take our cameras and go out around the college grounds and look for more inspirations for design. At this stage we had all got used to looking beyond the obvious and came up with some unusual images. This was the one I chose to do something with – don’t ask me why – it’s just a picture of the wood surround (and my toes) to a raised flower bed outside the portacabin which was our workshop, where we all congregated for coffee, snacks and chat.
Being full of enthusiasm for the project, I cut down the photograph to a corner and then cut out the image of part of the surround.
which I then had enlarged and with several copies started to develop the design
This is the design I finally ended up with.
There are five versions in this picture, the basic design on top with four colour changes of the small “pops” of colour. And here is the jacket pattern and a tracing of the design.
The last day of the course was mainly taken up with visiting the rooms where the other courses had been taking place for a grand Show & Tell. To this end, we had packed up all our equipment and materials and set up our notice boards and work tables as displays of what we had been doing. Here are mine
And here are some of the displays of other class members’ work. Not all of them I’m afraid, I had camera shake by then so I’ve only included the less blurred ones.
The whole Summer School experience was great, with evening entertainments, a fashion show, a display of entries for the Certificate of Achievement “exams”, a traders’ market (I spent too much money as usual) and a trip to Stratford Upon Avon for a tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theatre with a chance to see some of their costumes “up close and personal”.
We inhabited a bubble, with little contact with the outside world. (There wasn’t even a signal for our mobile phones, short of climbing a hill and standing in the middle of the road.) A wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed revisiting it.
I am afraid that by the time I got home again I reverted to type and have not made any fabrics, felted or woven, from any of the designs. I just did what I usually end up doing after returning from a workshop – I put everything away and forgot about it! So I still don’t have a 2nd Quarter Challenge piece to show you; though as a result of writing this post and after seeing some of the pieces which FFS members have posted, I do feel better about the possibility of designing from random observations and images.
I am looking forward to seeing what the next quarter’s Challenge will be.
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.