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The Sheepish door

The Sheepish door

Preamble:

As you may have noticed Ann, Bernadette and I, all belong to the same local guild. The guild has both a studio and a classroom located in Heartwood house,  which is the umbrella organization that is Home to 22 Non-Profit & Charitable Organizations. The building we are now in was formally a Giant Tiger store with an attached strip mall and apartments above the mall.  Heartwood house purchased the building in 2012 and renovated space for each of the various groups. We all moved in at the end of the summer of 2013.  (It was a huge move for the library but that is another story.)

With covid, part of the time the building was closed and no groups could use their spaces. As lock-downs eased, a few people (masked) were allowed into the various spaces (the number depended on the size of the room).  We are one of the groups that have been hit hard by the restrictions. Ann and I with help from other members have been keeping the library books circulating (knock on the window and pick up your books by the side door) each month but the weavers have only started to work on the studio looms in the last couple of weeks. We have moved our Monday night socials to Zoom which is fabulous for the easy Commute but not quite as much fun as chatting in person.

Heartwood House has noticed that, with fewer people in the building, the groups are not interacting with each other as much as they would normally. They came up with a plan for festive door decorating and asked the groups to participate. They would bring Coffee and muffins or pizza for lunch to those that did add festiveness to their door.

At our December meeting, the Heartwood house liaison asked if anyone would be willing to decorate our door. I was going to be going in to work on the library anyways so figured it would be reasonable if I volunteered so no one needed to make a special trip in.

The instructions were to decorate the door, something festive. I wanted to represent the main interests within the guild so Weavers, Spinners and Felters (we have basket makers too but I did not have anything in the way of basket-making supplies to represent them. Sorry!!!)

I have never worked in a regular office environment or lived in a cubical world for work so I have never tried to decorate a door before (or a cubical). I had seen two other doors under construction, one was a fireplace with a Santa the other was an upside-down reindeer. Both used construction paper, card stock, stickers, and there was even a garland. The office for Heartwood house had a couple stocking up and looked like something else would be added later.

Scoping out the Neighbours, their doors in progress;

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I thought about it for a while and decided on sheep, with a star/comet. Maybe some snow? And some pine trees? As a composition, a door is a tall skinny vertical space. I like long horizontal compositions. Oh well, fewer trees and make it a taller tree. Let’s start on the star! Ann will recognize the cookie-cutter snowflake I used for the star shape.

a quick cookie-cutter shooting star!

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(Oh no! The book I was listening to ended so on to the next audiobook)

I used some of the World of Wool, core wool that I had hand-carded and really cheap felt from the dollar store. (This is not the even cheaper felt that may be made of coloured dryer-lint held together with cheap glue.) Other than being extremely thin, it wasn’t too bad to work with. I embedded it into the wool I was adding into the cookie-cutter from one side then the other. I used both the single 36T as well as the 3-needle handle that seems to hold T40’s in it. I focused on trying to get the edges firm but should have spent more time establishing the crispness of the edge shape. My poor little star is looking more like a flower.

OK, now let’s look at the sheep.  I kept to the same fibre, made a body, with handspun yarn legs, and felted feet. Hum….. needs a head.   I sculpted a head with ears and felting from the back and sides of the neck attached it to the body.  I like the head so much I made 2 more of them!

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Ok, we have the Felters represented!

At this point the plot of my book got distracting and there may have been a break for YouTube,  so I missed the photos of spinning woollen (I usually am a worsted or semi-worsted spinner) while hoping I could make Fluffy Yarn.

For the spinners, I made lengths of mostly lofty 2 ply which I sewed onto a cardboard shape for the sheep body. It was the inside of a Ritz cracker box and worked very well. Sewing the head on was a bit more challenging but I used a curved mattress needle into the center of the poor sheep’s neck and tied it on through the back of the cardboard. I think she turned out to be quite a nice sheep!

For the weavers, I considered a cast-off fragment of weaving I had salvaged from the studio fibre-garbage-bucket. However, it was blue linen and not white like the other sheep. I did not want the weaving sheep to feel ostracized from the flock. So back to the cardboard Ritz box and cut out another sheepish body shape. I had scored some loom waste (thrums) at some point over the last year or so. The warp is a similar colour to the wool I have been working with.  I wrapped and taped down on the back yarn over the sheepie shape on the diagonal. If I had done a square or rectangular sheep body it would have been much easier! But it would not look very sheepish.  I used a long blunt needle and wove through the warp I had just taped down. After the weaving was done I stabilized the edges and sewed on the head.

I used some of the 2 ply I had spun to make the legs and attached them at the back of each sheep. Now I was all set to head in and decorate the door, well except for a quick stop at Dollerama on the way in for a few more decorating options. (Please don’t be out of Cardstock!!)

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Yeah!!! There was cardstock, wrapping paper, glue, foam double-sided tape, wooden snowflakes! I also brought more wool, a foam pad, yarn, as well as thread and needles in case I needed them.

Our door

Now the door. With the depression for the window, I wanted to have the cardstock as a base layer.  I held up the first blue piece and liked the effect the edge of the door gave. It looked a bit like a matt.

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I had to do a bit of trimming so the door handle would fit!

Lise, one of the guild weavers, was in weaving and held up one of the wrapping papers I had selected for the sky. We both liked the effect with the blue background.

14 transparent wrapping paper over cardstock

Ok, I know what we are doing for the sky, now let’s look at the snow for the bottom half of the door. This would have gone a bit more smoothly with just one more hand but Lise had already finished up her weaving by then and had headed out. Oh well, I managed to get 3 hills in my snow.

15 snowflakes in the sky and snow on the ground

I opened the solid green paper and found Christmas trees on the inside….. well I guess I could just use that side and make a forest but the trees are a bit small.

16 Surprise! it’s not solid green on both sides

You can imagine my surprise when not only did my solid green have trees but the solid brown has a grid on the inside!

17 Oh my the brown paper isn’t brown on both sides either!

My idea was to make a pine tree-ish shape on the side and have the sheep beneath that. The brown was to be the bark and trunk of the tree. So I squished and folded it length-wise to give it a bit of 3D.

18 a bit of 3D in the trunk
19 background and tree started

It’s still looking a bit pathetic, better add more green bits. I did debate with myself if I should put the trees on the outside rather than the solid green.

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23 I need a few more embellishments!!! It must be more festive!!

Perfect!! Can you guess what I am making this time? I have the wooden snowflake, some fine wool yarn, a bit of wool and a T36 needle!

24 Ah! much more festive!!

Can you see where I put those festive items? No? Maybe a bit more close-up will help!

25 sheep in their festive attire!

Yes!! I made Festive sheep Bonnets or maybe they are hats? I will have to ask Ann what kind of festive sheep attire she has for her sheep. If she doesn’t have festive hats maybe we can start a new sheep fashion trend!!!

26 Festive Felt Sheep
27 Festive Spinning Sheep
28 Festive Weaving Sheep

Now I need a bit more bling, let’s add more of the wooden snowflakes

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While I have been setting this up, one of the Guys that works in the Heartwood house Office stopped by to check out how it was coming. He really liked the sheep but said I should put pillows at the bottom of the door in case anyone fell asleep while they counted our sheep! (These must be super strong sheep if they can put you to sleep with only a count of 3!!)

32 all done ready for tomorrow!

All done now off to home and back tomorrow to work on the library.

When I got in the next morning the snow had melted!! The sheep were in a pile at the base of the door! Now I see why we needed a pillow!! (for the sheep!) It must be the unseasonably warm weather that has made the snow unstable and melt. Change of plan, fix the door then work on the library!

33 the snow melted and I had to put it back on!!!

I think I got the middle snow hill upside down but it still looks good (I was rushing!! )

Our Neighbour’s doors

Here are some of the other groups’ doors

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I did get a small pizza for lunch (which was delicious) and got some work on the library done. There were a lot of people from the other groups throughout the day checking out each other’s doors. It was a fun event and I think they may do it again next year.

I still have more library work to do before the end of the month and hopefully some felting too! I hope all of you are having fun felting and are enjoying the festive season.

Theatre Textiles – Intermission

Theatre Textiles – Intermission

I had intended that the next Theatre Textiles post would be about the costumes which I had made for us once we had transferred to our new venue. However in the meantime I had started work on part of a costume for our next Pantomime – The Little Mermaid. No, not the Disney version, but even so the Director has decided that the Sea Witch will be part human/part octopus (to be named Iphelia – pronounced I-feel-ya, which gives an idea of how our pantos appeal to adults as well as children!) and I have been asked to dress her. Other than make the designs and collect fabrics and accessories matching the palette of purple and “sludge” green, there isn’t much I can do until the part is cast.

The piece of the costume that I have started on is the necklace which Iphelia will wear when she takes full human form for part of the panto. So I decided that I should keep detailed notes and photos of what I’m doing so that I could tell you about it.
I have designed her “human” costume so that it will have as many references to octopuses (octopi?) as possible. I was inspired by a necklace which I saw on the BBC News website (can’t remember what it was about though) and I did a quick screen clip which I added to my “costume ideas” folder. The necklace is, I think, of a snake about to devour a cabochon stone. I had also spotted, some time ago, part of a piece which appeared to be a tentacle holding a sphere. Nothing like an octopus but the stone made me think of an octopus “head”.

I thought that the tentacles could issue from behind a large stone and form the links to the rest of the necklace. Since the necklace will be worn with a top which is asymmetrical and therefore has an off centre neckline, I wanted a necklace which was also asymmetrical. This would mean that it would have to be very light so that it wouldn’t keep slipping round while it’s being worn. I knew that I could make felt look like something other than wool – I had made the horns for my highland cow from just felt, plus lots of PVA glue and a bit of graphite from a soft pencil, so I didn’t see why I couldn’t make the necklace in a similar way.

cow horns

I want the necklace to look like proper jewellery from a distance, that is a large cabochon for the head with bead eyes, with the tentacles smooth and shiny.
Let’s see if I can do it.

Equipment, materials and design ideas

I decided that the best way to make the tentacles bendable would be to use a wire armature and since I still have a quantity of craft pipe cleaners I went for them. I would use my core wools – scoured merino – and some coloured tops for the surface layer.

Starting the tentacles

I carded some scoured merino and wrapped 8 half lengths of pipe cleaner, leaving an end uncovered on each. Then I made an octopus head shaped “stone” from the core wool and covered it in deep purple merino tops.

First body

I wet felted the tentacles, smoothing them out as much as possible. While the tentacles were still wet I curled up 3 of them and fixed them with light wire to help them “remember” the curves when they had dried – at which point I lost the curled up ones. (I blame The Borrowers.) As a result I had to make three more tentacles and, since they were to be curled anyway and I needed them quickly, I just made wet felted cords which were curled up.

New Curls

By the time these were dried the Borrowers had obviously decided that they didn’t want the original curled tentacles as they had reappeared. I tried various positions of body and tentacles to see how the necklace might look.

mock up of layout

That was when I decided that the octopus body should not be purple but green, looking a bit like jade, and that the tentacles needed to be purple rather than the muddy green I had pulled out to use. So I stripped off the purple tops from the body and replaced it with more carded scoured merino. Then I wet felted it and gave it a good coating of PVA glue, and I also PVA’d the tentacles.

Colour change

When they had dried I got out the metal nail file and the emery board. A good filing with these smoothed out all the ridges and bumps caused by the hairy surface under the glue.
I gave them a couple of coats of Chinese Evergreen acrylic paint on the body, and of Mulberry Cream on the tentacles. These were “match pot” paints which I had acquired from a local DIY store. I find that decorating acrylic paint samples are very useful, since they have very good coverage and a fantastic range of colours. When I have a project like this, I visit and select from as many of the local(ish) stores as I can as they usually all carry a different range and therefore different colour choices.

When the paint had dried I decided that I would give the tentacles a coat of metallic purple paint (which I had acquired some time ago from a branch of The Range’s artists supplies). If it turned out the way I hoped it should look a bit like enamelling. I liked the result and, with the addition of a coat or two of clear nail varnish, it could be said to resemble enamel.

More Paint and Nail Varnish

I thought that the “jade” body stone might look good with a little purple “marbling” so added a few fine lines of a lilac coloured acrylic match paint, rubbed it a bit with my thumb and then varnished that too.
Then I filed, painted and varnished the curled tentacles. Since I needed to have only two tentacles reaching up to each side of Iphelia’s neck, the rest would need to be curled around elsewhere. I thought that they could be grasping smaller pieces of “jade”, so I painted some wooden beads green and varnished those too. Having shaped the tentacles as I thought might be best, I gave everything another varnish.

When the varnish had dried I fitted the, now green, beads in the curled tentacles and stitched them in where necessary. One of them actually fitted over the tip of the tentacle and didn’t need stitching. I gave those tentacles a further final varnish to fix the beads firmly.
It then occurred to me that to make the tentacles look more like jewellery I could make use of some of the jewellery findings which I had accumulated. I found some cord tips and, having added them to the ends of the tentacles without beads, painted them with an iridescent nail varnish since their “silver” colour had deteriorated to dull grey.

Varnished parts and Tentacles before brightening the cord tips

As I was about to assemble the octopus I realised that it hadn’t got any eyes and, although it is possible to sew through the painted and varnished surface, I decided that I didn’t want to risk poking a needle through in the wrong place. I needed to glue something down, but I’ve learned not to trust glue on stage. It always lets go just at the wrong time. Belt and braces are best!. I remembered then that I had acquired some glitter glue some time ago and having turned it out (eventually)I decided to just use blobs of it as the eyes. If they came off I doubted it would be noticed. I also decided that a “setting” was needed for the “cabochon” so I added a little braid which was painted and varnished.

Next I had to find a piece of the right green ribbon which I would permanently attach to one side of the necklace, and with a hook on the other end which could latch round the opposite side. Since the necklace would need to be removed quickly during the quick change which the actor would have, I would need to find a fastening that wasn’t fiddly. I had some furrier’s hooks and eyes, which are large and wrapped with yarn. I used a hook which I painted with the Chinese Evergreen acrylic and stitched that to the other end of the ribbon. And we were done.

Here is the finished piece. Hopefully in due course you will see it worn by the actor in costume.

Finished necklace

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!!

Well it’s definitely that time of  the year, when are lot of us are all getting into the holiday spirit.   I’ve been making some needle felted gnomes and Santas, which have proved quite popular.  As I was making five Santas for my cousin Debbie, I thought I would share them with you.  Alex and I got into the Christmas spirit last year with Alex’s wet-felted Santa stocking so we thought it would be good to keep up the Santa tradition!

 

They are quite easy to make, but a word of warning….  KEEP THEM AWAY FROM CATS!!!!!!!!!!!!  To say I’ve had a few disasters would be an understatement.  Twice Elliot has managed somehow to get his paws on them and he managed to completely destroy one Santa and had me running around trying to catch the marauding feline, as he darted under the sofas, tables and anything else he could see in a bid to keep hold of his spoils.  To see him speeding through the house with a gnome in his jaws, looking like he’d caught the prize mouse was quite a sight.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I hadn’t already provided him with a range of felted mice to keep him entertained in the hopes he would leave my felting projects alone!! But unfortunately, one poor Santa has been completely stripped bare of his beautiful red coat and his beard, not to mention the state on the rest of him!  I still can’t believe this Ninja cat managed to get his paws on them, considering they were in a sealed bag, up on top of the highest of my stacked felt supply plastic boxes, literally 9″ from my ceiling!!  At this rate, I’m going to have to put them in a padlocked box!

I just had to share this….

RIP Santa!

And here is the culprit…..

You may recognise his mug shot from his last felting crime!

 

Anyway, back to the main topic for discussion, the needle felted Santa!  I used some off-white core wool to make the body.  It’s very narrow as you can see, so I had to roll it very tightly to make the body,  For the life of me I can’t remember what wool it is I’m sorry, other that to remember it was a batch of core wool I bought last year.  But it works really well for this kind of project, and it felts quite nicely into quite a firm ‘body’.

  Core Wool

Santa’s body

I made the body about 5 1/2″ long – but you can make them as big or small as you like.  I don’t tend to weigh the wool as I just ‘go with the flow’ but I would suggest that if you have to make a batch that are all the same size, you would need to be more precise with the quantities you use.   I like to firm up the underneath/bottom of the body, so that he will stand up on his own.  We can’t have Santa looking like he’s had one to many Sherries can we!!

Once I have the body made, I start on the hat.  I like to be quite ‘freehand’ with the hats as well as the coats!  Again I haven’t weighed anything, I just like to guess my way through the process.  I find that because I have such a busy life, it’s nice sometimes not to worry about being precise about things (as you can see!)  The great  thing I have found about needle felting, is that it is easy to add extra wool when you haven’t put enough or when you find a thin spot!

 

I literally just lay out a piece of wool batt roughly the size to fit around his head!  Then I get started felting!

I like to use a multi tool, as it felts quite quickly.

Then I start to wrap the wool around Santa’s head..

As you can see, there is a little white poking through, but this didn’t matter as I was able to fold the wool down over that part of his head, to make the tip of the hat.  I continued needle felting it into a rough shape that resembles a lop-sided bobble hat.

Here I’m starting to felt the tip of the hat into shape…

Once I’m happy with the shape of the hat, I felt it so the tip drapes down the side of the hat.  That way, I can attach a nice bobble on the bottom, using a small ball of the core wool again.  (I forgot to take a photo of me doing this bit!)

                     

The next step is to give him a nose.  I use the same process as for the bobble, using skin coloured wool batt, and folding it tightly upon itself, to form a tubular ball.  I needle felt it until it holds its shape, before attaching it to Santa.

It’s quite a large nose!

To attach it, I like to poke through where the nostrils would be – that way, you can get it securely attached and create nostrils at the same time!

The last step is to make his cloak.  Like the hat, I was very laid back about the whole process, so didn’t weigh the wool and guesstimated the amount I’d need (not helpful I know but sometimes it’s so nice just to play with the wool and let it find its course!)

 

 

  Apologies for the blurry image!

As you can see, I felt away until I have a rough size that will wrap around Santa’s body.

The next step is to firm up the bottom of the cloak, wrap it around Santa and start giving his cloak a fur trim (enter the core wool again, which is great for this!)….

         

As you can see, I start the fur trim before I wrap the cloak fully around him – it’s easier to tuck in the loose ends of wool that way.

  I work the trim all the way around the cloak, and finally add trim around his hat.  It’s important not to ‘over-felt’ the trim, because you want it to look like fur rather than felt.

 

The final step is to attach his beard.  For this I’ve used some lovely off-white locks.  They look great as a beard.  I attached them by needle-felting them in underneath his snout! That way, they can be firmly attached but still free-flowing.

We hope you like our Santa…

Merry Christmas to you all, may you be blessed with a a wonderful, happy and healthy 2022.

Best wishes, from Lisa, Alex and our Christmas friends xxx

P.S. The gnomes are just as easy to make, using the same method as for Santa!

 

 

Back to Dragon’s Wings

Back to Dragon’s Wings

I must make design decisions for Dragons wings.

I considered the aerodynamic properties of creatures who are propelled by Magic or possibly a lot of hot air. Should the wing be thicker to trap more air thus giving him better lift with air displacement? Alternatively, would thicker wings add too much weight and should I look at a thinner more gossamer wing structure to keep his overall weight down?  He has those industrial strength hands and feet so maybe not adding more to his overall weight would be preferable.

Bumblebees, dragonfly’s or hummingbirds, all of whom have delicate wings compared to their body use increased beats per second of those wings to overcome gravity.  Dragon also has the option of magic and possibly hot air so he should be fine with the finer wing structure.

How am I going to achieve this “light” wing structure?

I had Dragon preen his wings until he was pleased with them. Then he reclined with his wings on a piece of paper. I traced the shape of each of the wings (I think he may be ticklish) on the paper. This gave me a template to lay out fibre for the web of the wing.

1) Wing armature tracings

If I had wanted to wet felt the wings I would have transferred the outline to a clear plastic or overlay a clear plastic over the paper. (I have a couple of transparent plastic duo-tang covers that would work and lots of permanent waterproof markers.) As you likely have noticed, I am not fond of unnecessary wetness so decided to continue working dry.

I mixed thin layers of wool and silk. Adding fibre, I was focusing on the bony side of the wing and thinner on the trailing web side. I lightly rubbed the fibre, to start the felting process, then moved it to the foam working surface.

2) layout of fibre over the template

3)  transferred to the felting mat.

I started by tacking the wool along the front (bony) edge then used the fake clover tool to consolidate the web part of the wing.

4) using the fake clover tool to make the thin felt webbing.

It looked a bit thick to start but it flattened down quite a bit. I checked the length of the wing and found it had expanded slightly as I had felted it. I worked with a single needle almost horizontally pushing the fibre from the outside to shrink the leading edge to fit his wing length.

I placed the wing armature, which I had wrapped in wool, on top of the web so that the wing armature will be below the web on the wing. This gave me two ways I can attach the wing web to the armature, first, using a single needle to the leading edge,  then continuing attaching down the ribs. Then laying wisps of wool across the ribs and felted that into both the web and the rib. I had a bit of extra fibre at the leading edge, which I wrapped over and attached it to the armature and leading edge of the web. After working from the underside of the wing I repositioned Dragon then worked from the top side of the wing.

5) The underside of the wing. Attaching whips over the ribs and working on the leading edge of the wing.

6) First wing is done and now on to the second wing.

7) Second wing, “Dragon, Lie down and relax, try not to move!”

8) Second wing detail

Working the web onto the wool wrapped armature, I was using the single needle to shrink the length a bit more as I attached the second wing web.

9) Dragon showed off his New wings

10) Snoozing comfortably in his project box ready for his trip home.

Back in Ottawa, I added a bit more silk to the wings then started to work on the crest. I had made the crest with Corriedale and added small wisps of silk to either side of the crest. The silk roving I am using has blues into blue-purple.  I used some of the blue-purple above the hips but found it quite jarring so have removed it at this point and may revisit adding the purple closer to the final top layer. I still have more work to do adding more highlights in both the Corriedale and the silk or silk blended with Corriedale.

11) Yawn and stretch of the wings, maybe a bigger project box would be better, but at least he has a bag of silk as a pillow.

He is showing off his fine wings and the beginnings of his crest. He still needs eyes and a few more details to be added. Here is his photoshoot showing off the progress so far.

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 12-20 Dragon shows off his wings and progress on his crest

I still have quite a bit to do but Dragon is enjoying his new wings and the pillow of silk fibre in his project box!  I hope I will be able to add more detail but I think the rest of this month may be very busy. (I heard a rumour X-mass is only weeks away!!! I am hoping for a second opinion!!)

Have fun and keep felting!!

A bit of this and that

A bit of this and that

‘Tis the season to show off trees! I’m no exception, so here is my contribution.

A few years ago I had the idea of creating a portable Christmas decoration to sell in my shop. I wanted something small, cute and as eco-friendly as possible. The solution? Needle felted mini trees.

The trees

Needle felted miniature Christmas trees by Eleanor Shadow

I think they’re rather fun, even if I do say so myself. The colours are bright and who doesn’t like miniatures?

Each tree has a wire frame to ensure stability. I needle felt the the larger components (tree trunk, copse and base) around the wire and the rest is made separately and stitched onto the main part.

It’s quite fun to felt the baubles, I used to take small amounts of differently coloured wool with me to doctor appointments and such and, whilst waiting, I could get 4-5 balls created. It was also a great conversation starter.

To finish things off nicely, I glue the whole ensemble onto a sturdy piece of locally sourced wool disc and, as they say, Bob’s you uncle.

They’ve been quite the success this year, I’m down to the last one at the time of writing!

Wreathes

Another holiday idea was to create a wreath that could be used over and over again. Have I mentioned I like reusable, eco-friendly things? 🙂

I had some needle felting foam that I regretted buying. It wasn’t the best quality foam and I found out I hated using them, so they’d been languishing in my stash for a couple of years. I didn’t want to throw it away. One day it dawned on me: I could cut and use them for something else.

Needle felted Christmas wreath by Eleanor Shadow. It has a donut shape with felted balls and a red ribbon wrapped around it. It has a green ribbon bow at the top.

I love these wreathes and each year I look forward to hanging mine in my front door. They’re not huge because I had to take the foam’s original size into consideration but isn’t it cute?

Sewing

It wouldn’t be a post written by me without some sewing fun. I felt brave and bought some jersey knit fabric to make a Stasia dress by Sew Liberated. You might know a lot of sewers avoid jersey due to its stretchy nature. My previous experience hadn’t been the best but this time I was determined to succeed.

Fun fact: despite my determination, for some reason I didn’t make a mock version of the dress beforehand. I just moved on ahead directly to cutting the good fabric!

The consequence of this is that my sleeves ended up a bit shorter than I’d wanted, so I think I’m going to cut them and create a ¾ sleeve instead.

Eleanor Shadow shows off her Stasia dress in yellow jersey fabric.

Can you tell I’m so happy with the result? The black dots and stripes on the fabric are just so cute to me. My poor mother still wonders how I ended up going from wearing just black to being obsessed with mustard yellow, but here we are.

Yellow Stasia dress. Pattern by Sew Liberated, made by Eleanor Shadow.

That’s it for today. Can you believe it’s already December? This is my last post for the year, so I wish you a great New Year, filled with fibre and other fun stuff. See you in 2022.

Needles and Their Uses

Needles and Their Uses

Comment: Hello! I am a beginner who just started 2D needle felting, and I have a few questions that I wanted to ask. When do we use each type of felting needle and what kind of design works best for each type? Also, are there any tips on how to felt yarn (especially for single strands that are used to outline shapes) so that the yarn doesn’t split? I’ve been having some trouble with the yarn splitting into thin fibers and not staying properly on the fabric. Thank you so much!”

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Needles and their uses.

This week a question was passed on to me about felting needles. The question was from someone who has recently discovered the wonders of 2D picture felting in wool. In the first part of her question, She wanted to know what each needle was best used for and when to use them. Needles are a Huge topic and not just a quick email so I thought maybe I better do a blog post since there may be more questions about needles out there.  I am not an expert but as you know I love to research and this is one of the topics I have investigated before and I keep returning to.

So, first, let’s Welcome this new felter to the amazing world of fibre! I am sure you will find it as fun and addictive as I have!  if you have more questions, yes I will likely inspire more questions, please ask. Don’t be afraid to jump in and experiment you may find something absolutely wonderful and will be able to share it with the rest of us. Now back to your questions.

Instead of thinking about what each needle does best individually, we may have more success if we think of needles on a sliding scale of how much fibre each style of needle will move or how aggressive it is in moving it. I will chat about that in a moment. Like wet felting tools, which are often repurposed for our use, our needles were not originally designed to be used by hand.  Let’s look at where our needles come from and what they were meant for originally.

Where our tools came from

 1) Andritz – needle board

 2) Groz-Beckert – needle board

What we are using are actually industrial needles meant to go into industrial felting machines. There are two main ways to make industrial felt; one is with steam and agitation and in the second the fibre stays dry and the industrial felting needles are used.

The industrial machines make (non-woven) fabrics used in car interiors, acoustics (sound dampening), padding, landscaping cloth and other uses. I had read that the first needle felting machine was patented in 1857 but I remember seeing a picture of a needle patent from the end of the 1800’s, that isn’t too important for us just that the needles were originally designed to fit into the beds (boards) holding hundreds of needles which would be raised and lowered into the fibre passing through the machine.

The German Company Groz-Beckert claims to make over 2000 Needle variations for different applications and the machine used. These are changes in the barb placement and/or barb type, length and size or gauge of needle and the shape of the working part. Groz-Beckert is not the only company making needles although they make very nice needles. I have also used needles by a company called Doer sold out of China. I can’t seem to get much info on them but so far the needles I have ordered have been fine. (Be careful if you are ordering needles online and they are described as “short, medium and long”, you may get all the same gauge just in different lengths!)

For us, it’s the needle that is important, not the machines that hold them so I will try not to get off on a tangent.  All needles have common elements with some variations. Let’s start by looking at the common features of Felting needles.

 3) parts of a felting needle

The crank – the 90degree bend at the top of the needle. It seats it in the bed/board of the machine. It’s used in some holders to keep the needle stabilized but at least one holder requires it to be cut off. (Not so easy to cut needles so I did not buy a second of those holders.)

The Shank, the tapers (either one or two) and sometimes an Intermediate section are all parts that are important to the various machines that the needles are designed to fit in. For us, it’s a place to hold onto or stick in a holder.

 

The working part has a number of variations which will change the type of non-woven fabric the needle makes commercially. This is the part that as a hand needle felter we are more concerned with.  It can be divided into the cross-section shape, the placement, number and shape of the notches (barbs).

Shape – Originally, the triangle shaped needle was what was most commonly available.  Over quite a number of years we have many more types available, as re-sellers and felters became aware of the options in the industry.

Triangle – (3 sides) most common needle and use for both pictures and sculpture.  This is a good basic needle and can be used in most applications. They tend to be a bit less expensive than some of the newer needles that have been more recently introduced.

Star(Cross STAR) – 4 sides – will move more fibre faster since it has one more side than a triangle.

Tri-star  – 3 sides with an indented triangle cross-section.

Eco Star.  – 3 sided. With a profile of an indented and rounded triangular side. Both of these 3 sided stars are said to have less resistance upon entering the felt. I have not noticed a difference but I am not working with hundreds of needles at a time.

Twisted (triangle shape). The blade is twisted, it does not twist as you poke the wool. The advantage is that the barbs are dispersed more evenly around the needle, which engages fibres more evenly adjacent to it.

Crown needles are usually found in finer gauges and are used for detail work.  The barbs are only on one level and are placed near the tip of the needle. You don’t have to stab deeply since the barbs engage soon after the point enters the felt.

Fork needle – these are in a group called Structuring needles and are used in industry to make ribbing or as part of the process to make velour textures. These are just starting to appear and I have not tried them. I will look forward to seeing one in person and seeing what it can do. (I will let you know if I find one to investigate in person.)

Reverse needle – this needle has the barbs positioned in the opposite direction to the other needles. As you poke the needle into the felt nothing seems to change, as you pull the needle out, some of the underlayer (whatever depth the barbs are at) will be grabbed and pulled to the surface. This will create a surface nap or it can be used to blend the transitions between colour changes. The nap created can be reduced by using a regular barbed needle to smooth it.

Conical needles which have a tapered working part. I have only just received this style of needle and have not yet had a chance to investigate it. I am suspecting this will be a good finishing needle if used with the needle making only shallow contact with the felt. Or as a go-to needle if I am trying to increase the stiffness of the felt in a delicate area of a sculpture.

Ones we do not yet see out of industry are:

Vario barb needle Graduated barb size per edge: The closer to the point, the smaller the barb

Teardrop working part – this one has barbs only on one side and there are usually 4-8 of them. This one might be of use to hand needle felters but I have not seen it available yet.  It may be worth investigating if it appears. This one will depend on how much surface distortion (that pitting effect) the rest of the body shape of the needle makes.

 

Barb” (ok it’s more notch shaped but if the industry is calling it a barb then it’s a barb). This is where a lot of our needle re-sellers are not giving us all the info. There are 4 different barb styles from the German Needle manufacturer alone. Each has unique features, which will affect how the wool is grabbed and pulled into the felt. Some barb shapes are more aggressive.  Some are designed for longer wear in the machines (not quite as important to us since we don’t poke our work millions of times…. well I don’t think I do.  I never actually stopped and counted…. Maybe I should some time… no, maybe not.) Some barb shapes are designed to be gentle on the ground fibres. I have found that the needles I get from different re-sellers, in the same shape and in the same gauge, can still vary in aggression.  Which suggests the needles have a different barb on them. I would like to know so I could request a 40 or 42 with a slightly more aggressive barb when I get the feeling they just don’t have enough enthusiasm sometimes.

4) parts of the barb or notch.

The number of barbs per side is also an issue. Each side may have 1 (as in a crown needle) or up to 3 barbs per side.  On the end of a box of needles, you will see as part of the code 111, 222, or 333, denotes how many barbs are on each face of the needle. Again 3 barbs per side will move more fibre than 2 or 1 per side. Having more sides will also increase the amount of fibre the needle engages with.

 5) boxes of Doer Needles T32’s, T36’s and Crown40’s.

By now you may suspect I have a bias towards the 333’s but It’s not just all about speed and how fast you move fiber.  Sometimes you want to isolate just a few fibres and get them to sit exactly where you want, so a 222 or a crown (111) may be just the needle for you.

The last barb consideration is their spacing on the working part. Look at your needle and recognize that you are moving fibre only where the barbs are. So barbs close to the tip do not have to be plunged deep within the piece to work you only have to go in a bit to entangle the fibres. This is often helpful for people with muscle strain from over enthusiastic stabbing.

Finally, we have reached the end of the needle and gotten to the point (literally) which commercially also has a number of options depending on the required non-woven fabric being made. There are conical-shaped points, tapering points, rounded points and chisel points. What we usually want is something that will pierce the work entangling but not breaking fibres. So far, all the re-seller’s needles I have come across have been fine.

I did a few quick checks online as I was putting this blog post together.  I spotted that the new Surface coatings for needles that had been hinted at a couple of years ago in the industry are now listed as being manufactured. Most of the coatings are to increase the life of the needles in the machines (make them more hard wearing) but some are now listed for use with other fibres (non-wool) and others to expand the Geotextile line.

Needles come in different overall lengths.  This is very important to the machines they are to fit in and can be important to us if we have certain needle holders like the clover tool with a guard or the fake clover tool copy. If you are using an open ended holder (no guard to be shorter than) or using your fingers this is not too important.  Unless you find one length less comfortable than another one.

 

Our last variable with needles is a very important one to us, their Gauge:

6-7) here are two ways to visualize the gauges of needles

Needles come in a number of gauges.  Like wire, the smaller the number (32 gauge) the larger the needle is. So a 40ga is much finer than a 32ga.  Industrially speaking, there is a much wider range of gauges than we usually find for hand needle felting. Commercially I have seen from 16 to 46ga but we tend to use a smaller range (36-42).

32’s would be used for coarse wool or moving a large amount of fibre quickly. It is good for attaching a limb to the body but it will leave a more noticeable surface dent than a needle that is finer. (Think dents in a grapefruit or orange skin!) This is not a needle commonly use in picture felting since it creates surface distortion. You might use it in quickly tacking together a base for your picture but you would likely move to something finer very quickly.

36’s are also good for moving fibre quickly and leave less of a dent than a 32. I use a 36 frequently in the under layers for sculptures and laying in larger base layers of colour in a picture. (I will switch to a finer needle to add more superficial layers of colour over this layer)

38’s are a little less aggressive but also is less distortion of the surface. I use these for both sculpture and pictures. These are good for working on a bit more detailed sections as well as laying in layers of colour. I have used these to work finished details but most picture felters I have chatted with tend to go to finer gauges for finishing details.

40’s are finer still and move less fibre than the larger needles (remember gauges are backwards, with little numbers being bigger sizes) these are good for pictures and for fine details. They are not as fast as working with the larger gauges.

42’s are now getting quite common, they are finer than the 40’s and have even less distortion of the surface. They again will take longer to move fibre than the larger needles. Using them in a multi-needle holder may improve your speed if you are just firming up an area and is an option if you are working 2D.  I did a review of some of the different holders I have collected earlier this year (it’s all been a bit of a blur) I would suggest looking at the clover or fake clover tool with the guard and the metal bar needle holder from the Woolery for picture felting and painting with wool. Both are very helpful.

8) The Woolley’s 10 needle mettle bar tool

9) the fake clover tool (the really clover tool is green)

Usually, you buy needles by their gauge, depending on what you are going to work on and then fine-tune that by the shape. You may also consider the number of barbs to make the needle more aggressive or less, again depending on what you want it to do.  You will also likely find you tend to favour and use a couple of your needle options predominantly but its still helpful to have a good selection for the occasional time that a different needle would just be perfect!

Some needles are colour coded by the re-seller. This makes it easy to see what you’re working with. Or you can mark the edge of your working surface and store different gauges in different spots. Most of my needles are not marked.  I can tell if it is a finer or larger needle by looking at it or carefully running my finger over the working part and feeling it. If I am not sure, I tend to poke my project somewhere discreet and out of the way. The feel of the needle entering the felt will tell you if you have the correct one.

(Needle palpation– how to feel through your needle)

-did it feel like it grabbed a lot of fibre? Was there a lot of resistance to enter the felt?  Are there large surface dents and you want to do finishing details? Then you may want to try a finer needle.

– did you poke the felt but nothing seemed to happen? Have you been poking the same spot but you don’t seem to be getting anything to stick? Time to move to a heavier gauge

– did the needle break? (and it wasn’t because you changed direction from entering to exiting) Try a finer needle. As you felt the density of the felt increases and shifting to a finer gauge will help let you keep felting if you need to make the felt denser. Some felters do not felt that firmly and this is not a problem they would likely encounter.   Although it is VERY important to make felt that is appropriate to the use it will be put. This means both using a fibre that is appropriate to the use, and felting to a density that will withstand the intended purpose. As an example, Merino, while lovely and soft, will not wear as well if made into slippers.  Finn fibre would be stronger and the slipper made with it would be longer lasting. If you only lightly felt the slippers, they will also not last as long as more densely felted ones. For pictures, if you are framing them behind glass (I want to talk about that at some point) you don’t need the density that a 3D sculptural figure would. If you do not want to have glass your felt must be able to withstand dusting or even the horrors of a possible vacuuming (don’t trust someone won’t try that after you sell your work!).

If you are working on finishing details and you are pretty sure the 40-42 gauge is correct but it’s still not quite feeling right, try a different working part shape.  The stars are more aggressive than the triangles, the twisted will affect fibre more evenly around the needle. If you want to focus on the surface then a crown might be right.  The other advantage to the crown needles is not having to push them too deeply to entangle the fibres. (Less deep poking can equal fewer muscle complaints – maybe I should have another chat about ergonomics? Or maybe Ruth can give us some tips!) If you have switched from a triangle to a different working part shape but still want to increase the amount of fibre you are engaging with the needle, you may want to then consider looking at more barbs per side or fewer if you require a more delicate touch.

So it wasn’t quite as simple a question as it looked. My suggestion is to get a sample pack of needles from one of the re-sellers. Check your local fibre sources and felting supply stores first, then look farther afield like Etsy or Amazon. Look for a pack that has a couple of each of the main needle gauges in a few different shapes. You will likely have a few of the 222’s and 333’s in the collection so you can get an idea of how that affects the needles.  Most of the re-sellers now are colour coding their needles so you can see what is working best for you and order more.  If you have un-coloured needles you can make your own colour code using Nail polish, tool coating dip, permanent coloured markers or spray paint for mettle (just don’t get any of that on the working parts!!)

10) a few of the needles sets I have collected. Fibre Craft had full sets similar to Olive Sparrow’s sets but I seem to have used them.

Another tip is Instead of stabbing frantically, slow down and feel how the needle interacts with the wool. Having a couple of needle holders that have different needle gauges in them is handy too. I still love the metal bar tool from the Woolery for doing background laying-ins quickly (I think I have T36’s(333) in it at the moment). If you read an earlier blog you may remember the fun I had with the (3 needles) holders I bought from china. They are worth having because of the needle spacing and you can always mark with painters tape what gauge is in them (I do forget and really should remember to mark what I put in when setting them up! With a couple of pokes you can always tell if I filled it with 40’s or was it 36’s)

11) it’s good to have different needles in holders so you don’t have to stop and switch needles. These are all needle holders sold out of China

From my workshop notes, this might help too.

REVIEW REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF:

1 – Working depth; look at the distance the barbs extend up the working part of the needle. Maximize the fibre movement and minimize work, try to work only as deep as you need to and not poke through your work (unless it is very thin).  It will push fibre out the other side. If you push past the piece too much you will get the look of a reverse needle (Fuzz) on the backside.

Even though you don’t need a huge selection of needles it’s nice to have a choice, especially when working on small parts.

2 –  Change needles when you need to. If you are feeling increasing resistance in the piece you’re felting (the density of your felt is increasing) if you need it firmer then shift to a finer gauge needle.

Needles with more barbs (3 vs 2), larger gauges or sides (Star vs Triangle) move more fibre but tend to produce more surface pitting. This isn’t important if you’re adding a fur coat to your piece but maybe if you are working on a face or working on a picture.

3 – Stay Focused (and slow down). It’s much easier to avoid the finger if you are not distracted by a movie or TV show. Audiobooks and Music work better since you can keep your eyes on your needle and your fingers so they don’t cohabitate. (that can require Band-Aids)

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12-23) A few of the pictures I have done or am working on. I seem to have a bit of trouble keeping some of my pictures flat. I hope they will inspire you to jump in and have fun with fibre!

Now the yarn question.

I don’t do a lot of outlining or drawing with yarn but what I have done I found that I started at one end and poked towards the part I had already attached, laying down and attaching a bit at a time. If you are finding your yarn splitting see if you can find a bit of wool of a matching colour and add a bit of that to tack it down. (a bit like a staple.) Make sure your yarn is wool.  It is much easier to work with than acrylic.  For gauges, I tend to use a 38 or 36 gauge with the size of yarn I have played with. You may also try felting the yarn in on more of an angle. So poking closer to parallel to the surface you are attaching it to.  (The direction the needle moves is the direction the fibre will move too).  This also increases the likelihood that you will be engaging with both ply’s. if you are stabbing straight down you may increase your chance of having the needle land in between them, increasing their chance of splitting.

Yarn considerations:

-Size of the yarn (DK to lace weight) try the finer needle with the finer yarns.

-Tightness of the spinning (loose spun may be more prone to splitting than a tighter spun yarn) This could be an interesting investigation! So many thoughts, so little time to felt lately!

-Fiber content (other than superwash) wool is narcissistic and will want to be with itself or other wools, some other fibres are not so enthusiastic about entanglement with others.)

I tend to lay in fibre rather than yarn when I am drawing with wool.  I find I take short thin bits of top or a small amount of a lock then anchor one end with the needle and draft it just a bit more so it’s finer than I think I will need. (Thin lines seem to want to be stronger than I intend them). I start directing my needle at a shallow angle back in the direction I have affixed the fibre. There will be a little take-up but it is from the end with the loose fibre rather than the part I am trying to attach. I have the fear that this may be a clear as mud but I know other blog readers may be able to add more suggestions since they may have investigated yarn more thoroughly than I have.

If you are excited about where our needles come from and the scope of options available you might like to read a PDF put out by the Groz-Beckert company.  https://www.groz-beckert.com/mm/media/en/web/pdf/Felting_and_structuring_needles.pdf (no it’s not homework it’s just in case this topic is as exciting to you as it is to me!!)

I hope this has helped our new felter with the needle question and has been a review for the rest of us. Looking back through past blog posts will give a vast amount of information too! Search under “Needle felting” or “Picture felting” or maybe”Painting with wool”. I promise I will show you how Dragon’s wings are coming along soon! Dragon now has silk highlights!!  How Posh!!!

Have fun and keep felting!!!

 

 

 

Continuing on the Cane Dragon

Continuing on the Cane Dragon

After I had written my last blog, I headed back to Oakville to help with my Mother-in-Law who has not been well. It was very busy with lots of appointments and I tried to work on a bit of felting in moments of quiet.

When you last saw the little dragon, I had augmented the wire on the legs, arms, hands and feet. Then started from the tail to add the under colour.

1,  the tail from the last post

I was using a small amount of black, a bit of dark grey and larger amounts of Indigo. Since you don’t usually see solid colours in nature, I did not blend to a uniform new colour but left bits of each tone visible.

My goal was to give me a general base colour to work from and lay in the spinal fringe. I think I will be augmenting that with some silk but after I have created the wings.

2-3, adding the base layer of colour standing on my old laptop.

As I would go off to help with something then come back intermittently to work on the little guy, I discovered that blue cane dragons have an odd interest in Orange dark chocolate.  He had obviously spotted it in the glass dish. I had used the box holding the delicious chocolate as a ruler while making partitions in lists. I just put it in the glass dish so it would not be lost in all the papers with notes on the table.

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4 -9, the great Chocolate heist

His obvious joy at running off with the chocolate was quickly thwarted with the realization that I had not made fingers appropriate for extracting the chocolate out of the box!!

10 Not having teeth is also an issue.

11, so close but yet so far

I continued to work on the face adding an upper lip, background for the eye area and nostrils.

12, adding more detail to the face

My husband and I took a quick run to a couple of the local computer stores to look for a new laptop since I was to stay for a bit longer and he would be heading home. We found one and brought it back.

13-14, the new laptop

15, the new laptop has problems

Here he is checking out my new laptop. It was fabulous for about 4 days then developed strange pixelation problems in the screen…. It was such a nice clicky keyboard too!! Back to felting, You can see I am starting to add the colour in the mouth, but still no teeth. it may be safer if he doesn’t have teeth.

16 – 17, mouth colour added as well as fringe

You may have noticed the fringe, at the ankle and wrist/forearm, has been added. The next step was to start the wisps of grey in a tone similar to the mandible for the front of the neck, belly and under the tail.

18, adding the grey wisps

By this time one of my Brothers-in-law had arrived and it was time for me to head home for a bit. I will be focusing next on the wing membranes since I suspect that will determine some of the body highlights. However, that will be another post, since we will be heading back to southern Ontario Soon.

Is it October? It feels like the end of August in Southern Ontario.  A couple of quick shots for you to enjoy and hopefully inspire new colour pallets, felt pictures, or sculptures.

 

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19 – 22,  End of August weather in October?  A few shots from Oakville.

I hope you are also enjoying strangely nice weather for what the calendar clearly says is October. If you are having our normal October, it’s OK, you can keep it, we really don’t want it back!! Maybe I should try to quickly wash one more fleece before we wake up to snow?

Happy Felting!!

 

 

 

 

Finding a Solution to Weak Wire

Finding a Solution to Weak Wire

This may be an unusually short (for me) note.

“Mistakes” can lead to opportunities to try new to you solutions. I am sure all of you have come up with this solution but in case you haven’t made this mistake I thought I should share and show you my solution.

The wire I chose for the toes was a coated steel but only 25ga. (Perfect for chickadees but not for this size of Dragon, but you work with what you have at hand.) Now I am back home and have a bigger selection of wire options.  I need to augment the 25ga since it is not providing the grip I need to hold on to the cane or cling to the basket of the walker. Otherwise, I very much like the little guy.

1 As you last saw him

Do I have to make another armature? Or, can I augment the strength of the wire so it will have a better griping ability? I already have a thin layer of wool to make the skinny long fingers. I guess I could make less skinny toes and fingers if they have better gripping.

2 Inserting a wire across the hips to strengthen legs, (that was not the wire I thought I grabbed).

I pulled out a long black wire, it was in with the green floral wire. I poked it through the hips then found the middle and wound it down the legs on either side. It was a bit short and not as strong as I hoped. So I added a second wire of 20 ga. to the leg and down into the middle tow.

The second wire was inserted and anchored under the top of the finer black wire. I wound tightly over the already wrapped wool. A small change in gauge or type of wire can make a big difference in the stiffness of the wire. It’s best to have wire that is just a bit stronger than the tension created by the wound and felted wool. If the wool is stronger than the wire your figure will not hold a pose. If you are only lightly felting something you can reduce the strength of the wire and it will still hold the fibre/felt. Do you remember the ghosts I made for ghost girl a couple of Halloweens ago? They were lightly felted but I needed the wire to support their weight so that determined the gauge I chose. In the case of the dragon, I likely should have doubled the 20 ga for the legs toes and fingers.

3 Needs a bit more stiffness, adding the 18”, 20ga green floral wire.

4 Much better.

I wound down to the toe and used the plyers to make sure it was tightly secured. Then I wound back up the toe a bit with the extra wire.

5 Both legs done, the little guy feels much stronger already!!

Legs done, I next moved on to the arms and middle fingers. I again poked the wire through, this time at the shoulder joint. I wound the wire down the arm to the middle finger then back up and into the bottom part of the wing.  I left the medial and lateral digits un-augmented.

Next, hide the wire!! I continued with the World of wool Core wool that I had hand carded the last time I was in Oakville. There is a tiny bit of kemp in it but it is working well for both wrapping and sculpting.

6-7 Hiding the wire, the toes don’t look too much bigger.

As I added fibre to cover the extra wire, I made glutes, quads, and gastrocs! I have also added ribs to the wings only 2 this time. I think that is looking better!

8 Time for the beginning of the colour layer!

I have started the first layer of colour but have a trip back to Oakville so I think this is as far as I can go before I have to start packing. (Well Glenn will do a bit of emergency laundry first then I can pack). I have wool and tools pulled and ready to go. I should grab some wire (since I forgot to bring any last time).

I wonder what I have forgotten?

Ok, back to the topic at hand or more accurately on the desk. The augmentation of wire strength by adding wire over the underlayer worked. (it worked much better than the incision, extraction of the broken wire and insertion of a stronger gauge on a skunk project. Poor skunk’s wrist never healed correctly but it’s better than the break was.)

If you don’t mind the toes being a bit larger in diameter than originally planned this may work for you if you find a similar problem. (That problem being, not bringing a selection of wire with you when you spontaneously decide to create a new project!)

Have fun and keep felting!

PS I got out to the Market Ann is selling at and did some promotional photos for her and discovered that pumpkins are shiny when they are wet!! Who knew that? Here are a few shots of a rainy day at the market to enjoy

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9-16 The Farmers Market at the Barrhaven Log Farm

Which Cane is Which? Prototype and Concept Testing!

Which Cane is Which? Prototype and Concept Testing!

It’s been another couple of busy weeks in Ottawa and Oakville, but in between fighting with errant grapevines, trying to start to prep my garden for fall, long drives to southern Ontario and eldercare, I did get a bit of felting done.

While in Oakville I noticed that my Mother in law and I both have the same quad cane. (it’s a cool type of cane when you have any balance issues.) They are identical, except for the height they are set at. I need a way to make my cane more, well, mine.

 

1) Quad canes

If my mother-in-law does go to a seniors building she will also need something to distinguish hers from other similar canes. I could do this by adding a piece of tape with our names on our respective canes but that seems rather unimaginative!  I should do better. I think I should do a Morning glory for her and I will see if I can figure out how to have a dragon on mine. (Glenn says I need more Ice Flame wings like the last cute little dragon I did). This one will have to be much longer, or would that be taller? I didn’t bring down any appropriate flower colours so I think I better start with mine.

I had brought with me an IKEA bag of white core wool to card into usable fluffiness with one of my sets of hand carders. I had sampled the core wool with combs but found the carders gave greater loft as you would expect in a woollen (carder) vs worsted (combs) fibre preparation. I tried very hard not to leave little fluffs of wool all over the basement carpet or anywhere else in the house! That will give me fibre to try out my ideas.

I borrowed a pen and a piece of paper and started to work on a design. I looked at my cane and my super helpful walker.  Both are stylishly black, so they go with anything as a fashion accessory. Unfortunately, they are also identical with every other black quad cane and walker of the same make.  I looked at the curvature of the cane near the handle, then started sketching.

2) walker and helpful grippe-thing.

 3 )Sketch of ideas for cane identification dragon.

Ok, this looks interesting. I have core wool with me, why did I not pack wire? I have to go to Walmart to get a few things so let us see if I can find another package of floral wire (20 and 25 ga coated steel).  After a lot of looking, I had success! This 20ga wire comes in pieces 18 inches / 45.7 cm long.

I looked over my original designs now that I had the wire. I think the easiest way to get a dragon to stay on the cane would be to have the neck, body, tail, or appendages hold on to it. So, I should consider a longer neck and long tows would help too. How about adding a bifurcated tail that should be twice as grippe as a mere single tail!!

Like the sketching, I started to play with the wire I wanted to see if I could get the dragon a size I could wrap around or cling to the cane.

 4) Extending neck?

5) Adding body and back legs

 I folded the first piece for the upper skull, neck and forearms. I folded and used the second piece interlaced with the shoulders/upper arms to create the spine and back legs.

 6) Adding the tail

 I used a third piece folded and attached to the hips /back legs. This one I twisted about two-thirds of the length and left the rest to create the bifurcation.

7-8) Tail extensions and long tows

 I used the 25ga (the wire I have at home I am sure was 26ga) to create extra-long tows, lower jaw, and bifurcation extensions. This amused my mother-in-law who sat watching my twisting, flipping, bending and attaching bits of wire together.

9) Checking on the cane

10) last part to add

 I folded and used a final piece to create the leading edge of the wings. (4 pieces for the total dragon)

11)  I started to add the wool over the armature deciding to add stubby ears to his head before building up the upper and lower jaw.

At this point, I took a break and went for a walk around the block with the walker. It is good to get outside and take a break. It allows for an increase in circulation and time for inspiration to strike. I was hoping to find a horse Chestnut tree since the squirrel-planted ones in my pots had died and I would like to have one in my portable forest. (I have a bunch of trees I keep as pets in pots on my driveway…. It is not as strange as it sounds.)

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12-16) Views from Oakville

17) This is the leaf structure of my little tree that died. I would like to grow another.

18 ) is this a black walnut? It was dropping fruit and making a mess of the sidewalk!

Oakville is about 2 weeks different from us in weather since Ottawa is farther north. The trees in the south have just the hint of colour and the nut trees have not dumped their nuts yet. I did find 2 trees nearby but only one nut was on the ground. I will try to check next trip and hope for better pickings. I think I found black walnuts, which I will try to plant and see if I can expand my forest!

Upon my return, I continued to add wool to flesh out my dragon until it was ready to try on the cane for scale. AH Ha!! I think that works.  I need to add a bit more flesh to his bones and maybe a longer tail would help but the basic concept is a success.

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19-22) testing out the dragon on the cane

So, this is proof of concept, yes this will work. Analyzing the little guy suggests making the toes out of a stiffer gauge of wire than a 25/26ga steel. I will look through my sample appendages and see if I have something that would suit better. ( I do suggest making samples of the gauges you have access to, in single, double and if you don’t have too many options, then how the flexibility of one gauge is affected when wrapped in a different gauge. It’s a lot easier than discovering part way through a project “I wish those tows were stronger” and considering a tow-ectomy with the upgrade reattachment surgery to consider after the extraction. I will likely finish this little guy off and he may be a walker basket dragon if he’s not a cane dragon.

This morning I woke up early to drive back to Ottawa and miss as much of the Toronto area traffic as I could. (The alarm went off a bit earlier than I had anticipated and I started in full darkness but it was quiet.) While still on my in-law’s street I spotted 2 of the infamous Ninja-stealth skunks of Oakville! They do not have a white stripe down their back or sides. One had a white puff at the tip of his very puffy tail. I did not stop to try to get a picture of a black skunk crossing a dark street. Oh! You find out where the strip is if it lifts its tail, the white stripe is on the underside!

Pre-dawn occurred as I passed Darlington (I hope that was pre-dawn and not a nuclear problem!) dawn occurred at my first rest stop. Since I was now stopped I finally got to take a picture, there had been fabulous pinks earlier, now the colour was shifting to the yellows and blue sky.

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23-24) true sunrise at my first rest stop

A bit later in the morning, I drove past a field with a group of deer. Then spotted in two marsh areas near Kingston Ontario, groups of very big white swans! When did we get loose swans? Sorry, no pictures I was driving!  I had given up on radio and switched to an audiobook about werewolves and dragons.  Traffic was great at these ungodly hours and I cruised into the farmers market for a cookie purchase from Ann about 2 hours ahead of when I thought I was likely to get there (remember about the enthusiastic alarm clock sending me out over an hour before I had anticipated. Maybe I need to get a watch again.)

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 25-31) shots from the Farmer’s Market Ann sells at (and the chipmunk she was trying to take pictures of)

Ann still had the Cookies I was looking for so it is time to head home and write up the blog post of my prototyping a cane identifier. However, since I started with a quick nap in front of the computer maybe a lot of caffeinated Mountain Dew to wake me up long enough to finish this for your amusement is necessary. I am sorry I did not get you pictures of the ninja skunks and swans.

So in conclusion remember to pack your felting wire, make samples to see if a concept will work, assess the sample, make augmentations or adjustments then either finish the sample or create your fabulous extra impressive piece now that you know more about how it will all work from your investigation. Maybe skip the part with the skunks and the long drive.  but the scenery had lots of rocks and trees and even some water and wildlife! I would suggest keeping the part with Ann’s excellent cookies. Now I think I may have another little nap since the caffeine is starting to wear off. (Oh no, I left my spell checker in Oakville so I will try not to break your spelling by fixing mine)

Have lots of fun and keep felting!

 

PS, my cane dragon is now hanging out on my hat brim (it’s my driving hat so I’m not wearing it now!), I wonder if I can convince him to go back to the cane? or the basket of the walker?

Summer Fiber Poker (Felt) 2021 Completed

Summer Fiber Poker (Felt) 2021 Completed

Earlier this year I told you about the Fiber Poker Challenge at the Guild Ann, Bernadette and I belong to. There were challenge cards for weavers, Spinners and Felters. four cards were drawn for us, in our topic of choice, which we received for the June meeting.  our solution is due at the September meeting.

These are the cards I would be working with.

1) the felting poker cards I drew for 2021

As you may remember, I have been creating an army of Chickadees as a way for my brothers-in-law and their families to remember their parents’ home.  (The bird feeders in the back yard are visited by chickadee, nuthatch, blue jays, cardinals, morning doves, sparrows and the evil squirrels; black, grey and red. There are also chipmunks feasting at the feeders!) I have sent chickadees home with 4 out of the 5 brothers.

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2-6) four of the five brothers and their Mom’s Chickadee’s

All those tiny little feet may have been getting to me!

Include Wire

I sat down and pulled out the wire I had been using for the birds, 20ga and 26ga coated steel floral wire. I started twisting and playing making a pair of front legs… well that will need a bit more to go with it. With a few more bends with the tiny pliers another pair of legs appeared. Next a spine to attach the legs to and maybe a tail… yes definitely a tail.  Hum I think those back legs should be front legs? yes! Rotate the feet and that looks better!

I think I need wings!

7) wire included, Check! adding wings

I had wrapped the armature with the 26ga floral wire. Using it to create the toes and lower jaw. For the wings, I slipped the U shape in the middle of the wire, into the space at the shoulders between the two gauges of wire. I will build up the support by adding more 26ga wire wrapping. Then strengthen it further when I add the wool.

8)  The ribs on the wings are 26ga and the main structure of the wing is in 20ga.

9) adding the wool will stabilize the wings and “ears-like things”

I decided to add ear-like appendages to finish the armature.  Now I am ready to add the wool. I am using Sarafina Dark Grey Core wool and for the first time trying her Tacky Wrap on the tips of the toes. You can see I am working with very thin strips of the core roving, the pieces are about 6 inches long. This core wool has a vary tiny crimp and worked well. I did find it much slipperier than the fleece I had used for the Chickadees legs and feet. When i washed that fiber i had left in a bit of lanolin which gave it a bit more clingyness. So the addition of the Tacky Wrap helped a lot! This is the first time I have used it, I liked it and will likely find it useful again.

10) most of the armature is covered and is balanced to stand.

So I have wire covered from the cards. (OK I have wire, covered literary!)

I am ready to consider the other card’s instruction, “Use your favorite colour!” Let me think, that would be Blue, but I like black too. But I do like blue better. Blue-green is OK and blue-purple is almost as good. A lovely indigo, prussion or ice blue……

Let me go check my stash of blues. How can I have a stash of blue and not have the blue I am thinking of?  Change of plan! I checked our local fibre source Wabi Sabi in Ottawa and yes they had Corriedale in shades I was looking for and they didn’t close till 4 pm! I made a list and rushed (it didn’t look like a rush but it was for me!) out to the car.  Hmm.  traffic on the highway? Oh yes, it’s Sunday afternoon! I hope they’re not all heading to pick up blue fibre! No? Great! I even found a parking spot. Had a bit of trouble with the walker and the front door. I will figure doors with steps out eventually.

In Corriedale, I selected a number of cool blues, blue-greens and a cool yellow that I didn’t have. I found a bit of Silk and Merino that was in the colour-way I was wanting, too. (I don’t usually use much Merino since it tends to absorb light and I find Corriedale comparatively much more reflective and give my sculpture a bit more life.

11) why did I not have the colour of blue I wanted?

I considered the body. It is core wool but I like the mottled colouring and while the grey is leaning heavily towards the brown I quite like it. It makes me think of rocks in Iqaluit (the capital of Nunavut on Baffin Island in northern Canada). OK, next let’s cover the ribs for the wings. Something icy and cool in blue. That done, I had the little guy do some contortions so I could trace his basic wing shape. This gave me a template, which helped me in laying out thin layers of fibre to make the thin wing membrane.

12) wing tracing to make a template for layout

I laid out the wool then gave it a gentle rub, as if I was wet felting, (but stayed dry) then a few T-36 pokes. Next, I switched to the fake clover tool with the fine needles. I focused on the leading edge of the wing leaving the wisps alone along the trailing edge.

13) wing underway

I carefully pealed and flipped it a couple of times. This stretched the length of the wing a bit so I used a single needle to work across the front of the wing to shorten it. (The direction you poke is the direction the wool will move.) You can see I was trying to keep the wing extremely thin but still strong enough to hold together.

14) wing still quite transparent

15-16) A bit more dragon yoga posing and I was able to position the wing for membrane attachment.

I put the ribs on the underside which will show if the wing is elevated. I attached along the front edge then lay in wisps of blue to help attach the ribs.

Then on to the second wing. I was laying in wisps of the silk and Merino, a darker blue, a little of the light blue and the greenish-blue. While on the shopping run, I had looked at some Tencel but it seemed too shiny compared to the Corriedale.

17) the second wing

With both wings on, they seem a bit big for his little body.

18) downsizing the wings just a bit

I thinned the first wing by gently tugging on the tips downsizing the wing to a more appropriate size. You can see the amount of fibre I have removed in the top corner.

19) Ah that’s lighter it should be easier to fly now

20)  Wings are looking good,

21) I think we need a tail puff to help with turning while flying. Aerodynamics are integral to dragon flight, they are not like a bumblebees who obviously fly by Magic alone. The puff will be a fan shaped rudder when I am done.

22)  Attaching the tail puff.

23) a bit of ankle decoration.

The next card says “use Beads or Sequins“, how about some eyes? It’s important to see where you’re flying!!

24) “I can’t see if I am cute. I need Eyes!”

I think you will like the other ones better. I will sew them on so I can “use thread or fine yarn” as my final card.

So let’s take a peek at “use blue, use wire, include beads and thread”. A quick photo shoot for a little ice dragon.

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25-27) a quick photo shoot in front of the computer.

28) Now let’s take a look at the scale of my ice dragon.

While I was out doing early voting (Dad always said if you don’t vote you can’t complain later), the little dragon was off investigating the office plant.

29) “I need dramatic lighting!! I’m ready for my close-up!!”

I had a lot of fun with this years fibre poker challenge, even if i did not actually do any of the 3 options i had originally planed to do. I may go back and try another version or wait and see what I pull next year.

Have fun and keep felting!

 

 

 

 

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