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Finding Focus

Finding Focus

It’s the new year and here we are in England with what I’m calling the ‘new abnormal’: all non-essential shops closed; travel only if necessary; people working from home wherever possible and, for many of us, very limited direct contact with people outside our household.

If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d have liked a long stretch of time with few commitments that I could dedicate to felt-making, I’d have jumped at the chance.  Be careful what you wish for. 

Towards the end of 2020 I had several events to aim for so was able to focus on making things for those. Here are a few of my favourites: a succulent holder, nuno felt vase (with glass interior) and needle felted mince pie.

I have plenty of sales and exhibitions booked throughout 2021 but no way of knowing whether and when they will take place. I have notebooks full of ideas but feel I need to find some focus to direct my efforts and get the creative energy flowing. 

I really enjoy learning new skills and developing my felt-making in different directions. So, I decided at the turn of the year to sign up for some online workshops. I’m mostly self-taught as a felt maker but now I’m asking myself ‘why do I want to reinvent so many wheels?’.  I’ve long wanted to take Fiona Duthie’s workshop ‘Fibre + Paper’ so when I saw she was running the workshop in March 2021, I eagerly signed up.  I then find myself tapping my toes impatiently and thinking ‘I don’t want to wait ‘till March!’.

Fortunately, in February Fiona is offering another class I’d like to take ‘Ink on Cloth’.  Yep, I’m in for that too.  Still the toe-tapping: ‘what about January?’. 

The Felting and Fiber Studio to the rescue: Teri Berry was offering her bag making class starting 7 January.  Perfect! I’m in for another class.  Well, you can’t say I lack enthusiasm!

While I’m waiting for the class to begin (yep, still with the toe-tapping) I decide now is the time to retire an old friend.  One of the first things I felted for myself about 9 years ago is an iPad cover. I carry my iPad mini with me everywhere and the cover is worn out.  It has done a great job – it even outlasted the first iPad – but the corners have rubbed away and it’s looking very shabby.

I may have mentioned before (more than once) that I’m an avid charity / thrift / op shop enthusiast and have built up an impressive collection of second-hand fabric, mostly scarves and mostly silk. I have a dig around and fish out a very fine small silk chiffon scarf with leaf prints. Left – front, right – back, middle – action shot! I’ve carefully controlled the shrinkage so it fits snugly: it slides out when I want it to and not when I don’t.

I enjoyed working with the silk so decide to make some more samples.  One issue with fabric of unknown origin (and often even with fabric of know origin) is that you can’t be sure how it will felt. Here’s the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of each sample.

Some kind of velvet devore?

A woven cotton or linen?

A silk and cotton mix – I assume the background is silk and the slub lines are cotton

Definitely 100% silk (it still had the label in)

All are interesting. I chose a similar wool colour to the background silk colour as I want to focus on texture and print.  I particularly like the leaf print one and will definitely use that at some point. 

Next, my patience (!) has been rewarded and the bag class is starting.  First is an animal theme phone or glasses case.  I consult the interweb for animals that have big tongues and decide on a gecko.  I’m rather fond of geckos, though I’m not sure I’ve ever met one. 

I’m pleased with the result, although admit it looks rather more like a frog or an alien.  I was going to trim the tongue but decided to leave it as it is. I’ve taken to calling it my alien frog bag.  I made it to fit my phone but it’s actually a bit big so I’ve now added a thin green leather strap with some Chicago screws. Next time I’m invited to a ‘BYO alien frog bag’ event, I will be all prepared. 

On to the next, bigger bag, with integrated straps and internal pockets.  I have a fair quantity of nice natural grey Corriedale top and decide I’ll use that for the outside.  I’m on a roll with recycling the silk scarves so select a few with similar colours.  I’m not sure grey will be the best background so, in an unusual fit of sensibleness, decide to make some samples. 

I prefer the lighter colour behind them. The bag will be fulled very hard and I think I may completely lose the silk.  Little lightbulb moment: why not prefelt the silks with a light colour wool to help preserve some of their colour?

I prefelted some pieces of silk.  I even got a bit jazzy with the one with large spots, with fawn Corriedale and charcoal Merino.

On the left: the bag laid out with (nearly) all the surface decoration ready for wetting down. I did move things around a little afterwards but forgot to take a photo. On the right: the flap detail of the final bag

Finished bag

It’s not perfect (eg I put 2 pockets inside but they are on the front wall of the bag instead of the back and it’s a bit wider than I intended) but I do like it and will enjoy using it.

So, what next? The third bag is a backpack.  I’m wrestling with myself over whether to use wool I already have or wait for some I’ve ordered to arrive.  I have a studio full of wool but want to use a medium or coarse wool for durability and don’t have much of any colour or breed in sufficient quantity.  I made a sample yesterday of potential wool candidates but am a bit underwhelmed. There’s a black dyed Perendale batt, grey/brown Finnish top, light grey Swaledale top and natural white batt (can’t remember the breed) but I’d have to mix them and that’s a lot to have going on.

I decided too to make a paper template of the finished bag to help me work out the resist and stop making bags bigger than I intend. Ha, ha, I do hope I don’t start calling this my toilet seat backpack.  And that brings me right up to date.

All being well, I will have the backpack done to show you in my next blog spot in March, along with some makes from the Ink on Cloth workshop.

I’m enjoying the learning and Teri’s class is excellent.  The instructions are clear and detailed. She has been positive and encouraging and very quick and generous in responding to my extensive questions about clasps, straps, bag design, wool breeds….

Are you struggling to find focus, or maybe finding new ways to learn and different things to try?  I hope you’re able to do a little fibre work and I wish everyone a peaceful, happy and creative 2021.

Still Slow Stitching in the New Year

Still Slow Stitching in the New Year

The last time I updated you back in early November about my slow stitching project, this is what it looked like. I had started adding some leaves to the foreground trees.

I have been continuing my slow stitching over the holidays and it has been nice to sit down for 15-20 minutes a day and just do detached chain stitch in different shades of yellow, yellow-orange and orange. Ignoring any drama of the holidays or other issues that arose for a few minutes, calmed my mind.

Here’s how the trees are looking. I think that I will be adding a bit more orange but than I’m going to go back to the yellow shades.

Here’s what the full piece looks like now. It is definitely taking shape as a landscape. As I look at it in a thumbnail format, I can see that it still needs more dark values for shadowed areas but I like the progression. It’s interesting to me how the slow progression makes me look at it more closely and how the different colors affect each other. It’s been an interesting project and I imagine it will continue through most of this year.

What are your thoughts on a slow moving project? Do you get a Zen feeling or perhaps you are impatient and want to move on to a different project?

Finished the Hat

Finished the Hat

I got my ha finished…Yay…  So naturally, it is raining. Oh well, I know the cold will come.

Rub, rub, roll, roll. You know the drill. once it shrank enough I popped it onto a hat form to see how it was doing size-wise. It is very hard to photograph because it is so dark and the silk by and large disappears once it is wet.

Top view, it looks a bit raggy around the brim but it isn’t. It has silk wrapped around it and it has shrunk up making wrinkles.  Except for one spot at about 11:00. I will have to sew or needle it down.

Side-ish view, You can just see the silk colour.

It is on my high dome block. It is much too tall but I like the slope of the crown on this one better. the height I want is the block in the back but it is much flatter on top. It is loose on the block too. So more rolling. It didn’t take much rolling to get the right size around but quite a bit to get it short enough.

and then it was time to roll the flower

I pinned it in place so it will dry rolled up nicely.

…..two days later and it’s dry. I am taking pictures quickly because I need my table to wrap presents. I have tried to brighten them on the computer so you can see them better.

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It looks good but trying it on it’s a bit tight. Then I realize why, my high dome is a 22 and my other one is a 23. I need the 23 to allow for my braid. So I turned on the steamer and got it hot and stretched it out to 23 using the right size block. Now it fits properly.

here’s the inside or underside however you look at it. again the dark colour is hard to see but I think you can see the texture of the silk with the Nuno felt.

the felting is finished but I think I will shave it to see if I can bring up the colour of the silk more.  I still need to make a couple of leaves out of this felt and sew the flower so it stays rolled up.

I hope that for the next post I will have something else to show you but also the hat with the leaves and maybe even on my head.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. It has been great to be able to stay connected to you all through the internet. It has really helped keep me sane through this stressful year of the pandemic.   I will see you in the New Year.

Ann

 

 

 

 

The cowl is finished

The cowl is finished

I did finally get the cowl finished. It turned out just as I had hoped.  I took it up to a flax processing day to show everyone and Jan took some nice pictures of it for me I think they show it off very well.

If you remember this was the inspiration for this cowl. I liked the way the two points overlap.

This is the silk lap side out.

This is the filk fabric side out.

And finally, this is me wearing it. It’s not a great shot of me but it does show how the cowl fits. I plan to use it this winter. My neck is always cold but this will not be bulky under my coat.

I hope you like it and it was worth the wait to finaly see it done.

Slow Stitch Update

Slow Stitch Update

It’s been over a month since I last posted about my Autumn Nuno slow stitch piece. Here is where I was at the end of September.

I kept working on the negative space between the foreground trees. I was using a grey green thread and it definitely needs more darkness in between the tree trunks but I will have to add a darker thread for that. I am still mulling over what will be on the left hand side in the foreground. It’s kind of amorphous at the moment.

Once I finished the negative space between the trees, I decided that I needed to add some of the grey green into the mid ground/background area. It also helped to “cut” the overpowering sense of red and red orange there. Next up was to add “leaves” to the foreground trees. I decided to use a different stitch to highlight them a bit more. I will be adding a great many more of the leaves in a variety of yellows and yellow oranges.

The photo on the left shows where I am as of today. The photo on the right shows the beginning of the leaves being added with detached chain stitch. I still have a long way to go on completing this piece but I am happy with the progression.

 

Decorating the cowl

Decorating the cowl

As you recall I was dying some silk lap for my cowl. They turned out well. Silk always looks so raggy after dying. I think it’s the squeezing out of the excess water. They look a little better dry after a little shake and stretch.

With the cowl being different colours of purple I think either the gold/orange or gold/ orange/purple.

 

I decided on the gold/orange/purple. the gold/ orange was to close the leaf fabric. I cut a small amount from one side of the lap.

 

I stretched the silk over the back of the cowl leaving enough on each end to cover the front.

I flipped it over and then cut up the leaves to decorate the ends. I put some on the underside( the silk side) and some on the top.

Then the other end

You saw above I had about 10 grams of silk. After stretching it out to get the amount of silk lap I wanted, I ended up cutting about 1/4 of it off the 2 ends.

I covered it up and gave it a good rubbing on both sides and rolled it up. Next up, the rolling. I am starting to feel like this is the never-ending cowl but I hope to show you it all finished in the next post. Before I can do that, I have to make some more masks, my mom wants a couple and some more pie making. And of course, today is Halloween. No trick or treating for the kids but the grandkids are having a haunted walk in the field. The grownups have as much fun setting it up as the kids will have running around in it.

 

 

Mystery Fabric Nuno Scarf

Mystery Fabric Nuno Scarf

We were having a discussion on the forum about nuno felting and how to maintain the length of fabric without too much shrinkage in that direction last week. Then I happened to find a piece of mystery fabric cut in a scarf length in my studio. I can’t remember where I got it but I think one of my fiber friends must have given it to me. It has a loose weave and appears to be a man made fabric and feels fairly soft, kind of like jersey.

Here’s a photo of the scarf and a close up. If you look on the mid to lower right hand side of the right hand photo you can see the weave. (click on photos to enlarge)

The fabric has a fun pattern and I decided to use blue green for the wool color. I wanted to use a minimal amount of wool so the scarf stayed light weight and I wanted to avoid shrinkage of the length of the fabric as it was already fairly short.  I had some blue green short fiber merino in batt form that I decided to use.

I decided to use blue tape to outline the fabric so I would have a pattern for laying out the wool. I could have turned the fabric over and laid out the wool on to the fabric but didn’t feel like turning it over after layout. (Being lazy again)

So I laid out a very thin layer of wool laying the fibers at a right angle to the length of the scarf.  Then I put the fabric back on top of the fiber, wet it down and began rubbing on the fabric side. I usually always recommend doing a sample first to make sure the fiber will migrate through the fabric but since this was such an open weave, I didn’t think it would be an issue. And, luckily, I was correct in that assumption. The fiber migrated very quickly and I ended up just rubbing the scarf with soapy hands, rubbing the scarf with fabric side down on a rubber ridged surface and it held together very quickly. Then I did some fulling holding the scarf in my hands and accordion (sort of) style folding and stretching lengthwise to full.

Here’s the scarf after felting and fulling. As you can see, it shrank more than 50% of it’s width but minimally lengthwise. The scarf is very lightweight and still long enough to wear as a scarf instead of a cowl.

So now I have a new scarf just in time for 6 inches of snow and 1 degree F cold that dropped on us this past weekend.

Next Steps for My Cowl

Next Steps for My Cowl

With a few weeks until the Christmas markets, I finally got back to my cowl.

This is as far as I had gotten before I had to put it aside. It took me forever to get the silk wrapped around the template properly and as you can see I had to use painters tape to do it.

The first job today was to sew the center together. I used some nylon thread and large basting stitches so I can pull it out at the end.

I put some tape on the one end of the thread so it should be easy to find when it is finished.

Time to add the wool, 3 shades of purple.

The next thing should have been cutting up the yellow/orange/red prefelt into some leave and put them on the cowl. But that would too easy. I decided I wanted to put some silk on top of everything. I thought about some silk hankies but remembered I had a big bag of silk lap. Silk lap is similar to silk hankies but much bigger and many layers.

As you can see the silk is bright white. I will have to dye it. I am not sure what would be the best colour so I cut several strips of the lap to dye.  I was thinking different shades of green but maybe copper or gold would be better. Maybe a combination s of all 3. What do you think?

First I had to find the end, easier said than done.

Even with many layers, it is still see-through.

Silk takes more preparation to dye than wool and other fibres. Silk is hard to get wet. I added a little dish soap to help the silk get wet. It will have to sit at least overnight to be properly wet so I can dye it. I will show you next week when it’s my turn to post again.

And a reminder about the holiday card exchange. You have until tomorrow night (Oct 24th at midnight) to sign up on the forum. holiday-card-exchange-2020 link  If You have signed up chec the forum on the evening of the 25 to find out who your partner is.

Felting Sea Patterns

Felting Sea Patterns

I made my first felted picture maybe 8 years ago. It’s a seascape with a curlew based on a scene I’d photographed. I realise now I haven’t ever completely moved away from the sea and the birds in my felt making.  The picture is still hanging on my living room wall, though it’s not really my favourite.  I can see too much that I’d want to change.

Looking at the dark water I see I included strips of ribbon as well as nepps, locks and some non-wool fibres – probably bamboo. A little while later I made a second curlew which I much preferred. In this one the sea is slightly more abstract with silk hankies representing sea foam.

Second Curlew

I live by the coast and seem always to return to the theme of water – specifically the sea and even more specifically the water near where I live, some of which is technically an estuary: the mouth of the river Thames.  I’ve been looking recently at how I’ve tried to represent the sea in felt, then trying out some new water experiments.

In my last guest blog I showed how I made the watery background to my dark-bellied Brent goose. Here’s a reminder

Dark-Bellied Brent Goose

Brent goose: making a felt picture

This technique of laying cobweb pre-felt on top of base layers was something I worked out for myself and often use as I really like the effect

The first picture, ‘Winter Sea’ I made entirely using this technique. For the second picture ‘Big Wave 3’ I used straightforward tufts of different coloured wool for the darker water but a cobweb strip in front of the wave to suggest water from a previous wave.

‘Wide Sea Pattern’

For ‘Wide Sea Pattern’ I’ve added some silk fibres to enhance the foamy effect.

I’ve also tried nuno felted seas using large pieces of fabric. I’ve made two pictures of a lovely little ringed plover I watched a short distance from my house.

In the left picture I used a UK charity shop wool scarf that already had a crimp. I ran pewter-coloured merino wool on the back in only one direction to enhance the crimp, which I hope gives a distant wave-like pattern. In the one on the right I used some very dense silk (from a US thrift store sarong) which I only partially felted in as I wanted to keep as much as possible of the sarong’s watery pattern (also, the silk was VERY dense!). 

Thinking about how to represent sea patterns, I have spent a little time recently looking at photos and videos of how people do this when drawing or painting the sea, and wondering if I could use some of these ways of looking at and representing sea water in wet felt making.

Experiment one: I laid out two pewter merino layers then a fine horizontal layer of blues, which I pushed apart with 2 pencils hoping to evoke a choppy sea.  Then, I suppose because I thought the darker tones may get lost, I added some more dark wool into the gaps.

I ended up with something that looked very flat – perhaps like dappled water but not what I had in mind.  I wish I was more strict in sticking to my original intentions: I think it would have been better without the dark wool I added at the end. Maybe I’ll come back to that in the future and do the experiment properly.

Experiment two: Estuary Water. Next I wanted to experiment with the dark colour of the water.  Out came the trusty drum carder and I blended pewter, beige and green wools which I laid horizontally on a vertical layer of mixed pewter and beige.  I made a single layer of mixed blue prefelt that I pulled apart and laid on the top.

I call the result ‘Estuary Water’ as there’s often a lot of muddy sediment in the estuary which gives it an opaque, brown look.  I like it but haven’t decided what to do with it yet – its dimensions don’t fit any standard canvases or frames. Maybe I’ll use it as the background to something else.

Experiment three: I decided to made some smaller felt pictures that were just sewn onto stretched painters’ canvases rather than being framed behind glass. Focussing on the sea water: this time I snipped into the prefelt blue layer with scissors after I’d laid it on the background.

I like this effect and could maybe take it a bit further in the future: make some bigger cuts or more of them.  I stitched these onto pre-stretched canvases that are slightly smaller than the felt so the canvases aren’t visible when looking head on.

Experiment four:  Harbour Water. I took a photo of the water in the harbour a few months ago that I found interesting and wanted to investigate in felt. 

‘Harbour Water’ Photograph

I’ve thought for a while I’d like to blend just two colours with each other and black and white and this seemed like a good opportunity.  I used the drum carder to blend duck egg and teal merino wool with charcoal grey and natural white in various proportions.

I then made prefelts which I cut up and placed on a background of teal (1st, vertical layer) and duck egg (2nd, horizontal layer)

Quite interesting but I liked it a lot better before I’d felted it. I had a second go, using a piece of the duck egg prefelt as the base, which I like slightly better.

I like the shimmery water better than the round sections, which are a bit too round. Again, I’ve stitched the pieces of felt onto smaller canvases so they can hang but appear to be floating. I will look at them for a while until I decide how and if to develop the ideas further.

Experiment five: Choppy Whitstable Waves.  In July a customer asked me to make her a picture similar to one I had but in a smaller size.  I tried to use some of the things I’d seen in videos of how to paint water using acrylics and adapt them to my local sea colours and patterns and the medium of wet felting.  I laid out darker ‘windows’ at the front of the waves with some water being pulled upwards by the wave (with the top fibre running upwards) then blue sky reflections made from cobweb prefelt sitting behind the wave foam.

I feel this has some potential.  I particularly like the wave second from bottom and am tempted next to make a single long wave using this technique.

At this point I had to break off to set up my harbour hut exhibition for a week.  Interestingly, the customer didn’t like the smaller picture I’d made as much as the original and decided to buy the bigger original instead.

I still find sea patterns endlessly fascinating. Each experiment seems to ask more questions than it answers and produce new avenues to investigate.  I have no doubt I’ll keep on coming back to sea patterns (and birds) again and again.

Are there any effects here that you particularly like or don’t think worked so well?

Do you have a theme, subject or colour-way you keep going back to in your work?

Slow Stitch Progress – Filling in Negative Space

Slow Stitch Progress – Filling in Negative Space

Here’s the progress on my slow stitch project. I am still stitching away about 15-30 minutes per day on this piece.

The last time I showed you, it looked like this.

First, I added some more darker values with the deep purple thread in the mid ground area. Then because I thought that I needed a little more contrast in that area, I added some deeper red orange to look like more foliage.

Then on to working on the foreground trees. Here, I was looking at negative spaces and giving some darkness and shadow to delineate the tree trunks. I am continuing to use seed stitch and used a neutralized dark green in between the tree trunks. Since the stitches are so small, this definitely is in the slow stitch category. I am still working on the right hand side. Once that’s finished, I have more tree trunks “to pull out” on the left side.

And here’s how the entire piece looks as of now. I may need to darken up the shadows between the foreground trees and I have to decide what to do on the left hand bottom corner. The foreground trees will get some stitched leaf additions too. Plus the foreground will need work in front of the trees. I am definitely enjoying this project more since I’m not trying to force working on it for longer stretches.

 

 

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