I have managed to get some stitching completed on my large autumn landscape. The background birch trees were hand stitched down first. I want to do background leafiness before I add the larger birch in the foreground.
To add the distant leafiness, I looked through my stash for fabric that would work. The photo on the left shows painted nylon organza. The photo on the right is dyed silk habotai.
It’s a little hard to see but I have added the nylon organza at the top. First, I used a wood burning tool to burn out areas of the organza to give it a leafy appearance.
Here you can see the effect better in the close up photo. I hand stitched all the pieces down with very small stitches to hold it in place.
Next I added some single cut leaves from silk organza. I had these left over from The First Leaf.
The next step is to stitch down the foreground birch trunk and add foreground leaves. At that point, I will decide how many leaves might be on the ground. I don’t want to make it exactly like the smaller piece. What would you suggest adding to the foreground at the base of the large birch?
I was looking around my studio wondering what to write about in this blog. I was remembered Ruth Lane’s recent comment in her blog here about using up supplies. I have a carded batt of merino / A grade mulberry silk from World of Wool that’s been kicking around for a while. I can’t remember if I bought it for something specific that didn’t get made or if I bought it on spec. I was interested to find out how it felted and what I might do with it so I decided to make a small test vessel.
I cut out a circular resist using a small mat as a template then started laying out the fibre outwards towards the edge. Apologies that these pictures are mostly white on light colours – I was thinking more about the making than the photography. I laid the second layer in a circular pattern before flipping it over to smooth the overlap onto side 2. After 2 layers on the second side, I flipped back and laid 2 more layers on side 1, followed by 2 more on side 2.
After wetting it down I spent a lot of my time working the edge by pulling the voile over the edge so I wouldn’t get a ridge around the middle of the finished vessel. It felted quickly and I was soon able to start fulling – initially without removing the resist.
Once I’d cut out the resist I found, in my vast collection of miscellaneous wooden objects, that the handle of a wooden pestle (as in mortar & pestle) was the perfect size for getting inside the vessel and working it from the inside.
I spent a while fulling it as I wanted it to be smooth and very firm.
I packed the vessel with strips of recycled bubble wrap that I keep for this purpose – you can see it green inside. Looking at this green bubble wrap made me wonder if I could make a vessel with a coloured interior but retaining the pale colour outside. I thought maybe if I used silk rather than wool to add colour I’d get less colour transfer, so I thought I’d give it a go.
While pondering this, I decided to try using the same resist as the test vessel but to make 2 small bowls rather than one vessel: so, cutting it in two around the middle rather than making a hole at the top to remove the resist. I dipped into my big boxes full of second-hand silk scarves bought in charity shops and chose a plain turquoise and a patterned blue one.
I put a circle of silk on the resist and decided to run a small line of coloured merino tops around the edge: partly as I was interested to see how it would look and partly as I thought I might not know where to cut when I was ready to remove the resist and separate the little bowls – I’ve made that mistake before!
I put a circle of the blue patterned silk on the second side. The merino and silk fibre layout was the same as the previous vessel. This time I also remembered to do the circular layer first followed by the radiating layer – I’ve learned that one before and obviously temporarily forgot for the previous vessel. It makes following the resist with the circular layers much easier and I prefer to try not to overlap that layer if possible – again it reduces potential ridges and produces a better join if you only overlap the radiating layer, in my opinion. I’m sure some of you will disagree but that’s one of the many things I love about wet felting: with experience everyone works out the techniques and tools that work best for them.
I was interested that I could see quite a lot of the inner colour throughout. I quickly began to suspect this was more about the amount of dye bleeding from the turquoise silk as about seeing the silk through the wool. I was getting a lot of turquoise in the felting water.
Again, I fulled them thoroughly. During the fulling, I decided I liked the silk on the outside better than the inside so here they are, still wet.
And here are the 3 items. You can see how green the wool of the little bowls is compared with the vessel. I’m pleased with the bowls’ blue rims – I like this effect – but the vessel is my favourite. In each of the test pieces the fibre has felted beautifully: it’s very firm and extremely light – it has an almost papery quality about it that I find really appealing.
My imagination is now firing about what I could make next with this fibre. I have a dried poppy seed head sitting in a vase next to my desk. The felt reminded me of the texture and colour of the seed head. I’ve felted poppy seed heads before – one of my favourites. Another thing I have in the studio is some vintage cotton lace I was unable to resist when I saw it in a local second-hand shop.
I thought maybe that the lace would add a subtle surface texture so why not have a try? This time I made a small square sample using just 2 layers of the wool / silk mix batt with strips of lace in parallel lines.
Although it’s subtle, I really like the effect. As you can see in the close up shot, the batt has quite a bit of vegetable matter which in this case adds some interesting specks, enhancing the natural look.
I was running out of time but decide to start the poppy seed head. The merino fibre length in the batt is very short which makes the layout quite slow but very precise. In the first photo you can just see the strands of lace which I’ve laid out on top of 4 layers on the under side and are waiting for me to finish the final 2 layers on the top side before bringing them over.
The second photo shows how far I got yesterday before I had to stop. This is a multi-resist piece that will take a while to make. I’ll show it finished in my next blog.
I enjoyed letting the fibre lead my imagination in what I might do next. I’ve done mostly production felting recently – making multiples of things for shops and sales – so it was great just to see where things led me and enjoy felt-making for the sheer fun of it. I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio soon to finish the poppy seed head.
Having sold one of my larger pieces in the gallery, I had a request for a new large nuno felted landscape similar to The First Leaf. So if you are reading along and think that you are having deja vu, it is because this piece will be very similar, just a larger size. The new piece will be 19″ x 33″ and will use the same nuno background used in The First Leaf which is only 14″ x 18.5″. The first step was to make silk paper for the birch tree trunks. I had a little bit left in my stash but it was not big enough or long enough.
Making silk paper is simple. You lay out silk fiber on to nylon netting, cover with another piece of nylon netting, wet down the silk and then paint on some type of acrylic medium. You are supposed to use fabric medium but I didn’t have any so I just used acrylic medium that I had. The photo above shows a portion of the layout of the white silk with black bits added on top. The nylon netting came in a roll so I could make a giant long piece of silk paper for my big birch tree.
I made two lengths of silk paper. Here you can see one side laid out sandwiched between the nylon netting. The left side still needs black added. I actually think that the left side is not silk but perhaps viscose or other man made silk alternative. It didn’t feel exactly like silk but it was white and worked just as well as the real silk. I use up what I have before I buy more supplies, so other options of fiber will work for making paper.
Next you wet down the silk fiber sandwiched between the netting with soapy water. The soap helps to break the surface tension and allows the silk to accept the water more easily. You can spray it down or sponge it on, whichever works best for you. Once the silk is completely wet and there are no thicker, white spots left (air), then brush on acrylic medium mixed half and half with water. Flip the net and silk sandwich over and add acrylic medium to the other side too. Make sure the silk is thoroughly saturated with medium. Then peel off the top layer of netting and leave the silk paper to dry. You can hang it up to dry but take note that the water/acrylic medium will drip off and get on the floor if you hang it inside. I left mine flat to dry and it took a full day to dry.
I cut out my nuno felt background to size and played around with cutting the silk paper trees to different sizes to achieve some depth in the piece. These are the approximate layout that I came up with. Next on to stitching!
I added free motion machine stitching to the distant shore. Whenever I start FME on a landscape, I always think that the first few areas where I have stitched look like it’s too much. But I keep going and usually, once more stitching is added, the initial lines don’t feel excessive.
The next step was to stitch the rocks across from the tree. I considered adding some stitching into the foliage above the rocks but decided to leave it as is.
Then on to stitching the tree. I added the dark bits to the trunk and stitching through the felted paper was a breeze, no problems at all either by machine or by hand. The dark branches were added next and then decision time on how to add a few more leaves. I considered needle felting some smaller leaves on the dark branches but then decided I would hand stitch the leaves.
I then hand stitched leaves on to the dark branches using hand dyed lace weight wool thread and detached chain stitch. I added a few bits of grass at the bottom of the trunk as well.
The miracle is that I found a backing fabric, stitched the felt to that and then wrapped/laced the piece around matte board so it’s ready to frame. Since the piece is small (matte size 8″ x 10″), it went quickly and now I have two pieces ready to take to the framers. This piece counts for the year long tree challenge for spring. I have to think about the summer one as it wouldn’t really look different than spring, a few more leaves perhaps?
The winter birch piece is also ready for framing. I used a darker gray hand dyed fabric for the winter birch as it felt “colder” that way. Now on to the next landscape as the gallery wants me to replace the one that sold last month. (Doing a little happy dance!)
This is the piece that sold called Remembrance. Yay!
I have had this mulberry paper with leaves embossed on it for quite a while. I loved the paper but never used it for anything. It is fairly thick and the embossed portions are really thick. The question was whether it would felt easily to the surface. I tore out a single leaf and placed it over a small torn piece of green, short fiber merino batt.
The wool and paper were then wet down (sorry for the blurry photo) and I felted as I had on my previous paper samples, treating the paper as if it was fabric as in nuno felting. I wondered whether I would lose the embossed lines of the leaf, whether the paper thickness was too heavy to felt in easily and if it would felt differently than the thinner papers I had tried previously.
Here’s the end result. You can still see the leaf. It felted very easily and doesn’t seem much different than the thinner papers. I think if I had done a lot of wringing of the felt it would have distorted the leaf but I was careful to avoid fulling in that manner.
Hmmm… how can I use this leaf paper in a design? What would happen if I added ink or dye to the paper before felting? What if I dry brushed paint over the surface of the paper after felting? What else could I do to the surface to enhance the feel of leafiness? How would hand or machine stitching look on the surface? Will it be easy to stitch through? Any other experimental ideas for me? Obviously, more samples to follow.
Next on to experimenting with paper in my landscapes. This is the layout of wool and a paper birch tree. (This also works for my spring tree for our year long tree challenge.) The piece is pretty small and ended up about 7″ x 9″ after felting.
Here’s the piece after wetting down and curbing the edges a bit before felting. Again, I treated this gently to allow the paper to felt in.
Here’s the piece after felting. I plan to add some free motion machine stitching to add more interest in the tree and more branches as well. I will probably add a few more leaves to the tree as well and perhaps a bit of detail to the rest of the landscape. The tree worked well and the paper really stands out to make the tree the focal point of the landscape. I definitely need to do more experiments with landscapes and paper. How else could I use the paper besides tree trunks? How would scraps of green paper felt in to make foliage? What would a variety of colors of paper layered over each other and then felted look like?
I love asking ‘what if’ and trying out these ideas, which lead to new ideas and further experimentation. I haven’t even begun to scrape the surface with how paper and felt can be used together. I would love to hear your ideas for experimentation so please leave a comment with your “what if’s”.
Our local art group made some Joomchi a couple of months ago and since that time, I have been thinking about adding paper to the surface of felt. I realize that there is a well known online course about how to do this, but I have not taken the class and these are my experiments on adding paper to felt. If you haven’t heard of Joomchi before, it is made from layers of mulberry paper that are wet down and agitated. Essentially, wet felting layers of mulberry paper together. If you search online for it, you will find YouTube instructional videos and some beautiful artwork made with the technique.
I have a variety of mulberry papers in my stash that I used. I cut a 2 inch square from the different papers and laid these out on a couple layers of short fiber merino batt. I figured that the pinks and reds would probably run from leftover dye in the paper but that didn’t concern me. I just wanted to see how the paper would felt in.
I covered the wool and paper with a synthetic sheer curtain on both sides and wet down with cold water. This seemed like nuno felting to me, so I followed my routine for nuno felting. I treated the piece gently, used cold water until the fulling process and rubbed over the surface of the paper pieces to encourage the wool to migrate through the paper. I fulled mainly by rolling but did do more aggressive fulling in hot water once the paper was holding in place.
Here is the result. All the paper types felted in very well. You can see that the red paper shared it’s dye with a couple of the white pieces of mulberry paper.
The close ups show that the paper does crinkle a bit but it is adhered well to the wool. I like the use of inclusions in the paper and the surface is interesting.
The fibers in the top pink paper almost look like a silk but I don’t think they are. It’s probably that the fibers take the dye differently than the paper pulp.
As you can see on the red piece, the “tinsel” or whatever the gold strands are, migrated almost completely out of the paper. If you pull on the gold strands, you can pull them right out.
Now on to the Joomchi. Most of my mulberry paper is red and pink. I used about 5 layers of paper, wetting down each layer as it was placed on a corrugated rubber surface. I then used a piece of pvc pipe and rolled over the papers. I kept turning the paper at right angles and also flipping over to the other side. Once the papers began holding together, I crumpled them in my hands, then gently pulled them back out flat and continued to crumple them. I thought the texture that developed due to the fibers of the paper beginning to break down was very organic and beautiful. The process also causes shrinkage of the papers, another similarity to felting.
Here’s the piece that I made with our art group. I borrowed other paper colors so I didn’t have to use pink/red again. You can see a bit of my red at the bottom left corner.
It was fun experimenting and I’m happy with my samples. Now to consider how I can use this in my work. Have you done any experiments lately? We’d love to see or hear about them, you can upload a photo here.
I had another wonderful day teaching some ladies to nuno felt scarves.
I was busy ( talking) and didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked at the beginning. So no pictures of the starting silk. I dye the blanks myself using the scrunch method of low-immersion MX dying. I learned how to form Paula Burches All about hand dyeing site. It is an amazing site. Don’t go unless you have some time to explore, there is so much information. http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml
If you click any of the pictures they should open up larger in a new tab.
Back to the class, here are the layouts just before we wet them down.
and then everyone got rubbing. This is the time it’s great to have a chatty group. It makes the work go faster. And I don’t have to do all the talking.
Sorry, no rolling pictures. The problem with a chatty group is I love to chat too and forget to take pictures.
But I do have some pictures of the finished scarves once all the fulling was done.
here’s a nice group shot from the end of the class.
One of the ladies went home and dried her scarf so she could wear it right away. Doesn’t Kim look great? The colours really suit her.
Denice also sent me a picture of hers when it was dry. I love the silk flowers.
It was a fun day for everyone.
I taught a short sheep class the other day. They were young people so just one picture of the finished sheep.
I have finally completed my winter birch landscape that I have been slowly working on. You can see the prior posts here if you missed them. I had about determined to skip adding any extra snow in the foreground but then I decided I should try a sample of needle felting the snow.
And, surprise, surprise, it worked better than I thought it would. So I added a bit of snow and then needed to figure out the distant red twig dogwood bushes. (You can see the snow in the final photo.)
First I tried using a marker on my sample to see if I could get away with something easy. The thinner marker made a very light line and the heavier marker was too heavy. Plus, using a marker on nuno felt gives a very uneven line. On to the next idea.
Next, I tried needling the wool thread into the sample background. It didn’t feel like there was much difference between the stitched bushes in the foreground compared to the needled line on the top left.
I decided I would try a cotton machine thread (30 weight). The stem stitched sample on the left shows two different colors. The redder color is straight off the spool but I wanted the thread to be a bit darker and variegated. So I colored the thread by hand with a black marker. The photo on the right shows the thread before it was darkened (left side) and the thread on the right side of the photo has been darkened with a black permanent marker. It worked perfectly although it’s a little messy on the fingers.
So here’s the finished landscape. I used the machine thread for the distant red twig dogwoods and you can see the small amounts of snow that I added. I’m happy with it but I will put it on the design wall to look at to make sure it’s finished. Then I will need to choose a “matte” fabric and get it ready for framing. I’m thinking of calling the piece “Winter Color”. Or I could stick with “Winter Birch”. Which do you prefer?
I have been working on my winter birch landscape. Here are the posts for part 1 and part 2 if you missed them.
I finished appliqueing the birch trunks and adding the machine stitched branches. I’m happy with the trees, now on to foreground snow.
Most of the comments on my last post thought it would be a good idea to add some snow in the foreground. I found a piece of white prefelt which I tore apart and auditioned in the left photo. The middle photo is with wool locks and the right photo is with wool slubs and nepps. I’m not happy with any of them. The one I like the best is on the left but I don’t have a good way to adhere the wool. I could needle felt it in but I really don’t like to needle felt into the silk of the nuno felt. I am thinking the foreground snow is not happening.
Another suggestion was to add red twig dogwood bushes. That seemed like a good idea to add in a contrasting color. I made a sample here on another piece of the nuno felt background. I used wool thread in dark orange, red and darker red. I first tried two threads, mixing the colors. The branches felt too fat. So I switched to one thread and decided to use the red and dark red threads. I hand stitched the bush using stem stitch.
Next came stitching it on the piece. I do like the addition of the red. Now I am letting it rest for a bit to decide if I want to add the red in one other area of the landscape. I think it might look more balanced if I had a few bushes further in the background. What do you think?
I made more tulle trees in the same manner with dark green and navy blue tulle. In theory, it seemed like a good idea to overlay these over the black tulle trees. But then when I did that, the trees were just a mish mash and you couldn’t really see them. So I decided to just use the black ones.
Here are the black trees with the birch in place before I stitched them down.
I hand stitched them down with a dark variegated thread and used feather stitch. It added a little bit of green but nothing you could see from a distance.
Then I moved on to the birch trees on the left that are in the background. I hand appliqued the silk paper birch trunk in place and then free motion machine stitched the branches. I want the branches to overlap and not appear all on one “level” so that is why I am stitching each trunk and branches separately.
Here is the progression of the stitching on the background birch trees. This always takes longer than I think it should. But I did like alternating between hand and machine stitching.
Here I am auditioning the foreground trees over what I have stitched so far. I think I will probably stitch down the background birches on the right side first but I do like to see how the overlapping trees affects the piece. I am also trying to decide if I should attempt adding more snow to the picture. What do you think?