I am still all packed up so decided to do another small picture. This one is 3.5 x2.5 inches. I wanted to do a sunset. Step one google sunset pictures in the public domain. Well, that was disappointing. It seems that the popular configuration is oversaturated with the blinding sun dead center and if there is anything else in the picture it is a black silhouette. I was looking for something more subdued with lots of colour in the sky but with colour still in the landscape. I tried adding qualifying words to my google search but it didn’t help. I just kept scrolling and scrolling. The further away from the top hits the better it got. Sometimes page 5 has better pictures than the first page.
I started with this small piece of offcut from a long-ago project. I think it was a little bag.
I decided to go with my imagination rather than an actual picture. Drew in the horizon, the lake, the hill and an indication of trees. I knew the trees would disappear under the sky so not much point to that.
I added some sky using 2 shades of blue. I used 3 shades of orange and a little white to do some nice sunset-kissed streaky clouds in the sky.
The water was next. It is a combination of Prussian blue and navy.
I added the grass. It is antique, olive green and a puter/brown colour. I was thinking of late in the year when the grass turns golden. I carded the colours together but not too much so I would have some nice variation.
Then I added the cloud reflection in the water.
I wanted some trees on the ridge. I want the ridge to be in the distance with the trees striking up a little. I don’t like them. they look too much like they belong at a Christmas tree farm, so I took them off.
Next, I tried mixing some shades of green and then drafting it thin. I told it in my fingers to give it some cohesion and needled 3 trees on the ridge. I like these better but am still not sure. I think I probably just need to not look at them so closely. The thumbnails that show along the bottom of my photo editing software look better than the big picture but it’s twice as big as the actual picture so it shows too much detail. I would like to add more trees but not sure it won’t just end up looking like a green blob. I may leave it and more onto the flowers in the foreground. Any suggestions for the trees.
For the next one, I hope to go bigger. I always want to add too much detail and it’s just not possible with a small picture.
And one last thing, a cute thing. This is Storm. He was born on Saturday. we have no idea who his mom is. Perhaps the storm spooked her.
We had a huge storm in Ontario it took out power to most of the south of the province. We were out for a little over a day. Many people are still out. You may not see Jan in 2 days. It hasn’t been like this since the Icestorm of 1998. At least the weather is better for this one.
here’s the outage map the darker green is the area the hydro company covers and all the dots are the numbers of outages in that area. London, Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa have separate hydro companies but they all have huge outages too. if you follow the link you can zoom in and see different areas.
Recently we have acquired a new bookcase for our living room. It was actually made to fit in the space between the front wall and the door of the room. However it has a sort of lip around the top, the corner of which was banged by the glass of the open door if we were not careful.
Obviously we needed something to stop the door before it fully opened. After some thought I decided that it needed to be tall (so that we didn’t have to bend down too far to move it – the floor gets further away the older you get), but it needed to be thin too otherwise the door wouldn’t open far enough to let one of us safely into the room, especially with drinks in hand.
I wanted it to go with the colour of the carpet and I knew that I had somewhere in my stash a blue wool sweater that I had felted (on purpose) by putting it through the washing machine. I finally rooted it out and decided that I would use one of the sleeves, which had a pattern knitted into it.
Initially I thought that I would make a tall thin pyramid shape to fit in the gap between the side of the book case and the door. I sewed up the cuff of the sleeve and, to make sure it didn’t keep falling over, I begged a piece of flat lead sheet from my husband which I fitted into the bottom of the stuffed sleeve, and then sewed up what had been the shoulder to make the base.
Well it was ok, but I thought it needed a bit more interest and decided to turn the door stop into a cat.
Out came the felting needles and my scoured merino, which I use as core fibres. Then for the “top coat” I sorted through the blues in my stash – normally jealously guarded because I don’t have a lot now as I use them for sky in my pictures – and found some which almost matched the main blue of the sleeve. Obviously he wasn’t going to be a realistic cat so I tried to “cartoonise” his features, and rather than give him needle felted eyes as I might normally do I fished out some bright orange glass eyes from another stash which would go well with his dark blue face. I used some of the blue to make a wet felt sheet, out of which I cut his ears.
Having made his head, I attached it to the tall thin pyramid. It’s sewn as well as needled on, but even so I was concerned that if he was picked up by his head it might come off. I made a piece of blue cord and attached that as a loop behind his head so that he might be moved safely. And here we have him.
Not long after this, we acquired a new pinky-grey bathroom carpet and also new pink and grey towels to replace very tired old red ones. Until then we had been using the bathroom scales as a door stop – that door will slam very hard if the wind gets up when the window is open. So now I decided that we would need another door cat.
When we got the new carpet we did not change the basic colour scheme as we didn’t want the hassle of changing the suite (vintage Pampas) or the tiles. The colour scheme is essentially derived from the tiles, which are pink and grey with some crimson detailing. Originally we had a red-ish carpet and red and dark grey towels, but when I bought those towels I could not get a bath mat to match, so I made one by stitching two red hand towels back to back.
As the new carpet shed fibres quite a lot to begin with I thought of making the new door cat out of that fibre, but after a little more thought I realised that that would not be a good idea. We would keep falling over a camouflaged cat in the gloom of a late night visit!
So I thought I might find another felted sleeve, but couldn’t come up with something the right colour. Then, because we still had touches of red in the room, I decided that I would deconstruct the old red bath mat and use one of the pieces for the cat’s body. I had already given away the rest of the old towels to my friend for her dogs.
I felt that a “loaf cat” pose would be best, less likely to tip over if the wind caught the door, but I’d need too much lead sheet to make it a suitable weight. So I visited the garden and found a triangular(ish) shaped piece of rock, washed it and wrapped it in a couple of layers of non-woven cotton towels, secured with masking (painter’s) tape. I made myself a paper pattern of the body and cut out two body sides and a gusset for the base and chest. I cut out the pattern pieces from the towel and stitched it all up (first inserting the wrapped rock and stuffing it with polyester stuffing.
I had seen a cartoon of a smiling cat, which had enormous ears, which looked really cheeky. I thought I’d have a go at making one like that. I started with the core fibre again and got the head substantially how I’d like it and then thought about fibres for the coating.
I did not have exactly the right red, so had to blend a couple of pieces of pre-dyed merino tops which seemed to work ok. I did the same to make a pinky-grey blend for the chest, face and inside of the ears. I had decided that I would make the cat’s chest a similar colour to the carpet which meant that I had to make a wet felted sheet of the pinky-grey batt to cover the original red towelling. I cut the felt into the shape of the chest gusset, leaving enough for a pair of large ears.
I needled some of the red onto the back of the ears, and this resulted in a darker pink on the inside where the needles had pushed fibres right through, which was actually a benefit I think. I needled the blended red on to the back of the cat’s head and neck, and the pinky-grey onto the face, attached the ears and gave him a darker pink nose. I “shadowed” the smile and blinking eyes and I also gave him some laughter lines.
Then I stitched the head onto the neck, and the chest piece over his front, catching in the head at the neck. I covered the join with more needled fibres and, using another piece of towel, attached a handle to the back of his neck so that he could be moved without his head coming off.
My husband has already named him Yoda. We each confessed the other day that we both chat to him (in fact I pick him up and cuddle him too – he just fits into one arm)
What about the poor tatty sheep at the beginning of this post? Well, many years ago now, when I was a fairly new needle felter, I decided that I’d like to make myself a door stop for my bedroom door. I had acquired from our Guild a Jacob fleece, which, as it turned out, was ideal for needle felting. It certainly wasn’t a lot of good for wet felting – it wouldn’t, whatever I did to it. I suppose I must have had an old ram’s coarse and kempy fleece palmed off on me, when I was too naïve to know what I was getting – no wonder it was cheap!
Anyway, I got a body shaped pebble out of the garden, and washed it, wrapped it in some of the un- wetfelted fleece and started in with a No.36 felting needle (I only had 36 triangle and 38 star needles in those days- oh and a No.19 which was so thick it wouldn’t really go through anything I had with any ease). I bust quite a few needles before the pebble was covered. I added a neck to one end and then decided that my sheep would need eyes and a pair of horns. At that time I did not know that Jacob sheep often have 4 horns and wear them as if they had put them on in a hurry in the morning whilst still half asleep!
I made the horns and eyeballs using pipe cleaners and white Fimo polymer clay, baked and painted with acrylic paints. At that stage in my career I had not thought of using PVA glue on needled fleece to make horns. I needled a head shape around the horns and eyes, and then attached it to the neck. It did not occur to me to strengthen the neck with the ends of the pipe cleaners, I had cut these short and just put the horns on either end, and did the same with the eyes.
Well it all worked and for years he sat by my door, getting moved when necessary with my foot. Now he’s a sad old thing, but being sentimental I can’t bear to get rid of him, even though he’s lost a horn and is definitely the worse for wear. Perhaps I’ll give him a “makeover” sometime.
I decided to return to basics and take an introduction to wet felting course. I am hoping to become a training mentor with the International Feltmakers Association and thought that rather than observe the interaction within this course; I would throw myself into it. Despite felting for the best part of 10 years I will readily admit I am learning loads – happy days! The course involves sampling various breeds of sheep for, among other attributes shrinkage rate and required finishing the fulling by rolling the sample in a bamboo mat.
I knew I had them somewhere in my workroom – you might be familiar with the process – one puts something away safely for use in the future and then one promptly forgets where it is! My room was a disaster area after the Christmas holidays as it had become a dumping ground. It was quite the miracle that I could even find the work table let alone the bamboo mat. A tidy was on the cards.
As I started tidying, I uncovered a number of unfinished projects which I reckoned would fulfil the criteria of this quarter’s challenge. Let’s just call it as it is, repurposing something stuck in the back of a closet into something a bit more useful. Those unfinished projects started with great enthusiasm then put by when I ran out of steam!
First up was the unfinished silk throw which I started in June 2021. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had inherited lots of fabrics from my husband’s Aunt Kathleen. In amongst them were small lengths of beautifully coloured wild silk which I had cut into squares and sewn together. I had gotten as far as putting wadding and a backing on to it so I added a binding and machine stitched (diagonally) through the layers to complete the throw. Sorry that I forgot to take a photo of the piece before I attacked it – just one of my work in progress and the finished throw. I have to say I just love the richness of the colours! I took the throw out into the garden to photograph but it was so windy it was difficult to catch so this photo does not capture the sheen off it. You can just about see the pattern from the diagonal machine stitching.
Back to the presses where I discovered a pile of felt that I had made up – not sure for what reason – long forgotten. Some of it was plain and I had experimented by nuno felting various silks onto another piece. One piece was a beautiful red and it inspired me to make a heart brooch. I cut out my shape and then put it through the sewing machine a number of times using a zigzag stitch on the edge. I then sewed a brooch pin on the back. Here is the result in time for Valentine’s Day (note the bottles of champagne in the background which still have not been removed from my workroom):
I then cut a rectangular shape from the nuno felted sample and zigzag stitched around this in a similar manner to the heart.
These were quick and easy to make (once the initial felting was done) and they have potential for selling at Christmas fairs or including in cards as small gifts.
I keep my handbags in my workroom. I have a beautiful black leather bag that I paid a fortune for in the 1990’s and have worn it to death. The colour of the bag is now nearly grey and it’s scuffed – it is normal wear and tear – I don’t believe in using something I love only on occasion. I had enquired about having the bag renovated but the quotation from the one place I knew who did this kind of work was way up in the hundreds so I did not want to go there. Instead the bag greeted me forlornly every time I walked into the room. It was like it was pleading with me to put it back to work again. I headed off to our shoe menders who said that there were no guarantees that any leather dye would work on bags (they are apparently specifically for shoes). I decided to take a chance as I did not want to scrap the bag. It was time to redeploy it. I used two coats of spray on the bag and now it is as good as new. I am so pleased. Unfortunately I did not take a ‘before’ photo but this is how it turned out.
Back in the day when my daughter was at college, she worked in a high end retail store. Like her mother she fell in love with a leather bag and spent most of her week’s wages on it. Within a month it looked worn out as it scuffed easily and the colour came away. So she talked to the buyer and got a replacement only to find the same thing happened. Disappointed the bag was discarded as it was not fit to be seen. She told me to throw it out as she felt she would not insult a charity shop by donating it. Armed with my new confidence I headed back to the shoe repair shop and purchased another dye. This time I opted for a paint rather than a spray on dye and got to work painting on two coats. I left it to dry thoroughly for a couple of days and then presented it for inspection. I have to admit I fell in love with it and I was hoping she might hate the slightly changed colour so I could keep it. She loved it (secretly I am delighted as she is a fussy lady) and she is now never without it on her shoulder when she is heading out!
Then I found a cheap carrier bag that I had purchased while on holidays a number of years ago. I remember that it cost €1 (which is less than £1 and around US$1). The handle was torn and the zip, which was used to tidy the bag when not in use was broken.
It was a bit of a sorry sight but I liked the plastic coated fabric and the challenge of repurposing it. First of all I removed the zip to see if there was any life left in it. When I was examining it I fell in love with the rainbow effect of the colours on the teeth and made up my mind to salvage it if I could. I then unpicked the outer pocket that housed the folded bag and dismantled the bag by cutting away the side and bottom seams and the handles. This left me with two pieces of material and I cut two rectangles from these, using as much of the fabric as I could. My intention was to double over the material so that the bag was self lined. In effect, the bag would be half the size of the cut rectangles (less seam allowance) and I would be sewing through four layers.
Next, I removed the broken tag on the zip using a pliers and I opened the little hook on the mechanism as wide as I could so that I could fit in a fabric tag as a replacement.
I hand sewed the top and the bottom of the zip, cut the zip to size and then covered these areas with remnants of the bag fabric. Here’s a photo of the mended zip:
I drew a line at the centre of the rectangles of fabric and sewed through the two rectangles using a big stitch in preparation for inserting the zip (as per Teri Berry). Then it was time to tackle the zip so I did this using the method Teri outlined in her post of 12th January (thanks Teri, it worked a treat).
I then sewed the original outer pocket back on to one side of the rectangle.
I turned the bag inside out (you might recall that the bag is self lined so the material is the same inside and outside. I used quilters’ clamps and pins to hold the pieces together and sewed through the material rounding the corners.
I then used my sheers to neaten the seams.
So here is the finished odds and ends bag. I hope I have added value to it and it will sell for more than its original €1 price tag when it hits the charity shop.
Did I ever find that elusive bamboo mat? Yes I did in the very last box in the room. It was worth the search. I am feeling virtuous (or is that a bit smug) with my finished projects, ‘new’ leather bag, happy daughter and completed upcycling project.
Oh yes and tidy workroom. Bets are on as to how long that lasts!
A little post script which happened since I uploaded the post. A friend of mine asked if I could help out with a handmade gift for a new arrival. Something small, so in the end we settled on booties. I wanted to keep the price as reasonable as I could for her so I searched through my stash of felt samples. In the middle of it I came across a hat which I made in my early days and which was waaaay too small for my head. So out came the scissors and I took over the role of shoe elf (part time). Thankfully I could work during day time when the real elves were asleep. I found a free pattern on Pattern Bee (https://patternbee.com/_images/free_stuff/FELT%20BABY%20SHOES.pdf) and got to work. So here is the result. I hope my friend and the new parents like them.
I will readily admit I spent quite some time out of my comfort zone putting together this post. Cutting into things does not come easy to me and I have fabrics that I caress every now and again, afraid that if I make that cut I will destroy it. But it was good to let go on items where I had nothing to lose if things went wrong. New things created from old things discarded.
Have you anything that you recently repurposed? Perhaps this post has inspired you to finish off a project that has lingered in the back of the cupboard. Perhaps you make do and mend. If so, we would love to see your work. Here is a link where you can upload a photo and write a brief description of what you have done https://wp.me/P1WEqk-cJX . The process is quick and simple and it’s just one click away. I would love for my next post to feature our reader’s work. Let’s get this conversation going. We can all inspire each other.
The loom has been sitting there needing attention for ages and I finally stopped procrastinating. Winter is a real challenge to get stuff done. I knew there would be threading errors; there are always threading errors when I do a loom. So I cracked out a good light and checked over the warp and found two. One required that I undo about four inches and re-thread everything, yuch. But the other was much easier. I just needed to move everything over by one thread in the reed. Very easy to fix.
All that needs to be done is wind 4.5 yards of warp yarn onto a bobbin, weight it, thread it through the empty space available in the reed and the harness, and let it hang out the back of the loom. The harness is the part of the loom that goes up and down and raises the threads and has wire “eyes” for each thread. I just use a very lightweight to keep the bobbin dragging a little. In this case, I used napkin rings.
Next, I had to load up the really nice ski shuttle specifically designed for rag and rug weaving. The tools for weaving are sometimes the most beautiful things you can imagine, really beautifully made with an elegant design.
After a few passes, I noticed more threading errors. I fixed them and then noticed another. It became obvious the problem was the lovely ski shuttle was damaging the warp. I did a bit of research online and found out that the shuttles need to be maintained to a very high degree. The bottom of the shuttle needs to be polished and extremely smooth, none of my hand me downs were of that quality. I’ll fix them later, but for now, I needed an alternate solution. Back to fixing the warp.
I dug around in my baskets and found a different sort of rag shuttle along with several stick shuttles. The stick shuttle is a slower method of weaving, but it is all I had. I was really pleased with how well it worked.
The silk is weaving up softer and more flexible than I thought, the colours seem very compatible and I’m pleased with the results. The strips are attached with small knots and these are being used as design elements. I like the way they look when they pop up out of the warp. Because this is an experiment I will try to hold in my optimism for this to become the jacket I had hoped for; that might be too aspirational, but I am aiming in that direction if I can get enough yardage, but for now, I’m really pleased with how things are moving along.
Lyn and Annie have set us a lovely Q1 challenge of sampling ways of recycling fabric. They showed a great variety of fabulous techniques in their blog
In this post I will show you some wet felted samples I’ve made in response to the challenge, and my thoughts so far on what I might do next.
The quarterly challenges are supposed to push our boundaries. At first glimpse, I do this all the time. I rarely write a blog without using charity-shop bought fabric and bashing on about how much I love using recycled materials, so maybe it’s a bit of a cheat for me? Well, maybe. But while I scour the local charity shops for silk scarves or old lace for nuno felting, I also pick up some second-hand fabrics asking myself – ‘what would happen if I tried to felt that?’ Although my intentions are good, I often don’t get round to trying out the more unusual fabrics. So, I decided I’d use the Q1 challenge to dig out a few second-hand fabrics I’ve bought in the past but not used and make some samples.
I like the colours and am interested to see what happens to the texture. As you can see, the background is quite sheer.
First I cut a square, based on the width of the scarf. I laid out 2 fairly thick, even layers of midnight blue merino at right angles on the back.
Here’s the final sample. Shrinkage was about 50%
It’s interesting how much the velvet has been integrated into the felt. I’d expected more texture. I like the result but immediately wonder how it would look with a lighter colour wool behind it. Maybe I would be able to see more of the original velvet’s pattern? Ideas for a future sample.
Next up is a black and silver sequin dress. I bought this because I like the way the sequins are distributed on the backing fabric: not packed very tightly and not widely spaced. Also, I like the way the black and silver sort of drip into each other.
I cut a 20 x 20 cm square: I like this size as it’s big enough to see what happens and small enough to felt reasonably quickly. It also leaves enough of the original fabric if you decide you want to make something from it. I laid 2 fairly thick but even layers of black merino on the back and wet felted.
I achieved about 45% shrinkage. I liked the result and started to think about how I could use this fabric – more of which later.
Here’s a second velvet scarf I wanted to have a go with
Unlike my first velvet sample, the background didn’t integrate so readily into the wool, so sat more on the surface. Maybe that was predictable as the background was less sheer but for me it highlights the value of making samples – you can’t really be sure what you’re going to get until you try it. Especially as my charity shop fabrics rarely have labels telling me what they’re made of. I like the texture: maybe this would work well to represent an animal. Shrinkage was about 45%
Sample 4 was a light pink fade-dyed silk scarf with lurex stripes. I used 2 thin, even layers of natural white merino on the back.
One of the most striking things was how much more it shrank in one direction than the other (about 45% in one direction, 30% in the other). The ripple of the lurex also gave great texture.
I could have fulled this harder but decided to stop. I wondered whether the uneven shrinkage was just because of the lurex stripes, but looking again at the original fabric I saw that the silk was much more densely woven in the direction of the stripes rather than at right angles to them. When wet felting, the more dense things are, the less they tend to shrink. I think this would make some fabulous fairy wings maybe. Alas I have no call for fairy wings at the moment. Put that on the back burner for a future venture.
Sample 5 is a section of a loosely woven silk fabric with a distinctive pattern. I wondered what would happen to the motifs.
Shrinkage was 40%. Given it is loosely woven, I was surprised by the amount of ruching. The fibres retained a nice sheen. I regretted my choice of natural white wool for this one. I wished I’d used a turquoise blue or maybe tried 2 different colours to test how to show up the silk’s colours. I’ll put this in the samples box and maybe I’ll come back to this another time.
Sample 6 – I found this scarf particularly intriguing. Clearly a woven fabric but no information about the materials. The weave made the fabric very stretchy but the threads themselves had almost no stretch in them. I thought maybe cotton or linen. Using the same method I went for 2 fairly thin layers of undyed white merino on the back.
It was a bit tricky to decide how much to stretch out the fabric when laying it out so I ended up with a slightly larger sample than the others. Also, I don’t have an iron in the studio so I wet the particularly creased sections to help flatten them.
Shrinkage was 45%. I really like the texture here. Maybe I will use this when creating waves / sea water in a future wet felted coastal picture. I could lay it out in wavy lines with dark blue or pewter-coloured wool.
A small aside. Why do I keep talking about shrinkage? I’ve been felting for over 10 years now but it took me a long time to understand how to full felt properly. It’s very tempting to stop fulling when you get to about 25% or 30% shrinkage. And for some things, like pictures behind glass, that may be OK. But in my experience, the more you full things the better the quality, strength, appearance and durability of felt. And the best way of checking how well you’ve fulled or felted something is to aim for a high shrinkage rate.
Sample 7 – a silk scarf with a dense feather pattern. I was interested to see what would happen to the pattern when felted. I put silk on both sides, with wool sandwiched in between.
I wasn’t sure about the white wool but think the silk has potential to represent something like lichen in a felt picture or sculpture – maybe using sage green wool. Or maybe marble? I cut this sample into strips to make bookmarks.
OK. These are the seven samples I made specifically for the Q1 challenge. The next question for me is ‘so what?’
I’ve included some thoughts on what I could make next with these fabrics. I decided to investigate further the potential of the sequin fabric. I tried some 3D drop-shaped pieces, using a resist with the sequin fabric inside. The first has potential for earrings, though I need to think about the earring fixings. Or maybe part of a neck piece.
The second is a prototype for 2022 Christmas decorations. I think this has potential but I would include more colour and maybe texture in the outside. Also, I must remember to mark the front as I couldn’t tell which side to cut into. It’s difficult to see the scale in the photos – the earrings are 7cm top to bottom and the decoration 11cm.
Here are a couple of fabrics I’ve sampled in the past and how I’ve learned from the samples to make things – in this case plant holders.
This was a loosely knitted shawl. I made a sample and loved the mossy look of it. In the sample-making process I cut off the ribbed edge and included it in this plant pot holder, to give a textured band.
Here’s another charity shop scarf that I incorporate into plant holders
re-using, recycling or up-cycling are not just good, eco-friendly ideas but can be really fun and give unique results.
small samples are fairly quick to make but give you loads of information about how fabrics will felt or work with other processes
making samples is a great way of sparking ideas about future projects
make sure you full wet felting really well
keep your samples as you never know when the learning and ideas might come in useful
The Q1 challenge is not just about felt-making: it’s about different ways of recycling fabric. There isn’t a right or wrong answer with samples – just lots of things to learn. Do join in by posting your recycled fabric samples on the forum.
This week I got my Moderna booster shot. Then crawled into bed. I know it’s working from the immune response; not as horrible as AZ but definitely more kick than the last Physer dose. I’m still tired and seem to be a bit sluggish but I know it’s working. This may be a bit short and if the spelling goes really strange I have likely fallen asleep on the keyboard.
Mr. Mer has immensely enjoyed his week out of his project bag. But he had something he wanted to discuss. It seems he may have been folded into an odd position in his bag for too long and has developed a trigger point in his rhomboids. As we discussed last time they are a fabulously cool muscle that stabilizes your shoulder when your arms are out in front of you (so, most of the fun things you do and dishes).
Now you may be wondering what a trigger point is. (A discrete, focal, hyperirritable spot located in a taut band of skeletal muscle. They can produce pain locally or in a referred pattern.) Think of a muscle like a bundle of straws. To use the muscle you can ask for a few fibrils (the straws) to contract or you can use more or all of the fibrils to contract. This is the difference between holding a fragile, hollow egg (using a few) or crushing a beer can (using Many or all, some beer cans are tough). As you hold the contraction for an extended period of time a few fibrils may get stuck in the instruction of “I must contract” even after you have told them to stop and relax. The Fibrils will say “don’t bother me I’m busy working!” and refuse to follow your new instructions.
There are a number of ways to try to treat one, from needles to cold sprays to manual therapy (Ischemic Compressions). Stretching can help a bit by calming down the neighbouring muscles but there is a way to have a more effective chat with a trigger point. In this case, rhomboids are not in an area that is easily self-massaged! Ok, Mr. Mer says he can almost reach the spot but I have an easier way to get there than your fingers.
Ischemic compressions sounds really impressive and very expensive. Let me try to explain it a bit. So we have a spot in the bundle of fibrils that is holding its calcium and maintaining the unwanted contraction, long after you told it to stop. Remember the Fibrils will say “don’t bother me! I’m busy working!” As you apply an ischemic compression you are pressing on the spot of the trigger point. This will deprive the area under your finger of local circulation (food and oxygen) while you press your finger there. As you hold the pressure the fibril says “I can’t breath!” it releases the calcium that it was using to maintain the contraction, and relaxes. When I palpate this it feels like a frozen pea size bit of butter that melts under my finger. As soon as it’s melted, lift your finger and return circulation to the spot. (Ischemic – without oxygen, Compression – push on it). But I bet you still can’t get your own fingers back there to chat with your own rhomboids. (I have a plan! Now it’s time to go look in your backyard or front yard for a tennis ball. Even if you don’t have kids or a dog they still seem to drop in from somewhere!) if you don’t find one lying around, the Dollar store sells Smelly ones. The less smelly ones can be purchased for a bit more at other stores.
So, what I did promise Mr. Mer and actually made this week was a yellow tennis ball. I had a bit of white, very fine possibly merino or Rambulay batting that is full of vegimatter and some absolutely horrid bright intense yellow of unknown origins.
With a bit of rolling and poking, I had what I hoped was a close size. Mr. Mer would like it a bit firmer and more of a yellow colour.
I added the tail into the ball body, giving it a much firmer core. Then started to lay over layers of the hideous yellow. (it’s just too bright and sunny a colour!!!)(I almost always cheer for the guys with the garlic allergy!)
I checked for size and it seems to be right.
I need to add a bit more detail on the ball while I waited for the other imperative ingredient to this therapeutic tool.
I am sure you have seen diagrams and pictures of people rolling around on tennis balls on the floor….. You do know there is a more comfortable way to do that right?
Mr. Mer tried the tennis ball on the sore spot but it rolled off as soon as he stood up! (It would have floated away in the water so that isn’t the answer).
I got Mr. Mer to practice without the tennis ball until the missing ingredient arrived.
Take the hand from the sore side, bring it across the body in front of you and rest it on the opposite shoulder. (This position opens the scapula and will help get the tennis ball to the sore spot).
The Final Ingredient has arrived!!!! Mr. Mer is now Very Confused!!!
His “legs” certainly don’t look like that! No NO!! Don’t try to wear them! Put the tennis ball in the toe of the knee highs (you can use one leg from a pair of full sized nylon if you need to get further down the back or work on the glutes) Yes this works for trigger points in Piriformis which can give sciatic pain.
Here Mr. Mer has a very short length of knee high so the ball is sitting quite high on his upper back. This is great for Upper Traps, Levator Scapula and the Upper Rhomboids. By loosening his hold on the nylon and leaning forward slightly the ball will slide further down his back. This will allow access to a different set of muscles.
Yes that’s better! Now the last part is to find a nice solid wall where you can to lean into the tennis ball.
Mr Mer is trying to show you how the tennis ball is between him and the “Wall” (really it is a stack of fiber bins). He is not very see through so it may be hard to see what he is trying to show you.
Oh, it looks like he has moved his shoulder/arm and adjusted the tennis ball to find just the right spot! With this method you can adjust the position of the tennis ball and the amount of pressure you are using easily. Trigger points are painful but when you have the right spot it is described as a “Good Ache”. If it gets more painful you are not on the right spot. Trigger points do not occur in BONE. Do not use the tennis ball on a bone!
The tennis ball in a sock, knee-high or leg of a nylon often feels really good even if you don’t have a trigger point.
I should be feeling back to myself by tomorrow I hope, but now it’s time to either face plant the keyboard or go have a nap as this is translated out of dyslexic for you.
PS This morning Mr. Mer decided to follow the instruction on the packaging for the Knee highs. He can not find any high heeled shoes in the house and he didn’t fit in the stiletto boots (i don’t think I fit in them anymore either). He decided to try the knee highs on, he only needed the one.
He is not convinced this is the look he wants, it restricts his fins. He may stick to just keeping his tennis ball in the knee-high. He does like his new Tennis ball!
‘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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
It’s that time of year when there are lots of Christmas fairs coming up & I need to make some festive items.
Recently, I picked up some Christmas-themed small wooden blanks (for tree decorations, or maybe gift tags) very cheaply in a charity shop. I started doodling on them with acrylic pens and found I was enjoying myself – it made me think about the recent popularity of adult colouring books. Good for mindfulness.
Some examples of the painted blanks – there was quite a variety of shapes.
I know these aren’t fibre-related but it set me off thinking about doing something similar with felt. I bought some bauble-shaped wooden blanks online and after colouring a few in (colouring in is a little addictive) …..
Some of the painted baubles
….. I decided to make a sheet of white felt, decorated with bits of vintage lace, old tatting and shadow-work embroidery, all bought in charity shops. I have a box full of old strips of hand and machine made ‘lace’, old dressing table doilies, bits of fine crochet….anything I think might felt. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to do some creative up-cycling.
As I was making the felt it struck me that I have lots of handmade felt off-cuts, test pieces and samples that I could use in a similar way. A good opportunity to recycle work and release a little studio space. To continue my recycling theme, I even used charity-shop-bought crochet cotton for the hanging strings.
These were cut from square samples I made during Fiona Duthie’s Ink + Felt class
Left, some more ink + cloth samples. Right, samples I made for my ‘hippie’ bag earlier this year
Left photo: Top left a nuno sample I made using recycled linen; the others were off-cuts from other projects
Right photo – the yellow was a coaster I made with coloured yarn; the green and pink are nuno samples, the blue is an example of paper felt with some acrylic pen
Finally, I painted some of the wooden bauble-shapes white, and married them with a broad strip of black vintage lace.
So, the chance purchase of second-hand wooden blanks led me to upcycling vintage textiles and recycling some of my own felt off-cuts and samples. I love seeking out and using second-hand materials, especially small hand made things, usually made by women, that tend to be disregarded by many people. Often they are from something that has worn out, like a pillow case, or is rarely now used, like dressing table sets or antimacassars.
I have one particular piece of embroidery on fine silk that I couldn’t bring myself to use. The work is so fine I endlessly marvel at the skills of the woman who made it. It’s so intricate and beautiful with such tiny stitches it makes me feel slightly sad. I bought it in a charity shop for £2. To me it’s a disregarded masterpiece.
Silk and embroidery (hand / finger included for scale)
The silk is starting to disintegrate and I’m really not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions?
It doesn’t seem all that long ago when life was simple and the only decisions we needed to make regarding our daily fix of caffeine were “instant or percolated”, “black or white”, “with or without sugar”?
How times have changed! Nowadays we have a dazzling array of flavours and styles to chose from when visiting our favourite Barista. I did once try a cinnamon and syrup latte in M&S and have never forgotten how vile that was…..give me a straight forward, simple latte every time! On the other hand, if you like your coffee more exotic, there are plenty of rather weird (and probably not so wonderful?) tastes to explore. The Farm Girl Cafe in Portobello Road could be the place to visit if you fancy a black charcoal latte made with activated charcoal, date syrup and cashew milk. Or how about their blue Butterfly Matcha made with organic blue matcha powder (now there’s an interesting ingredient to look up) with almond milk or their most famous creation, the rose latte (a double shot with rose water infused milk and petals)….there is obviously a market for it but personally I think I’ll pass!
Of course we no longer have to go out to get our fix of posh coffee thanks to the popularity of the domestic barista machines and the single use coffee capsule. Although many of these are said to be recyclable, according to Nestle, only around one third of their capsules (Nespresso, Dolce Gusto, Tassimo) were being returned to the manufacturer for recycling in 2020. The rest were ending up in landfill where it’s predicted they will take 500 years to breakdown!
A “not for profit” organisation in the UK called Podback are now working with local councils and other organisations to make it easier and more convenient to recycle our capsules with roadside collections alongside other household recycling. Consumers also have the option of leaving them at over 6,500 Yodel drop off points and we should soon (if it’s not happening already) have them collected by supermarkets when they drop off our online shopping.
That’s all sounding good but many of us are finding more creative ways to recycle our coffee pods, albeit on a far smaller scale. One use is to add them as interesting, textural ‘inclusions’ to a felting project. The first time I saw this done was in 2018 when I attended a Felted jewellery workshop with the wonderful German tutor Ricarda Assmann. Although we were working with fabrics, not capsules, three of the necklaces Ricarda brought as workshop samples had the aluminium crushed pods in them. At that time I didn’t have any capsules but the contrast between the hard texture of the metal and the soft feel of the fibres really appealed to me.
Another fabulous feltmaker, Judit Pocs, created this enormous “Gate” wallhanging in response to a commission from the Feltmakers Association. It is something like 2mtrs tall and studded with crushed capsules in a multitude of colours. Judit also makes beautiful rings with them and teaches the technique for making these in her online workshop.
The year before I attended Ricarda’s jewellery workshop I had the idea to recycle my collection of Tektura acrylic wallpaper samples as inclusions in my pendants (I never throw away anything that might have a use in the future!) It’s a simple process but very effective, wet felting the “waterproof” paper discs between pieces of prefelt. Four years on, and with those papers almost depleted, I’m now starting to use coffee capsules instead. Being thin aluminium they can be crushed by hand (that’s how I did the gold one in the ring) or they will flatten more easily with a little persuasion from a hammer, in which case I find it best to cover them with fabric first to avoid the hammer scratching off the colour. I’ve also started using them in some of my brooches.
I’m sure some of our readers will have tried Felting with capsules and I know Ann did some experimenting with them which you can see here, has anyone else tried this? They could look great in 3D pieces such as bags, sculptures, etc. I did a google search and didn’t find any other images of felt with capsules but I’m sure there’s lots out there somewhere. I did find zillions of “non felted” ideas for recycling on Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube, etc and websites including ecogreenlove.com, these are just a few…..
There are so many inventive ways to create with coffee capsules and with Christmas fast approaching they could be used for decorations or even nativity scenes like these found on Pinterest…….
I will leave you with one of the most impressive uses I came across which was the stunning 2017 catwalk collection by Birmingham designer Rhys Ellis. Rhys studied Fashion Design at Birmingham University and, as part of his course, he spent a year in Italy studying at the Politecnico di Milano design school alongside world-renowned tailor, Guiltiero Fornetti.
“It was while I was in one of the markets that I saw a lady making very simple jewellery from these coffee pods and something just clicked and I knew that I could create dresses this way.“ “I also liked the idea of using material that would otherwise be thrown away.”
I won’t be making anything that dramatic but I am planning to make lots more pendants and brooches. I might just add some capsules to my next felted bag too. If you’ve done anything with them we would love to hear about your projects in the “comments” and you could always post them on the Forum.
Hi, It’s me again, out of sync. We had a scheduling problem so I have jumped back in and Ruth will be me later.
A while ago I collected some used coffee pods to try doing some felting with. This was inspired by Judit Pócs. She is an incredible felter and has an amazing imagination. https://pocsjuditstudio.hu/home I believe she used them in a felted ring, free workshop for people that are members of the International Felt makers Association when they had their online conference. I am not a member. Anyway, there were all over Facebook and I wanted to try them out. This is the first attempt.
These are metal pods for a Nespresso machine. I got them by asking on my local buy/sell/give group on Facebook. People with these machines do not throw the pods out they collect them in a supplied bag and then send them back to the company postage paid for recycling. At least that seems less wasteful.
They are pretty and come in two sizes
I had to flatten the pods first. The large domes are much easier to flatten nicely.
I laid out a thickish base and then added to the 2 kinds of pods.
Then another double layer of wool on top.
I felted in the usual way and then cut holes over the disk. I cut the wrong side first, naturally
This is where it starts to go downhill. The texture of the disks makes it hard to rub and heal the cuts. I am not the most patient with this step normally so this was frustrating and didn’t work well.
As a first experiment, this was a good learning experience.
Next time I will mark the top and put a piece of underlay over the pods to make a smoother surface to work on after I cut the holes. That should make it easier to make a better edge. I also think I needed a thicker layer of wool over the pods to get a nicer deeper edge. Maybe just over the pods and not the whole piece. This piece is a good thickness for bag/pouch. Also, as usual, I need to slow down and be patient.
I also made a piece of felt to try out some stitching with the Solvy water-soluble stabilizer. It’s not very exciting to look at and I will probably iron it a little smoother and flatter. I think I will add some needle felting to part of it before using it so I have the 2 textures to try on.
I like figuring out how things are done. I enjoy making samples/experiments much more than I used to. I think it’s all the covid lockdowns and there being no shows. There is not much point in making 20 hats and scarves if you have nowhere to sell them. Have you successfully figured out how to do something you’ve seen online?