This last weekend I taught a Felted Birdhouse Class. A group of ladies and one daughter. We were at one of the lady’s houses, working outside and the setting was lovely and the weather was very cooperative.
Here are all the embellishment fibres set up on the deck.
And here they all are working away on laying out the fibres for their birdhouses. although some wanted bird feeders and some thought a plant might go well in one. That is why it is only a sort of birdhouse class. everyone chose a gourd except we morphed one into a teardrop shape.
They had lots of fun deciding on embellishment fibres and adding them to their pieces
This one looks sort of dull but it is the green Merino and multi-coloured tribal nylon mix from the world of wool.
This one was all silk I think.
This one is sari silk waste
This was just the beginning it had lots of stuff on it in the end. You will see it later.
This one had lots of the sparkly triloble nylon.
Then of course there was the rubbing and rolling
And then the scrunching and throwing to get it well filled.
Here everyone is with their finished pieces. They have balloons inside to help them have a good shape when dry. You will notice one was cut in half to become 2 plant holders but the one half is looking very much like a hat.
I got sent a couple of pictures of what they looked like now they are dry. I was right it did look a lot like a hat. the class was Sunday and today is Tuesday( Wednesday when this goes up) so not much time for them to get me pictures. If I get more I will edit them in.
It was a fantastic warm September day and a great way to spend it.
I had another little oops on Friday. I was sitting and bent forward…and felt a little pop, froze to assess what I might have done. Decided it didn’t seem too bad until I tried to straighten up. That did not go as well as I hoped, but I got myself back to the computer and tried to keep working on a comparison of needle felting safety devices notes I had been working on. That didn’t last long and I wobbled off to lie down. If I had got the memo that bending foreword was forbidden on Fridays I would have abstained from that offensiveness movement.
Instead, I had to accept my back’s indication/insistence that I should wait on the article I was writing and get back to focusing on another short chat about Mega-Stega-bag-blog. So let’s see if I am up to transferring photos and giving you a progress report. (Lucky you, a less verbose me! Since this is the first day, Sunday, that I can type (leaning forward and sitting seems to offend whoever I ticked off greatly, while lying down was the only acceptable orientation the last few days). so to appease my demanding back it’s back to the bag:
A week ago Monday I was back in at the guild studio working on the library, dispersing fleeces and continuing the calculations for the resist for my new phone holder.
1)From 12 bags to 4 bags, with 2 spoken for that should leave 2 left to find homes.
2) This is the modified Dewey architecture we are using for the OVWSG library’s collection.
I went with a process format for classification, if you are curious I can tell you about that sometime. I will try not to get too distracted today or I will not get this blog done. I will give you the topic headings in case the photo is not as clear as I hope. (I have the OK drugs for my back, not the really good ones from the last time.)
000’s Programs, publishing and people (biography)
100’s Law and Business
200’s Studio and Guilds
300’s Fiber Sources and Preparation
400’s Colour and Dyeing
600’s Spinning and Post Spinning
700’s Fine art/ Design and Weaving
800’s Post Weaving
900’s History of Textiles
I added a few more books to the OVWSG guild library collection. I need to add the new donations to the database before updating the subject, author and title lists on the guild website. Then it was time to take a break and I got started on the stegosaurus expansion to create the purse resist. (It was one of the few days I did not do library work through the social.) See I did get back on topic!
3) Vertical lines have been expanded.
4) You can see how well-folded the paper under the pencil has become.
Now I am ready to work on the horizontal lines.
I used the same technique as the vertical lines; measure the distance along the line inside the Stego-blob on the piece of paper. Fold the paper in half and then fold the half in half again. Take that length and add it to each end of the line on the outside of the blob.
5) Measuring from the edge, where the line and outline meet to add the amount of shrinkage to the shape.
I had to add a bit more paper to my graph to get the head and tail horizontal expansion plotted, but eventually had a spot where the plotting overlapped. If I had wanted to be exact in my expansion I would have added I diagonal element to fix these troublesome transitions. Instead of adding another step, I went with Ann’s suggestion of just estimating, and drawing a line.
7-8) After estimating the line in the two areas where the horizontal and verticals did not agree, I was ready to cut out the new larger shape of Mega-Stega-blob!
9) Remember to use your paper scissors, not your sewing or fibre scissors!!
Ann was very curious to see the difference in size and shape between the original side panel of the giant Stego-bag and the new Mego-Stego-Blob, so we checked.
10) The new shape should make a bit more diminutive purse.
I will add the legs in four extra resist pieces (oh drat I will have to scale that up too), but I did leave the original attachment sites marked on the template. I also have the plate locations marked too. The plan is to add the legs to the body resist to be felted at the same time as the bag. The spines and plates I want to pre-felt partly leaving a fluffy attachment end so I can make them very firm. I had considered wire augmentation for the spines, but have not decided whether to include it yet.
My next step will be to consider the colour so I can lay out the wool. Unfortunately, that will not be this Monday. My goal for the day will be getting to the guild, which I am hoping I will be up to. Possibly adding a few more books, and then getting myself back home! But for now, I think it’s time to go lie down again.
Teri wrote a post a while back about making mushrooms. She inspired me to give it a try. I already had a small circle resist (7 inch diameter) and just needed to add the stem. I cut a rectangular piece of floor underlayment (6.5 inches x 2.5 inches) to add to the circle.
Here it is after I duct taped it together. Now ready for wool. I wanted the process to be fairly quick so I chose some colors from my selection of short fiber merino which felts very quickly.
I decided to ad a few pieces of pre-yarn in brown to the base. I should have put these on the outside layer but I covered with more yellow before wetting down.
Here you can see both sides of the mushroom resist covered with four layers of wool and wet down. Then on to rubbing and making sure the edges were taken care of so I wouldn’t end up with a ridge around the resist.
Here’s the mushroom before I removed the resist.
Once it was partially felted, had a good skin and starting to shrink, I removed the resist. Then on to working the cut edges and begin more aggressive felting, fulling and shaping.
And here’s the finished mushroom on a plastic base with a rod in the center to hold the mushroom erect. I didn’t quite get the bottom even enough for it to stand on it’s own. This was a fun, quick project and I plan on making a few more with a bit more surface design next time. Thanks for the inspiration Teri!
I taught a new wet-felted bowl workshop recently so I decided I’d share my thoughts and ideas about developing and running that workshop in this blog.
I’ve taught a few different wet felting workshops over the years. I really prefer people to start with making good quality flat felt before moving on to other things, but sometimes I bow to the pressure to do something else. I try to remind myself that I’m not the felt police and neither can nor should be in charge of how other people choose to learn. (But, of course, there’s still a little bit of me that would like to be the felt police. If the vacancy comes up I will almost certainly apply!)
This time I decided to go even more 3D and do a basic bowl, working around a flat circular resist. I wanted the workshop to be suitable both for complete beginners and those with some felting experience who were interested in trying out a 3D make.
I dug about in the studio and in my photos to see if I could find some old bowl examples and came up with a few.
I then walked my way through making a new sample bowl with a workshop hat on. By ‘workshop hat’ I mean focusing on what I think are the simplest techniques for inexperienced felt makers to achieve the best and most reliable results.
I decided on my layout: starting with a fanned-out layer from the centre then a second layer following the circumference of the circle. I intended the circular layer to overlap the edge as little as possible to reduce bulk in the middle, with the main overlap to connect the two sides on the ‘fanned’ layer.
I immediately realised I should have done the layers the other way around. It’s much easier to follow closely the edge of the circle if you can actually see it! I also realised it was better to start laying the wool around the edge and move inwards rather than starting at the centre and moving out.
I find it interesting how wearing a different ‘hat’ makes me think in a very different way from when I’m just making something myself. It’s a useful exercise.
I thought the sample bowl could demonstrate a couple of different surface design options so added some silk fabric, some locks and a little white wool to the grey area.
It’s not the most beautiful bowl but it did its job. The collection of bowls then got me thinking about the size of opening. I like a small-holed bowl to look at but it’s not necessarily so useful and it is certainly harder to full, being difficult to work from the inside. I decided that participants could choose.
I gathered together a range of tools and smiled at the weird variety of odd things I own. This is only a small proportion.
Something these tools all have in common is that not one of them was designed for felt making. My most recent purchase was a job lot of 15 small plastic rattles bought second hand on eBay. Actually, these worked remarkably well, especially for the bowls with small openings, and the quantity would come in very handy if I was teaching a bigger group. That was £5.35 well spent.
The workshop venue was the Horsebridge Community Arts Centre in Whitstable. The Centre has a lovely workshop area: really light and spacious with good tables and lots of sinks. Ideal for our purposes. After welcoming the 4 participants and a short introductory chat I demonstrated the layout. Jenny, Suzanne, Jane & Ronn then chose their wools and set about their bowls.
I had decided to go for 2 layers of wool rather than 4 as I find most people lay the wool out quite thickly to start with. 2 participants had some felt making experience and 2 did not. All of them went for quite thick layers.
We wet the first 2 layers down before flipping to the other side as I find this helps to get the wool tight around the resist.
Next I showed them how to start to work the wet wool: paying lots of attention to the rim of the circle and encouraging the wool towards the centre to reduce the chance of creating an accidental ridge.
Once they’d reached the prefelt stage we did some rolling using just the bubble wrap and towel. Then they were ready to cut the opening & remove the resist. Jenny went for a small opening, Jane and Suzanne a slightly larger one, while Ronn had something more organic in mind. She made 6 cuts out from the centre to create a sort of flower / leaf shape that would hold a plant pot.
Plenty of chat, a little music and lots of elbow grease later ……..
….here are the ladies at the end of the day, delighted with their finished pieces.
And here’s a better view of their bowls (plus the one I’d made alongside them to demonstrate the different steps – 2nd left). I was very pleased not to see any accidental midriff ridges as I think a smooth transition between the two sides is one of the hardest things to achieve when starting to work with resists. The bowls were felted really well, which made my inner felt policewoman very happy, with just the plant pot holder needing a little more finishing at home to fit around its plant pot.
I always ask participants to complete a short feedback form at the end of the workshop. There’s a bit of admin then 3 boxes to complete: ‘what did you like about the workshop?‘; ‘what could be improved?’ and ‘any other comments?’.
I also make mental notes for myself along the same lines. So, here are my own observations
We had a really nice day. It was a lovely group with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere: everyone seemed to enjoy making their bowls. Judging by the feedback forms, people found me adaptable, clear, knowledgeable and helpful throughout the session so lots of positives there.
What could be improved?
The participants didn’t have any suggestion but for myself I thought the timing was a little generous. I’d allowed 6 ½ hours (including a lunch break). We finished slightly early so maybe 6 hours next time, though that may be different if there were more participants.
I realised I didn’t give enough thought to / instructions on the interior of the bowl design. Because my sample bowl had a small opening the interior isn’t visible so I forgot to think that bit through. In fact all the visible bowl middles were good but definitely more luck than judgement on my part.
My making a bowl alongside the participants worked OK but I had to work very quickly to get it to the next stage while spending most of my time helping and advising the others. It would have been simpler to have pre-prepared another bowl sample to pre-felt stage.
All in all a successful workshop with some notes for myself on how to improve a few things if I run it again. Hope you enjoyed your virtual visit to our bowl workshop.
I’m learning to print onto felt so I thought I’d show you some work in progress. I’m following Lindsey Tyson’s course ‘Transfer Printing onto Felt and other Fabrics’ so I’m focusing here on what I’ve made rather than how. Lindsey’s been printing on felt for some years and has developed her own techniques. She’s now moving away from felt-making and printing to focus on painting so has produced a comprehensive course to share her expertise. I first saw her work a few years ago and have been really intrigued ever since to know how she produces such lovely images on felt.
I do quite a lot of sales and exhibitions in my local area. I’ve long thought I’d like to develop some smaller decorative items I can make relatively quickly and so sell at a lower price than some of my other work (because it’s more time-consuming). I thought printing might provide an opportunity to do this.
I hummed and hawed for some time before signing up as it involves quite a big investment – not only in the course itself but also in equipment, software, space (for the equipment) and time. I’ve just had a milestone birthday and as my mother wanted to give me a milestone gift, I decided that this was it. I do love learning new skills and developing ideas so I was pretty sure I’d love the course. Thank you Mum!
My first venture was to source some free online images (this is covered in the course) and, along with a little oyster shell sketch I drew, prepare them for printing and print some samples onto scraps of felt.
I was pretty pleased with the results. However, some of the prints had a rather plastic feel and very visible edge.
Lindsey was very helpful with her suggestions on how to improve – including highlighting that I’d overlooked one of the steps when using the paper I’d chosen, doh! That is now largely resolved though I’m still wrestling with myself about whether I should buy a new printer as I have an inkjet and apparently laser prints work better.
I made a little tea light holder cover using some commercial prefelt. I’ve never used bought prefelt before (I’ve always made my own) and although it produced a very lovely fine felt, I also managed to create a line in the cover where the sheet of prefelt joined that I wasn’t happy with.
I now know (from the course) that there’s a way round this but I’ve decided for the time being to stick with making my own felt from scratch rather than introducing new variables.
The course covers, in a lot of detail, how to design and manipulate images. It includes tutorials on using free software as well as paid-for software like Photoshop. I decided to buy Photoshop Elements ( a basic form of Photoshop with a one-off purchase rather than a monthly subscription). I have to admit I have not taken to it like a duck to water! Some of that is doubtless me (remember that milestone birthday!) but I’ve seen lots of reviews that agree that it’s not very intuitive and so not particularly easy to learn to use. Fate intervened with (as far as I know) my first dose of Covid-19 during which I confined myself entirely to staying at home for 5 days (as per our current guidance) and until I tested negative. After the first couple of days I started to feel better so decided this was my time to make Photoshop Elements work for me. In spite of sometimes getting very frustrated, I actually quite enjoyed the learning and have to be impressed with the things I can now do with it (however slowly) let alone all the things it can do that I can’t yet. There are some really good free YouTube tutorials too, which helped, and I have certainly put in the hours. Many, many hours.
Back to the felt-making. I made two more little tea light covers – one from 2 fine layers and one from 4 fine layers of 21 micron natural (undyed) merino. I wanted to see how they’d look with a lit tealight inside. Surprisingly they were both OK.
By then I’d thought of using my own felted bird images which I expertly (!) extracted from their backgrounds. I like the redshank and curlew as they both have feet. Often my felt pictures have birds (like the avocet) whose feet are in water or behind pebbles – both because that’s how I saw the wild birds they’re based on and because I find felting bird feet quite hard!
I then tried out 18.5 mic undyed merino and decided this was what I’d use as it has a lovely smooth surface, light colour and a fine translucent appearance. Perfect both for printing and for tea lights.
I started to dig into my vast collection of charity-shop-bought silk scarves and added silk strips to the lower part of the designs. This was partly because lit tea lights’ metal cases cast a shadow at the base of the cover (see the lit one above), partly because it adds to the decoration and partly because it can ‘ground’ the images – i.e. give those birds’ feet something to walk on. Oh, it also eases my conscience about quite how many second-hand silk scarves I own.
And so here are some more of the results. I’ve printed a design on the front and the back (apart from the one with a flock of birds – that goes all the way round). They also look nice as plant holders, ‘thought they’re not quite the right proportions for most plant pots so I have to add some small pebbles to the bottom of the glass container if I want to show them as plant holders.
Some of them are free images I’ve found on the internet; some are from my own large felted pictures and one (the honesty seed pods) is from photos I’ve taken of the seed pods and worked on in Photoshop Elements to create a composite picture.
And here are the first 6 I put in the gallery shop at Creek Creative in Faversham (it’s a gallery, café, shop and studios where I rent my studio), just over a week ago. Inside each there are comprehensive warnings about lit tea lights, some felt care instructions and the name of the image.
The redshank on the left sold within a few days – I don’t know about the others yet.
I’ve also made some cards – initially to use up all the little test prints….
…..and then some I made specifically to become cards
And finally a couple of bigger purpose-made plant pots with metal pots inside, using 21 mic merino in green and white.
Next steps? I’m looking forward to a couple of in-person sales / exhibitions I have coming up so I can gauge people’s reactions. I will keep building a stock of tealight holders, plant pots and cards and developing new images so I have plenty of both stock and variety. I will keep extending my knowledge and skills in both printing on felt and using Photoshop. And I will definitely keep working through Lindsey’s excellent course and drawing on her extensive and generous one-to-one and group support to help me on my way.
Here’s a link to a promotional video for Lindsey’s course, in case you want to check it out.
After I had retired from full time work in 2006 I was finally able to join SNADS – our local amateur dramatic society. I live in a small market town in Dorset and SNADS was the main source of entertainment for our area at that time (as it had been since 1930, although newspaper archives indicate that it was around at least as early as 1883). I had seen most of the productions which they had put on since we moved there in 1999 and longed to join in, not only on stage, but behind the scenes. During any one year there are at least 4 productions – Pantomime in February, Spring Play in May, a Variety Show/Revue in the summer and the Autumn play in early October, and as soon as that was over, the round started again with preparations for the following year’s Panto.
We had a fantastic wardrobe mistress, but she needed help with costumes, especially at Panto time as there was so much to do.
My first foray into costume was to make a full head cat mask for the summer review. Two of our members were to sing Rossini’s Cat Duet and the director decided that it would be fun to have a disreputable tom cat watching them from the side-lines. I had recently learned to wet felt 3D items using a resist, so I made the mask from wet felted pieces and needle felted details. I didn’t want the actor’s eyes to show through and anyway, I needed to give the cat it’s proper “slit” irises. So I stitched into the eye holes a piece of doubled yellow organza and just painted the vertical slit. (It is quite possible to see what’s going on through organza if it is held close to your face.) How to give him a proper nose? I needled the correct shaped nose on the mask, then I painted on some artist’s gesso, let it dry and added some more. Gesso is textured so it was necessary to file the nose to make it a bit smoother, also the gesso is white, so I painted the nose with black enamel paint which I nicked from my husband’s paint store (he’s a model maker). After a couple of coats of that, Tom had a shiny(ish) black nose. Add some “bitten” ears and “wonky” whiskers and he was nearly done. The cat’s mouth was open – it allowed the actor to breathe and gave Tom naughty grin. Finally I gave him a pink tongue and white tips to his ears.
The next production that I was involved in was the pantomime Cinderella, written and directed by one of our members. I was asked by the wardrobe mistress if I would dress both the Fairy (“Fairy Nuff”) and Buttons’ dog, Beau. The director wasn’t quite clear about what kind of dog Beau should be, except that he was to be comic. So I did a sort of 3D needle felt sketch of the dog’s head as I saw it – black and white with one ear cocked.
However I’d got it wrong – Beau was to be a black poodle.
After some discussion with the wardrobe mistress, we decided that the actor would wear a black polo necked top, thick black tights and black gloves. I managed to find a piece of curly black faux fur to make a short jacket, with enough left over to make pompon for the top of the head and the end of the tail, the long dangly ears and wrist and ankle rings to simulate the correct style poodle cut. I was to make a full head mask. For this I made a wet felt hood using a resist and a further piece of flat felt incorporating some of the curly faux fur trimmed from the bought fabric. A lot of that moulted out though because it was nylon or polyester and very slippery. Enough was fixed in however to give the right effect.
I made a needle felted muzzle – again with the mouth open to reveal the red tongue and white teeth, and to allow the actor to breathe. The nose I made in the same way as for the tom cat – shaped with the felting needle, gessoed and painted. The muzzle was attached to the hood/face with stitching and felting needles. Some of the flat felt was cut to represent the dog’s lips and attached by stitching and needle felting to the muzzle. The “Disney-esque” eyes were again painted organza and were stitched on the inside of the mask.
The ears and head pompon were also stitched on. I added a piece of brown fabric and a belt buckle around the dog’s throat to simulate a collar and allow the mask to be firmly secured over the actor’s polo necked top. I have worn this costume myself a couple of times in subsequent Carnival processions – great fun.
Since the actress cast for the part of Fairy Nuff had a figure which could easily cope with a glamourous costume, for the base I was given a basque that fitted her. She was to appear out of a compost heap at the edge of the stage, so I set to and made lots of autumn coloured leaf shapes – mainly oak – out of different brown bronze and gold metallic organzas. I sandwiched sparkly bits between layers of organza. I machined stitched around the edges and along the veins of each leaf and then cut out the shapes with a soldering iron. This sealed the edges and prevented fraying. Then, with the basque on a dressmaker’s dummy I attached large pieces of bronze organza for the tail, and then added the strategically placed leaves.
The wings were made from two lengths of flat wire (originally from a pop-up fabric laundry container) covered with more organza, this time creamy white but with sparkles and sequins added. These were attached to the back of the costume by stitching the wire to the shoulder straps of the basque and covering the join with some dark bronze/gold chiffon.
The crown was made from bronze Christmas decorations (that year bronze was in fashion over here – UK). I used bronze plastic icicles, some foil stars and some more organza leaves attached to a head band. I can’t remember what the wand tip was made from – possibly a bunch of tinsel.
I actually got a speaking part in this Panto – only a couple of lines but a step up from what I’d had before. I don’t have a proper photo, this was before my husband had a digital camera, however I’ve managed to extract a clip from the video we had made of the show. It’s a bit fuzzy if enlarged but I think you can get the gist. I’m in the gold dress with my exclusive “Toilet Duck” perfume, and my punchline? “It drives the men Quackers!”
After this show, we had one final “adult” Revue and then we moved to where we are now based. Try this link it should show you the hall we left, Sturminster Hall, and eventually the Community and Arts building, The Exchange, which is now our home. https://stur-exchange.co.uk/about/ Unfortunately it seems that a second link, on the above page, may not yet be working – this is a new website in the process of being fully set up so here’s the brochure which was produced the year after it opened.
The staircase balustrade is wrought iron made by a local craftsman and represents the river Stour which runs through our town. All the Rooms in The Exchange are named after rivers and streams running close by, and it is just beginning to open again to live theatre as well as community groups.
We at SNADS started off our return with an Adult Cabaret a couple of weeks ago, for once without a male Balloon Dance or a ladies Fan Dance, but there was a Pole Dance!
More about my exploits with SNADS (including an explanation of the picture of the wicked queen) later. Watch this space.
I have finally finished my pouch. Yay! I am not sure how big I want the individual spaces in the bag to be so I have just basted the divisions for now. If they are working fine I will sew them in permanently.
Here it is full of things. and some things that didn’t make it in. As you can see it’s not dedicated to one kind of thing. It’s a way to keep all the smallish stuff from filtering down to the bottom of the basket where they are hard to find.
and all rolled up.
Here is the basket. First I put the liner in. It’s a thick, fairly stiff fake silk scarf. I can’t imagine it was nice to wear which is probably why it was in the secondhand clothing store in the first place. It’s great for this job.
Adding everything into and onto the basket.
There was even room left to add my guild library books when I got back to the house.
I am sure you are all as tired f hearing about the basket organizer as I am so it is now time for something new and more colourful. I have been seeing felted rocks popping up on Facebook a lot. I figured they looked like a pretty obvious and easy thing to make, so I will give it ago. The first one I did use floor underlay resists. I started with a pebble. I covered it completely in wool.
I cut out a resist a bit bigger than the wool covered pebble and then added the top put the resist on the top of the rock and folded the wool around. then I cut a bigger resist and did it again and marked the top. It was a bit awkward. I should have worked the other way up but where’s the challenge in that. LOL.
It fulled down quite fast.
time to start cutting, I rubbed each cut to heal it before doing the next cuts. I don’t think you can see it but the bottom of each layer is fully attached to the one below it.
I sat it on a green lid to dry, looks really striking there.
That worked quite well. Now for a different way.
For this one, I used plastic wrap to keep the layers separate. I cut a small hole in the underside so the layer would be attached to each other.
I wrapped the last layer in plastic I just rubbed it and rolled it around in my hands as if I was making a felt ball. I did it longer to make sure the inside layers were felted as well. While wrapping I lost track of the top and bottom. Naturally, I picked the wrong side to mark. I cut the first hole and it was attached to the one below so I kept cutting down to the pebble. I planned to stretch each layer, but with it being quite small there wasn’t much stretch or even room to get anything in between the layers to try and stretch. so In the end I just fulled it tight around the rock.
Here is how they compared in size before felting
And how they compare with my hand to show the sizes
See Lyn, not felted rocks but felted rocks. Ha Ha Ha :O)
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
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.
The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.
Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!
I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.
Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.
Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.
Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.
After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.
A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)
I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.
And here she is afterwards in all her glory!
I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.
Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.
I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…
I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.
I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?
First off, I decided to work around a flat resist and use the same kind of wool for the felt rope as the rest of the surface. So I used mixed 56’s that I hand dye. I dry felted a felt rope from the yellow wool. I didn’t add any water at all but just rolled it dry until it was holding together. It wasn’t firm at all. I left the ends loose so that I could make sure the rope was well attached.
I covered the resist with light green wool with a couple of thin layers all running lengthwise to the resist.
I then wrapped the felt rope around the wool covered resist and added a couple more thin layers of wool in the light green. I added a bit of darker green to the ends.
And then I rubbed and felted and began fulling before removing the resist. Here it is after I took the resist out.
And then I fulled it into submission. You can see how much shrinkage there was in comparison to the resist. It is very hard and certainly won’t lose it’s shape.
And here it is after I shaved the surface a bit. It could use a bit more shaving but I haven’t had time to let it dry yet. So once it’s dry, I will shave it again. To me, it looks like a dill pickle or perhaps a small minnow? It is much more in line with what I was thinking when I first tried the experiment. I will have to try it on a larger scale. I’m not sure that the felt rope adds any advantage over prefelt cut in a strip. Perhaps if I have gotten the rope a bit harder, it might have effected the shape more. Next time, I think I will lay the resist wool going around the short side of the resist instead of lengthwise. I would also use less wool on the ends of the rope or just use a cut strip of prefelt.