I have been thinking about creating a meadow themed landscape for a while so I decided to do a smaller piece (about 8″ x 10″) to try out some different ideas.
I found a nice background from my stash, that is nuno felted and has an upper plain felt portion. The only problem was it wasn’t 8″ wide. I want to be able to frame this piece with a standard frame so that it doesn’t have to have a custom frame. Looking through my boxes of felt pieces, I found the upper darker blue piece that would add enough to the total to get to 8″ in height. I think it is a screen printed piece but I really can’t remember. Some of the stuff in my stash is really old and needs to be used up.
Now to connect them together. The simplest plan was to needle felt them together. I made the light blue felt uneven by cutting it as I didn’t want to see a straight line working it’s way through. Then I needle felted the two together and this is the result.
Next, I looked through my many boxes of yarn bits. These are the ones that I decided to try. I want the scene to look like autumn grasses and seed heads. Some of the choices didn’t get used but now I needed to sample them and see how I wanted the stitching to look.
Luckily, I have more of the nuno background to use as a sample. This piece is about 3″ x 6″ as I only wanted to try out the different colors and practice a little free motion machine embroidery before I started on the main piece. I did put a thin interfacing on the back to stabilize the felt. I like most of these ideas for grasses and seed heads except for the one that looks almost white. I think I will skip using that one. The purple one on the far end is a small piece of purple felt that I stitched down with a lighter thread color. I’m only going to have a few flowers that are still blooming in this piece. The tentative name at this point is “Late Bloomers”. Hopefully, I will finish this before my next post.
This is what it looked like on the last post. I had a comment from Ann B. that it lacked shadows. I had hemmed and hawed about adding shadows. I had convinced myself that the marks on the background could serve as shadows as it was a bit abstract. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Ann that it was lacking something. So I decided I would audition shadows with sheer fabric. And once I saw it, I knew the shadows were necessary. How could I call it First Light if I ignored the shadows?
And here it is after adding shadows. What do you think? Better or worse? I would suggest that you don’t rush whether a piece is finished or not. It was a bit of a challenge stitching the shadows down after the piece was already laced to backing board 😉
Now on to this piece. It definitely had beautiful autumn colors, so I decided I would add some silver birch trees with their fall leaf color. You will notice that I turned this around so the darker area was closer to the top of the piece.
I cut out some tree trunks from silk paper that I had made a while ago in preparation for trees. I hand stitched these in place.
Then I added some branches so the leaves would have somewhere to live.
Next up, I needed some background foliage. I didn’t want it to be too dominant but just needed some texture. I decided to use nylon organza and then burn it back with a wood burning tool to give it a leafy feel. Then I stitched it in place. You can click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the details better.
Next up was to cut out a bunch of leaf shapes in two colors of silk organza. I hand stitched these in place but the leaves were still too transparent and weren’t giving the effect I wanted to achieve.
I looked through my stash and had this bright yellow in silk habotai. That would perfect from a more opaque leaf. Once cut out, these leaves were stitched down. The photos above show the progression from left to right. Then, I put the piece up on the wall and studied it. That leaning tree trunk on the far left was bugging me. I didn’t like that it took your eye off the edge and it matched the same lean as the tree towards the middle. So I did a bit of unstitching and removed it.
So here is The First Leaf. I haven’t found the correct background fabric for it yet so I will have to go shopping for that. But that gives me a bit more time for it to hang in the studio and make sure that it is really finished!
Back in June last year, at the end of my 2nd post on this felt painting, having remixed the fibres for my palette and removed the fibres I had already needled into the far background of the picture, I redid that bit of work and left you with this picture of where I had got to then:
I am pleased to say that I have made considerable progress since then and here I’ll take you along for the ride!
On my next visit to the Hideaway Workshop – my friend’s place where I tend to do most of my work on my pictures – I set to to blend fibres for the palette for the main part of the picture.
I worked on the picture for about 4 – 5 hours once a month, until I was able to take this photo of the results on 26th February 2022.
This was still work in progress and I carried on and in May I was able to take further pictures of details – Red Devon cattle in one of the far off fields; sheep moving on the hill in the middle distance; the beginnings of trees and shrubs in the near distance; and the river in the foot of the valley with woods behind.
By then I had done pretty much all I was going to do for the landscape until the final details just at the end, and I needed to get on with the horse.
Now, I was toying with a new idea about how to do this. For some time I have been considering experimenting with the type of scenery often seen in simple stage sets like our typical panto village scene with shops and other buildings. Almost all of which were flat with one side showing a village shop and the other some other building for a different scene. These would be set about the stage facing square on to the audience so that they could see only the side applicable to the current scene, with further buildings painted on the backdrop. Cast members would appear from behind these and various other scenery flats like rocks, or bushes. I don’t have any suitable photos that would illustrate this, but I do have a couple of photos of children’s toy paper theatres which also demonstrate what I mean.
I thought I might be able to do something along these lines for the horse in my picture. By affixing a fairly stiff piece of felt in the shape of the horse to the picture but leaving it’s head and the top of the body unattached and slightly proud. I was hoping that this would give even more depth to the whole.
Knowing that if I was to needle felt a “flat-ish” horse to the required size, I would actually have to start off with a slightly bigger image – as the more it was needled, the more it would shrink and become out of scale. So using my copier I enlarged the image of the horse by 10% and then made a tracing of the image. As I did with the actual landscape picture, I then stitched the outlines of the horse through the tracing onto a piece of thick white felt. This was a piece of the felt that I used for the background of the landscape, but folded into three. I needled it and then wet felted it so that it was a solid piece of felt which would if necessary stand up on its own.
I blended some fibres to make the palette I would use, having decided that the picture I had taken would be a guide to shape only and I’d have a slightly different coloured horse in my picture.
I had by this time removed all the guide stitches from the landscape picture, except the lower part of the Golden Mean lines to guide me where to place the horse when completed.
Here is the horse, substantially finished, about to be cut out of his background.
And here he is having been cut out.
I have left the top part of the body with the original depth of the backing felt and have shaved down the backs of the legs, the belly and nose so that they will be more part of the picture as opposed to appearing to stand proud of it. I have also added coloured fibres to the sides and the rear edges for the whole horse so that no white background will be visible when the horse is attached to the landscape. The final shape of the legs and neck will be refined at that stage, and more grass added around the muzzle and hooves. I have left the tail and the forelock un-needled to emulate a slight breeze blowing some hairs around. I have also attached some linen threads to the back which I will use to secure the body to the picture. If I don’t do this it is possible that the horse might fall off the picture if he’s only attached by his hooves and his muzzle.
And this is where I have come to a (“shuddering”) halt.
I was hoping that this would be the last post in this series; that I would have finished my picture of the horse on the Devon hillside. However the recent very hot (to us) weather we have been experiencing here in the UK has meant that I’ve had to stop work. So I was getting very behind. In addition, I seem to have acquired an RSI (repetitive strain injury) to the shoulder of my dominant right arm – to be exact “rotator cuff related shoulder pain”. Although I don’t think it was as a result solely of needle felting, I suspect that the action of frequently stabbing fibres for several hours at a time may have contributed to it. It certainly hasn’t helped it. Whatever, it has resulted in my having to put aside my needle felting for the moment. I will post again as soon as I can get back to work and finish this, which has fast become a labour of love. In the meantime this where I have got to.
We had a busy few days setting up the exhibition and I thought you might like to see a few set up photos.
And then it was the day of the exhibition. We had around 80 people attend over the two days in early July. It was wonderful to be able to see all the hard work accomplished by my fellow students and to share our work with other interested people.
I asked my fellow students if I could share their work and I’m happy that everyone agreed so that you can see some amazing fiber art. These are just a very few examples of their work produced in class.
Maureen Goldsmith wasn’t able to come to the in-person exhibition but was able to send her wonderful work.
Covid Birds by Maureen is a framed wall hanging, you can see it in the first photo behind the group photo on the wall, to understand the size of the piece.
Here’s a detail view so you can see the stitching more closely.
Val has an interest in historical embroidery and needlework.
Her piece “Pleasurable Pursuits” is based on historical needlework studies that she pursued during the class.
Here’s a detail shot so that you can see the amount of hand stitching in this piece.
Sheila Asdal created a machine and hand stitched book about the Big Leaf Maple and the creatures that find shelter and sustenance in the tree.
Here’s a side view and front cover of the book.
And a detail view of the stumpwork moth she created.
Catherine’s interests are from nature, including rocks, plants, seed heads and the winter garden.
She used her original photos of her winter garden to create this handstitched series.
Each of the individual pieces are about 6″ x 6″.
Bobbie Herrick is also inspired by her garden. She took on a tremendous project in creating The Hanging Garden light.
Bobbie’s lamp was created with machine and hand stitching and cut back applique. She found it interesting to work with light during this process as it changed the colors immensely when the light was turned on behind the fabric.
Alana Koehler was inspired by a row of bottles on her windowsill. As she worked through the process, she became intrigued with the difference between the hardness of glass and the translucent fabric that she ended up using in Ethereal Bottles.
The sheer fabric in Ethereal Bottles float away from the wall and the bottles are created with machine stitching. It is definitely ethereal in person.
And lastly, there is me. The Language of Trees is based on the concept that trees and other forest plants, have a vast communication network underground.
This wall hanging is mostly machine stitched on a dyed and painted background. The little bits of orange are words that I selected from tree poems to express the trees communicating with each other.
And because I have had a few people asking, I have also included my book about my dog Edgar. Here is “The Book of Edgar”.
Thanks to all my classmates for their camaraderie and support. Thanks to Gail and Penny for all your expert guidance and perseverance through a challenging three years of class.
I showed you a historical felt pattern sample recently where I used a water soluble stabilizer to create the pattern. Obviously, in ancient times, this product would not have been available. So I needed to try a more traditional method.
I decided to try a different design based on wings. The pattern was printed twice and put one over top of the other in a mirrored pattern. The paper design was covered with plastic so I could lay wet wool down on top of the pattern. This is the method that Ildi uses, thanks again Ildi!
Next, wool yarn was wet down and applied over the pattern. Pre yarn would work better, but this is what I have in my stash.
The colors chosen were two shades of blue, one leaning towards blue green and the other leaning towards the violet side of blue. The fiber was wet down and laid in place. Layout definitely takes time with this method.
Then another layer of the dark blue was laid out on top of the wet wool pattern. I didn’t need to add any water to this wool as there was plenty already available. Next on to felting. The piece was kept in between plastic for the entire felting process but then with fulling, the piece was rolled against itself. Big mistake as this caused the yarn to fragment and pull free in some areas. Sigh.
Here’s the piece after felting and the black was not a clean line. Again, this is partly from using a twisted yarn instead of a pre yarn but also due to the fulling method.
I shaved the black but it is still not as clear as I would like. The design also had very sharp points where I cut the yarn and the ends didn’t felt in as well.
This is the sharpness that I would prefer. These two pieces were made quite a while ago. I made all the felt, then cut out the shapes and appliqued (hand stitched) them down. I then couched a green yarn around the shapes. This is a traditional ram’s horn design that is seen frequently in the Central Asian areas.
As soon as I saw what Lyn was setting as our next Challenge I thought “but I can’t do that”. I have always stumbled when trying to understand Design because, although I can see pattern in a lot of things, I fail entirely in translating what I see into my work. I am very literal in my thinking, and when I see abstract pieces (usually “modern” embroidery pieces) based on images of say, a broken brick, or the reflection in a window, or a rusty piece of metal, or a “fractal”, I think to myself “yes, very clever, but why?” and “what would I do with it?” and “I can’t see that on my wall” (and just occasionally “I wouldn’t give that house room!”). This is why I tend to make my pictures or 3D sculptures as realistic as I can.
I was going to just not bother with this Challenge, and then I remembered that some years ago I had attended a course on Design – I had forgotten all about it and it is relevant to this Challenge.
In August 2015 the Association of Guilds of Weavers Spinners & Dyers included in it’s week long residential Summer School syllabus a course by Alison Daykin – “Design for the Terrified” and I was lucky enough to be allocated a place – most courses were usually over-subscribed. Here is the introductory list of available courses from the brochure for you to drool over!
The course was described as offering “help to ‘painting and drawing challenged’ weavers, spinners, dyers, or other textile practitioners, in understanding Design and using this in their chosen medium”. The brochure went on to say: “This course will provide simple, but effective guidelines in design, without the student feeling overwhelmed by theory. The tutor will also leave plenty of room for participants to express themselves in their chosen medium.
“By the course end students will have at least one sketchbook and understand the basics of: colour studies; textural studies; shape; line/stripes.
“Students are encouraged to make samples appropriate to their own textile skills. They may choose to bring their loom or wheel with them, or to develop further sketchbooks if they prefer.”
Frankly this description of the course frightened the life out of me and I nearly didn’t apply, not least because I would be foregoing the chance to take the offered very interesting felt making course. (It’s headline description was “… an ‘adventure with fibres and fabrics’, combining colour, texture and layering to produce felted fabrics for decorative purposes or garments” and that was what I was most interested in at the time.) However after exchanging a few emails with Alison, and reading the three blogs which she sent out about the course I decided to bite the bullet. The first blog post puts emphasis on your “Inspiration” and resulted in a further flurry of emails with Alison, since I had no idea what it meant or what my “Inspiration” should be in this context. She basically said that I should pick a subject which I found really interesting. I was undecided whether to plump for trees, which seemed a very big subject, or sea shells – almost as big but of which I had recently started a collection. In the end I went with sea shells.
The second and third blog posts and a “round robin” email from Alison encouraged us to bring along as many different types of art media as we might be able to lay our hands on, including different types and colours of paper and “mark making” equipment. In addition we were asked to only bring one image of our inspiration, but as many copies of it as possible. (As I hadn’t been able to choose just one shell my image consisted of most of my collection, which also included sea urchin “skeletons”.) We would also need to take a notice board (if we hadn’t already made a mood board – “Er …. what’s one of them?”) so that we could pin up various bits and pieces as we went through the course. We would also need the equipment and materials required to make samples in our chosen technique. As I didn’t know which shell would be my inspiration the “materials” consisted of most of my stashes of fibres, fabric & yarns! I’m sure you’ve all heard of the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” – very apt, my poor car was groaning when I set off with all this stuff plus clothes etc., and I had yet to fit in the friend I was giving a lift to, plus all her stuff and her walking aid. (She was still a bit frail after an illness.)
The Summer School was based at Moreton Morrell Agricultural College in Warwickshire, where (after we got lost twice on the way) I met Alison and the rest of the class members. There were weavers, spinners, an embroiderer and a felt maker – me. Alison showed us her own work, and took us through her process for designing woven fabrics for specific purposes, showing us her mood boards and pictures of finished fabrics “in situ”. Here is a much abbreviated view of how she followed one inspiration from an image of ancient ruins to cloth samples.
She then started us off on our own design journey. Alison suggested to me that I should pick my favourite shell from the picture of my collection and make an enlarged drawing of the shell, both in monochrome and in colour and using different media. I had a go at this, although my drawing skills are minimal. This was before she had found that we would be able to have access to the college’s print facilities, where we could get photographs printed, and colour and monochrome photocopies made on a copier, which was capable of enlarging. We all made great use of this facility – zeroing in on just part of our inspiration image and having multiple copies made on different colour papers as well as plain white – which enabled us to speed up our progress through the stages of the design processes that Alison had mapped out for us.
One of the “tricks” which Alison showed us was to take two images, cut (or tear) them into strips (leaving one side of the paper still intact, and then to weave the two images. This did produce some interesting results.
We also cut strips across an image and used this to reference yarn (in my case fibre) wraps. Using this method enabled us to achieve a colour swatch giving combinations, quantities and placement of harmonious colours.
Once we had all played around with these ideas for a day, we were encouraged to get on and start creating samples in our chosen techniques, keeping in mind how we might use the finished work. As I was interested in making felt for clothing and accessories, I had brought with me copies of designs from specific sewing patterns and tried to pick the patterns that would best suit. I had by this time branched out to using as inspiration two different Sea Urchin skeletons, one Cone shell (and when no-one was looking I did a bit of crochet based on the end of a Conch type shell).
As you can see, I’m still leaning towards the literal/representational side of designing.
Alison also encouraged us to take our cameras and go out around the college grounds and look for more inspirations for design. At this stage we had all got used to looking beyond the obvious and came up with some unusual images. This was the one I chose to do something with – don’t ask me why – it’s just a picture of the wood surround (and my toes) to a raised flower bed outside the portacabin which was our workshop, where we all congregated for coffee, snacks and chat.
Being full of enthusiasm for the project, I cut down the photograph to a corner and then cut out the image of part of the surround.
which I then had enlarged and with several copies started to develop the design
This is the design I finally ended up with.
There are five versions in this picture, the basic design on top with four colour changes of the small “pops” of colour. And here is the jacket pattern and a tracing of the design.
The last day of the course was mainly taken up with visiting the rooms where the other courses had been taking place for a grand Show & Tell. To this end, we had packed up all our equipment and materials and set up our notice boards and work tables as displays of what we had been doing. Here are mine
And here are some of the displays of other class members’ work. Not all of them I’m afraid, I had camera shake by then so I’ve only included the less blurred ones.
The whole Summer School experience was great, with evening entertainments, a fashion show, a display of entries for the Certificate of Achievement “exams”, a traders’ market (I spent too much money as usual) and a trip to Stratford Upon Avon for a tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theatre with a chance to see some of their costumes “up close and personal”.
We inhabited a bubble, with little contact with the outside world. (There wasn’t even a signal for our mobile phones, short of climbing a hill and standing in the middle of the road.) A wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed revisiting it.
I am afraid that by the time I got home again I reverted to type and have not made any fabrics, felted or woven, from any of the designs. I just did what I usually end up doing after returning from a workshop – I put everything away and forgot about it! So I still don’t have a 2nd Quarter Challenge piece to show you; though as a result of writing this post and after seeing some of the pieces which FFS members have posted, I do feel better about the possibility of designing from random observations and images.
I am looking forward to seeing what the next quarter’s Challenge will be.
This piece is large, somewhere in the 30″ length and 18-20″ width. This is the layout and I have sprinkled the cut up orange nuno felt over the base layer of green wool. I made sure that the orange bits were roughed up so they would stick down better.
Here is the piece after felting. I have pinned some larger poppies in the foreground made out of painted silk paper. I was distracted by the yellow in the direct center in the sky. I decided to add more yellow so that the one area wouldn’t stick out as much.
I needle felted some yellow across the left portion of the lower sky and a few wisps up higher. I also added some lighter/paler silk paper to the poppies as I felt they were too dark in the first try. Then I added some green locks to the foreground for foliage.
And here it is after finishing and “matting” on green fabric. Now Remembrance is ready to go the framer. Now I just have to find a new gallery to carry my work, easier said than done.
Recently, a local woman asked me to create a river view in felt for her. I created several watercolor sketches she could choose from so that we agreed on what the landscape would look like and what to include. The client lives on the Swan River here in Montana and decided she wanted a view similar to what she has behind her home.
After hand carding and blending colors, I started on the layout. I used a commercial prefelt background and mostly short fiber merino batts. Somehow, I wasn’t thinking correctly on shrinkage as I went with the idea that it would shrink 30%. But I forgot that I don’t normally full my wool paintings very hard as they don’t really need intense fulling.
I continued working down the picture laying out the distant trees, the river with the trees and mountains reflections and then into the foreground grass and lupines. At the same time I was laying out the big piece, I also laid out a smaller sample. That way I could try different options with final details and stitching. This shows the birch trees from silk paper that I was trying to decide upon. Luckily, I had made the birch tree silk paper several months ago at one of our local group meetings.
Here’s the small sample that I made. I tried the left tree trunk in prefelt and then used free motion machine stitching for the dark areas. The right tree trunk used silk paper which was painted for the dark areas. I also tried out some FME for the branches and the lupines. I didn’t feel that the FME was what I wanted for this piece and opted for the silk paper birch trunks. I had also used some brown/tan wool for the distant shoreline which was way too much if included in the original wet felting process. I ended up cutting out a portion of this sample so that the brown wool was showing much less. I then stitched the two pieces of the sample back together to give the feel of what I wanted in the large piece. This sample really saved me from making some big mistakes!
Here is what I had after wet felting. I had to full this piece very hard as the request was for a certain size. I don’t normally worry about size on my wet felted landscapes and I ended up cutting the edges because I had not figured the shrinkage correctly.
Next I started adding in needle felt details. I added more definition to the distant tress, added a shoreline and added some lines in the water to simulate movement.
Then I stitched some grass in the foreground and stitched down the silk paper tree trunks.
I continued on with details. I added some paint to the tree trunks, I couched down branches and added leaf details with needle felting. I added hand stitching in front of the trunks and some leaf details for the lupine.
Here’s a close up so you can see a bit of the detail in the foreground.
Then I found I already had enough green fabric that worked to finish the piece. My client is getting it framed with barn wood, so this is how I delivered the piece. And the wonderful thing is that she loved it. I’m so happy it worked out the way that she wanted.
Where did the time go? I looked at the posting schedule and thought I have lots of time to get my post ready but here I am down to the wire,….. again.
I did manage this week to make some progress on my small picture. I started by adding some grass/stems/leaves/. Starting with a very Christmas green.
Then adding other shades
It looks ok but it’s way too short. What am I going to do with the other 2/3 of the picture? So, remembering Ruth’s advice on the last stitch project when I wasn’t very happy with it, she said “just keep adding more”, I decided I was not taking the stitches out. I would just keep going. The next batch of grass was longer.
At this point, I notice the bottom edge was starting to curl a little. This is because I was stitching into the bottom edge. I didn’t want the bottom of the stitches to show entry points on the top side of the bottom edge. I noticed some of the threads were a little loose too. To remedy this I ironed it with steam. I think it helped.
The next step is the flowers. I was originally thinking stitched flowers, then thought maybe seed needs would be good. I asked opinions at my guild social and everyone seemed to think I should do both. I probably will.
And now the Studio Progress.
The walls and floor have been painted. The place that hasn’t been painted is where the ductwork will go for the heating. It will then get drywall put over it and it will be painted. Notice one of my favourite things about this space. It has a center floor drain. The electrical box will get a cupboard built to hide it.
Yes, the floor is covered in blue speckles, for non-slip and to hide the floor repairs.
Next are the sinks, the ductwork, painting my selves, bookcase and small table. They will be boring white, once the books and wool are on them they will be colourful enough. The table gets the microwave so it will not be seen much either.
That’s it for now. I plan on doing the flowers for the next post but I am not sure what else. I am sure I will find something to keep me busy and out of too much trouble.
As some of you know I am moving my studio. I am not moving far, just from one end of the building to the other. I will gain some storage space, another room and a direct entrance. And importantly I will be closer to the bathroom.
I have packed 90% of my studio into boxes and they are piled up in the extra room. Consequently, I do not have a lot to work with. I did make a box with a blob of each colour of merino I have. and collected a bag of prefelts etc.
So there I was on Monday, wondering what on earth I would post about today. I was looking at my inspiration file and going through e bags of prefelt and I found this small odd-shaped one.
This is the back of it because I forgot to take a picture before adding wool to the front.
I added some sky
A blue sky is pretty much one colour. light at the bottom but not a mix of colours. The grass on the other hand is not one colour. so I mixed some up using my dog brushes.
this is the finished background. the needle is to give you an idea of the size. Jan thought it looked knife-shaped I thought it looked like a bullet train.
I want to add some flowers along the bottom. I wasn’t sure what thread to use. I hat unpicking so I grabbed a piece of fulled sweater off cut and covered it in green to try out some different threads.
the dark pink is Filtex. these are very old spools they are shiny rayon, like fake silk. the orange is 1,2 and 3 strands of embroidery thread., the blue is an embroidery cord and the green is a different kind of silk or fake silk embroidery yarn.
Here’s a picture of the back. You can see what each thread looks like a little better.
Next is doing the stitching. I think I will use the green to add a few bigger leaf shapes. the orange and blue worked well. I will try using 2 and 3 threads of the pink to see if they show up better. stitching on felt is odd. you have to make your stitch about twice as long as you want it to get it to show up the size you want. It must be because of how soft the surface is. Does anyone else also find this to be true?