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Category: Surface Design

Mark Making and Bear

Mark Making and Bear

My local group has an art retreat every year and it’s coming up soon. (We’ve all been vaccinated.) This year we are planning on creating some abstract art and I wanted to create some of my own mark making tools. I have been collecting feathers around my house for years and since we have a lot of wild turkeys, I find a lot of larger feathers. I also, collected some goose feathers when walking by my sister’s house.

The turkey feathers are on the left and the goose feathers (right) are from Canada geese. Now all I had to do was figure out how to make a brush from a feather. So Youtube is the answer. You can learn just about anything on Youtube. I found two videos and decided I would try both methods.

First method found on Youtube

The first method involved cutting the turkey feather in a specific way to get a “sharp” point. I had a bit of trouble with the hollow shaft cracking on this one. I’m not sure if that was because it was old and had dried out more or not. But I used some tape and attached it to a chopstick that had already been used for mark making in my studio.

Second method found on Youtube

The second method uses almost all of the shaft of the goose feather and you pulled the vanes of the feather off to just leave the top portion for the brush. This seemed to work a little bit better for me and this shaft didn’t crack. It was definitely a newer feather and wasn’t as dried out.

Then because I had a large piece of goose feather left over from the second method, I decided to use that to create a brush by using double stick tape, masking tape and a skewer. It actually gave me the “sharpest” point on all three of the brushes.

The last brush I created by making a tassel from black #5 Perle Cotton on a chopstick. You can use any kind of stick for the handle and next time I plan on using some natural found sticks which will be more interesting. With this method, I created the tassel and then wrapped it tightly around the end of the chopstick. It seems to be very sturdy and won’t pull off too easily. I left the tassel ends long but you could cut them to any length that you prefer. Or you could cut them very raggedly so that would produce a different type of mark.

Then I tried the brushes with a bit of black paint to make some marks. I need to play a bit more and try some different types of movements with the brushes but I was happy with the start of making my own brushes. More to come!

This is Bear, my friend Nanci’s dog who has since passed away. Nanci has been so kind to collect our mail and papers while we travel. So I wanted to create a gift for her that was meaningful. I have been doing paint and stitch portraits of my dog Edgar for my class homework so I thought I would try one of Nanci’s dog Bear. Luckily, I had a photo of Bear on the computer because Nanci used to work for me and we used various pet photos in our social media campaigns. The photo was really dark but I was able to put it into Photoshop Elements and add in more light so that I could see the outline of the dog. I then traced the outline on to lightweight cotton muslin with a pencil. Now on to painting.

Here is Bear after painting. I used guar gum and watercolor pencils/crayons to paint. The guar gum is a thickener that keeps the paint from spreading too much on the fabric. I was happy with the result and almost left it like that. But I decided a bit of free motion machine stitching would highlight the furriness of the dog more.

I added a tear away stabilizer and did some stitching in black and darker red brown threads. Bear is complete. I gave the portrait to Nanci recently and she loved it. Come to find out, she loves this photo of Bear as it is the last photo ever taken of her. I had no idea that this particular photo meant so much to Nanci but it was what I had on my computer. Serendipity, I guess.

My Second Poker Challenge: Felting.

My Second Poker Challenge: Felting.

Last time I showed you my spinning poker challenge. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/07/26/spinning-poker-challenge/ This time it’s the felting poker challenge

In case you didn’t see it the idea is you pick a card from felting four different category card decks. With felting wool is a given.

My picks are:

Fibre: use thread or fine yarn

Colour: use cool colours

Structure/Technique: needle felting

Other: No Larger Than An Index Card ( 3inches by 5inches, 7.5cm by 12.5 cm)

This one took me a while to figure out. I kept thinking of a cold picture even though I do know cool colours doesn’t mean a cold picture. I don’t usually do needle-felt pictures I usually wet felt and then do a little needling and stitching. I am glad it’s only a small piece.

To start I cut the right size piece of prefelt for the base. I got this to try out From Monica of The Olive Sparrow. I have to say so far it is very nice to use. It’s quite thick and nice to needle into, not too hard and not too soft. Just like baby bears bed.

          

 

Next, I picked my colours for a nice scene. Most of it is merino except the two-tone green. It is corriedale.

 

Laying it out. and tacking it all down. I wanted sky and water and a clifftop.

 

The sky and sea are blending together. I went online and had a look at some sea and sky pictures. There seems to be a definite dark line where they meet but when I added it to the picture, it looked odd. I decided to pop an island in.

That looks better but it looks lonely so I added another one and greyed them out a bit to make them look a little farther away.

That is where it stands now. You will notice there are no threads or fine yarns. That will be next. I will probably add some grasses and flowers to the foreground with stitching and maybe a tiny lighthouse on the rock. I am not sure yet what I want to do.

Connections: An Exhibition

Connections: An Exhibition

I’ve just taken down my work from a Made in Whitstable group exhibition at a local arts centre gallery so thought I’d tell you about the felt pieces I had in the exhibition.

Made in Whitstable is a loose affiliation of artists and makers who have a close connection to the town, on the coast in SE England.

With a diverse artistic group it’s not always easy to find a title that everyone is comfortable with. ‘Connections’ seemed to offer enough room for people to work with in their various styles and mediums.

This exhibition was postponed from Easter 2020 so it was great finally to get some work out there, and to catch up (albeit at a distance and in a mask) with people I haven’t seen for a long time.

As I’ve described in previous blogs, this year I’ve been learning from online workshops. I’ve long been interested in both seed heads and shells and these have both continued to feature in my recent work. Reflecting on this, I realise they are all forms of natural protective cases and although it’s not a snappy title, I decided it was a good ‘connections’ theme for me.

This is a picture I made specifically for the exhibition.

Recycling Oyster Shells: Turnstone at the Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable

These photos show the oyster shells laid out, prefelt shells in a single sheet, then cut up and laid onto a background of white Norwegian batt (lower half) and tan Perendale batt (top half). There’s a recycled silk scarf laid over the tan batt layers to give the impression of a pebbled beach in the distance.

Layout for the turnstone, using a combination of merino wool and prefelt; fully felted turnstone and a trial with two birds. I decided to go for just one. I needle felted the turnstone into place then added the eye, beak, legs and a few feather details

I also made some smaller pictures along the shell & seed pod theme

Top left: mussel shell with recycled silk sea, cotton scrim wave foam and prefelt pebbles

Top right: Oyster shell with mixed wool and yarns and fabric barnacles on a recycled silk background

Bottom left: pink shell on a recycled silk beach with cotton scrim wave foam and mixed wool and silk fibre sea

Bottom centre: paper felt shell on recycled silk background

Bottom right: Corriedale, silk and yarn background with multiple-resist circles, hand stitching and a sycamore key

I also had various 3D shapes in the exhibition.

Left – based on a eucalyptus seed pod. I made this in a wonderful workshop by Gladys Paulus in November 2019. I covered that workshop in my first blog for the Felting and Fiber Forum. Various wool batts and mohair locks.

Top right – conker made in two parts (using the stem technique I learned from Gladys). Outer made from Perendale and Norwegian batts, inner is merino wool tops

Bottom right – based on a hazelnut, also made soon after Gladys’s workshop.

Here’s a poppy seed head I made this year after Fiona Duthie’s Fibre + Paper workshop. Mulberry paper is felted into the felt surface. The paper adds structure, folds and pleats well and can be drawn on / painted. I painted this with watercolours. I had to make the top separately so stitched it on. A local craftsman made the base; the pod is held on a piece of dowel attached to the base.

This nigella seed pod is also paper felt but made side-on with pre-felted ropes and thicker wool sections (not prefelted) to allow variable shrinkage (learned from Soosie Jobson). I had a reclaimed jarrah wood and dowel stand made for this.

Another paper felt shape, inspired by shells, with pleats and nobbles made as a result of Fiona Duthie’s workshop

And finally, I included a few plant holders and some earrings.

Here’s my display area – I did put the cards (bottom right) on a small table!

My display area

There were lots of good exhibitors. Here’s a small selection: top left fused glass by Irene Southon; middle left acrylics by Josephine Harvatt; bottom left watercolours by Sarah Louise Dunn showing local sites commissioned by Whitstable Museum to illustrate a map of the town; right, prints by Linda Karlsen. Work by Irene, Josephine, Sarah and Linda (Wearartworks) can all be found on social media like Instagram and Facebook. They and other exhibitors can also be found on Made in Whitstable’s Facebook and Instagram.

The footfall was rather disappointing and I would guess that sales were down on previous years, but it was really good to get some work out on show and to see what other people had been creating.

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!

Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.

In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.

To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.

I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!

April….mmmm!

Upholstery……..April….mmmm!

A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!

I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.

Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.

I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!

So far so good.

Research & idea gathering

More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.

By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.

I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.

I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.

A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.

I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!

Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.

The photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!

Developing the raindrops idea.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!

The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.

Organised chaos and smoke screens!

Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.

The final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

The published 1998 Calendar photo

Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!

Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.

I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!

I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Finally Finished and Playing with Rocks

Finally Finished and Playing with Rocks

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.

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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.

 

wool wrapped pebble

 

first layer wrapped in plastic

 

3rd layer

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)

Olive Sparrow Giveaway Winners and Second quarter challenge, stitching all done

Olive Sparrow Giveaway Winners and Second quarter challenge, stitching all done

First things first:

The winner of the 100 grams of premium washed Teeswater locks is Sttamburo

The winner of the 150 grams of Swiss mountain batt in your choice of colour(s) is Darrel

Congratulations! Monica will contact you via the email you provided.

Now my stuff

My heat erasable pens arrived. They come as a pack of refills and some empty pens. I got one that came with 4 colours, white, red, blue and black. That should cover all possibilities.

I picked the white. I think red would have worked too.

 

Onto the last part of the design. Diamonds were a popular repeating pattern. I better check to see if this will work the way I think it will. I did not do my usual quick sketch but using a ruler. Are you amazed?

Yes, that should work fine, real diamonds and not just squares on point. Now let’s see if those pens work. A straight line to work form. I may stitch that in too. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, even smooth felt is very textured.  The tendency when a pen doesn’t write is to press harder. That didn’t work. A light touch was much better.

 

 

A couple of weeks has passed since I did the lines. I decided to use yellow for the lines.

 

 

I really like how the yellow looks against the green but it didn’t look complete so I added some red and black french knots in the middle

 

Next was finishing the sides. I decided to use double-fold bias tape. I like double fold because it’s easy to sew on invisibly. the bias I like to use with felt is a fleece bias. It blends with felt so nicely but isn’t as bulky as using felt. I had black and green that would work. I chose the green as it was such a good match.

If I had easy access to my machine I would have stitched the first side with it. You can stitch in the ditch of the fold and it’s invisible. That is the way I do it when I put a bias tape on the brim of a hat. As it was, I just stitched both sides by hand.

 

I think it looks good.

 

Next is sewing the pockets and filling them up. I should have that done by next time. I have almost a whole month to get it done and still be on time.

 

 

My 2nd Quarter Challenge is Progressing

My 2nd Quarter Challenge is Progressing

I’ve been working on the stitching for my basket organizer.  The first part I did was the waves. I liked them but I didn’t like how the edges were fuzzy.

 

I went looking in my stash for the right size yarn to edge it. I found my stash of Briggs and Little Sport singles. I picked up several colours cheap from a weaver who had finished a project.  I picked black to outline the waves.

 

I used the outline stitch. I used the tutorial in this great stitch dictionary. https://www.embroidery.rocksea.org/stitch/stem-stitch/outline-stitch/

You can see how the wool yarn is raised adding texture as well as definition. I enjoyed following the curves with my stitching. more fun than straight lines. I only

And finished. I like it much better the black outline really makes the waves pop.

Next was the rectangles on the flap at the front bottom.  I used some red this time.

At first, I thought I would do a Fly stitch up the middle of each one.  My stitching was really uneven. I didn’t like it, so out it came.

I decided to put two lines up the rectangle. the stitching isn’t fabulous because I had no line to follow. the only thing I had to mark it was chalk. I did try it to see how it would brush out and it was really hard to get off the felt it wanted to move further into the felt rather than come off.

And after I cut off all the tails.

So far so good. I have a plan for the last part of the decorating. It will need lines for me to follow so I will have to wait for the heat erase marking pens I ordered. After that is the really hard part……….. the finishing.

Online Learning: the new and the unexpected

Online Learning: the new and the unexpected

The last time I posted here (in January) I described my plan to take various online felting classes. With all my sales and exhibitions cancelled or on hold I thought this would be a good way to keep me focused and motivated during our 3rd pandemic lockdown. Here’s the link in case you want to look back to January’s post.

https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/01/21/finding-focus/

This time I’m talking about my online learning since then, including how it has led me in some unexpected directions.

I was part-way through Teri Berry’s bag making class, which was great. I made my third bag, a backpack, and am very pleased with it. I’d definitely recommend Teri’s class. The instructions were clear and comprehensive and Teri was very responsive to my many questions, thoughts and comments. I learned a lot about bag making techniques, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Corriedale Backpack with Canvas Straps

Because two of the bags I made are large, relatively thick, and have to be fulled very hard, I admit bag-making was rather harder work than I’d anticipated. I rent a studio in an old industrial building that is largely unheated so maybe mid-winter isn’t the best time to be working so much heavy, cold, wet wool, but it’s a minor point. I had to use plastic gloves for the first time as my hands became so shredded and I often went home with sleeves wet to the armpit!

I’d planned to take 3 classes over January to March but was irresistibly drawn to a 4th: a 2-session live international felt-along by Aniko Boros (Baribon.Hu) learning to make her beautiful felted tulip pendant with pebble inclusions. Having signed up I realised it was going to be difficult to find the colourful 14 micron merino wool I needed. I only had white. I’ve never dyed my own wool before but I thought, why not have a go?

I already had some acid dyes so I started off with some 21 micron merino before going on to the finer and more expensive 14 micron. Then I tried silk hankies, Corriedale tops, mohair tops, silk fabric, alpaca & nylon …. nothing was safe. I had a blast. I had no idea how much fun dying would be.

Then it snowed and I thought ‘ooh, I could try snow dying’. That turned out to be great fun too. On the right are just a few of the snow dyed fabrics.

I had several colour choices of dyed 14 micron merino by the time Aniko’s workshop came around. The workshop itself was really interesting. A clear and detailed PDF was sent in advance and turned out to be very helpful on the first day when the sound or picture dropped out occasionally. It meant I could see what I needed to do next so was able to keep up. I’m pleased with my pendant (although I still have to add a fastener) including how the dyed wool worked, and feel I’ve learned techniques I will be able to use to make my own designs. Also, it led me into the entirely unexpected joy of dyeing.

Hand dyed 14 micron merino pendant with pebbles: Aniko Boros’ workshop

In the meantime I’d started Fiona Duthie’s online class Ink + Cloth. We practiced adding ink at various stages of feltmaking with loads of potential for using these techniques in future projects.

Above are samples of adding dye / ink before felting (on silk fabric) and on prefelt

These are samples of ink added in different ways to finished nuno felt with cotton and two types of silk. I’d found an image in the V&A museum online catalogue (a fantastic resource) of an early 20th century furnishing fabric with this style of lollipop trees that I was thinking of using for the 1st quarter challenge …but that’s a story for another time.

At the end of this I decided to combine various things I’d learned: to dye my own Corriedale wool tops for a bag and maybe to decorate it with inked or dyed pieces. This is still work in progress as I am not completely happy with it. I decided to let it dry and have a think before doing the last bit of fulling. After I’d laid out the wool I dithered over whether to add silk and prefelt pieces or not as I quite liked the wool as it was. At the last minute I added all sorts of bits and pieces without properly thinking through the design. I fear it betrays its history. A colleague who saw me rinsing it at the studio casually commented it was very ‘hippie, trippy summer-of-love’ which is absolutely not the look I was going for! I will come back to it soon. I included the strap in the photo to give an idea of what it will look like finished.

Now I’m part way through another class with Fiona Duthie: Fibre + Paper. It’s a fascinating process of combining specialist paper with wool. We started by making lots of samples: paper and felt, paper relief, extreme paper relief and paper with prefelt.

Above are samples showing different amounts of paper felted into 21 micron merino wool and bottom right combines prefelt and paper. They feel lovely and there seems to be so much potential to use paper with felt in different ways.

This week I made a vessel with paper embedded into the surface. It’s not perfect: I got a bit over-confident near the end and tore some of the surface (you can just see it bottom left, between the two ribs). I’ve been interested in shell shapes for a couple of years so I shall enjoy making more 3D paper & felt shell-inspired objects.

Paper felt shell-inspired vessel

In the coming week I will be trying out adding colour and surface designs with ink and paint plus making samples with some different papers. Fiona’s classes have been really enjoyable with excellent PDFs, photos and videos and lots of class interaction.

All the online classes I’ve taken have been great fun and very inspiring. They have given me lots of new skills and techniques that I will be able to use in my work. And they have definitely achieved my other objective: they have been really helpful in keeping me learning, focussed and motivated during what could otherwise have been quite a bleak time.

Finding Focus

Finding Focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some kind of velvet devore?

A woven cotton or linen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finished bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun with Foils

Fun with Foils

Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂

Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now, I think it would make some wonderful textile Christmas cards and gifts. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!

Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis to create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.

Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.

This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:

Some useful tips before you start:

  • set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
  • always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
  • work on an ironing board

1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).

2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.

3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.

If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.

4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.

5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.

Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.

Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.

If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:

If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:

6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.

Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.

It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:

It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:

Our group met again last night to add some embroidery to our designs, this is how far I managed to travel in the couple of hours we had together.

…and a little sneak peek of my most recent foiled “painting”.

Have you tried making foiled paintings?

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