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2022 Landscape workshop

2022 Landscape workshop

Landscape workshop

It is fabulous to get back to felting!

Last week I spent a lot of time looking through my fibre stash, rereading my notes and finding all the supplies in preparation for Saturday’s needle felting workshop. I sorted out and made sure the supper wash was labelled and in a separate bag, yes I do have superwash merino, it’s just too tempting in all sorts of fabulous hand-dyed colours. Most of which has come from the black lamb. She has been selling small balls of fibre at various fibre fests, such temptations of colours! I admit I have caved and purchased supper wash!! Luckily with a bit of extra poking or a bit of blending, we can needle felt with it.

I found the box with the supplies I would need. Hum, I had this ready to go for 2020 so that makes the markers only…..2 years old… better get new ones just in case.

Six sets of 21 pages of note, and 4 versions of each picture chosen by each student, oh no the printer finally actually means it’s out of ink….it has been almost a year of saying it was going to run out at any second. Ouch! The price of new toner has gone up and needing to replace all the colours at once is painful!

Early Saturday morning arrived and Glenn loaded up multiple bags of wool, the box of supplies, a bag of frames and notes and finally the important bottle of Mountain due and off we went to set up the Ottawa Guild studio for the workshop. He was able to extract three six foot long folding tables from behind the looms one of which wound up covered in bags of wool.

1 large clear bags of little bags of wool, separated sort of by colour. There are also small dog brushes, scissors for paper and mettle rulers ready to use in the workshop1 large clear bag of little bags of wool, separated sort of by colour. There are also small dog brushes, scissors for paper and mettle rulers ready to use in the workshop.

It took me a while to get all the parts of the student’s kits organized on the table. Last I set out 2 packages of the mini chocolate bars.  I got half of a cheese and cream cheese bagel eaten and I was ready for the students to arrive.

2 student supplies pile sitting on the table; foam pad, picture frame, notes and photos, needles, name tag stuff, project bag, cheap craft felt, 100% wool felt.2 student supplies pile sitting on the table; foam pad, picture frame, notes and photos, needles, name tag stuff, project bag, cheap craft felt, 100% wool felt and thick 100% wool felt for name tag.

3 the tables, with the supplies, sitting in a C shape so I could sit in the center and see what each student was working on3 the tables, with the supplies, sitting in a C shape so I could sit in the center and see what each student was working on.

I had purchased foam kneeling pads from Dollerama but had brought a few other work surfaces to show the students.

4 Samples of different types of works surfaces; wool pads, wool ironing pad, cellulose sponge, foam cushion4 Samples of different types of works surfaces; wool pads, wool ironing pad, cellulose sponge, foam cushion

When I first did needle felting a cellulose sponge was the surface suggested.  (WARNING; Do not leave needles in a cellulose sponge, it will absorb moisture and humidity and rust the needles). The foam cushion (this one is 18”x18”) worked very well for pictures and later sculptures.  I also brought the thicker soft wool felt mats (Grey and white) and the thinner ironing 100% wool pad. In a previous post, we chatted about some of these felting surfaces.

In the week before the workshop, I had emailed a selection of photo options to the students most let me know which one they wanted to try. I had four photos for them printed off in approximately 5”x7”; two with no alteration, one version that was colour blocked and the final version was done in extreme colour saturation. The colour blocking gives suggestions of colour value and the extreme saturation gives suggestions of hidden colours. Both can be helpful when looking at and assessing the original image.

The students arrived and we started on time.

Some of the students had felted before while others had not. To get them started I had them make a name tag using a thicker 100% wool felt made by the black lamb and a fine sock yarn. I had a scrap piece of paper for them to get the correct size of name to fit the tag. This is a good way to practice eye-hand coordination and fewer Band-Aids are needed later in the workshop.

In the notes, I covered multiple ways to transfer images to the felt base.  A couple used the template method (good for thinkers or darker felt ground) and a couple used the window or lightbox method (easy if you have thin or light-coloured felt ground).

5 Two of the students getting started, cutting a window in cardstock, used to check the size of your image so it will fit in the mat when you’re done felting. The table is cluttered with their supplies including photo reference and tiny chocolate bars5 Two of the students getting started, cutting a window in cardstock, used to check the size of your image so it will fit in the mat when you’re done felting. The table is cluttered with their supplies including photo references and tiny chocolate bars.

6 three of the students starting their pictures. There were 2 students per 6 foot table6 three of the students started their pictures. There were 2 students per 6-foot table.

7 two of the students now a bit further along working on their pictures7 two of the students, now a bit further along, working on their pictures

A couple had combined images or added elements from one picture to another. So we had a quick chat about light sources (but there was more about light sources in the notes).

8 using the original photo of 3 sheep and a round hay bale in snow and replacing the sheep with her own goats. She had emailed me the goat photos and I had shrunk them to a size similar to the sheep.  I had also made mirror copies so she could rotate them if she wanted in the composition.8 using the original photo of 3 sheep and a round hay bale in snow and replacing the sheep with her own goats. She had emailed me the goat photos and I had shrunk them to a size similar to the sheep.  I also made mirror copies so she could rotate them if she wanted in the composition.

9 The sheep are gone and the goats are almost done!9 The sheep are gone and the goats are almost done!

Goats were replacing sheep and a few others made changes to their landscape.  I had told them they are the God of their landscape! If a tree offends you then you can banish it from the picture, “Be gone Tree”!! If you would rather it was a different kind of tree or if you would like your tree to gain or lose weight that was up to you too!! (The power is Heady!!! < Maniacal chuckling in the background! >)

As I mentioned before I had brought in a number of different types of working surfaces to show them or let them try.  There was a bit of interest in the wool felting pad, this is the one from amazon that has gone up to exorbitant prices (wait for the price to drop since it was about $13.00 when I got it and it was $53.00 when I checked last week). There is a similar but much cheaper version out of china too.

10 students hands trying out the 100% wool felting mat with her picture. She Liked the darker grey mat better.10 students’ hands trying out the 100% wool felting mat with her picture. She Liked the darker grey mat better.

The sheep and hay bales were popular, both in their original form and also used with other photo parts of landscapes. Even with the same picture, the interpretation was quite different but definitely the same image.

11-close up of student working on sheep with hay bales picture. 12 another interpretation of the sheep and hay bales picture. Showing more of fiber around pictuer on table11-12 another interpretation of the sheep and hay bales picture.

I chatted about approaching wool painting like a watercolour, washes of thin layers of fibre or like an acrylic, blending to match the image then affixing the colour to the ground.  They worked from the background to the foreground.

13 one student holds up her picture and she and two other students look at her progress.13 one student holds up her picture and she and two other students look at her progress.

By late in the afternoon most were to the point that they were ready to put their pictures into their frames. This is the first time I did not have any of the students stay a bit late to finish the last bit of their picture. It took me a while to finish packing up and cleaning up the studio so it would have been ok. There was a threat of more snow so with a few having a long drive home everyone made a break for it at the end of class.

14 close up of the tree with fence felt picture now in a black frame14 close-up of the tree with fence felt picture now in a black frame.

Working from the back to the front is particularly helpful in this image. Having the background done behind the tree and then adding the tree on top is much easier than trying to fill in all the background between the many little branches.

15 matted picture of sheep with hay bales held by the artist and admired by a fellow student. She used small locks to create curls on the sheep. It was very cute!15 matted pictures of sheep with hay bales held by the artist and admired by a fellow student. She used small locks to create curls on the sheep. It was very cute!

16 the finished framed  hay bale with goats! Also very cute!16 the finished framed hay bale with goats! Also very cute!

17 one student framing her picture while one keeps working on hers.17 one student framing her picture while one keeps working on hers.

18 the picture of sheep and hay bales framed18 the picture of sheep and hay bales framed

The students seem to have enjoyed the experience. there was a bit more work to finish for two of the students but I made sure they all had enough fibre to finish and get them started on their next picture. I hope they will drop into one of the guild socials or post on the guild’s Facebook page so I can see what they are up to.

Tomorrow I am off to the basement to find some of my inkle looms because next weekend I switch gears and I’m teaching introduction to inkle weaving. That workshop involves boxes of smarties candies (but you have to take the workshop to find out why!!)

I want to thank my students for a wonderful workshop, I was very impressed with what they accomplished in just a few hours of happy stabbing of wool! (and only one finger) I hope they will continue felting (Dry or Wet or Both) and find images to inspire them. I hope the photos from this workshop inspire you to think about small landscapes, they make excellent Christmas presents!!

Wet-Felted Bowl Workshop

Wet-Felted Bowl Workshop

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!)

I wrote here in May this year about developing a felt flower workshop for a community art project. Link here if you want to look back at it. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/05/18/community-art-installation/

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.

Sample bowl finished

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.

Some of the ‘tools’ I use

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.

Making Unexpected Memories

Making Unexpected Memories

For this article, I’m going to take you on an adventure, using your imagination. Sounds mysterious…possibly exciting! However, in reality it was poor planning on my part, and I had to figure out something on the fly. That’s real life for many of us, so let’s move on, and it will all work out.

My mother recently moved to a Senior Living residence, in the Memory Care unit. It’s a difficult transition for anyone, and it was especially tough on my mother. I wanted to do something that would help her, get to know those around her better. A monthly tea party, presented a good opportunity. My mother has always been a lady that loves her tea…the English way, with milk. When Prince William and Kate got married, I bought my mother a fascinator to wear to tea. I went early the day of the tea, and grabbed the fascinator, from my closet.

Marsha dressed up for tea

We arrived for tea, and everyone stopped what they were doing. The residence photographer took her picture, and she was awarded the “best dressed” prize for the day. Everyone was buzzing about the need for hats. I mentioned to the craft coordinator, Cindi, that I could help the Memory Care residents make felt flowers for fascinators! We started discussing our plans immediately.

Needle felting wasn’t a good fit, for the residents, even though I had the protective gear. The coordinator said they let residents put projects together, take a photo, and behind the scenes secure items in place. That would totally work for flowers, cut out from felt, they made themselves. Last Friday was the day we set aside to make the felt. I knew my article was coming due, and thought, this would work out perfectly, but I neglected to think about privacy issues. So this is where your adventure comes in…(I know, you were hoping for a trip, to some far away destination…and maybe an umbrella drink.🍹) This is a recreation, of how we handled this for a group, in a Memory Care setting. I have a photo, with no faces, to show results the residents achieved.

I have to say, this activity was a huge success. I’m hoping by sharing the story, others will volunteer to do a similar activity, in their own communities. We had 8 ladies decide to join us, and I was prepared, if gentlemen decided to join us. I really thought this out ahead of time and had everything ready to go: bamboo placemats, cut bubble wrap, small pieces of clear plastic sheets, 2 water containers, 2 ball brausers, and liquid dish soap. I used my electric drum carder to make, very thin individual batts, for each person. I can’t tell you how pleased I was at that decision: it made everything flow along beautifully. I was told the residents love anything that sparkles, so I knew Angelina and Stelina would be present in each batts composition.

Merino, and Blended, Rovings … with Sparkles!
I made a thin sandwich of Merino, the Sparkly blend, and Merino on top. That keeps my drum carder lickerin cleaner, and requires less stopping. I repeated this process until my batt was as thick as needed.
Thin batt ready to remove from the carder. I’m hoping this blending of colors will resemble a sparkling rose petal, when it’s felted.
Just before finishing, I carefully add additional blended fiber directly to the drum for added interest to top of the felt.
This is the batt, once removed from the carder. Pretty petals on the ready!

The beauty of using my drum carder, is no need to lay out, and layer the fiber. A definite plus for working with groups. We covered the tables with clean hospital blankets instead of using towels…when in Rome, use what’s convenient. We set up each place with the following (bottom up) 1. bamboo mat, 2. bubble wrap – bubble side up, 3. thin fiber batt, 4. piece of clear plastic off to the side.

Starting from bottom left (moving clockwise) photo shows thinness of batt about 1/2 inch – batt laid out, ready to go – covered with plastic, wet down, air pressed out, and light circular rubbing.

The residents did each step the best they could. We had to help a few with rubbing, after a while, but by that point a few aides dropped by. They were curious, when they saw all the people, crowded in the crafting area. Their help allowed us to move on to rolling. Everyone rolled at least a little: good movement exercises. After rolling was finished, we took everything away, except their bamboo placemat. We told them to “wash their windows” and they rubbed a bit on the placemat. The best part came next: after rinsing the first piece out I demonstrated “whopping” the piece on the floor. Big smiles came out of hiding! Many couldn’t manage that, but the aides sure had fun, obliging in the process. There were good times had at the the craft table last Friday. The best part was my Mom beaming, with pride, and telling everyone I was “a pretty good girl,” when someone asked a question. Mom was having a good day, and knew who I was. I will take that memory with me forever…as I break away from typing to shed a couple tears.

These are the real photos of felt made by the residents. We will begin making flowers tomorrow, after this article is published.
This is the felt I made for this article. It’s absolutely gorgeous in person.

I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, we make with our felt. But mostly, I hope to see a glimpse of the happy faces, that watched me throw that felt at the floor.

Spinning Spirals and other topics.

Spinning Spirals and other topics.

A few years ago, while searching for an online textile workshop, I happened upon one that made me curious.  I was familiar with the tutor’s name, Ruth Lane, as her book “The Complete Photo Guide to Felting” was and continues to be one of my ‘go-to’ reference books.  Among its many attributes are two that I hold important, good writing and clarity.

At the time, Ruth was offering, among her courses, one titled   Nuno Felting with Paper Fabric Lamination.  This four week course is available under the heading Embellishing Felt With Surface Design Techniques – A Mixed Media Approach.

(https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/classes/embellishing-felt-with-surface-design-techniques-a-mixed-media-approach/nuno-felting-with-paper-fabric-lamination/)  Ruth lived up to expectations by providing concise instructions on her methods.  The smaller class size made the whole experience very personal and enjoyable.  It also provided a space where I, as a participant could interact easily with fellow students – it’s something personally I think important as sometimes on-line classes can leave me feeling quite remote.

I was absolutely delighted when Ruth asked me to write some posts for the Felting and Fiber Studio blog and when I finally decided to design and produce the online Spiral Workshop I was thrilled when it was accepted as one of the courses on the FFS workshop platform.  I feel so comfortable with the whole ethos of small class sizes and encouraging participants to engage with others if they so desire.

The Spiral workshop came about as a result of a challenge put to me by a fellow felter.  Once I had refined my technique I set about filming each step of the process.  I wanted clarity as, to a large extent, the videos needed to replace my physical presence in the learning space –  that said as with all courses offered by FFS, tutors are available to answer questions for the duration of the course.

Once the full course was recorded, I set about editing the material. This did not involve a lot of deletions.  Instead the videos were broken into smaller steps which would make particular elements of the process easier to locate for participants.  Each video has an accompanying PDF which again is broken into steps to match the videos.  These are available for participants to keep and the videos are available for the duration of the course (and a few extra weeks).

This will be the third run of the course which will start on 26th August.  Registration for it opens today (12th August) and numbers will be limited to make the experience more intimate.

Here are some photos of students’ work.  They are all so gorgeous and so different. I have included some of the reviews at the end of the video.

 

If you are interested in finding out a bit more, feel free to check out the following link:

HANGING FELTED SPIRAL WITH HELENE DOOLEY

 

Community Art Installation

Community Art Installation

I was asked by my local community arts centre to run a felting workshop to contribute ‘something’ to a community art installation to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s forthcoming platinum jubilee.  The wonderful Horsebridge Community Arts Centre in Whitstable is creating a ‘tea party with a twist’: everything will be hand-made and not necessarily from the usual materials.  Think papier mâché teacups and crocheted sandwiches.  The Horsebridge received a grant from Arts Council England to create their installation which meant participation was free but I would get paid to run the workshop – a win-win!

I mulled over what the ‘something’ might be and decided to run a workshop making wet felted flowers as table centre pieces.

I decided early on to take my colour inspiration from the Commonwealth flag – royal blue and golden yellow. This would reduce the choices people would have to make (which often take a long time!) and would be a change from the red, white and blue of our national flag.

I’ve not made flowers before so set about designing something that was as simple as possible to make. The creators were unlikely to have any felting experience and we were going to do this in 2½ hours – both demonstrate and make.

By now my friend Sue (a ceramicist) had agreed to run another workshop making slab pot vases for the flowers to sit in, so they needed to stand in a vase. I took some wool away on a trip with me and started trying out designs.

Prototype One: a loopy sort of flower made by laying out 5 separate petal shapes of wool (herring-bone style layout) then felting them together with a little wool in the middle.

I thought it was OK but getting the petals even was a little challenging and we’d have to use wire for the stems. I wasn’t sure they’d sit very well in vases and I generally thought I could do better, so moved on to my second design.

Prototype Two: I liked this a little better. It was laid out in a flat circle and the petals were cut part-way though fulling. It seemed pleasingly tulip-shaped. I wasn’t content to settle quite yet, though, as I had a few other ideas to try out.

Prototype Three: a more complex design laying out one larger circle of wool then covering it with a circular resist with a hole in the middle and laying out a smaller circle of wool on top of the resist, ensuring the two layers joined together through the hole.  Not surprisingly, I realised that this was going to be way too complicated to create in the time available. The fulling took a long time. I did like the blue edging on the petals though so carried this through to the next sample.

Prototype Four: I wanted to try adding a felt rope stem so it would sit nicely in a vase without using wire so needed a fairly simple flower shape if there was going to be time to add the stem to the design.  I made a felt rope in blue, keeping one end dry and fluffy to attach to the flower head.  The head was laid out in a single yellow layer, radiating out from the centre, in a similar way to prototype 2. I joined the stem as I wetted down the wool and covered it with a piece of bubble wrap with a hole in the middle for the stem to poke through.  This would prevent the body of the stem felting to the flower.

Once the flower and stem were at prefelt stage and the stem was securely attached, I picked up the flower by the stem and rolled it closed, mostly between my palms, to shape it into a 3D rather than flat flower.

Yes, this seemed just about do-able within the time and was reasonably simple for inexperienced felters to make.  If anyone ran out of time they could skip the petal-cutting stage and make a cone-shape flower so they wouldn’t have to heal all the edges and shape every individual petal.

By the time I got back to my studio the right coloured wool had arrived, along with some yellow tussah silk.  I already had blue and yellow nepps so I could set about refining my prototype.  A few design changes: I decided we’d run a second layer of wool just around the outside of the flower head circle as this would give the petals a bit more body.  Second, I’d add add nepps to the centre and a few strands of silk to the petals. Here’s the new layout.

And here’s the finished flower: advanced prototype 4!

Yes, I was pleased with the improvements and fairly confident the flowers would sit comfortably in their vases. I parcelled out the wool, nepps and silk and gathered together all the equipment ready for the workshop. It took a while!

Normally I teach a maximum of 8 people at a time but as this was a small make I rather recklessly committed to 16 – thinking I could have 2 people per table. Not a problem until I started to seek out 16 towels and 16 mats…..but it seems my hoarding tendencies came good! Cutting out 32 pieces of bubble wrap (16 of which needed a hole cutting in the middle) and 16 pieces of net started to feel like I was on a production line. Happily, though, I got everything together just in time for the day of the workshop.

Here’s the teaching room at the Horsebridge with everyone setting to work – a lovely light, airy and spacious room with people well spaced-out.

A couple of work in progress shots

And lots of happy felters with their beautiful creations.

The workshop seemed to go well and we produced plenty of flowers to add to the installation. I made sure people took photos of their own flowers as they can collect them after the event, if they want to.

Here’s most of them gathered at the end of the workshop.

Lessons: we needed more time! It’s hard to estimate how long it will take to demonstrate something and for people then to make it.  I’d opted for 2½ hours but with hindsight should have gone for 3.  I’ve left myself quite a lot of ‘finishing off’ to do – to make sure stems are firm enough for example – before the flowers go into the installation in early June. I could wrap the floppier stems in florists wire but I’d prefer them to be fully felted. It also took me way longer than I’d realised both to develop the prototypes and prep all the materials. Happily I was able to put the time in and I’m now fully ready for any future flower felting opportunities!

The installation is from 2 June and I’m really excited to see how it all comes together and how the flowers fit in. I took part in a couple of the other workshops: making slab pot vases and monoprint doilies. There’s something really joyous for me in taking part in a community art project and the Horsebridge have done a wonderful job in involving lots of people in the installation. As well as a series of workshops, they’ve sent out lots of making kits for people who can’t get to the centre to make things and worked really hard to involve lots of different members of the community. If you’re interested in the end result I’m sure the Horsebridge Arts Centre will post photos so here’s a link to their website. https://thehorsebridge.org.uk/ and a big thanks too to Arts Council England for providing the project funding. https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/.

Felted Hat Wedding Shower.

Felted Hat Wedding Shower.

Last weekend I got to teach a workshop for the first time since covid hit. I have really missed teaching. I was contacted to teach a wet felted hat class for a bride-to-be. She wanted to do something different than the traditional bridal shower.  Everyone was vaccinated and we all wore our masks. It was a lot of fun.

Everyone picked their colours from The Olive Sparrow (https://www.etsy.com/ca/market/the_olive_sparrow) and I ordered them in. I have to say the wool arrived quickly and nicely packaged with labels. I point this out because I have ordered from other places and received a mixed bag of fibres and I was left to sort out what the colours were and prep it for class.  All the embellishment fibres were from my own stash.

Everyone picked the style they wanted from the hat samples I brought. Then they grabbed their wool and we started. I like to do 3 layers for hats. With the most shrinkage being around and with the resist we used it leaves room at the top for shaping.

once the first side was laid out it was time to embellish. picking out the fibres and seeing how they look is always lots of fun.

Don’t forget to take a picture so you can embellish the other side.

Then the hard work begins rubbing and rolling.

After much rubbing and rolling, it was time to remove the resist.

and now they try them on and wonder how they are ever going to make them fit.

Much more rolling and fulling later the hats are shaped and ready to take home and dry. Sorry I got no pictures of that part.

All in all, it was good to teach again and the ladies were great to work with. I think we all had a lot of fun. I need to thank Sabrina( the gracious hostess) for her pictures of the day or they would be sparse. I think she is happy with her hat. 🙂

 

 

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

Needle Felted Landscape Workshop Feb. 2020 part 2

Needle Felted Landscape Workshop Feb. 2020 part 2

When we were last chatting about the workshop we had got the students to the point where the image had been transferred to the felt and they were beginning to work on it.

As with other painting mediums, I had them work from the background towards the foreground. This is common in pastel, and often seen in Oil or Watercolour painting. You can lay-in the required colour by hand blending your fibre then checking it against your reference photo.  The students discovered that very little fibre could affect a significant colour change in the resulting blended fibre.

 

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7-10) laying in the background then working forward.

One student using her own picture decided that the figure in the foreground was unnecessary for her landscape and after much debating removed him.

 

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11-12) Re-editing image and checking with phone

Kim’s lighthouse image was mostly blues and a bit more challenging. It was a photo taken at dusk, so the colours become more subdued.

 

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13-17) the progression of the light house

One student chose the round hay bales picture I had also done.

 

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18-22) Winter hay bales progress as more detail is added

Another chose the sheep in a snowstorm shot. It was vary painterly! The sheep are suggestions hidden behind the grasses amongst the snow.

 

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23-25) sheep in snow behind branches

The alpaca picture was coming along nicely.  When I checked again it had suddenly gone from 5×7 to the full size of the frame without the mat! (That is twice the felting space of the other pictures.) I like the tree details she was developing.

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26-27 Alpaca in progress and finished

The students did very well with their pictures and even had time for a relaxing lunch break! It was fun to see them putting the frames on their pieces, which always makes it more of an artistic statement rather than just bits of fluffs of wool.

 

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28-34) the students framing their finished paintings!

One student was having so much fun she started her second picture on the remaining half of the wool felt.

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35) One student was starting another picture at the end of the workshop

This was a fun workshop to teach and the students seem to have had fun too. I still have 3 workshops full of 3D felted sheep coming up this spring. They will be scheduled when we have a classroom available and I am back to fully healthy again.  (ok March has got to be an improvement on January and February Right?) I hope you avoid the flu, both the imported and domestic varieties and instead have lots of fun felting!

Needle Felted Landscape Workshop Feb. 2020 Part 1

Needle Felted Landscape Workshop Feb. 2020 Part 1

On the last day in February, I ran the Needle Felted landscape workshop for the Ottawa guild. We had six students sign up but one had to stay home to attend a first time mom who was expecting twins. The impending mom, being a sheep, was not as forthcoming in accurately indicating her due date and did not actually go into labour during the workshop but I am sure she would have them if he had joined his wife and left the sheep alone.

I brought a good amount of my fibre stash (I have been collecting fibre focusing on the landscape workshop and the sheep workshop). By the time Glenn got the car loaded, I had a full car of fibre and supplies to the point I could not see out the back window! Ok, it’s a  Kia Soul so not a huge car but that was a lot of wool!

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1)    This is the foyer at Hartwood house. The studio is on the other side, through the double doors that Glenn is moving my stuff towards.

I had intended to get a picture of the room once I got it set up but I got distracted by one of the students arriving early and then I forgot. I had set out all the items the students were getting with their workshop.

Which included

  • 23 pages of notes plus an appendix of photo options,
  • the foam kneeling pad that is made of a pool noodle like foam,
  • 4 types of felt, (for a name tag, a large piece of good wool felt half of which was to be used for the project, a cheaper lower percentage wool felt and an acrylic felt to compare to).
  • different Needles, (including a finer spiral)
  • Permanent markers,
  • a test tube with a lid to keep the needles,
  • elastics,
  • pins,
  • hard ruler (not a tape measure),
  • paper to make a template for the mat,
  • 3 sizes of finger protectors (wooden)
  • Wooden frame with mat and glass
  • Fine particulate mask (no one wants to get wool lung!)

 

I had also brought Sock yarn to make their names and Lots of wool to select colours from!

To borrow I had extra scissors and a 7 needle holders tool with a guard (it’s the fake clover tool from somewhere in China).

I had them start with making a name tag allowing them a chance to try out the needles and work on eye-hand coordination. They wrote their name in yarn on a piece of felt from an accidentally felted duvet. Only one bandaid was needed so the practice was helpful.

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2-3) Nametags – note the bags of wool in the background of the second photo

Next, they were on to choosing a picture from the ones I had pulled or three had brought one of their own.  Two of my adventurous students had painted before and the other one had done a number of other types of felting so I felt they might be up to a bit more challenging subjects.

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4) Using the phone to see details of the image and checking the pictures as they progress.

I had asked the students to bring a camera, an eye pad or a phone with a good camera function so they could check their work as they progressed. One had her Lama picture on her phone and could zoom in and look at details which was also an excellent use of technology. The phone works similarly to looking at your drawing in a mirror. It allows you to see proportions and negative space more clearly.

Transferring the chosen image to the felt

I discussed the lightbox or window method of tracing. This works well on thin light coloured felt or pre-felt but not as well on thicker or darker felts. If you are using a window, it works best on sunny days (sunny days can be scarce in winter). This transfer method was used in the workshops I have attended.

I also mentioned the grid method to scale a drawing while transferring it to your work surface. It is a lot slower but can produce an extremely good underdrawing. I suggested they check out their notes for other methods like the projector, Lucy and camera obscura.

I wanted to give them another option if they did not like to draw freehand or using a lightbox.  I explained the template method of transferring an image, which requires scaling your image by photocopier or by computer and printer to make your image the size you would like to work with. Make a border on your felt, the outside size of your picture. Then divide your picture into basic tonal areas again working from the background to the foreground. It can be handy to put your image in Microsoft word then adjust the image with “Artistic Effects” look at “cut out” to give tonal blocking. While you are in Microsoft, you can check under “colour saturation” to see what hidden colours are in your image.

This is the point that you move trees or tilt hills to suit your wants. You are God of your landscape! If you want to have a tree lose or gain a bit of weight, you can decree it!

 

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5) Freehand drawing and the use of a paper mat

One student went with the freehand method. She referred to her phone to get the detail in her picture. I had a number of different colours of permanent markers.  We were using permanent markers since I have used quilting makers in a workshop I had taken that did not stay on the felt but appeared as a blue smear on my arm from finger to elbow as I worked on my piece. (The options of various colours of permanent markers are nice since they stay where you put them and they will be hidden under the fibre you are adding.)

I had them make a paper mat the size of their picture, 5×7. This lets them check to see if their picture was getting bigger or smaller as they worked. Checking your image with your paper mat will save you money by ensuring that your image will fit in your mat and frame when it is done.

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6) Template method of transfer and using the phone to check the progress

Continued in part 2 scheduled  for March 15th 2020 (lots more pictures to come in part 2!!)

Terry Berries Felted Bag Online Class

Terry Berries Felted Bag Online Class

Registration for Teri Berry’s Felted Bags online class is now open! This is a great course and was well received, so it’s exciting it’s being run again. There are limited spaces available so if you want to register, click on this link and fill out the registration form.

During this 5 week course, you will have the opportunity to make at least 3 bags/purses.

In week 1, you will make an animal themed spectacles/phone/pencil case, this could be in the image of your favourite pet or a friend’s pet (they make very thoughtful gifts) or a mythical beast of your own imagination! You will use multiple resists, introduce some nuno felting and make a closure entirely from wool.

In week 2 you will learn to make a small to medium shoulder/handbag (purse to our US friends), this tutorial will demonstrate how to add internal pockets, a magnetic clasp, adjustable shoulder straps and take shaping the felt to the next level so the bag has a flat bottom and stands up on its own.

The week 3 tutorial is a little more ambitious, you will learn to make a backpack with adjustable straps, multiple internal compartments and internal pockets.

Weeks 4 and 5 will be for catch up / further development, you might like to apply your own design to a bag, Teri will be on hand to answer any questions and talk through any challenges your design might create.

As with all the online courses, there will be lots of opportunity to share your work with the rest of the group and share ideas.

The content of this workshop is suitable for felters with some experience, you do not need to have made a bag before but if you are confident making felt pods, bowls etc. over a resist you will be able to make these bags.

The class begins on February 13th. The price for this five-week course is £60 GBP (approx. $79 US, $105 Canadian, €70, $112 AUD, $119 NZ) and the number of places will be limited to 30 students.

Sign up here.

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