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A Question about Crown felting needles

A Question about Crown felting needles

A couple of days ago I was watching an online demo of Needle Felting Faces done by Marie from living felt out of Texas. She was using one of the new firmer wool felting mats (it looks similar to the ironing felt mats). She was using a 42Triangle (42T) needle. She said she chose this needle because she wanted to “have the fiber sit on top of the picture and not underneath”. I am not sure if she is using a triangle needle with 3 barbs per side (a 42T 333) or only 2 barbs per side (a 42T 222). A T42-333 would be more aggressive at moving fiber than a T42-222.

I asked in the chat; “Since you are focusing on adding the wool mainly to the surface have you tried a 40 or 42 Crown needle? A crown needle has the barbs very close to the tip of the needle so works with little (depth of) poking.” I did not get an answer from Marie but it started a side conversation about Crown needles with a European felter in the chat.

I was surprised that Crown needles were not well known. They have been available for a few years; at fiber festivals, online and if you are lucky at the local fiber arts stores.  I am sure most of you have bumped into them but may not have had the opportunity to try them out.

Let’s look at where they come from, the working parts of the needle, why would you want one and what is it good for?

Where the Crown needle comes from;

One of the manufacturers of felting needles is Groz-Beckert, who classifies crown and fork needles as “Structuring” needles.  A Structuring needle works on “structuring previously bonded nonwoven fabric” in a machine to produce a Velvety or grainy surface texture. They are designed originally to plunge through the felt pulling fibers to the opposite side as can be seen in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWE4tvHF0xU

As felters we tend to look at items not originally intended or designed for felting and turn them into felting tools. Bubble wrap, lids of Tupper wear jugs, pool noodles, garden kneeling pads and we look at the industrial felting needles and go “AH!! I could do this with them instead!”  In this case, instead of pushing fiber to the far side of the felt and through creating a surface texture, we can reduce the depth we work at and secure fibers close to the surface of your work.

Crown Needle diagram1) a close up of the end of a Crown needle.  https://www.groz-beckert.com/mm/media/web/3_felting_1/bilder_14/composings_3/FN_Composing_23.jpg

Parts of a felting needle 2) Parts of a felting needle

How the needle works and the structure of the needle

Let’s review how a felting needle works. As the needle enters the fibers/felt, its barbs (notches in the needle which can vary in number and placement along the working part of the needle) grab some of the fiber and as it is inserted drags the fiber with it into the felt.  Since the barbs are one directional the fiber carried by the barb stays at the depth it was pushed as the needle is removed. This repeated entanglement creates felt. The felt can be a 2D picture, a 3D sculpture or industrially the needles can create the non-woven fabric used to line the trunk or cover the door panels of your car.

With the Crown needle, the bards are located very close to the tip of the needle and are arranged one per each working side (3 working sides in a triangular needle). This means the working depth is the distance from the tip to where the barbs engage and entangle fiber into the web (felt ground). So on my crown needles, it’s about 1/4th of an inch. There are different styles of tips and different lengths of barbs so there can be a bit of variation if you look at the industrial options. But overall, the distance from the first barb to the tip is very close compared to other types of needles.

Where did I find mine?

Ann and I were both curious a few years ago and I bought a box of the Crown 40-111 from Doer out of china. The price for the needles (500 in a box) was good but the shipping cost was a bit painful (but still cheaper than a flight to China and buying them there!). At present, there are listings for 40, 42,43, and 46 gauge Crown needles from Doer. Groz-Beckert’s PDF lists Crown needles in gauges from 25 to 46. Some of the Groz-Beckerts range would likely not be useful to us but is an impressive amount of options!  With both companies, the working part is triangular as you can see in the last picture from the group below.

box of 500 Crown needles3) box of 500 Crown needles

the designations for the 40gauge crown needles I purchased4) the designations for the 40gauge crown needles I purchased

needle are wrapped in bundles within the box5) needle are wrapped in bundles within the box

close up of one of the needles6) close up of one of the needles

For part of the surface decoration on the iris flower, I used crown needles individually and in groups of 2 or 3 held together with a small rubber hair elastic.

using crown needles to add detail to the Iris petals, note the shallow angle I was working at7) using crown needles to add detail to the Iris petals, note the shallow angle I was working at

Why would I want a crown needle and what do they do?

When you want to affect the surface of your felting, you can try the crown needles and/or you can change the angle that you are inserting the needles. A very shallow angle, (almost parallel with the felt surface) will keep the barbs from going through a thin petal or 2d picture.

With a crown needle, there is a reduced distance the needle needs to travel to engage the fiber and secure it into the web.  This reduction in range of movement may reduce some of the strain on the body during the movement of felting, especially if the movement is slower and involved a more careful insertion of the needle. That said you will further reduce your likelihood of muscle fatigue or injury if you also remember to take (Stretch) breaks or let your bladder help remind you to take breaks by drinking liquids like ice tea or water. It’s not a good idea to ignore your bladder when it asks you to stop felting!

Gauge vs fiber size

As the gauge of the needle gets bigger, say a 40 crown vs a 46 crown the fiber diameter/fineness that will be most effective with the needle will change. A 46 crown needle will work better with finer fibers. Conversely, a larger courser fiber may not engage or be grabbed effectively by the finer needles and barbs. Fine needles will also leave less surface distortion than a larger needle. Sometimes if you are getting large dents when using fine needles, it may be more a matter that you just need to keep felting until the entire surface is evenly compacted, all at the level of the original dents. That said a finer needle and/or a shallow angle of insertion will also reduce the dented texture on a surface.

Conclusion

Depending on the project, you will likely have a couple of favourite needles you keep picking up. It may even be the same needles you gravitate to over many projects. So why, if you don’t already have crown needles, mite you want to consider adding another needle type to your collection? Their ability to work at a shallow depth gives them an advantage over other needles whose first barb placement is farther away from the needle tip. Crown needles can be very useful in portraiture, very thin structures like petals or butterfly’s or adding detail to your wet felted vessels, hats or garments. Basically any time you don’t want fiber added to one side to show on the other. (This may also require a very shallow angle of insertion.)

A Crown needle may not be the needle you reach for the most in your needle felting but when you want to work superficially, it is an excellent option to consider adding to your choices of tools.

 

If you are still curious and want to know more about other needles that are available in the industry you may enjoy looking through this PDF from Groz-Beckert.

https://www.groz-beckert.com/mm/media/en/web/pdf/Felting_and_structuring_needles.pdf

 

possibly for my next post; Mr. Mer has been digging through the fiber Bernadette brought in to a library day to see if I could find some acceptable (to Mr. Mer), Mer hair.

Felted Iris Flowers Part 2

Felted Iris Flowers Part 2

Last week we got the petals to the point they were firm and reasonably thin. As I promised let’s look at the new equipment I am about to use.

I ordered a felting pad for ironing. it is a little firmer than the white felting mat I was just trying out. I also ordered the clover craft iron II (with accessories). I spotted it on at a lower price than I had seen it in previous weeks so ordered it. Checking on the day it arrived it was up in price over 10.00, while today the price is back down to 2.00 more than I got it for! Prices are acting very strangely lately.

Let’s look at the Felt Ironing Mat first.

23 Wool ironing mat “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting”

Yesterday I found out some felters are using these ironing pads as felting mats. Ironing mats, (about .5 inch thick) are thinner than the 1 to 1.2 inch felting mats. The ironing pad is a bit firmer than the white felting mat. It arrived folded, with instructions that include “do not fold”. If I use it as a chair pad I will likely flatten it quickly, but I tried it in its present state. It is about half an inch thick. I measured the white wool mat at about an inch thick. The grey wool mat was about an inch and a quarter. (See Photo below)

24 comparing thicknesses

25 (Ironing mat, White wool mat, Grey wool mat)

I did a brief test with the bad sheep picture. This would let me check the end feel of the needle entering the ironing pad, which is quite resistant but does work.

26 needle test of the ironing felt mat

I suspect using the ironing mat may increase the strain on the arm/wrist/finger muscles with prolonged enthusiastic (stabbing) use for felting. I do not like ironing except for before sewing projects, so I am unlikely to injure myself using this as an ironing pad. This thought may come back to haunt me……

The Clover mini iron II and accessories came with a lot of instructions and diagrams. i read them over when they arrived then put everything away in a nice little box.

27  Clover Mini Iron II

28  I found a plastic box at Dollerama to keep the Iron and its attachment options in.

The iron is usually used with appliqué by quilters. The various attachments will get into small corners and the ball attachment will accentuate dishing shapes. The Iron is designed to flatten and smooth the surface of the felt, more like the commercial hot press felts.  It may be interesting to try starches or misting with this too. (oh no a distracting thought escaped!)

There are other similar-looking devices which are used for Auto body repair and another for taking wrinkles out of leather goods (shoes, bags etc.). Check the temperature range on each type, you don’t want to scorch your felt.

One last thing to remember about the mini iron, from what I have read online, it is very important to keep the iron rest, (the plastic and wire thing that supports the iron tip), somewhere you will not lose it. I read many warnings that this part can mysterious disappearance and happens frequently.

Tiny Craft iron time!

Ok, now I am ready for the next step that I skipped with the prototype.

 29 I plugged in the iron and waited for the iron to heat up

After a couple of minutes, I tried it on the prototype. Hum it doesn’t seem to be hot yet. The wool is not warm? I wonder if it’s working? Did I get a broken one? Let me check…Ooops! OWW! No, it’s hot now.

30  I guess this means the Iron is not broken. Owwww.

I carefully ironed each petal, first the prototype then the new petals I had made. There was a bit of thinning visible. I will have to try pressing a bit harder but i didn’t want to scorch the wool. Next flower I will try to get a wire that is closer to the petal colour since the black and green floral wires are still slightly visible, at least in the photos.

31 Carefully ironing the petals

I took them in to show Ann on Library day. It was not as busy as we had hoped so Ann got her dry felting experiment done and I showed her skinny petals.

32-33 Ann inspects the thinness. She said she had not anticipated them to be so firm.

There was one more step I had skipped in the instructions for making a rose from Tjarda’s Workshop.  She had very carefully trimmed any fluffy, flyaway edgings on her petals. I recently purchased a few more variations on curved bladed scissors. I selected one with a short curve to the blade that seemed to fit the petal and started trimming. I think I was a bit more enthusiastic than Tjarda but did get all the fluff removed and smoothed the curves.

34 trimming the edge fluff

35 close up of scissor blade curvature

36 Here is a before (R) and after (L) petal.

After trimming, I tugged gently on the edge of the petal to give a bit of the frill. The tugging is along the length of the edge.

The next step will be adding the last details to the iris petals and then assembly! But that will be another time, I have a bit more library work to do. So, while I am off doing that I hope you are enjoying spring and getting a chance to have fun felting.

Update; we seem to have had a week of mid-summer weather (not so good for the spring flowers). This weekend we made a trip to the first biggish Fiber Festival which was only a 3-hour drive away in Peterborough Ont!  It was so good to be able to feel fibre in person! if you are interested I took a few pictures (121 actually) but promise I won’t inflict them all on you! I am sorry I did not get a picture of the beaver we saw sitting in the grass beside the highway (i was driving) I thought it was only a groundhog as we approached but saw the distinctive tail as we passed. What a fun Saturday! I hope you are enjoying your weekend too!

Felted Iris Flowers Part 1

Felted Iris Flowers Part 1

This week, I am back to working on felted flowers between Library work. I have the last bit of data I needed for my year-end report (so I had better take a moment to fill that in and send it off to the guild executive). Now that is done I can get back to Felting.

A few weeks ago, I watched a workshop given by Tjarda van der Dussen. She made rose petals that were wonderfully thin. Next, she used a tiny craft iron to flatten them further. Then finally, she assembled them, adding leaves to the stems, into a life-like Rose.

I made a prototype of iris petals (https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/04/14/inspired-to-felt-an-iris-prototype/) but did not yet have a tiny iron to try that part of her instructions. The prototype iris proved that the pattern I had found online made a reasonably accurate bearded iris.  I gave it a ZZ top beard, not a respectable Gotee but I was having fun and it was a prototype.

1 Prototype iris testing the pattern

I am very fond of irises, I think they may be my favourite flowers. (if only they flowered longer!)  I have had different colours, but most are of the large bearded variety.  The frilly peach one in the backyard, came with us from the townhouse we rented before I bot this little house.  (My house is a semidetached bungalow, so I guess technically it is only half a house.) The location was good, and the yard was about twice as big as a townhouse with more room for plants, so I bought it. The house came with a dieing red maple tree, which I could put my hands around.  The first spring I added a garden to the front yard with the unhappy tree. Unfortunately when I watered the front garden the mostly dead red maple grew and over the next few years became a heavy shade-producing tree, thus all the sun-loving plants I had planted were not impressed. My back yard will likely have the same fate since there is now a rapidly growing red maple in the yard behind me, which will eventually shade a lot of my yard too. (Don’t tell my plants!!)

So let’s look at a few Iris from my garden over the years. I hope they will inspire you too.

2 Bronz and White iris

The bronze Iris is quite hardy but is not as flashy as some of the blues, or as delicate as the frill-edged peach. The white is also quite delicate in looks and does not flower every year.

3-4 Frill-edged Peach Iris

The frill-edge Peach is particularly showy but has been known to face plant since the flower is large and the stem is long. I have to remember to tie it up before it falls over this year.

5 I have two of the smaller varieties of iris,  this smaller variety, and an early dwarf spring clump that is an even darker blue dark.

I have had several iris in the front yard that have slowly died back and disappeared as both my tree and the neighbour’s Linden tree continued to grow and make shade. Some have been quite spectacular and I am sorry they did not last.

6 Fancy Iris

My backyard iris have fared better but were threatened with shade from an over-enthusiastic grapevine last year. (There will be a discussion of boundaries involving sheers shortly with said vine.)

7 backyard iris

I have even grown some, through the summer, in pots to good effect.

8 Iris in pots

On to the next (felt) iris.

I tried World of Wool core wool with the bit of kemp on the first petal. Laying out the general shape then adding a bit of the mixed blue merino braid I had used before for edging colour.

9 laying out the fibre

10 adding the blue edging

I used the T-36 to tack it in the general area, leaving some hanging off the edge of the petal to add to the underside when I flipped the petal.  I switched to the fake clover tool to imbed the blue fibre into the white. I realized I had forgotten to add the wire to pose the petal so added it now then back to poking.  I flipped frequently and found that if I worked a bit deeper I would transfer some of the blues to the other side giving a better mottle.

I worked one side and then the other side until the petal was the correct shape but not as thin as I wanted.

11 switching to the fake clover tool

I left the first petal at this point and started a second, this time using a small batt I had purchased from Wabi Sabi in Ottawa. It was a Rambouillet/ Merino mix batt, that had a nice crimp but was not quite as lustrous as the core wool.

12 Batt of Merino- Rambouillet

I did the same layout of fibre poking at a low angle along the edge of the pattern piece to get the shape required.

13 when I had the fibre holding together (not good felt but it was not falling apart) I added the wire.

14 adding wire through the center

After making more petals I may role the tip end as well as make a long role back just so it won’t poke up into the flower petal. Again, I added the blue to the edge and wrapped it over the edge of the petal, taking down the fibres with the 36T and then using the fake clover tool with the 40t’s.

15 adding the blue edging

Comparing the two petals, I decided to continue with the small batt of Rambouillet /merino.

16 comparing the two types of wool in the petals

  17  I suspect that this type of foam mat may be demoted back to a garden kneeling pad.

A couple of days earlier Ann had spotted another wool felting mat on Amazon. It was white and similar in size to the grey one I purchased and reviewed recently. This one was described as; “KEO ST. Needle Felting Pad – 100% New Zealand Wool Mat for Precision Felting. Natural Cream Color, 10” x 8” x 1” – Complete with 2 Handmade Leather Finger Guards”. (that was a mouthful lets just call it the white wool mat.

I also ordered a “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting” so I would be ready to use the “Clover Mini Iron II-The Adapter Set” which I had ordered when it went on sale earlier. (It’s back up to an exorbitant price again.)

18 the new white felting pad (it came with more finger cots!)

19 let’s try it out

So let’s try this one out. It is much firmer felt than the gray wool with kemp felting mat. It is still softer to work into than the firm red foam. It does not leave little bits of red foam in the felt. Unlike the softer grey wool with kemp mat, it had no aroma. Both seem to be made in layers that are commercially needle felted together. The needle end-feel on the white is firmer than the grey but still less than the red kneeling foam. I did find I had some fibre transfer but I was trying to move the blue colour from one side of the petal to the other. The fibre transfer to the mat would have been less if I had not wanted to work so deeply. (a reverse needle would have been able to pull fibre from one side to the other too.)

I have recently seen the use of a thinner piece of firm felt placed over a mat to protect the mat from getting fibre transfer. Sort of like putting a mattress topper on top of a mattress to make it more comfortable and longer waring.  (not the type of mattress that has a built-in top since you cant flip them only rotate them they tend not to last as long as the un-pillow-toped mattresses. Sorry got distracted. Back to felt!) I may try to track down a light and a dark piece of firmer felt about a ¼ inch thick to try as a cover for my felt pads. I could see it extending the life of the mat, whether or not it works to keep fibre colour transfer from your work.

As long as you are lifting frequently and flipping the petal I found both the white (stiffer end feel) and the Grey (softer end feel) wool pads comfortable to work on.  They would be comfortable to work a picture on (again lifting frequently) or to use as a working surface for a sculpture.

I worked on the larger lower petals and then worked on the smaller upper petals.

20-21  using the needle at a low angle and moving the tinning fibre towards the center of the petal

My focus was to work as thin as I could while still creating a firm felt. I found that working around the edge with the multi-tool tended to spread the shape while it thinned the felt. I would alternate multi-tool to flatten then switch to a single needle working more horizontally towards the center to counter the spread. The pattern piece was helpful to check the size and get it back into the correct shape.

The other technical detail to consider is about the wire within the petal. I have quite a bit of experience felting with armatures. Very occasionally working needles through the wool and around wire I will brake one. It is usually when I start to try to work too quickly or I am distracted (trying to watch YouTube rather than listen to an audiobook).  Working with such thin felt defiantly requires more care and less speed. In the center of the petals where the wire is located, I found I had problems with the fake clover multi-tool and broken needles. I eventually shifted to focusing the multi-tool to thin the edges and the single needles to work near the wire and reshape the petals. This improved the longevity of my needles.

I worked the petals in stages. First holding together enough to insert the wire, then to the point it was the correct size and shape but not firm enough, then finally going back over each petal until it was the firmness I wanted and about the correct shape.

22 comparing thinness

The petal on the right is the basic petal shape which has been worked long enough to hold its shape.  For the petal on the left, I have continued to work with both the multi-tool and the single needle to the point of being quite a firm felt. If the felt was this dense but thicker (more of it) the light gauge of wire I am using would not be strong enough to hold a shape against the strength of the wool. I tried floral wire gauge 20 and an undesignated floral wire that I think maybe 24gauge.  I continued working with the other petals until all seemed to be as thin as I could get them.

Next week we will look at the new equipment that has arrived so i can continue working on these petals.

 

Felting Surfaces & The new game, “What is that smell?”

Felting Surfaces & The new game, “What is that smell?”

A short bit more about felting surfaces

As you may remember from my last post, I wanted to look at some of the types of felt pads but had not yet got my hands on them. Well, this week 2 examples have arrived! I hope you won’t mind and will join me as I investigate.

The felt pads from the descriptions and images seem to come in 2 main types.

Thick felt pad; the photos look like industrial Felt, which is made with hot pressed steam rather than a felting machine.  (Photos can be deceptive!)

Felt pillow; which looked like an outer felt layer stuffed with something, hopefully, wool.

Testing tools.

For this test, I used two thin layers of commercial red craft felt. It is a cheap, not 100% wool felt and is very thin like a pre-felt which stretches easily. It is not as nice as the real wool felt but also not as unpleasant as some of the acrylic felt that seems to be shredded fibre (and possibly dryer lint) held together partly by glue. For needles, I am trying a single T36 and the fake clover tool with T40s, the fibre is from my stash, some are from Bernadette’s Batts, some was Galaxy Melange (died grey wool) from the World of Wool (UK) and a bit of died core wool from Sarafina fibre arts. (Just in case anything looked particularly appealing and you desperately needed a bit for yourself.)

 1 craft felt – has the thickness of very thin prefelt

 

Test subject #1:

2  Comes in a nice cardboard box with a wooden needle holder just like the ones I have been ordering from China.

3  Close up of felt pillow showing value-added felting tool.

Let’s start with the smaller pad, 7.08 x 7.87 x 1.57 inches (with a nice 3 needle wooden needle holder).

Its described as “Thick and sturdy: Our gray needle felting mat is thicker than ordinary felt, and it is not easy to scratch the tabletop. Felting needles is made of soft felt and dense sponge. The needle felting mat has the best density. It is also equipped with felting needle supplies, allowing you to get a better needle felt experience.”  The Cost was CDN$ 16.99 (Not cheap but it did come with the expensive wooden 3 needle holder I was already familiar with. The needle holder has a bit of a wobble as you unscrew the handle but doesn’t rub or catch, so is not one of the factory seconds I had purchased directly from china). The description left me a bit confused but still curious enough to get it.

The cover felt layer is approximately 1/8” thickness with a sewn seam connecting the two layers. The interior feels like a piece of foam or firm sponge. The edges look like it has had heat applied to them.  The way the edge of the felt layers has bits of melted fibres suggests that the felt has a lower wool component so likely a higher component of synthetic than wool.

4 edge of the felt outer layer with a firm melted edge.

The feel of the needle entering the top layer of the pad feels like the short stapled acrylic felt that is partly held together with glue. There is a noticeable resistance to the needle penetrating into the felt layer of the pad. This is less noticeable as I add more wool to the little picture I am working on. This may not be an issue when working on a  thicker ground layer to the picture than it would be with such a thin one.

5  Starting with a bit of sky

6  Adding some hills,

Pushing the needle through the felt had resistance, similar to that found in the cheap craft felt that has a glue component to it. It requires the piece you are working on to be lifted regularly so it won’t cling to the felt cover. Once the needle had penetrated the felt the feel of the sponge or foam inside is comfortable. There does not seem to be shifting between the foam and the outer felt so I don’t think there will be any added worry about lateral movement and broken needles. I suspect this is not a felting surface I will use frequently although the wooden needle holder is always a nice addition to my collection. This pad will likely be put aside for students to look at during workshops.

After working with the pad for about an hour I noticed that I could see a red tint of fibres from the felt base I was using.  A firmer base felt for my picture may not have left as much residue.

7  Red residue left from the back of  my felted picture

 

Test Subject #2

8  the second felt pad, came with 9 needles in 2 lengths

“Needle Felting Pad made of pure wool dimensions 10 x 8 x 1.2 inches, Needles and leather finger pads included.” The cost was CDN$ 13.99.

As I opened the taped closed plastic sleeve that the pad was in,  I inadvertently did a sniff test. Ummm…. Well, that is an odd aroma…. Slightly like, petroleum? Ann took a sniff when she was over, she may have a better description.  The smell decreased to barely-there over the last 2 days. I suspect the smell may dissipate if left sitting outside in the sun… for a while.

The second felt pad defiantly is made of wool that has a lot of kemp in it. The edges look like it is made in layers or it may have been the implement that cut the felt has left bands and groves. The close-up photos hopefully makes the kemp easy to see. if you look closely you can see fibres (Kemp) descending from one layer into a lower layer. This makes me suspect that this has been made in a needle felting machine. From the original photos, I had expected this to be the hard industrial felt used in ironing pads but this has some give to the surface.

9  Note the kemp which there is a lot of.

(Video testing firmness) P1790339 10 checking squishiness

I added more wool to the picture to test how the pad feels when used. Not bad. The surface is soft and the needle has much less resistance on entering the pad. I like this one better than the last one.

11 Testing felt pad 2

12 Adding World of Wool fibre.

 13 Shortening the hills, adding foreground and water. This makes me think of the north.

Ok, that is working well, let’s see what else I can try. I had meant to make the picture 3×5  but I am interested to see where the water is going. (you can’t trust the sneaky wet stuff, it’s likely trying to escape the picture and make a run for it.)  Let us change the size of the picture and make it a 5×7. So I need to add both length and width to the picture. I added fibre around the edges of the picture building up the size to what I wanted. I found lifting frequently kept the fibre from sticking.

14 Here is the front of the picture

15  You can see how the original rectangle has expanded with the added fibre. (What a mess! I will not frame this one with double glass!)

I did find that there was some transfer of the kemp from the pad to the back of the piece. I do not know if this will lessen as I use the pad. I suspect it may.

16 Kemp transferring from the mat to the back of the piece.

17  There was a small amount of red f transferred from the back of the picture to the mat.

This mat I would use again. It has improved in smell, it is comfortable to use, and it can hold a 5×7 or a bit larger picture.

We have a new game to play!

Today was our local guilds Library day. I had been into the studio last week pulling requested books and getting everything ready for today.  Ann had seen and smelled the second pad right after it arrived, (when it was at its stinky-est). Today I brought the finished piece and the mat to have a few brave people try the fun new game “what is that smell?”  After some careful sniffing, we have come to two suggestions from a number of players. One was it was “ode de Mutton Urine” or possibly “ode de petroleum product”.  The suspicions were that the wool may not have been as clean as we normally deal with or the lubricants used in the carding process had gotten in the wool giving it the odd aroma.

 18  The new game “What is that smell?”

19  “Sniff”

20  “Oh my!  Ode de Sheep Urine?”

21 Testing it with a needle

22 Admiring the little test picture

The original wool may have been a lower grade or kempy carpet wool (not a bad wool just more ideal for hard-wearing carpets than soft woolly underwear. There are many types of sheep and many uses for each of their different type of wool)

I hope that gives you a couple more options for taking out your more violent stabby tendencies. I may still try to make my own pad using a felt outer layer and wool core. I am suspecting there may be less compacting of the inner core of wool if I use something that is more like hair than something with a lot of crimps. I wonder if I can find some unwanted Tog (I have been collecting tog for an Icelandic blanket project but may need to find more!) if I don’t want to waste good tog, I can always take a quick trip to Carlton Place and visit the Wool Growers Co-Op and see what they have in there carpet wool box! That sounds like a reason for a road trip!!!

On another topic, Signs of spring!

I am sure I will soon be out in my garden side yard studio. I know this since I have seen signs that the first of my trees have migrated to their summer location! (Spring tree migration time!!) Spring must be getting close!! I hope you are enjoying spring or can see it coming (keep an eye out for those migrating trees!) and I hope you are having fun felting.

23 The day-old tell-tail-tracks of tree migration

24 The tracks end here where we find the noble wandering trees (their poplars) I am sure the rest will follow their lead in the next week or two! (yes I have a small portable forest)

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?

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 2 one after another they have arived

When last we chatted, we looked at a few of the holders I have in my collection of felting needles while we weighted for the post to arrive from China.

After a wait for shipping, the 3 needle holders arrived, one after another. All arrived with needles intact but the packaging was dented and squished. A bit of bubble wrap may have been a good idea.

Remember I suspected that some of what is being sold are seconds and some are overruns of other people’s orders? Well, I think this line is seconds. The holders are not helped by the poor protection during shipping.

squished packaging of the first of the 3 needle holders
second package arrives even more beat up
The third package arrives not as badly dented, none had bubble wrap

21-23 the arrivals, packaging gave its life for the contents to be safe.

Out of the three I purchased only one was able to separate, which is important since it allows access to change needles.

24   1 of 3 opens.

The other two seem to be jammed against the edge of the inside of the handle. Even the one that opened does not have even spacing around the needle holding section. I think I can fix that!! I have a large file and a nail file that should help. I have some very fine sandpaper ….somewhere in the basement……well let’s start with the files.

Here is the one that opened but is sticky.

25-29 How the holder comes apart and goes back together

in the last picture, you can see the uneven spacing between the two parts of the holder. This could be from the wood swelling, the varnish is sticking or the screw joining the parts together may be bent.

With one of the two problematic holders, I was able to push the interior away from the sticking spot and get the parts apart.

30   Two open, one to go

half round rasp file used on the interior of handle portion
my weapons of sticking removal the rasp and the nail file

31-32  I used the rasp file on the interior of the handle which did remove a lot of roughness.

33  Ah yes, this one seems to have a slight tilt to the screw which may have caused the rubbing.

34 Putting the flat side of my rasp to work.

I then turned to filing the sticking spots on the interior of the needle holding part. I put the two parts back together just till they started to rub and marked the spot with a sharp fingernail. (Glenn says they are very sharp) if your nails are not quite as sharp I guess you could have used the awl or a mettle nail file.

35-39  I repeated the pattern of; sanding, checking, marking and then more sanding.

40 When I got it close, I switched to the nail file. (I promise I will go find the fine sandpaper later!!!)

That is two working and one to go! I couldn’t nudge the third one so I tried to get the nail file in and possibly file in place on either side of the sticking.

41-43 working the file into the spot that seemed most stuck

44 AH! Success!!

45  the spacing between the interior rim of the handle and exterior rim of the needle holder are not yet parallel, keep working at it.

I continued with more sanding and checking until it finally seems to be working.

46   Now I have 3 working handles! 

I will eventually find the really fine sandpaper (still somewhere “safe” in the basement)  to give it a final touch-up.  Overall If these go on sale again I would get a couple more. they are comfortable to my hand and the needle spacing is reasonable.

47-48 the Needle holders even come with “helpful” instructions!

Their helpful instructions are technically written in English but have some similarities to my spelling, while each might be considered an attempt at English, both will require a bit of interpretation for the meaning to be obtained.

Even with the need for a bit of work and adjustment, I think these will be a good addition to the options I have for holding needles. Just so you don’t think I only use needle holders I do also use the cheaper option of an elastic to hold two needles. I adjust the needle spacing if I need to by using my fingernail. (It’s a bit like using chopsticks but you’re are stabbing not picking something tasty up.)

49 the no-handle two needle option also works but is not as comfortable on the fingers

50  Here is another shot of a few of my needles and  holders

Since I started writing this I have spotted an aluminum 6 needle holder that looks intriguing, yes it’s on order and should be here within a month or so.

51 Aliexpress “Felting Needle Handle w/ 6 Needles”

Happy Felting and good luck on your needle holding quests!

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 1 while i wait, consider needle holders

Wooden handled 3-needle holders, part 1 while i wait, consider needle holders

Wooden handled 3-needle holder  Part 1 while I wait lets consider needle holders (this may be of more interest to newer Needle felters)

For the armature study group, I wanted to find as many examples of different gauges of (mostly Aluminum) armature wire as I could. I found only a few gauges locally, so went online to find more.  I spotted a few on Etsy and a couple in US stores but found the widest selection from China.  The last option (China) had the best prices but had the longest shipping time.  Ann had shopped there for various small wet felting items and had some suggestions. Similar to E-Bay, check the sellers’ record, read the reviews, check for free shipping and similar listings by other sellers and watch for the price to drop. Similar to early E-Bay, some sellers at Ali-express are selling Overruns (working items) others are selling seconds (substandard, not all there or not working) so watch closely for the comments.

 1  a few of the wire gauge samples

While I was shopping, I spotted a wooden needle holder with 3 needles I had not seen before. The design looked good, the reviews were mostly good with the worst being that needles had broken in shipping (so poorly packaged). Seeing as I have a good supply of needles and would really like a couple of the 3-needle holders, this did not deter me so I put in 3 separate orders and then waited.

While we wait, let’s have a look at a couple of questions and look at a few of the needle holders I have collected.

Now, why would I want a 3-needle holder?  I have a similar wooden handed 8-needle version as well as the fake clover tool with the needle guard that holds 7 needles and the metal 20 needle holder from The Woolery.  Or you can use the lower-tech – elastic wrapped around 2 or 3 needles and skip the handle altogether. The holder is there to make the needles easier to handle and work in a hopefully ergonomic and comfortable way. Both the multi-needle wooden handles and the plastic fake clover tool are comfortable for me to hold. I have two types of single needle wooden holders that I have not used often because I find the off center placement of the needle disconcerting. (I know if I would only use it a bit more I would get used to it.) The single needle skinny handled one (Ann got a couple of those) is not comfortable but the single needle slightly thicker handle is a big improvement. I may try to add a foam collar to both of them to make the grip more comfortable.  Foam callers are used on pens or pencils to make arthritic fingers feel more comfortable when writing or for the very young learning to write. You can find them under a google search for “pencil grips” in case you got the skinny wooden holders (there are a couple of different sizes for primary and regular pencils).

2  This I spotted at <store.schoolspecialty.com>. Dollarama and Dollar Tree used to carry something similar so check there too.

I already have 2 types of plastic 3 needle holders that look similar to each other.  Both have a handle that is a bit bigger than a good quality pen and it is reasonably comfortable to hold. Unfortunately one has a design flaw. I should tell you quickly about it while we wait for the new wooden ones to arrive.

 3  Blue 3 needle holder (2 similar designs)

Since they are using the same packaging with a squirrel on it, let’s call the closer one with the see through arrow (A) and the one behind it with the Fin on the handle (F).

 4-5 A the hole in the handle

Option A.  I have bought a few of style A and have had poor results with them. Along with a few odd breaks (the cover broke off and now that one can’t be opened.) It is also very challenging to change needles with the small holes you need to fit the needles through at the end of the cover. The reason that I am running with 2 needles in both of these is because it is so hard to change the needles.

   6-9 F handle with a fin on it

Option F. this is the one with the fin on the handle. Other than a jammed-on needle cover (which I eventually got off) these have all worked. With the open end of the needle cover, it makes it much easier to change the needles.

      10-14 Fake Clover tool

I have purchased a number of the 7-needle fake clover tools.  Many have been assembled incorrectly or have been miss printed so the red dots that should indicate locked or unlocked guard position is backwards. Once you know that your holder is lying about being locked, you can just disbelieve it which makes it safer. After you safety check it,  it’s wonderful for picture felting in 2D and some 3D work too.

15       20 needle holder (the Weapon)

Let’s take a look at one more holder. This time the 20 needle holder from the Woolery. It’s made of aluminum which is more durable than the plastic ones. With aluminum, it’s important to not over tighten it or it may stick. I have 2 pieces of shelf liner stored with it just in case it is sticking. It is a bit heavier than the plastic or wooden ones but is not unreasonably weighty.

 16   the weapon unleashed!

All three of these tools have a maximum number of needles they can hold but as you can see I often load less. Again looking at the previous examples you can see the spacing of the needles varies between the holders too.

Why might this spacing matter to you?  Well, the spacing of the needle and the gauge chosen will affect the ease of penetration as the needles are impacting the fibre. There is an increase in resistance after a short amount of poking in the same spot when needles are closer together. If you need to still increase the density of the area then shifting to a finer gauge needle or switching to a wider spacing of the gauge you were using will let you keep working in that area.

17  20 holder with 12 needles loaded

As an example I have the 20-needle holder, It looks very scary when all needles are loaded. I was starting the background of a felted landscape and wanted to lay in a quick background. I usually use my 10-needle bar tool (also from the Woolery) but could not remember where I had put it. So I pulled out “the Weapon”! After a couple of pokes, there was too much resistance to continue. All 20 needles were trying to affect the wool beneath them and were quickly causing the entanglement to a point that it was difficult to push the needles into the fibre. Instead of swapping out needles to a finer gauge, I cut down the numbers of needles used going from 20 to 12, which worked very well. This allowed for more space between the needles and less likelihood of adjacent needles trying to work with the same fibre at the same time.

I started to review the mechanics, origins and variations available of felting needles.  This started looking a bit more like a book again.  (I am trying to be a bit less verbose, it’s not working.) So to review, the notches or barbs, on the edges of the needle will grab fibres as it enters the felt dragging the fibres with the needle as it continues into the felt. As you remove the needle, the fibre stays in the felt where it was pushed by the notches. The only exception is a reverse needle which pulls fibre from within the felt as the needle is removed (the notches are in the reverse direction).

After watching videos on the GroZ-Breckert (German felting needle manufacturer) website, I have a hypothesis for what my fingers are feeling (palpating) as the needle enters the fibre and makes the entanglement that is felt. We know a notch will catch fibre adjacent to it. With more notches, (3 per side rather than 1 or 2) or more sides, (a star rather than a triangle) you will affect more fibres in the adjacent area and create greater surface displacement (make a dent). Usually, you will reach a point where you feel resistance to the insertion of the needle. When you have adjacent needles working in one spot (affecting the same set of fibres) you also notice this resistance. The variables will be gauge of needles, style of needle and number of barbs per side as well as the length and type of fibre.  (I bet someone has a formula for that!)  As the adjacent needles are repeatedly inserted into a spot, you are likely to feel the resistance increase. This will be quicker with longer fibres, top, than with short disorganized fibres, roving or batts). My suspicion is that the adjacent needles are starting to try to interact with the same single strand of fibre. This will resist being pushed farther into the web of felting since you are pushing on 2 ends of the same fibre. Shorter fibre staple lengths will take a lot longer to get this effect than longer staple length fibre. NB: when working with dry short fibre, particularly wools, please wear a mask. No one wants to get wool lung. It’s kind of a career-ender. I wish I had a microscope to see if my hypothesis and what my fingers seem to be feeling is correct.

18-19 very poor sketch of the notches interacting with fibres (i am out of practice!)

I suspect my previous career and working with so many armatures made me sensitive to the feeling of the needle as it moves through the wool.  If you too have been noticing this feeling of resistance and tension in the wool but have not yet achieved the density you had desired in your felting project, there may be a few things to consider.

To counteract this resistance:

  • spreading the space between needles (having many different holders with different spacing’s is quicker to grab and keep working than taking needles out  to space them.)
  • working with fewer needles (just because the tool will hold 20 needles doesn’t mean it has to hold all 20),
  • shifting to finer needles as an increase in tension is noticed,
  • not working in one spot but trying to work across a larger section.
  • Using an ergonomically comfortable handle will keep you from using a killing grip on your needles and will hopefully let you enjoy felting longer (doesn’t solve the problem of resistance but it is helpful to consider). You can also use different handles for different gauges to make them easy to identify.

 

Over the years I have collected various styles, sizes and types of needle holders to have a variety of spacing and number of needles. As well as to show students what options are available.

My one cautionary tale is one of my oldest holders made from a wooden round cabinet doorknob and a small block of wood with holes for the needle to pass through. The screw that connects the two pieces is on the outside of the part that holds the needles.  You need a long screwdriver to undo it and your hand is just above the points of the needles. Don’t slip off the screw!! It is much more dangerous an arrangement than necessary!!! (Don’t buy one of those If you ever find one.  it’s not worth the danger changing needles will eventually be.

20   Some of my collection of needles and holders, there are quite a few more with my class stuff.

Now getting back to those wooden 3 needle holders I ordered from china… i will tell you that they have now all arrived (that’s the good news!) I will tell you about the bad news next post.

Have fun and Keep felting!!

A Small Infestation on the Back Patio

A Small Infestation on the Back Patio

I have been very busy with the Guild Library Survey this week. (19 fantastic questions covering 5 topics!) I hope that I will have the first draft of the data done in the next few days so I can get back to felting. (Not that I am not having excessive fun with data analysis!!) Who knew this could be such a blast!! (Bernadette, you should have told me how fun this is! you have one of the best jobs ever!!).  So while I am wrapped up in thoughts of trends and preferences and comparing sub-groups, I wanted to tell you about the Blue tarp you saw last week in the background of this shot. So now it is later and I should get to explaining about it!

1 from last week

In 2020, most people don’t get to see a blacksmith or smell that distinctive aroma of a forge starting up. It is a smell that clings to clothing, hair and especially damp wool. Like the sudden mysterious appearance of Fairy rings of mushrooms in your lawn, you too may wake up one morning go out to check your…. Well, attempting to dry fleece and find you have an infestation of a blacksmith on your patio! But take heart!! It’s not all bad. They are often photogenic, their pounding tends to remove chipmunks from the area at least for a short time and they can be persuaded to make useful things for spinners, basket makers or for my felting friends; self-nailing hooks!!

Quick note: it is important to keep your fleece-drying upwind from the forge if possible.

A few fleece piles of washing back Glenn removed one of the two blue tarps. Underneath was the smaller forge that one of the chipmunks had thought was a good overwinter nest last spring. I had been requesting a few more hooks for the fleece straining buckets and he had another project he wanted to work on too.

  2-4 The Infestation (not necessarily a bad thing)

So he dug around in the garage, pulling out tools and the ¼ inch stock for the hooks. He also pulled out a railroad tie for his other project. He actually has 2 forges on the back patio. This one is the Sears light-duty farm forge. (check out the Sears Robuck catalogues for the end of the 1800s/ beginning of the 1900s.)  if only we had bought it then, it would have been $18.00 and came with an anvil and a foot vice. let’s just refer to it as the over-enthusiastic barbeque but it would be better not to cook steaks on it since it can melt metal and that is coal, not charcoal he is using.  His other forge is bigger and maybe a homemade arrangement with wheels. It is under the black covers on the other side of the blue bins full of coal (when we could have put them to better used holding fleeces!)

Now I may have already confused you, why would we want to have this odd self-nailing hooks?  And what would a hook self-nail? This is something you may have seen at a homestead museum or an old barn.

5 hooks and guillotine

These are self-nailing hooks, beside them is a Guillotine tool. you can change the parts inside it to make different effects on the stock. The hooks are freshly out of the forge and have yet to be lacquered so they won’t rust.

The trellis along the side yard is made of 4×4 lumber which is perfect for putting hooks into.

6 These are over 2 years old and I need to use a wire brush and a bit of spray lacquer. After a couple of winters, they have picked up a bit of rust. I use them to hang and drain the strainer baskets between the washing and rinsing soaks of the fleeces.

7 blacksmiths are also handy for lifting strainer baskets out of the soaking buckets.

  8 At his point I have a backlog of fleeces sorted and waiting to be washed.

  9-10 My present 2 hooks and the sorting table.

 11 I hang the baskets on an angle so the water drains from one corner removes more of the water than when it hangs straight.

12 He has also made me a couple of hooks designed to hang over 2×4’s both horizontal and vertical orientation. I have been using this for the 3rd strainer basket but it drips right in the carrots and I don’t like to think of the soap and other material the carrots are getting from the drippings.

I was checking the unwashed side of the covered side yard and found another fleece! It is a small Romney lamb  (1lb 1oz.) that said it was washed but didn’t look like it. So into a couple of bins for washing it goes.

 13 Oops, found one more this was hiding!

Now back to that little blacksmith infestation on the patio…

 14 Once the fire is made and the coal had burnt off the green smoke (don’t breathe that part!) it’s time to start heating up the bar stock to make hooks.

   15-17 Blacksmith at work, don’t startle him.

He is putting a twist in the hook. This is similar to spinners putting twist in yarn. For spinners a successful twist is produced with even drafting, allowing the same amount of twist into the same amount of drafted fibre each time. Since twist is lazy it will leap to any thin sections and build up more twist there. For blacksmiths, if the heat is not even across the section you want to twist it will not spread the twist evenly, going instead to the hotter spots producing an uneven twist. Think of the bar stock as just very stiff spinning roving or maybe since the fibres are so well aligned we should consider it top rather than roving.

Here is a little taste of blacksmithing but without that distinctive aroma.

18 (the loud sounds that are not blacksmithing is the medivac orange helicopter heading north up the Ottawa Valley) please note his forge squeaks worse than any of my wheels, even the Hatbox on her grumpiest day before she got her new tension band.

 19 This is his bigger anvil hidden partly amongst this year’s very good growth of catnip. The tool in the hardy is for cutting metal.

 20 These are the hooks he made while I was wrangling dirty fleeces.

If you awake one morning with an odd smell coming from your yard and find your back patio has had a sudden infestation of blacksmith do not fret. Find some bar stock and whatever you think will appease the blacksmith (chocolate, coke zero and raspberries works for mine). Luckily some will work for treats, so they are sort of like brownies which you appease with milk (but not as clean).  If you are very lucky and don’t scare them away, you too may get self-nailing hooks, drop spindles, manual double-ended ball winders, and other fibres related delights!

 

 

A cheap alternative to wool combs

A cheap alternative to wool combs

A cheap alternative to wool combs

Have you looked with horror at the price of wool combs?  Have you longed for a fine worsted preparation to inspire your felting creativity? If a fine pair of English 5 pitch are not in your budget or the husband-frightening tines of a Viking comb are out of reach and you’re longing for a small pair of Louet combs but they are priced just a bit too high for easy acquisition, may I make an odd suggestion?

1 1 Mini-Wool Combs for sale at local fiberfest summer 2019

Have you seen an implement called a Bee Uncapping Comb? I had a spectacular AH HA! moment in one of the aisles in Princess Auto (a local automotive and stuff store carrying a lot of stuff from China). The AH HA! was so loud and spectacular I am sure the entire aisle I was in lit up and glowed! I was standing in front of white Beekeeping outfits, gloves and these spectacular red plastic handled metal combs!! OOOOOOH!! Coool!!! The angle of the handle inclines inferiorly so using them as a pair like normal combs is not quite as comfortable as I would like. But they work very well used individually like a flick carder (another piece of handy equipment that is a bit pricey for its size.  I got mine second hand and put it away in a very safe place…..somewhere in the living room I think… possibly towards the window? No I cant find it.  It is obviously too safe a place.)

2-1.jpg2

3-1.jpg(Note the difference in price from picture #1 and picture #3)45

3-5  Bee keeping supplys at Princess Auto

Being that the handle is plastic I may be able to persuade it to be in a more horizontal aspect. I deviate and will explain. During my secondary education (at Sheriden College and U of Toronto – that surprised you!) I was involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It’s a historical reenactment group that does among a lot of other arts-related endeavours, medieval combat. Many of my friends aspired to metal armour but being on a student budget many had various forms of PVC plastic. One friend carefully cooked his plastic armour pieces in his mothers’ oven to soften them. Then using oven mits and towels self-moulded them to the right shapes to make Visby plate armor. It was a bit smelly but the plastic bent. I am suspecting if I find a particularly sunny day I may be able to leave the combs on the car’s dash and gently persuade them to be straighter. I suspect that will have to wait til next summer since the sun is abandoning us now (was it something we said?).

Those few of you who have not had such strong longings for a set of combs may wonder why you, as a felter, may want such a tool? Its all about Fibre prep.

Fibre prep;

This can be an important component of felting. Although you can now reasonably easily buy prepared fibre in Roving, top or batts of various sizes, sometimes you want to use a less processed fibre source.

  • This could be because of cost (free fleece given to you is a lot cheaper than buying prepared fibre but it will cost you in time.)

78

7-8  the Icelandic fleece that was actually a very long Shetland from the Wool growers Co-Op

  • This could be because you want to make just the right colour or fibre blend or combination. (remember nature is never a flat colour)

And you know that different fibre prep tools will give you different preparations or effects.

Carding = Woolen. Carders will give you a loftier yarn if you spin and a less aligned roving to work from if you felt. This may be helpful when you want to work on a sculptural project but may not be quite as smooth to lay out for a wet felted vessel. But the disorganization of the fibres does promote felting.

9    9 One of a number of similar Dog brushes that work similar to a Carder

Combing = Worsted.  Whereas combing gives you a more aligned fibre preperation. The yarn made from Combed top would be yarn for men’s suiting material, smooth and with less pilling. Combed top is easy to pull out fine whisps for layout of wet felting or for picture felting but when laid in thicker layers may be harder to persuade to felt together with other thick layers. (this could be an affect you want but usually isn’t)

10

Fleece,  teased locks,  combed fiber

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10-12 fiber prep with Commercial  Combs

 

The Tools

Carders come in a couple grades of carding cloth. The fine cloth is for cotton and other very short stapled fibre. These tend to be longer in size than the carders for wool which have a medium or coarse cloth for use with fine and medium wool. Carders are used as a set of two. They transfer the fibre from one card to the next bringing the fibres into a sort of alignment. Carders can create small batts, rolags or a semiworsted preparation. They are good for colour blending a reasonable amount of a colour. It you need more of a colour a drum carder may be more effective. If you want a smaller amount then the small pet combs/brushes that look like carders may be for you.

You can find Carders at auctions (often very beat up and only one is for sale) or you can by them second hand from spinners (usually the complete pair and in better shape) or you can by them from a modern manufacturer. Unfortunately this can be pricey.  There are also the pet combs/brushes which used to be available at Dollerama but have not been available for months. I have spotted them at Walmart but for more money.

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13-17 Colour blending with Carders

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18-19 Semi-Worsted

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20-26 A punnie from a cotton carder using chopsticks

Combs are used with longer wools and other longstaple fibres. There are many types of combs, having one or more rows of teeth (Pitch); some are very long and sharp like my single pitch Viking combs. Some have two rows like my Alvan Ramer Combs which are bigger than the Vikings and heavier. English combs are large weapon-looking implements of fibre subjugation. They can have more rows or pitches of teeth.

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27-29  Colour blending locks with combs

30.jpg  30 trying the Bee Comb – not as ergonomic when used with 2 combs. Wrist is straight when used individually.

When you have aligned the fibres, you can then draft from the combs or use a diz to make top. This will be easy to pull wisps from to lay out your wet or dry felting.

Flax has a similar multi-rowed teethed implement called a Hackle. (Fibre people have the coolest vocabulary) it is even more viscous looking but we will not get into that today.

I have been using them with the very long Shetland fleece I was gifted this summer at a demo then subjected you to the trials of skirting and washing it. I am getting fluffy clouds of combed fiber carefully stored in zip lock bags. Most will go to spinning a warp for my Medieval Icelandic blanket project but I am going to save as bit with witch to felt. I have been using the comb-waste for core wool for a little sheep.

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31-32 Long Shetland fleece being combed

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33-35 Using the comb wast as core wool for sculpture of sheep (grate not to have wast)

I have also been combing some died locks I purchased this summer to create the beginnings of a Van Gogh-ish night sky. At least I think it is a night sky. It may become something else by the time I finish it!

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36-40 Opening locks with Bee Comb made a very animated sky

If I have piqued your curiosity, you may be able to find a couple Bee Uncapping Combs at Princess Auto or on line at a real Beekeepers supply store.   I hope this will give you another possible tool to expand your fiber prep and thus your felting fun!

This and That

This and That

My plan was to show you the needle felted sheep class I taught a few weeks ago but it seems I took a lot of pictures of my hand and only ended up with two group pictures at the end. So here they are:

That doesn’t seem like much so I though I would show you what my house looked like on Sunday morning. It was so pretty and I may do a felt picture of using one of the pictures for inspiration. It was only -2c and all the snow is gone now.

I have a couple of new felting tools. The first I am told is for sitting on to help with some hip problem but I found 2 of them (cheap) at the second hand store. Value Village for those who live in the USA or Canada. I will attach a strap of some sort and give it a try.

Jan Found this great foot massager for me. It should be interesting to try out.

Lastly If you signed up for the Holiday card exchange the partner names are now up on the forum holiday-exchange-2018

As you Read this I will be at my Guild Exhibitions and Sale. It’s in Ottawa Ontario Canada if you are in the area drop by and say hello. facebook.com/events/

Also, I would like to encourage anyone who would like to learn how to make felt bags to sign up for Teri Berry’s online class. Registration is now open and class begins November 22. For more information and to register, please click on the link to the Felted Bags online class.

Who could resist learning to make a cute bag like this?

 

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