We will compare how they felt at different stages, ease of felting and possible uses. We will all do Merino and Corriedale so we can compare how we all felt the same thing and then move on to different wools. We don’t all have to have the same wools. It would be nice to have and many different breeds as possible depending on what people already have on hand and or want to order. Some mixed fibre would be interesting too.
The group starts April 21st. We will meet on zoom once every 2 weeks and meet on a Discord server ( a place to share photos, chat and ask questions between zooming). Discord was chosen because some people don’t like Facebook or are not on Facebook. We didn’t want to exclude anyone. Or if everyone is on Facebook we could make a private group there if that is what people want.
Everyone will get a worksheet to record information on so we are all gathering the same information to share.
I am based in Ottawa Canada, (GMT-4hrs.) I think that makes our Zoom meetings 9 am the next day in Sydney Australia. I hope you can join us and learn something while having some wet woolly fun.
The last time I posted here (in January) I described my plan to take various online felting classes. With all my sales and exhibitions cancelled or on hold I thought this would be a good way to keep me focused and motivated during our 3rd pandemic lockdown. Here’s the link in case you want to look back to January’s post.
This time I’m talking about my online learning since then, including how it has led me in some unexpected directions.
I was part-way through Teri Berry’s bag making class, which was great. I made my third bag, a backpack, and am very pleased with it. I’d definitely recommend Teri’s class. The instructions were clear and comprehensive and Teri was very responsive to my many questions, thoughts and comments. I learned a lot about bag making techniques, which is exactly what I was looking for.
Because two of the bags I made are large, relatively thick, and have to be fulled very hard, I admit bag-making was rather harder work than I’d anticipated. I rent a studio in an old industrial building that is largely unheated so maybe mid-winter isn’t the best time to be working so much heavy, cold, wet wool, but it’s a minor point. I had to use plastic gloves for the first time as my hands became so shredded and I often went home with sleeves wet to the armpit!
I’d planned to take 3 classes over January to March but was irresistibly drawn to a 4th: a 2-session live international felt-along by Aniko Boros (Baribon.Hu) learning to make her beautiful felted tulip pendant with pebble inclusions. Having signed up I realised it was going to be difficult to find the colourful 14 micron merino wool I needed. I only had white. I’ve never dyed my own wool before but I thought, why not have a go?
I already had some acid dyes so I started off with some 21 micron merino before going on to the finer and more expensive 14 micron. Then I tried silk hankies, Corriedale tops, mohair tops, silk fabric, alpaca & nylon …. nothing was safe. I had a blast. I had no idea how much fun dying would be.
Then it snowed and I thought ‘ooh, I could try snow dying’. That turned out to be great fun too. On the right are just a few of the snow dyed fabrics.
I had several colour choices of dyed 14 micron merino by the time Aniko’s workshop came around. The workshop itself was really interesting. A clear and detailed PDF was sent in advance and turned out to be very helpful on the first day when the sound or picture dropped out occasionally. It meant I could see what I needed to do next so was able to keep up. I’m pleased with my pendant (although I still have to add a fastener) including how the dyed wool worked, and feel I’ve learned techniques I will be able to use to make my own designs. Also, it led me into the entirely unexpected joy of dyeing.
In the meantime I’d started Fiona Duthie’s online class Ink + Cloth. We practiced adding ink at various stages of feltmaking with loads of potential for using these techniques in future projects.
Above are samples of adding dye / ink before felting (on silk fabric) and on prefelt
These are samples of ink added in different ways to finished nuno felt with cotton and two types of silk. I’d found an image in the V&A museum online catalogue (a fantastic resource) of an early 20th century furnishing fabric with this style of lollipop trees that I was thinking of using for the 1st quarter challenge …but that’s a story for another time.
At the end of this I decided to combine various things I’d learned: to dye my own Corriedale wool tops for a bag and maybe to decorate it with inked or dyed pieces. This is still work in progress as I am not completely happy with it. I decided to let it dry and have a think before doing the last bit of fulling. After I’d laid out the wool I dithered over whether to add silk and prefelt pieces or not as I quite liked the wool as it was. At the last minute I added all sorts of bits and pieces without properly thinking through the design. I fear it betrays its history. A colleague who saw me rinsing it at the studio casually commented it was very ‘hippie, trippy summer-of-love’ which is absolutely not the look I was going for! I will come back to it soon. I included the strap in the photo to give an idea of what it will look like finished.
Now I’m part way through another class with Fiona Duthie: Fibre + Paper. It’s a fascinating process of combining specialist paper with wool. We started by making lots of samples: paper and felt, paper relief, extreme paper relief and paper with prefelt.
Above are samples showing different amounts of paper felted into 21 micron merino wool and bottom right combines prefelt and paper. They feel lovely and there seems to be so much potential to use paper with felt in different ways.
This week I made a vessel with paper embedded into the surface. It’s not perfect: I got a bit over-confident near the end and tore some of the surface (you can just see it bottom left, between the two ribs). I’ve been interested in shell shapes for a couple of years so I shall enjoy making more 3D paper & felt shell-inspired objects.
In the coming week I will be trying out adding colour and surface designs with ink and paint plus making samples with some different papers. Fiona’s classes have been really enjoyable with excellent PDFs, photos and videos and lots of class interaction.
All the online classes I’ve taken have been great fun and very inspiring. They have given me lots of new skills and techniques that I will be able to use in my work. And they have definitely achieved my other objective: they have been really helpful in keeping me learning, focussed and motivated during what could otherwise have been quite a bleak time.
I have been felting and stitching a little picture again. And of course, my favourite sheep will make an appearance.
I did a sketch of the idea I wanted, I don’t think I have the patience for proper drawing. I do a quick general idea. I used a thick piece of “almost felt” and made the blue sky and snow base, wet felting them together. Next, I used Blue Faced Lester lock to make some evergreen trees.
I added some paths for the sheep. Sheep like to walk the same path other and over, one after the other, even in a green pasture. Once they are where they generally want to go, they wander off. I have no idea why they like to stand out in a snow covered field, but they do.
I added all my trees and tucked the edges around to make it neater. I added some blobs for the sheep so when I add the stitching they will stand out a little more. I also lightened up the paths a bit.
I used french knots to make the woolly coats and some embroidery for the heads and legs.
I fiddled with trees a bit and added trails into where the sheep are standing. I tried t add some shadow under the trees but it didn’t look right so I pulled it off. The trees still need some snow. I usually do that last, I am not sure why.
My problem is the bottom right. It seems very bare. I don’t know if I want another sheep or something else. I thought of some little birds on the snow but think as this is a small picture (about 5″x6″, 12×15 cm) they might end up looking like sheep droppings. I don’t want a fence. Does anyone have any ideas? It may end up being another sheep.
After leaving the hedgehog overnight to dry on the air filter, he had successfully completed his mission to dry.
I could now begin to add a bit more width to his cheeks. Next, add his coat. I chose an Icelandic fleece using the outer guard hair part of the dual coat as the bristles and bits of the inner coat to help space and increase adhesion of the guard hairs.
I separated the tog (outer coat of guard hairs), which is less inclined to felt when wet, from the undercoat which is soft and crimpy. To separate the two types of coats, hold the tips and base firmly and gently pull away from each other. Sometimes it takes a bit of a rhythmic tugging to free the tog. Once separated, I could use the tog to start building the outer prickles for the hedgehog.
I used a 38 star needle for most of the felting (except the ears which I also use the fake clover tool with T40’s loaded). I lay the guard hairs down, attaching across the locks then laid in a bit of the under coat to increase adherence. I worked the needles at low angles to almost parallel to the fibers catching a few fibers in the barbs at a time and pushing them into the layer of felt over the soap bar.
I added a bit of the under coat to give extra adhesion.
I then folded up the tips which had been pointing away from the fibers I was adding to. Again securing them into the under layer of felt above the soap.
Occasionally I would add a bit of the under coat to the folded tip side too.
The order of addition was backwards to the layering I usually do when I want a coat to lie naturally. Since I wanted this to stand up, I needed to increase the density of the coat so it would not lie down. This time I starting from around the face (in white) then switching to the darker part of the coat, worked back towards the butt. I left the butt ends a bit shorter than the tips as I laid them in.
Once I got his coat on, I brushed and lifted the ends with the mini carder (dog brush). This fluffed him up nicely.
He is a cute little hedgehog! Here is a shot of the underside so you can see the bar of soap which is the base.
Laying in the coat which is quite tightly packed took most of the day. I finished him after dinner and did the fluffing. So this would not be a economically viable option for mass production. There are a couple other options that may work faster such as using a section of the washed fleece and attaching it to the underfelt more as a blanket rather than a few locks at a time. I suspect it would not give the density that adding locks as I did allowed.
Poor little guy, doesn’t suspect his life will be full of wetness then getting dry just in time for the next wetness to set in. I bet he would drip dry quicker if he could hang up. I should add a “rope” for this soap. I looked first at a piece of Kumohimo but the cotton fiber seemed wrong.
So, I took the brush waste from the mini carder and added some of the washed locks and drafted it out. By adding a good deal of over twist with one of my spindles, I quickly had a two-ply yarn that could be mistaken for a rope.
I added the rope with a bit of needle felting along the edges of the underside of the soap-hedgehog using a bit of the under coat and pulled apart bits of the extra yarn to help secure it.
Ah, that’s better a way to dry faster and a loop handle so you don’t have to pick him up by his nose!
Last thing left to do. It is Valentine ’s Day after all, so He needs a Heart! I hunted around, found my bag of various red coriadales, choosing Nutmeg, and hand blending it with some of the reddish brown undercoat from the Icelandic fleece. (Colour should never be flat! Unless you are doing something graphic)
A few quick stabs and I had the shape. Now to add it to the right spot. Hmm, there is not much wool on the underbelly of this hedgehog! So, I was very careful in the angle of felting. The needle does sink into the soap fine but leaves a stinky soap smell on the needle and a bit on the wool as it emerges. (Just a warning – make sure you keep the angle of entrance and exit the same or the soap will want to break your needle)
Now I just have to wait to find out if Glenn likes his new shower time friend.
57- 62 the unwrapping, he found the Heart!
Yes Success!! I will try to get a shot after his first shower experience and see how he holds up!
63 First Shower! one bedraggled hedgehog
There seems to be a strange moose in my bed but he does have a bag of chocolate Easter eggs so I guess he can stay! (This is Canada, you do find moose in odd places here, often in swimming pools)
It is normal to see the triceratops, Cthulhu (who is somewhere else today) and the Balrog in bed. The moose was a surprise so was the chocolate, he can stay.
Okay! I will admit it! I have a big thing about shapes. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. Over the Christmas between planning what to do with all the leftover turkey the dog hadn’t managed to steal (I had no idea he could jump THAT high) my mind got to thinking about book resists and how introducing a hole in the resist would totally transform the shape of the piece. Then in the New Year I came across this felting challenge on social media (thank you Mia Hartgroves) which involved producing a wet felted interpretation of this watering can, created by the US Sculptor Rogan Gregory. In my mind it ticked all the boxes. I love the shaping around the handle and I reckoned the overall shape could be achieved with an asymmetrical book resist. Plus I got to put a hole in the resist!
First was the sketching. Not my strongest point but this year it’s on my to do list to practice more. Normally I just do my calculations in my head and visualise (no wonder I’m awake half the night). From a practical viewpoint I knew that I needed to get out the pad so I started small and grew the piece over a number of iterations. Soon I had my pattern as the drawing had grown sufficiently to fit on an A3 page. I reckoned when designing the resist that it was important that a line could be drawn through the pattern so that each page would have sufficient area to accommodate the laying down of the fibre. This was going to be especially important at the spout end of the design. Also, the placement of the hole for the handle was important as I wanted to capture some of the curvature on the sculpture. Once adjustments were made to accommodate these factors, I finalised the pattern and cut out the resist. The resist has three pages; two to accommodate the bulk at the bottom and one at the top. Therefore I cut the pattern twice, sewed along the centre of the resist and then stuck the two layers (where the handle was) together. At that point I was ready to felt. I chose Corriedale (grey) and I planned to embellish the piece with grey viscose. Viscose has a beautiful sheen so I reckoned I could capture some of the shine of the original piece with this fibre.
I started with the bottom page of the resist as this was the one part of the project which could remain undisturbed once it was laid down. First layer was laid north/south and second east/west as I wanted the top direction of the fibre to flow with the direction of the piece. Viscose was then added and it was wetted down. Once a skin had formed on the fibre I covered it with some light plastic (decorator’s plastic) and folded over the page, making sure that the plastic remained next to the fibre.
Turning my attention to the top (handle) side of the resist, I set about folding in the excess fibre from the underside. To avoid build-ups I trimmed back some of the excess by pulling away and discarding the fibre. I paid particular attention to the spout. As the Corriedale fibres were long there was a danger that I would end up with a build up of layers at the top of the spout. I did the unthinkable and cut back some of the excess with my scissors. Then it was time to lay down the first layer of fibres. Again in a north/south direction, I paid particular attention to two areas; I broke the long fibres in half so that I did not crowd (too many layers) the spout; I also took care when placing the fibres around the handle area – I laid the fibre on the bottom part of the handle and then tucked it into the other side of the resist. Once that was safely tucked away I was able to continue to cover the rest of the side tucking in the fibre about the remaining section of the hole. I laid down only one layer and repeated the process on the other side of the resist.
Once both sides were covered with one layer of fibre I wet them down, tucked it in and set about working a skin on it. Then it was time to decide where to place my fishing line into the felt so I scoped it out with pins, measured and added extra for the ‘overflow’ from the can. I cut 6 lengths of fishing line (3 for each side) then tacked them down onto the fibre. I made sure that they were symmetrical on each side of the resist. I threaded the ends of the fishing line through a straw so that I had some control over them when I was tacking them down.
Once secured, I put the second layer on the top two sides of the resist. I was once again mindful of the hole and the spout. I checked to make sure that the spout end of the resist was still visible as I did not want this end to felt together. I applied the viscose fibre to the two top sections of the resist. After that I felted the whole piece (placing decorator’s plastic on both sides of the top to stop the fibres being disturbed as I worked on each of the pages) and rolled it until it started to shrink. Then I removed the resist. I cut into the bottom section of the hole. I did not remove any of the felt just sliced through this section and then sealed it. Once these were sealed I started the fulling process until I was happy with the size.
I wanted more definition on the curvature around the handle so I decided to stiffen the piece. I soaked the can in a dilution (Golden GAC Medium-800) stuffed it and left it to dry.
I’m pretty pleased with the end result. If I was making it again I think I would use more fishing line in the piece, perhaps including it in the bottom section. That way it might not look as if the line is flowing through the top section only. At the moment the line (representing water) seems to be defying gravity.
I thoroughly enjoyed planning and making this piece. Next time I may try a hole in a symmetrical book resist just to check out the overall alteration in the shape of the structure.
Oh NO! I got distracted! I will get back to work shortly but I was so inspired by Alex’s Ladybug or Bird and was wondering if a hedgehog would work with a bar of soap? There was also a suggestion of a heart of soap for valentine’s day…… hmmmm. I wonder if I can combine that?
Bad Brain!!! Stop thinking and wondering where the soap stockpile is stored! No! It’s wet felting! It involves getting wet!! NOOOOOO! Remember brain we like needle felting partly for its DRYNESS! Even if there is occasionally a bit of blood, it’s not as wet as wet felting! ….hmmmm.
I think Glenn would like a hedgehog soap for Valentine’s day, it will last longer than chocolate or flowers!, (the flowers without roots that is.) Oh well, I guess it must be done, I will get wet! Step one, I will need to clean the bathroom sink (yes there is almost no counter space in the bathroom so it was messier before I neatened it up a bit).
Let me think, what will I need? Fibre, soap bar, a container to work in (the drain is problematic so let’s use a plastic box to work in), I need to find some bubble wrap and maybe a zip lock bag would help contain the wetness? I blended up a bit of white and beige for the nose and over felting fibre.
I discovered that the soap hoard is woefully low at least of my glycerin soap (remember to add that to the shopping list). Luckily, Glenn’s giant package of smelly soap from Costco was only half gone! He probably won’t notice one is missing until after Valentine’s Day right? (he didn’t)
I quickly noticed that the sink is not a comfortable work high. I wonder if I flip over the storage box and use that as a table surface. Yep, much more comfortable. Remembering the instructions from Alex and his Mom, the fibre must encompass the soap. Then the fibre and soap are secured by putting it all in a nylon and felted. I don’t have nylon. I also want to have more fibre on the back than the belly as well as having a nose and face at one end.
I alternated thin layers making a shape that would wrap around the soap and then added more in the middle and towards one end.
A bit more in in the butt I think then wrap and a bit of needling to hold everything together.
He needs a nose; a bit more poking will fix that. Better check photo reference! I watched (listened to) a few YouTube videos as I continued to needle felt until the general shape was achieved.
I found a small piece of bubble wrap (I spotted the larger piece after I was done) and an extra-large sandwich bags.
Now the hard part, I have to get the wool wet so that soap (Liquid Lavender and cucumber you can see in the photos) and agitation can do their work. Hedgehogs’ first bath!
I got a flash of a brilliant idea! If I put the wet soapy hedgehog and the bubble wrap in the extra-large sandwich baggie I could sit and watch the impeachment of the neighbour’s ex-president. Rather depressing, but it will keep my mind off the possibility of impending wetness. (I will work in the plastic bin in case that happens). The seal was stressed but as much as the soapy bubbles tried, only a few escaped.
I started softly, gently, caressing the fibres. Slowly increasing my pressure until I was massaging with some enthusiasm (I have a license for that!). Unlike work, I used bubble-wrap on this patient, focusing on the nose and the general body shape. I built up so much soapy lather that it became hard to see the hedgehog! After a few impeachment presentations, I felt I had achieved Felt!! I also had not sprung a leak and got wet!
Time to rinse out the suds and make sure the felting worked! (really I can’t see much in all this soap!)
I brought the Hedgehog back to the office so he could dry and finish watching YouTube, maybe I will have to give him eyes so he can better see what is happening. In the meantime, he is practicing some form of Yoga nose stand. I wonder what that pose is called. (Balanced nose drying?)
While I know watching a naked, eyeless, hedgehog dry is absolutely fascinating, and is worthy of hundreds of photos, at every stage of wet to dampness to ultimately dryness. I can see that you may have other things to do so I will resume once he has accomplished his mission to dry. So I will pause today and resume to see if I can add spines and other important parts.
I have a guest post for you today. Alisa McClain is a pretty new felter, she is in my local Facebook group. When she posted her piece for the first quarter challenge I asked her to do a post about it and she stepped right up. Thank You, Alisa
Hello! I started felting in the early pandemic, and I’ve fallen hardcore in love. It’s blooming and it keeps me grounded and joyous, and I am slowly developing more skills that allow me greater control, too. I’m an experiential learner, for the most part, so I just keep doing and figuring things out. I make art playfully, usually without a plan.
When I first saw these blogs about a first-quarter challenge, I didn’t intend to participate. You see, my brain is pretty much an open browser with 1,000 tabs open at all times, and I always have a plethora of ideas vying for my attention and screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!”
And, then one day I took a look at all the photos suggested in the original challenge blog from the decade. The suffragette posters caught my eye. Maybe I should make something feminist in petticoats? That old Disney song starts up in my head: We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats and dauntless crusaders for women’s votes. But, I haven’t done human forms and probably can’t pull that off. That skill is in the not yet pile.
The next time I looked through the photos, I thought about finding an aerial view of the area I live in and got lost in the history of my little corner of suburbia. No aerial view though from 1900ish though.
And, then the third time I looked through the photos, I thought about nature through a microscope. In the lounge of the ski hill I frequented in the before-pandemic times, there was an entire heavy book full of breathtaking pictures in a microscope. Sometimes the wonder of nature just awes me anew. While I was still thinking of those micro photos, I walked by this piece of art in my home by Wendy Feldberg that I had purchased the previous summer.
Wendy told me that she’d been quite intrigued by the history of the Ottawa River and that many of the labourers had died of malaria versus physical accidents that occurred on the river. She had done a series of fibre arts featuring the cells of malaria; this one was malaria cells in a placenta.
Overall, I give the pandemic a solid thumbs down, but there has been beauty within it. The blooming of my felt, yes, but also there has been a cementing of several of my friendships into a deeper, lifelong kind of bond. I’ve had more time with my children. I have had a chance (and been forced to, at times) to slow down and think through things. There is a kind of beauty in this moment, in the midst of the horrors. I thought about people that I’ve loved that have developed serious medical issues and how, sometimes, those issues forced them to consider what mattered in life, to prioritize, and also to notice a community of love and support around them.
So maybe that’s my theme: disease and the beauty within it. I wondered what was happening in the 1900s in the way of endemics or pandemics, and Google brought me to microscopic pictures of typhoid fever (apparently on the rise in Texas, an antibiotic resistant strain? Enough already this weird time!)
So here are a few pics of the jellyfish-like bacteria responsible for typhoid fever. I’ve made a jellyfish before that I like and feel proud of so I was pretty confident I could do it.
Of course, along with having a thousand tabs open at all times, I also sometimes fall down rabbit holes in which I refuse to sleep and, instead, decide to read extensively about subjects that will be pretty much superfluous to any conversational moment. Did you know that Typhoid Mary was pretty much the original superspreader and that she was quarantined for over two decades after she ignored public health advice? I mean, they did tell her not to cook but failed to provide any kind of alternative income stream for her, a woman in a time where women weren’t supposed to financially support themselves so maybe there is a structural issue with the collective safety net there. I digress. Moral of the story: I guess wearing my mask really isn’t so bad.
I also got lost in the world of microphotography. See, I already had ideas in my head, but now I feel like I need to felt a few of these, too. There will be more noisy arguments between ideas about whose turn it is. But, also, what a great problem to have!
Oh yes, my typhus. It hits the decade both on the microphotography front as well as a time when typhus was raging. When it was almost done, I posted a picture for my friends and said that if they could guess what it was, I’d send it to them. They guessed (before the legs) that it was a paddleboard, a kayak, a UFO and a comet. Someone guessed it was a jellyfish, and that was the closest someone came.
And, now, I pretty much HAVE to felt covid, don’t I? As I said, there is a certain kind of beauty in this moment… if we can’t escape this pandemic or fast forward through to the end of it, we might as well look hard for the beauty that is blooming here. Neighbours helping neighbours. Pods looking out for each other. The recognition that working from home can be a good option for many workers. I know it’s not universal and I don’t mean to silver line the devastation that is occurring. If I focus on the kindness, I get through this moment just a bit easier. That said, you best believe I will be hugging the crap out of my friends just as soon as this over… the kind of hug you just melt into. I look forward to locking arms together instead of fibres on a way more regular basis, but for now… I guess it’s time to pick the next loud-mouth idea.
Thanks, Alicia, microphotography is a really great place to be inspired. Has anyone else been working on the first quarter challenge? you can share it on the forum or if you would like to be a guest blogger just contact us. we love guests.
This is a guest post from a new contributor to our site. Please welcome Ildi Klozsi!
I’m Ildi Kolozsi from Romania, Europe. I live with my family in a small village in Transylvania. I started working with wool about 18 years ago, and from then on I have had a special connection with this material.
The wool is part of my life, sometimes I dream of my next project or work. I love to try new techniques.
I also teach adults and children, I think that it’s very important (for everyone) to recognize the beauty of this natural material.
The project that I have showed you in this post was made for a custom order, she wanted something with birds, not too much color and inspired from nature.
I love to felt bird designs, maybe because I live close to nature, I’m part of this.
Lyn and Annie posted the 1st Quarter Challenge at the first of the year and I have been considering what I wanted to create with 1900-1909 in mind. Then I remembered the Antique Pattern Library. This is a free online resource that has PDF’s of interesting antique patterns and magazines. There are a lot of different categories to explore. If you haven’t checked it out before, you should take a look. There is loads of inspiration to be found there.
So I put embroidery in the search box and then looked through the options. I found this magazine from 1902-1903, perfect! If you click on the link, you can view the entire PDF. I had decided that I would use one of the patterns in this magazine to create a felt piece and then add free motion machine embroidery for the details.
So I chose the poppies. This was originally intended for silk embroidery in a traditional long and short stitch. I decided to use the photo for inspiration and go from there.
My studio is piled with stuff all over the place as I am working on a large wall hanging for my Level 3 Stitch course and I didn’t want to climb over a bunch of stuff to look through all my wool. So I used what I had already out. I can say I was challenging myself to a limited palette or it could be I was being lazy.
I used prefelt that was left over from Christmas ornaments and some other bits of green that were still out from some of my differential shrinkage projects. Hmmm…. perhaps I should clean up the studio a bit? Here’s the layout. I am planning on adding all the details with stitching after felting. I also decided to leave out the separate stem on the design and just go with two open poppies and a bud.
Here’s how it looks after felting. I didn’t full it heavily since it will end up being framed. I will have to use a stabilizer for free motion machine stitching as it is quite thin. It’s drying now and I will show you the added stitching in my next post.
It’s the new year and here we are in England with what I’m calling the ‘new abnormal’: all non-essential shops closed; travel only if necessary; people working from home wherever possible and, for many of us, very limited direct contact with people outside our household.
If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d have liked a long stretch of time with few commitments that I could dedicate to felt-making, I’d have jumped at the chance. Be careful what you wish for.
Towards the end of 2020 I had several events to aim for so was able to focus on making things for those. Here are a few of my favourites: a succulent holder, nuno felt vase (with glass interior) and needle felted mince pie.
I have plenty of sales and exhibitions booked throughout 2021 but no way of knowing whether and when they will take place. I have notebooks full of ideas but feel I need to find some focus to direct my efforts and get the creative energy flowing.
I really enjoy learning new skills and developing my felt-making in different directions. So, I decided at the turn of the year to sign up for some online workshops. I’m mostly self-taught as a felt maker but now I’m asking myself ‘why do I want to reinvent so many wheels?’. I’ve long wanted to take Fiona Duthie’s workshop ‘Fibre + Paper’ so when I saw she was running the workshop in March 2021, I eagerly signed up. I then find myself tapping my toes impatiently and thinking ‘I don’t want to wait ‘till March!’.
Fortunately, in February Fiona is offering another class I’d like to take ‘Ink on Cloth’. Yep, I’m in for that too. Still the toe-tapping: ‘what about January?’.
The Felting and Fiber Studio to the rescue: Teri Berry was offering her bag making class starting 7 January. Perfect! I’m in for another class. Well, you can’t say I lack enthusiasm!
While I’m waiting for the class to begin (yep, still with the toe-tapping) I decide now is the time to retire an old friend. One of the first things I felted for myself about 9 years ago is an iPad cover. I carry my iPad mini with me everywhere and the cover is worn out. It has done a great job – it even outlasted the first iPad – but the corners have rubbed away and it’s looking very shabby.
I may have mentioned before (more than once) that I’m an avid charity / thrift / op shop enthusiast and have built up an impressive collection of second-hand fabric, mostly scarves and mostly silk. I have a dig around and fish out a very fine small silk chiffon scarf with leaf prints. Left – front, right – back, middle – action shot! I’ve carefully controlled the shrinkage so it fits snugly: it slides out when I want it to and not when I don’t.
I enjoyed working with the silk so decide to make some more samples. One issue with fabric of unknown origin (and often even with fabric of know origin) is that you can’t be sure how it will felt. Here’s the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of each sample.
Some kind of velvet devore?
A woven cotton or linen?
A silk and cotton mix – I assume the background is silk and the slub lines are cotton
Definitely 100% silk (it still had the label in)
All are interesting. I chose a similar wool colour to the background silk colour as I want to focus on texture and print. I particularly like the leaf print one and will definitely use that at some point.
Next, my patience (!) has been rewarded and the bag class is starting. First is an animal theme phone or glasses case. I consult the interweb for animals that have big tongues and decide on a gecko. I’m rather fond of geckos, though I’m not sure I’ve ever met one.
I’m pleased with the result, although admit it looks rather more like a frog or an alien. I was going to trim the tongue but decided to leave it as it is. I’ve taken to calling it my alien frog bag. I made it to fit my phone but it’s actually a bit big so I’ve now added a thin green leather strap with some Chicago screws. Next time I’m invited to a ‘BYO alien frog bag’ event, I will be all prepared.
On to the next, bigger bag, with integrated straps and internal pockets. I have a fair quantity of nice natural grey Corriedale top and decide I’ll use that for the outside. I’m on a roll with recycling the silk scarves so select a few with similar colours. I’m not sure grey will be the best background so, in an unusual fit of sensibleness, decide to make some samples.
I prefer the lighter colour behind them. The bag will be fulled very hard and I think I may completely lose the silk. Little lightbulb moment: why not prefelt the silks with a light colour wool to help preserve some of their colour?
I prefelted some pieces of silk. I even got a bit jazzy with the one with large spots, with fawn Corriedale and charcoal Merino.
On the left: the bag laid out with (nearly) all the surface decoration ready for wetting down. I did move things around a little afterwards but forgot to take a photo. On the right: the flap detail of the final bag
It’s not perfect (eg I put 2 pockets inside but they are on the front wall of the bag instead of the back and it’s a bit wider than I intended) but I do like it and will enjoy using it.
So, what next? The third bag is a backpack. I’m wrestling with myself over whether to use wool I already have or wait for some I’ve ordered to arrive. I have a studio full of wool but want to use a medium or coarse wool for durability and don’t have much of any colour or breed in sufficient quantity. I made a sample yesterday of potential wool candidates but am a bit underwhelmed. There’s a black dyed Perendale batt, grey/brown Finnish top, light grey Swaledale top and natural white batt (can’t remember the breed) but I’d have to mix them and that’s a lot to have going on.
I decided too to make a paper template of the finished bag to help me work out the resist and stop making bags bigger than I intend. Ha, ha, I do hope I don’t start calling this my toilet seat backpack. And that brings me right up to date.
All being well, I will have the backpack done to show you in my next blog spot in March, along with some makes from the Ink on Cloth workshop.
I’m enjoying the learning and Teri’s class is excellent. The instructions are clear and detailed. She has been positive and encouraging and very quick and generous in responding to my extensive questions about clasps, straps, bag design, wool breeds….
Are you struggling to find focus, or maybe finding new ways to learn and different things to try? I hope you’re able to do a little fibre work and I wish everyone a peaceful, happy and creative 2021.