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Theatre Textiles Part 1

Theatre Textiles Part 1

After I had retired from full time work in 2006 I was finally able to join SNADS – our local amateur dramatic society. I live in a small market town in Dorset and SNADS was the main source of entertainment for our area at that time (as it had been since 1930, although newspaper archives indicate that it was around at least as early as 1883). I had seen most of the productions which they had put on since we moved there in 1999 and longed to join in, not only on stage, but behind the scenes. During any one year there are at least 4 productions – Pantomime in February, Spring Play in May, a Variety Show/Revue in the summer and the Autumn play in early October, and as soon as that was over, the round started again with preparations for the following year’s Panto.

We had a fantastic wardrobe mistress, but she needed help with costumes, especially at Panto time as there was so much to do.

My first foray into costume was to make a full head cat mask for the summer review. Two of our members were to sing Rossini’s Cat Duet and the director decided that it would be fun to have a disreputable tom cat watching them from the side-lines. I had recently learned to wet felt 3D items using a resist, so I made the mask from wet felted pieces and needle felted details. I didn’t want the actor’s eyes to show through and anyway, I needed to give the cat it’s proper “slit” irises. So I stitched into the eye holes a piece of doubled yellow organza and just painted the vertical slit. (It is quite possible to see what’s going on through organza if it is held close to your face.) How to give him a proper nose? I needled the correct shaped nose on the mask, then I painted on some artist’s gesso, let it dry and added some more. Gesso is textured so it was necessary to file the nose to make it a bit smoother, also the gesso is white, so I painted the nose with black enamel paint which I nicked from my husband’s paint store (he’s a model maker). After a couple of coats of that, Tom had a shiny(ish) black nose. Add some “bitten” ears and “wonky” whiskers and he was nearly done. The cat’s mouth was open – it allowed the actor to breathe and gave Tom naughty grin. Finally I gave him a pink tongue and white tips to his ears.

Disreputable Tom Cat

The next production that I was involved in was the pantomime Cinderella, written and directed by one of our members. I was asked by the wardrobe mistress if I would dress both the Fairy (“Fairy Nuff”) and Buttons’ dog, Beau. The director wasn’t quite clear about what kind of dog Beau should be, except that he was to be comic. So I did a sort of 3D needle felt sketch of the dog’s head as I saw it – black and white with one ear cocked.

“Sketch” for Buttons’ Dog

However I’d got it wrong – Beau was to be a black poodle. 

After some discussion with the wardrobe mistress, we decided that the actor would wear a black polo necked top, thick black tights and black gloves. I managed to find a piece of curly black faux fur to make a short jacket, with enough left over to make pompon for the top of the head and the end of the tail, the long dangly ears and wrist and ankle rings to simulate the correct style poodle cut. I was to make a full head mask. For this I made a wet felt hood using a resist and a further piece of flat felt incorporating some of the curly faux fur trimmed from the bought fabric. A lot of that moulted out though because it was nylon or polyester and very slippery. Enough was fixed in however to give the right effect.

I made a needle felted muzzle – again with the mouth open to reveal the red tongue and white teeth, and to allow the actor to breathe.  The nose I made in the same way as for the tom cat – shaped with the felting needle, gessoed and painted.  The muzzle was attached to the hood/face with stitching and felting needles.  Some of the flat felt was cut to represent the dog’s lips and attached by stitching and needle felting to the muzzle.  The “Disney-esque” eyes were again painted organza and were stitched on the inside of the mask. 

The ears and head pompon were also stitched on.  I added a piece of brown fabric and a belt buckle around the dog’s throat to simulate a collar and allow the mask to be firmly secured over the actor’s polo necked top.  I have worn this costume myself a couple of times in subsequent Carnival processions – great fun.

Beau

Since the actress cast for the part of Fairy Nuff had a figure which could easily cope with a glamourous costume, for the base I was given a basque that fitted her. She was to appear out of a compost heap at the edge of the stage, so I set to and made lots of autumn coloured leaf shapes – mainly oak – out of different brown bronze and gold metallic organzas. I sandwiched sparkly bits between layers of organza. I machined stitched around the edges and along the veins of each leaf and then cut out the shapes with a soldering iron. This sealed the edges and prevented fraying. Then, with the basque on a dressmaker’s dummy I attached large pieces of bronze organza for the tail, and then added the strategically placed leaves.

The wings were made from two lengths of flat wire (originally from a pop-up fabric laundry container) covered with more organza, this time creamy white but with sparkles and sequins added. These were attached to the back of the costume by stitching the wire to the shoulder straps of the basque and covering the join with some dark bronze/gold chiffon.

The crown was made from bronze Christmas decorations (that year bronze was in fashion over here – UK). I used bronze plastic icicles, some foil stars and some more organza leaves attached to a head band. I can’t remember what the wand tip was made from – possibly a bunch of tinsel.

I actually got a speaking part in this Panto – only a couple of lines but a step up from what I’d had before.
I don’t have a proper photo, this was before my husband had a digital camera, however I’ve managed to extract a clip from the video we had made of the show. It’s a bit fuzzy if enlarged but I think you can get the gist. I’m in the gold dress with my exclusive “Toilet Duck” perfume, and my punchline? “It drives the men Quackers!”

Guests at the Ball with “perfume”!

After this show, we had one final “adult” Revue and then we moved to where we are now based. Try this link it should show you the hall we left, Sturminster Hall, and eventually the Community and Arts building, The Exchange, which is now our home. https://stur-exchange.co.uk/about/
Unfortunately it seems that a second link, on the above page, may not yet be working – this is a new website in the process of being fully set up so here’s the brochure which was produced the year after it opened.

The Exchange Brochure 2008

The staircase balustrade is wrought iron made by a local craftsman and represents the river Stour which runs through our town. All the Rooms in The Exchange are named after rivers and streams running close by, and it is just beginning to open again to live theatre as well as community groups.

We at SNADS started off our return with an Adult Cabaret a couple of weeks ago, for once without a male Balloon Dance or a ladies Fan Dance, but there was a Pole Dance!

More about my exploits with SNADS (including an explanation of the picture of the wicked queen) later. Watch this space.

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?

Utterly useless – a watering can that can’t hold water!

Utterly useless – a watering can that can’t hold water!

Inspiration: US Sculptor Rogan Gregory’s piece

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.

Three page resist

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.

The bottom of the resist ready for laying down the fibre
Ready for wetting out
Gently does it!
Turning attention to the top pages

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.

First layer paying particular attention to the hole
Wrapping the wool at the hole

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.

Scoping out the positioning of the fishing line
The tacking begins …
All secure and ready for the next stage

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. 

Cutting the hole in the prefelt and removing the resist
Time to Shape

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. 

Happy felting!

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.

Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!

I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.

 

Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.

Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.

After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.

A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)

I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.

And here she is afterwards in all her glory!

I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.

Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.

I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…

I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your day.

 

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!

 

 

2020 Weather is suspicious! I have a Hypothesis!! lets test it!!!

2020 Weather is suspicious! I have a Hypothesis!! lets test it!!!

In the summer of 2020, I went into full fleece washing mode. I set up a skirting table, got the RV hand washing machine ready to spin out most of the water and set up the fleece drying racks in front of the garage. You have already seen some of the results. Over the next couple of months, I began to notice an unsettling trend of wetness occurring speciously in conjunction with putting washed fleece on the drying racks. Very Suspicious!!! how can this be a coincidence having happened so many times this summer? I think the weather may be out to wet me! (or maybe it’s just after my fleece)

My hypothesis: 2020 weather is sentient. (And is offended by drying fleece)

Equipment necessary for this experiment:

  • One Icelandic fleece,
  • Many strainer buckets,
  • Three soaking big buckets,
  • A small amount of soap (sunlight dish soap – not detergent),
  • One RV hand spin washer (like a very big salad spinner)
  • Three umbrellas on standby

Test of the hypothesis: Take exquisite Icelandic fleeces that had been put aside to wash later and wash now. (Also this first fleece may be perfect for Mrs. Mer’s Hair.) Watch for a reaction from local weather.

1 Part of Icelandic fleece waiting in the strainer bucket

I divided the first fleece into six small amounts in the fleece washing strainer baskets. Washed out and filled the three fleece washing buckets. Started the soap soak on the first three fleece strainer baskets and got them to the rinse stage. No sign of rain.

 

Today, a bit overcast with tiny patches of sun, I went out to check on the rinsing. Looked clean, felt clean, OK on to draining, spin-drying then laying the wool out on the drying racks to finish drying.

2-3  Fleece placed on the dryer rack

And it started to drizzle, so I pulled out the umbrella and continued spin-drying as well starting the next three into their soap soak.

 4 next half of fleece in soap and soak stages of washing

Drizzle stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Filled one drying rack and pulled out the second.

And it started to drizzle again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulled out the second umbrella, looked at the overhanging and which way the rain would fall. Drat. Need a bigger umbrella, well if I move the spinner over to the skirting table and put the bucket over it

6 two umbrellas up and… it has stopped raining again.

Got all of the first fleece washed and onto two of my three drying racks, and pulled out the third rack (all from Ikea). I did a quick division of the second darker fleece and got the first part of it soaking in soapy water. With a bit of wrangling, I got the three drying rack set up and under the umbrella. As I went to check the soaking fleece and give it a sloosh and it started to Rain! Heavily raining….. I quickly through the fleeces into the strainer buckets and got everything under the tarp end of the dog yard. well now the weather is just laughing at me and I am soaked too.

7-8 wet, very wet

I came in to complain about the unfair and possible vindictiveness of weather to Ann. (Ann is very patent with me.)  I sat down at the computer, ready to type and the sun came out…..

 9 Sun coming out on my Tie basil plants in a broken pot, I will be trying to overwinter.

I waited a bit then went and laid out the fleeces again to dry…..maybe dry.

.

 

 

   10-13 all the wetness was worth it, look at that fleece!!

14 The first part of the second Icelandic fleece is trying to dry.

Any bets on where it will rain today? Don’t take that bet…..

 

 

 

15 it rains again

 

 

 

Conclusion; 2020 Weather is sentient and it is offended by fleece drying.

 

 

 

 

Post Scrips:

The Icelandic fleeces are now well washed, extra rinsed and finally dry. I have washed two more fine fleeces, which I got last year from the Wool Growers Co-op originally from Alberta, again with many extra rinses in the “Drying” stage. They were a lovely dark chocolate colour until I washed them and discovered they were a nice shade of grey (the wash water did remain a very dark brown).

    16 the drying racks

Unfortunately, I have two more large fleeces to wash before the snow arrives!!!! One is the large ram I got at the same time I got the Shropshire and the second is a fleece I just bought from Beth. It is a long black Shetland who was ether hiding from the shearer in the straw or was rolling in it. I have never seen so much vegi-matter embedded in a fleece! As bad as it looks there was only one sheep self-felted section. the rest, if I can get the straw out, will be fabulous. After pulling burrs, straw does not look as daunting!

17-20 Beth’s Black fleece of straw, the top section of the strainer bucket is self felted.

I still need a solution to the continual extra rinse step I don’t think the fleeces really require.  I have bought strapping and ½ inch welded wire fencing to make drying racks I can hang under the tarped area of the side yard. I will get over to Dollerama (what a great source of fibre and felting related equipment) and buy a couple of clear table cloth covers and some extra strong laundry clips to block the wind and rain along the dog fence. Maybe I had better not tempt the weather too much or it may escalate its intensity, we did have a tornado go through Ottawa two years ago! But that may have been to thwart someone else’s fleece drying endeavours.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Hello all.  My name is Arlene Toth and I am a Fiber Artist.  It sounds like I am owning up to an addiction, and I am.  I am addicted to working with wool.  If you don’t know me already, I have a blog called Adventures in Felt.  I took up needle felting in March 2019 where they were giving a demonstration at my local haberdashers.  The first thing I ever made was a bumble bee from a kit.  From then on I was hooked and it just snowballed from there.  As with any addiction, I eventually got hooked on the hard stuff, wet felting.  The first thing I ever wet felted was a very tiny vessel.  I used to paint for 10 years, but painting hasn’t had a look in for over a year.  I wonder at times how I have lived so long and didn’t know about felting until now.  I feel I have a lot of lost time to make up for.  Starting any new hobby is an adventure and I am always up for one of those.  I love this so much that I have immersed myself in it completely.  I have amassed a library of felting books, watched tons of videos (good and bad), and taken online classes.  I am so grateful to those out there that share their knowledge.  So I blog about what I learned.  As far as I’m concerned, it is all an experiment, and like painting, not everything is going to be a masterpiece.

One of the things I have learned is that making samples is important.  Most of the time I just jump right in, but there is value when making small samples especially if you are unfamiliar with the product you are using or the method you will be felting.  For instance, I bought some Botany Lap Waste from World of Wool.  I ended up with a lot of fiber that I thought was merino as it was so soft and felt like superfine merino, but turned out to be alpaca.  How do I know that?  Well, I initially felted with some of it, but it didn’t felt like the merino.  Fortunately, the item I was making was mostly merino, so this mystery fiber did ultimately felt.  I then decided to make some samples as I had a lot of mystery fiber.

Firstly, you need to identify your fiber if it isn’t labelled.  The first way to check if it is animal hair is to burn it.  Yes, burn it.  I used a fire lighter and took a piece of the fiber and it singed and smelled like burnt hair.  If it does that, it comes from an animal.  It doesn’t matter at this point which animal, but an educated guess reckoned that it was alpaca.  Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but some types will felt and some won’t. I have a lovely knitted alpaca hat I bought in Peru which is so soft and warm.  So either way I am going to be a winner here.

Now that you have determined that your fiber comes from an animal and it isn’t synthetic, you will then need to felt a sample, step two.

I had three mystery fibers in grey and the black is merino that I used for my control.  I laid them out with two layers.  I wet them out with tepid soapy water and started the felting process by sanding on boths sides, rubbing and rolling.  This is what they looked like.

B was looking as it should for merino, but neither A, C or D passed the pinch test.  I kept working at the samples and I finally got them to do a little something.

I can honestly say that if you want to become a good felter, you need tenacity as this is not a quick craft!  Not only was this fiber slippery and hairy, it was also squeaky!  You can see my lovely control Fiber B doing what merino is supposed to do.  Neither A, C or D is suitable to felt on its own.  D looked like a complete disaster!  Now, some people might think D was superwash, but superwash will not felt, at all, with anything.

So, I completely wasted my money right?  No!  You can stop right here, but if you know how to spin, you can spin with alpaca to make a lovely yarn.  I don’t know how to do that yet!  I was going to give some to a friend, but then we had lockdown, so I just labelled the bags as alpaca and put them away.  However, if you are like me, you will take it further, step 3.

How do you take it further?  You add wool to it.  Something you actually know is wool that will felt. People in the feltosphere suggested that.  So I did.  I got out the blending board and blended the alpaca with merino.  I used the black merino for the dark alpaca and natural grey merino for the other two.  Here they are all laid out as before.

I then wet everything out and felted as before.  As you can see below, adding the wool made a huge difference and made for a better felting experience.

Here we are above drying out in the sun.  They felted better than expected, especially D.  Here is the final outcome below.

Sample A) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, took the longest to felt, hairy, and has some fine holes in it.

Sample B) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, was the quickest to felt.  Sturdiest and best felted of the three.

Sample D) From 9 squares to 7 x 6.5 squares.  I couldn’t get it down any more than that, but considering it was falling apart on its own, this is a good result.  Has some holes, but more like superfine cobweb.

This is the condensed version of 3 blog posts regarding this mystery fiber.  My conclusion is that I shall only keep sample C as it felted the best with the merino.  The other two will be used for spinning, once I learn how to do it!  So, if you get given some fiber that you are unfamiliar with, make a sample and see what happens!

The wool arrives , part 2 , the delivery

The wool arrives , part 2 , the delivery

The wool had to be delivered. I didn’t take my things out first because I thought everyone would want to see mine too. We met at Jans as she is in the middle. See its not that much wool. There is room for lots more in my car.

Before we started Judy brought some interesting wool for Jan to use as witch hair. It is  Scottish Mule. It is a cross between a Sottish Black Face and a Bluefaced Leicester.

The first box had my Finish batts

Jans core wool, shetland prefelt and Fawn Corriedale roving. Can you believe it? Jan took so many pictures and non of her own pile. Here’s a shot of the prefelt.

and then unexpectedly my sample packs were at the very bottom.

They are Bambino and Glitzy sample packs. I will keep one of each and sell the rest.

Then it was time for box 2 We got a few things out of the top

But then it was time to up-end it.

It was fun sorting who had what.

I got some wool called tweed it is South American wool and viscose. I got pink and grey I liked the look of it. I think it would make a nice hat. It was compressed down so I opened it to have a better look. Oh look, there is Jans core wool behind.

Isn’t it cool looking?

Then it started to get windy so we had to get the tent down.

And then it was time for me to head home before it decided to start Raining too.

You can see Jan added a trumpet Vine to my box. It is continuing to add roots in a bucket under the apple tree.

That was our adventure in wool buying, I hope you enjoyed it.

 

 

The Wool is Here!

The Wool is Here!

I needed to order some wool and Jan need some wool, in the hopes of being able to teach again. And… Well….who doesn’t need more wool.  I order a large amount when I order. I was aiming for 20 kg. The shipping gets cheaper if you order more. I picked out what I wanted and Jan picked out what she wanted. We took several days to do this. And then having reached 20kg I realized I had not added in the 5 kg of Corriedale I wanted. Well, that means I need to get 40kg as I am in the next shipping bracket. Add some wool I had only been thinking about and some more dyed fibre and then ask a few others I know with week will power, that might want several kgs of wool, not little retail amounts, I made it up to 40kg.  Hit the order button and hear my bank account shriek. LOL, my spell checker wants to change shriek to shrink. Now we wait. a few days later it was in Indianapolis Indiana in the USA, then Montreal Quebec, then Ottawa Ontario.  whoops, then Indianapolis again.   That does seem right… It’s not, here it is on my doorstep. Yay, wait a min there is only one box.

Her it is Jan took these on Saturday when she dropped by to pick you her goodie order. She was busy doing flax and wouldn’t make it to the market. You can see it is not a square box.

I kept checking but the FedEx site just kept saying it was in transit in Indianapolis. Then the site tried to tell me I had no packages so I called them and after a bit convinced the automated system that I was stupid and needed to speak to a human. He had a hard time finding it but said it was waiting for customs clearance. Hmm, I wonder if they will open it or x-ray it. It was there for several days. And then, at last, it arrived

Well, that’s odd that isn’t a white World of Wool box. I bet they opened it and couldn’t get it back in the box. LOL on them. I have had this happen before but it came with the top open and lots of customs tape over the top to keep everything from falling out. It was quite funny.

The first to open was the white box.

 

I dug down in the white box and it seems to be the batts and prefelt.

 

 

I dug down into the second box about halfway. I put it all back in. I don’t have room to let it expand right now. I have to keep my table clear for baking tomorrow. My table does double duty. It has to be cleaned to do felt and then cleaned to do tarts. I have a rolling stone but I need the room for the tart trays.

As you can see it is not packed to the top so I do think it was repacked into a larger box at customs.

I am pretty sure the white you can see inside is the Corriedale. and partway down I found the packing slip and the nice thankyou postcard you always get in these orders. They are usually on the top.

It all went back in the FedEx box but not into the WOW box

The FedEx still shows the parcel as pending with no delivery estimate. I think their site is broken but if they want to deliver more wool I will be happy to take it.

Monday is a holiday and we will don our masks and meet on Jan’s lawn to sort out all the wool parcels. She is in about the middle of where we all live.  I am sure Jan will take lots of pictures of the happy wool gathering.

 

 

 

2 New Ram Fleeces

2 New Ram Fleeces

While I have been working on the Mer-Project, I have been up to other things. To give you a bit of a break from “OH no another fish thing!!” (Sorry there is a bit more fishiness to come), but for now let’s have a peek at one of the other things that happens in the summer.

I spotted two ram fleeces for sale on the guild Facebook page from Shady Creek Lamb Co. I picked them up at the same farmers market Ann sells butter tarts.  They pasture the ewes under solar panels! Great self-mobile lawn mowers!!! Unfortunately, there are many burrs under there too. The Rams were kept elsewhere and claimed not to be as fond of burrs as their girlfriends.

1  1 Barrhaven farmers market at the log farm (they don’t farm logs.  It’s all very confusing)

You may have seen the short needle felting interruption where I picked them up and re-bagged them (they didn’t fit in the new bags well but they will not get wet if it rains! But this is August.  We don’t usually have much if any rain in August.

2 2 Miss Manta is blocking your view of the new fleeces

The one I was most interested in was the large grey fleece.  It may be hard to tell from this picture, but He is a BIG boy!

I need a sorting table!

3  3 the Ram in question (I think he is a Shropshire?)

Yes, I need a Big sorting table!

I don’t have a sorting table but I have a metal frame from my neighbour, Valerie, who moved a few years ago.  She left it for me, she used to grow cucumbers on it!  It has been sitting behind the metal bench in my side yard studio waiting to be useful. It will now have its chance!

44 Wire frame

I pulled out the metal frame and propped it up on the water barrels and a 2×4. I added extra support with a group of S-hooks.  It was a bit rusty and the spacing is a bit large so I used an old sheet that I use in the fall to cover the tomatoes saving them from a September frost.

5-6 the new sorting frame and quite dirty wool

As you can see I have thought ahead and had gloves ready, which you can see I will need. This fleece and his friend, have not been skirted! If you have not bought a raw fleece before they are usually pre-skirted. This means getting rid of the wool that is on the belly, lower legs, and especially the messy bit around the butt. This wool is worn, matted or particularly filthy.  (Sheep are not usually neat bathroom users. It may be due to their lack of toilet paper or just the lack of thumbs to operate toilet paper effectively.)

77 port-a-shade

It was again a lovely hot day so up went the umbrellas, Instant shade!! Oh that’s much better.

8910118 – 11 skirting and sorting into strainer bins

When I skirted the giant Shetland last fall, I sorted for colour. This time it seems mostly the same colour and from what I could feel similar fibre size. So, I divided more by cleanliness.  I kept skirting and sorting until I had mostly even buckets full of similar filthiness.

12-13 sorting done starting soaking

I pulled out the fleece washing buckets and moved the newly sorted wool to the table.  I also pulled out the remaining Shetland still to wash from last year.

 

Although I was dying of curiosity I started a batch of the Shetland as well as a bucket of the new ram

14-15 wool drained water filthy, on to next rinse

Hanging the strainer buckets up between rinses. The water is still filthy so I change it and soak them again.

I added another one of the giant soaking buckets and got a third strainer bucket going. This is going to take all summer at this rate!!

19-21 first batch out and second batch in

As the first batch was drying, I started the second batch.  Continuing the process of; soap soak, lift buckets gently and then replace a few times, drain and change to fresh water was going along wonderfully, ….. And then it Rained….

2222 UNFAIR!!!

Weather? Is this a snide comment that I am rushing and I should soak it longer? Or are you suggesting It needed another rinse?

and it stopped raining so it may dry, but no the sun didn’t last long and its back to raining, so let’s just consider this as well rinsed.

2323 soak

Showers intermittent continued and I decided it was a sign to work on something else. I am Back to felting inside.

It’s sunny this morning, well at least at the moment. I am getting suspicious the sun knows when I’m out here!  The wool is back out drying and I am working on another project in the outside studio. (I moved the wool buckets over so I could sit on the bench). The lighting was getting a bit darker and I was just about to go check the fleece when the sky opened up yet again! ok  let’s just consider this one more rinse….. positive thinking! positive thinking!

242524-25 Rain Again!!! (Is this some comment on the topic of my summer theme of Mer’s?)

Just to show you how much water we have been getting the farther 2 buckets are under on the umbrellas the nearer one is not and is now a lot deeper than I had filled it.

2626 the amount of rain we got covered the fleece strainer

The sun is just tempting me I know by this time but I will fall for his evil machinations again, by draining and putting out the fleece to dry.

2727 there is sun

Yes it was all a plot and Ann messaged me that we have a tornado warning happening, I took down the umbrellas, put the fleece away , it was getting So Much close to dry!!, back into bins and stuck them in zip lock bags away from  the  incoming storm. We had greenish tinted sky and cloud layers moving in different directions and speeds but luckily no tornado. On the western edge of Ottawa, One of our friends lost a Very big tree who’s aim was luckily poor and just missed their house. We were glad to hear she was safe.

Next morning Glenn picked up a couple knocked over pots and I put the fleece back out to dry… Someday dry fleece will come… maybe tomorrow?

28-29 OK trying again to dry wool

If anyone needs a bit of rain, you are welcome to have some of ours, the rain barrels are full and I don’t have to water the garden (which is actually helpful). That includes Ann who lives south of the city and has not had nearly as much rain as we have gotten!!! Why not rain on her sheep? Hers must be much cleaner sheep than my fleece is. Oh well it looks like it may be worth the work, if I can get it clean and dry. I am looking forward to seeing how it will felt and it should spin up some spectacular sock yarn, now I just need to figure out how to knit socks.

 

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