On the Swan

On the Swan

Recently, a local woman asked me to create a river view in felt for her. I created several watercolor sketches she could choose from so that we agreed on what the landscape would look like and what to include. The client lives on the Swan River here in Montana and decided she wanted a view similar to what she has behind her home.

After hand carding and blending colors, I started on the layout. I used a commercial prefelt background and mostly short fiber merino batts. Somehow, I wasn’t thinking correctly on shrinkage as I went with the idea that it would shrink 30%. But I forgot that I don’t normally full my wool paintings very hard as they don’t really need intense fulling.

I continued working down the picture laying out the distant trees, the river with the trees and mountains reflections and then into the foreground grass and lupines. At the same time I was laying out the big piece, I also laid out a smaller sample. That way I could try different options with final details and stitching. This shows the birch trees from silk paper that I was trying to decide upon. Luckily, I had made the birch tree silk paper several months ago at one of our local group meetings.

Here’s the small sample that I made. I tried the left tree trunk in prefelt and then used free motion machine stitching for the dark areas. The right tree trunk used silk paper which was painted for the dark areas. I also tried out some FME for the branches and the lupines. I didn’t feel that the FME was what I wanted for this piece and opted for the silk paper birch trunks. I had also used some brown/tan wool for the distant shoreline which was way too much if included in the original wet felting process. I ended up cutting out a portion of this sample so that the brown wool was showing much less. I then stitched the two pieces of the sample back together to give the feel of what I wanted in the large piece. This sample really saved me from making some big mistakes!

Here is what I had after wet felting. I had to full this piece very hard as the request was for a certain size. I don’t normally worry about size on my wet felted landscapes and I ended up cutting the edges because I had not figured the shrinkage correctly.

Next I started adding in needle felt details. I added more definition to the distant tress, added a shoreline and added some lines in the water to simulate movement.

Then I stitched some grass in the foreground and stitched down the silk paper tree trunks.

I continued on with details. I added some paint to the tree trunks, I couched down branches and added leaf details with needle felting. I added hand stitching in front of the trunks and some leaf details for the lupine.

Here’s a close up so you can see a bit of the detail in the foreground.

Then I found I already had enough green fabric that worked to finish the piece. My client is getting it framed with barn wood, so this is how I delivered the piece. And the wonderful thing is that she loved it. I’m so happy it worked out the way that she wanted.

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring means many things, but it always reminds me of our Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild foray into growing our own flax, aka ‘The Flax Project’.  Its hard to believe it was over two years ago, nearly three, that a group of us tackled the happy adventure of trying to produce our own flax crop, not once, but twice.  It brought back memories of warm spring days planting and weeding, hot, hot summer days of staking and weeding (the one constant was weeding), days of harvesting, drying, retting, seeding, rippling, scutching and all those lovely bizarre words to describe specific processing of flax. Flax is grown and harvested in a community,  but it is customarily spun in the winter when there is no other more pressing work to do.  I find it very dusty and messy fiber to spin, or maybe I just don’t like doing that part without the shared company of fellow fiber lunatics.

So while I was clearing out bits and pieces of unfinished projects, I found my share of the flax and tow.

 

I also found loads of other flax that had been spun over the years.

Most have been left as singles and is ready for weaving.

Some I boiled as an experiment.  Flax will lighten in colour if you boil it.  It also softens significantly and your house will smell like hay soup.

Some came to me bleached, so I gave that a spin.  It was extremely soft.  My concern is for the durability of anything made with prebleached flax fiber.  Woven flax is renamed linen for those of you who didn’t know, and linen fabric is incredibly strong, and long wearing.

There are two down sides to linen; one is that it wrinkles.  I like the wrinkles of linen, especially jackets and trousers, but some people can’t stand that characteristic.  The other is its tendency to fade.  Linen will take colour but over time it will lose that colour and move towards white.  Again, I like this in linen, and it takes ages for this to happen.  A bright, bright blue will mute over years and acquire a vintage look that can only be seen in linen.

Covid enabled me to join a most remarkable group of flax enthusiast started by an extremely generous woman in Europe.  Her name is Christiane; she was gifted a large quantity of flax from a lady called Berta.  This was from Berta’s dowry.  Christiane decided to share it with other interested spinners and reached out on social media.  I asked for two stricks.  A strick is what the finished combed flax.  It is usually very fine, has little to no straw and is very tidy, ready for spinning.

Well!! You can imagine how this took off.  In the middle of a pandemic.  People desperate for knowledge, information, something challenging, interesting, contact with the rest of the world…this took on a life of its’ own.  Much of this flax was grown, processed and stored pre WW2.  It was of historical significance, to be part of that is pretty inspiring.  Christiane knows what she has and rose to the occasion.  She was gifted more dowry chests, documented more stories, and sent out more flax to more and more enthusiasts.  She also sent out hand woven linen, patterns, she wrote articles, held workshops, taught about the history of flax production in Europe, specifically Austria, helped flax lovers from all over the world to connect with each other. The project became massive.  She now has help to manage the administration of this mammoth undertaking.

Thanks to Christiane I now have suppliers of flax in Egypt and Canada and my treasures from Berta’s flax plus a community world wide I can go to if I run into problems and need answers.

Egyptian flax – over a meter long

But the question I’m sure many of you have is can flax be of any use to felters?  Yes, I think so.  For binding felt books, for embellishments, for stitching, linen backing on a felted image, dry felting onto a linen fabric (not sure, but the fabric is durable), there must be elements of cross compatibility.

The season for demonstrations is coming up and it looks like this year we can actually go out into the community again.  I am looking forward to taking along a fully dressed distaff with some gorgeous blond flax, blowing in the breeze, a little water bowl for dipping near at hand and inspire awe in the local population, that humans can make thread out of grass.  Okay, not awe, but maybe some curiosity, I’ll take curiosity.

Rising to the second quarter challenge (I hope)

Rising to the second quarter challenge (I hope)

Following what seemed like a never-ending period in creative limbo, the second quarter challenge has gotten me thinking again.  The photos were all amazing but one in particular set me thinking:

It’s funny, loading the photo as reference now, it is not like I remember it in my mind’s eye.  I thought the pole was further over to the left side of the photo.  (Like most people, I would make a very unreliable eye witness).  Having said that, it was the inspiration for what comes next.

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words and I thought I would add to my interpretation of the challenge by posting in photos and minimising my word count.

I thought I might post up a small project that could be completed by either new or experienced felt makers – one that could act as a ‘blank canvas’ for further development if the maker wanted to do this.  Or the project could be completed just following the photos.  It really will be in the hands of the creative.  If you decide to give it a go, why not post your results to the site.  You can do this through the following link, we would love to see them: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/community-photo-submissions/

Here is what you will need for the project:

  • Your basic felting equipment (bubble wrap, soapy water, towel, pool noodle, white vinegar (optional))
  • Pattern: 23cm square piece of cardboard.  this will act as your guide when you are laying our the fibre.
  • A little light plastic (like decorator’s plastic)
  • Smallish round shape (for example a cookie cutter 5cm diameter approximately)
  • Tops/Roving in your choice of colours.
  • Bits of fibre, silks viscose etc for embellishing your picture (optional)
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • Most of all your creativity.

So, here we go.  Just follow the photos and happy felting!

Here are some other flower pictures that I made.  I have mounted them on canvas which I covered with thermoformable felt (left over from my hat project).  The hat project was covered in one of my earlier posts  (link: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/08/19/its-good-to-bend-rules-now-and-again-part-1/ )

 

Felted Wall Hangings (in pairs)

Felted Wall Hangings (in pairs)

These wall hangings were made for a customer order. The idea was to be something modern but inspired from archaic motifs. I love the central Asian motifs, so I decided to use these curves in different ways. I used the wet felting technique, first the design with pencil roving, then the coloured wool and finally the 3 layers of wool. With lot of rolling and work I finished these wall hangings.

 

Going Back to Demoing

Going Back to Demoing

Sorry for today’s delay! I have been busy this week working on the guild Library report. It’s a lot of data to sift through even with a second year of reduced book borrowing due to covid. I do a report in December for the city grants then one for the AGM in May. It’s not the same data since the first covers the Year (2021) and the second covers the library term From the AGM in  2021 to AGM 2022.  I have a fabulous library team working with me but I write up the report and then send it to Ann to spell check and make a synopsis since I tend to be very thorough. It usually takes a week to get the data into charts then analyzed a bit then written up into the report. The main data is dropped in the appendix (21 pages) and the short tables go into the report (5 pages).  I am only missing one bit of data to finish it but here is the extremely short version (not I am not going to show you 21 pages of charts!!)

  • Library team: 6 regular members and 3 assistants this year, for a total of 9.
  • Acquisitions: 69 new items From Donations, Bequests, and purchases
  • Circulation: Total items; 249 (1 item out for repair)
  • Format of items in circulation: BOOKS 208, MAGAZINE 21, DVD 18
  • Accessibility: 238.5  hours in the library, plus the hours from March I still have to add.

1 The Felting Section of the Guild Library

2 Part of the Guild Library Cabinets

I also got a note off to the newsletter about the next Library day. We have been having members email their book requests to the library and we pull, sign out and bag the books. The members come to the library, knock on the window, hold up their name signs and we grab their bag of books and meet them at the side door to give them their books. It has been working quite well over the last 2 years.

3 books pulled ready to bag

4 books ready to go out to members.

2 months ago, we got word that we could have more people in the studio space, where we have the library. We would need to have only 2 people browsing the books at a time, proof of vaccination and wear a mask at all times. Last month we were allowed 4 people at a time looking at books and they could self-administer the health questions, but still had to wear their masks. This month it looks like we may be able to have the regular capacity and no symptoms of ill health for ourselves or assonated people but still keep the mask. We hope that the books can finally visit with the guild members in a more personal way.

5 Ann Ready for in-person book sign-out, for the first time in 2 years!

So if we can have library happening in a more normal way Demos of spinning weaving and felting cannot be far behind.  I have been doing demos for the guild since the 1990s, first weaving then adding spinning, and finally adding felting to the options for demos.  I’m not sure what my first demo was but it may have been weaving at a sheep to shawl demonstration at the experimental farm. My first time spinning at a demo was at a tractor pull competition with another spinner Clara (she was very good). In the morning, she spun and answered questions. By the afternoon, I was spinning and talking at the same time too!

At first, I carried a folding Leclerc table loom either a 2 or 4 harness. They didn’t feel heavy at the time but after quite a few years they seem to have gained weight. I was sometimes also bringing a wheel or two depending on the demo. For the Carp Fair demo I could fill a small station wagon with equipment and display stuff (they gave us a 20x 20 tent to set up a four-table display, it was a challenge that we filled each year.)

6-7 weaving at the same demo (it’s a super long warp!)

8 We let anyone who wants to have a try. It means we get many interesting variations on the pattern we thought we were doing!

Over the years, I have learned a lot of demo tricks. one of the best is if you think you will be on damp grass or it might rain (we have had sudden small rivers appear in tents we were demoing in when it rained), bring a plastic under bed box or low sided storage bin that your wheel will fit into as well as your feet. Spinning in a plastic box will keep your feet and wheel dry. If it’s just morning dew to worry about bring a rubber-backed kitchen matt that is big enough to fit under your wheel. They roll up and take up little space to bring with you. I also have a folding wagon that can transport wheels, looms, wool, a folding table… from the car to the demo spot if I cant get the car close to unload.

9 One of my Friends demonstrated the weight capacity of a folding wagon

10 a Plowing match demo  with a tarp to keep the dew off the wheel

11 Manotick demo in a tent in the rain.

12 in a tent, raining at the Richmond Fail (trundle box is tucked under the table.)

Another sneaky thing I do at demos, now that I am also felting, is I have a couple of pieces that I save to work on only at demos, that are works in progress. I have found that when I am just starting out with a picture or sculpture there is a lot of mild curiosity. However, if I have something underway to the point you can make a good guess at what I might be doing, I tend to get more interest and questions.  “Is it a dog?” gets kind of boring until someone says very hesitantly “….is that.. a ..polar bear?” “YES! It is!!”

13 Polar bear finally looks a bit less like a dog.

14 Makers fair demo

15 Demo at Wool Growers Co-Op, Carlton place

When you demo you don’t have to know everything, so don’t be afraid of questions.  It’s fine to say “I’m still new and don’t know that, but we can see if we can find out”. If you are demoing in a group ask the others who are demoing, if you are by yourself, refer them to your guilds email to ask.  There are also breed specific organizations you can find many of the contacts at sheep 101 on the internet.

Second, don’t worry that you’re not a master weaver, spinner or felter. There are not a lot of masters out there and they all started somewhere not being masters. If you enjoy what you’re demoing, your enthusiasm will be contagious. In addition, if you’re just beginning, it shows others they can do this too. Watching someone make fluffy fibre stick together it’s like magic! Watching someone make perfect fine lace weight yarn is a bit daunting, If it is a slubby functional yarn, that may actually be much more approachable. It’s amazing how many times someone will ask, “What happens when it brakes?” then you accidentally brake it and show them how it reattaches.

Once I took my Ashford Traditional out to a demo. It is a lovely wheel, the golden retriever of wheels! “Is that fibre? Can I spin it for you?” anyway I had the drive band brake and had repaired it but only had blue crochet cotton so I had a blue drive band and was spinning white wool. You can see where this is going I am sure. After having a man stand staring at the wheel for much longer than most people stop and just stare, he finally asked.

“How does the wool go from white to blue, then back to white?”

“Good question!” so I stopped the wheel and showed him the path for the yarn through the orifice and on to the bobbin and the path of the drive band and how the treadle and footman turned the wheel.

I hope we will be able to demo again soon. It is a lot of fun and you may find others who didn’t know anyone did weaving, spinning or felting and they have always wanted to learn to do that too!

16 Basket dragon with hand died wings, Carp Fair Demo

I have lots of photos of the demo display and other people demoing.  I am usually the one with the camera so these are most of the pictures I have of me actually demoing.

17  1812 was not my best year, the diminutive Great Wheel and the Robiedue wheel went to this demo with me. Demo at Chrysler for 1812 battle asked to demo in costume.

 

18 Demo at Carp Fair

Have fun and keep felting (hopefully soon in public!)

19 One of my long-term-in-progress-demo pieces.

Some inspiration for the second quarter challenge.

Some inspiration for the second quarter challenge.

As most everything I have for felting is packed in boxes at the moment, I thought I would share some of the pictures I’ve taken around the farm for inspiration for the second quarter challenge. Usually, I take landscape-type pictures, most often with sheep in them or pictures of flowers, fungus or moss. I tried to be less organic this time.

These are parts of a rusty trailer. the first three are the fenders and the next ones are the decking. I particularly like the rusty bits.

These are some chairs we have the plastic ones had blown over in the wind and the undersides were quite interesting and dirty. How do they get so dirty underneath?

 

This is a stack of metal chairs waiting for warm weather.

Here are a few more metal bits I found around on a walk with the dog.

The bottom of my daughter’s canoe was good for a couple of pictures, an old label and scratched-up paint.

Many years ago we had a fenced yard. There is one small bit left that is slowly going back to nature.

 

A fence post in the field

 

And I couldn’t resist some moss and a cool rotting log.

Hopefully, I have inspired you to take some different pictures and not made you nod off. You can use one of these for inspiration if one catches your eye. We would love to see it. you can share your inspiration and your finished work in our gallery by using this form. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/community-photo-submissions/

 

Felt Saguaro

Felt Saguaro

This is a guest post by Cindy, our first reader to submit a photo for the 2nd Quarter Challenge. If you would like to submit a photo, you can do so here.

Hi everyone, my name is Cindy and I love playing with fibers – all the wonderful colors and textures. I sat down in the evening to relax and opened up Felting and Fiber Studio to enjoy the new posts. It is always like picking up a good book to read.

I was delighted that the 2nd quarter challenge was about noticing the little things – the details in everyday life. The project I just finished surprisingly enough was exactly that – a close up piece to resemble the ribs on a saguaro cactus. I decided to post the picture on the site for the challenge. Ruth reached out to ask more about it and would I share my process with the group – I happily agreed to do so – hope you enjoy.

I had been admiring the way the light and the shadows play on the saguaro cacti in my yard and surroundings. I started examining them – really paying close attention. I decided to make a few saguaro sculptures working on form and trying to get some texture as well. I had a shibori piece that I made on my desk and my thoughts meandered (as they often do -LOL) – wondering if this method would work to make the texture and ribs for a saguaro. I did not know if I would be able to keep the lines fairly straight to get the look I wanted or if they would scrunch up and be more of a zig zag like my other piece, which I love but not for this project. I thought it was worth a try. Here are a couple of my inspiration photos of saguaros in my yard that I was watching the play of light and shadows.

The inspiration photo on the right is a close up of the ribs of a cactus that I took a few years ago when we had snow in our area – which is a rare occurrence and that I enjoy immensely.

I set out to lay out fiber to wet felt – knowing that I would be pleating the piece for the ribs – I laid out the piece approx. 22” long x 9” high. I wet felt my pieces between a lightweight tightly woven fabric – assuming a polyester or such as it does not felt. I call it “slip” material because that is what I originally bought it for. You can see it under the fibers in the photo below.

The first layer is black core fiber. I knew I was going to have a few layers of colors, so I laid out each color pretty thin as I did not want the finished piece too thick. The picture shows the initial black core layer followed by the start of the 2nd layer – copper colored fiber.

Here you can see the 2nd layer of copper finished with all the fiber going in the same direction.

Next, I added some wisps of a tan core fiber as a 3rd layer. You can see that I did not cover it entirely – just wanted some lighter color for emphasis.

It was time to add a 4th layer of green, which was maori wool fiber.

I wanted more hues of green to add light and depth – so the next step was to add fine wisps of lima bean colored Corriedale wool fiber. I also added fine wisps of other greens – lime, Christmas, evergreen and olive – again to get light and depth in the piece. I decided to cut up some wool yarns in light, medium and dark browns to make the “spots” that I noticed on the close-up photo. Note: I would say that all of these blended in and I did not get the spots as intended, but they did add to the overall look of the piece. At this time, you can add any other embellishments that you might like. I enjoy color, so I added some purple and dark blue strands.

Next, I folded over my piece of “slip” material to cover the fiber and started the wet felting process – wetting with soap and water and rubbing and rolling the piece 30-50 times each side and direction to obtain to a prefelt material. My best description of prefelt is a soft material in which all the fibers and embellishments (if any) are interlocked together and are not moving loosely – it is basically a piece of soft fabric. When it reached that stage, I rung the soap and water out of the piece and gently rolled it in a towel to get out most of the moisture. I was impatient to start the next step and did not want to wait for it to dry.

It looks bumpy, but that is because the photo was taken just after I squeezed out the soapy water. Note: the blue shelf liner material, in the next photos, was under the bamboo mat for grip. Starting on the left side, I went in approx. 3⁄4” and made an upwards fold (1/2” – 3⁄4”) in the prefelt, I hand sewed a medium long basting running stitch at the base of this fold with black heavy-duty thread to make a “rib”. Note: at the beginning of the stitch, I knotted the thread at the back of the piece. When I finished top of each row, I left the thread long (approx. 3”) and loose. My theory was if it was loose, it would not pull, since I wanted the rows fairly straight. I sewed ribs all along the piece leaving space between each rib. I added a few “Y” ribs with my stitching. If you look closely at a saguaro, you see that where it changes shape from wide to narrow, the ribs form a Y. You may be able to make this out at the top of the close-up photo. In the spaces between the ribs, I decided to sew a running stitch. I left the thread approx. 3” long and loose on both edges. This was an attempt to get more dots that I was seeing in the close-up photograph.

In the photo below all the hand sewing completed and the piece full of ribs, it was ready for the felting/fulling process. I sandwiched the piece between the white poly/slip material. Added soapy water to the piece and began the fulling process by rolling it in a bamboo mat. I was always mindful of the ribs. I would open periodically to pinch the ribs to make sure that they were not felting together, and to keep them upright.

Once the piece was firmer and holding its shape, I rolled it up on itself with the ribs inside and then with them outside, alternating between both directions, and continued to roll it. I continued until I was happy with the size, texture and firmness of the piece. I then took a small pair of sharp pointed scissors and began to snip small lines and indents on the top of each of the ribs so that the tan, copper and black colors would be exposed to mimic the spines on the ribs of the saguaro. I was mindful of how deep I cut
with the scissors to expose the color I was after.

The stitched lines between the ribs had all but disappeared in the felting process so I carefully sliced off a very thin layer of felt at these areas to expose the stitches and my fun dots appeared! I decided to expose more of the colors underneath, so I carefully snipped away little areas here and there. I am happy to say the ribs stayed straight without the zig zag look I was afraid I might get when I made the cuts to expose the colors underneath. I believe that is because the thread remained loose, not tight, as it felted. I like all the colors and how they look together and the many hues of greens help with the light and shadow on the ribs. In fact, the right side looks brighter to me as if the sun is shining on it. I am very pleased with how this piece turned out.

Below is a photo of the finished piece on a white background with the lighting from above, so that you can see the colors and the fun black threads. Notice I cut all the way through the felt to expose the background color in just a few of areas.

 

I may trim a few of the long black threads. I plan to keep the threads exposed as they represent a continuation of sorts of the ribs on the background.

The final photo shows how it would look framed. I placed it on a copper felt background with a rustic wood frame with the strings tucked behind. As you can see, the light is coming from the right and happily playing light and shadows across the ribs.


Hope you enjoyed and hope it inspires you to try felting if you haven’t already. Thank you, Ruth, for letting me share my fun project. 🙂 cindy

 

 

We Need a New Door Stop

We Need a New Door Stop

Recently we have acquired a new bookcase for our living room.  It was actually made to fit in the space between the front wall and the door of the room.  However it has a sort of lip around the top, the corner of which was banged by the glass of the open door if we were not careful.

2 Views of the book case against the glass (with some of my menagerie in view on the book case)

Obviously we needed something to stop the door before it fully opened. After some thought I decided that it needed to be tall (so that we didn’t have to bend down too far to move it – the floor gets further away the older you get), but it needed to be thin too otherwise the door wouldn’t open far enough to let one of us safely into the room, especially with drinks in hand.

I wanted it to go with the colour of the carpet and I knew that I had somewhere in my stash a blue wool sweater that I had felted (on purpose) by putting it through the washing machine. I finally rooted it out and decided that I would use one of the sleeves, which had a pattern knitted into it.

The Other Sleeve – what’s left of it – the pattern looks a bit hazy but hang in there, you’ll see it later.

Initially I thought that I would make a tall thin pyramid shape to fit in the gap between the side of the book case and the door. I sewed up the cuff of the sleeve and, to make sure it didn’t keep falling over, I begged a piece of flat lead sheet from my husband which I fitted into the bottom of the stuffed sleeve, and then sewed up what had been the shoulder to make the base. 

Well it was ok, but I thought it needed a bit more interest and decided to turn the door stop into a cat.

Out came the felting needles and my scoured merino, which I use as core fibres. Then for the “top coat” I sorted through the blues in my stash – normally jealously guarded because I don’t have a lot now as I use them for sky in my pictures – and found some which almost matched the main blue of the sleeve. Obviously he wasn’t going to be a realistic cat so I tried to “cartoonise” his features, and rather than give him needle felted eyes as I might normally do I fished out some bright orange glass eyes from another stash which would go well with his dark blue face. I used some of the blue to make a wet felt sheet, out of which I cut his ears.

Having made his head, I attached it to the tall thin pyramid. It’s sewn as well as needled on, but even so I was concerned that if he was picked up by his head it might come off. I made a piece of blue cord and attached that as a loop behind his head so that he might be moved safely. And here we have him.

Smiley Door Cat

Not long after this, we acquired a new pinky-grey bathroom carpet and also new pink and grey towels to replace very tired old red ones. Until then we had been using the bathroom scales as a door stop – that door will slam very hard if the wind gets up when the window is open. So now I decided that we would need another door cat.

When we got the new carpet we did not change the basic colour scheme as we didn’t want the hassle of changing the suite (vintage Pampas) or the tiles. The colour scheme is essentially derived from the tiles, which are pink and grey with some crimson detailing. Originally we had a red-ish carpet and red and dark grey towels, but when I bought those towels I could not get a bath mat to match, so I made one by stitching two red hand towels back to back.

Bathroom Tile

As the new carpet shed fibres quite a lot to begin with I thought of making the new door cat out of that fibre, but after a little more thought I realised that that would not be a good idea. We would keep falling over a camouflaged cat in the gloom of a late night visit!

So I thought I might find another felted sleeve, but couldn’t come up with something the right colour. Then, because we still had touches of red in the room, I decided that I would deconstruct the old red bath mat and use one of the pieces for the cat’s body. I had already given away the rest of the old towels to my friend for her dogs.

I felt that a “loaf cat” pose would be best, less likely to tip over if the wind caught the door, but I’d need too much lead sheet to make it a suitable weight. So I visited the garden and found a triangular(ish) shaped piece of rock, washed it and wrapped it in a couple of layers of non-woven cotton towels, secured with masking (painter’s) tape. I made myself a paper pattern of the body and cut out two body sides and a gusset for the base and chest. I cut out the pattern pieces from the towel and stitched it all up (first inserting the wrapped rock and stuffing it with polyester stuffing.

I had seen a cartoon of a smiling cat, which had enormous ears, which looked really cheeky. I thought I’d have a go at making one like that. I started with the core fibre again and got the head substantially how I’d like it and then thought about fibres for the coating.

Head ready to be covered in “Top Coat” (for some reason enlarged umpteen sizes)

I did not have exactly the right red, so had to blend a couple of pieces of pre-dyed merino tops which seemed to work ok. I did the same to make a pinky-grey blend for the chest, face and inside of the ears. I had decided that I would make the cat’s chest a similar colour to the carpet which meant that I had to make a wet felted sheet of the pinky-grey batt to cover the original red towelling. I cut the felt into the shape of the chest gusset, leaving enough for a pair of large ears.

I needled some of the red onto the back of the ears, and this resulted in a darker pink on the inside where the needles had pushed fibres right through, which was actually a benefit I think. I needled the blended red on to the back of the cat’s head and neck, and the pinky-grey onto the face, attached the ears and gave him a darker pink nose. I “shadowed” the smile and blinking eyes and I also gave him some laughter lines.

Nearly finished head, along with my felting cushion and a trapped needle holder

Then I stitched the head onto the neck, and the chest piece over his front, catching in the head at the neck.  I covered the join with more needled fibres and, using another piece of towel, attached a handle to the back of his neck so that he could be moved without his head coming off.

Loving Blinks from the new Door Ward

My husband has already named him Yoda.  We each confessed the other day that we both chat to him (in fact I pick him up and cuddle him too – he just fits into one arm)

What about the poor tatty sheep at the beginning of this post? Well, many years ago now, when I was a fairly new needle felter, I decided that I’d like to make myself a door stop for my bedroom door. I had acquired from our Guild a Jacob fleece, which, as it turned out, was ideal for needle felting. It certainly wasn’t a lot of good for wet felting – it wouldn’t, whatever I did to it. I suppose I must have had an old ram’s coarse and kempy fleece palmed off on me, when I was too naïve to know what I was getting – no wonder it was cheap!

Anyway, I got a body shaped pebble out of the garden, and washed it, wrapped it in some of the un- wetfelted fleece and started in with a No.36 felting needle (I only had 36 triangle and 38 star needles in those days- oh and a No.19 which was so thick it wouldn’t really go through anything I had with any ease). I bust quite a few needles before the pebble was covered. I added a neck to one end and then decided that my sheep would need eyes and a pair of horns. At that time I did not know that Jacob sheep often have 4 horns and wear them as if they had put them on in a hurry in the morning whilst still half asleep!

I made the horns and eyeballs using pipe cleaners and white Fimo polymer clay, baked and painted with acrylic paints. At that stage in my career I had not thought of using PVA glue on needled fleece to make horns. I needled a head shape around the horns and eyes, and then attached it to the neck. It did not occur to me to strengthen the neck with the ends of the pipe cleaners, I had cut these short and just put the horns on either end, and did the same with the eyes.

Well it all worked and for years he sat by my door, getting moved when necessary with my foot.  Now he’s a sad old thing, but being sentimental I can’t bear to get rid of him, even though he’s lost a horn and is definitely the worse for wear.  Perhaps I’ll give him a “makeover” sometime.

Poor Old Jacob, grown old and infirm in service

 

 

My Spinning Journey

My Spinning Journey

I often wonder how people first get into fibre crafts.  Whether they learned them from a family member or fell upon them quite by accident.  For Alex and I, we discovered felting during lockdown, but as a young girl, I had the opportunity to try spinning in school.  Our needlework teacher brought her spinning wheel in for one lesson, to show us how to spin fibre into wool.  I was lucky enough to have a go, and I loved it.  Sadly, it was a one-off lesson that was never to be repeated, but the love of creating wool from fibre is something that has stayed with me all my life.  So having  tried felting, and then moving on to weaving, the natural progression was to think about creating my own yarns to use in weaving.  I started to search online for a wheel, not really knowing enough about them! I came across an advert for an ‘old traditional Welsh spinning wheel’.  As it was local to me, I went to take a look at it and immediately fell in love with it.  It was so pretty!!

I had done a little research, and knew to check that all the relevant parts were still attached, so when I looked at this one, I did a mental checklist and was satisfied that nothing seemed to be missing.  The older couple who were selling it explained it had belonged to the lady’s great aunt, and she had inherited the wheel but never used it.  In my head I though fab, I’ve found a little gem and decided to call her Angharad (a traditional old Welsh name).  However, when I started to look at getting it to work I realised that there were some anomalies.  For example, the footman seemed much too long and something seemed wrong with the way it connected to the wheel hub.  Also, there was no sign of wear and tear anywhere, and I also realised another big mistake….there was no way I was ever going to spin art yarn on a flax wheel, even if I could get it to work! But I could still see the value in spinning other fibres, so set about trying to make it work.  Eventually, I had to concede defeat and started looking for a different wheel.  By this time, I’d learned a lot more about what I needed my wheel to do, and set my heart on an Ashford.

 

Social media is a great place to find little gems (as well as the not so good!).  I eventually found an advert for an Ashford Traditional, that was built in the 1989/91 that was still unassembled in its original box!  So, it was a vintage, but like brand new.  The chap that was selling it (Bob Granger), was quite local and told me that he works out of Craig-y-Nos Country Park, and renovates spinning wheels!! So I seized the opportunity to tell him about my Welsh wheel, and he kindly offered to take a look at it for me!! I was so happy  to have found someone with the skills and knowledge, who was only in the next county to where I live!!

 

When I arrived, I was in awe of both the location and Bob’s knowledge.  Having purchased the new wheel, I left old Angharad with Bob, to see what miracles he could do to get her working.  But what a fantastic place to work!! I was totally taken aback by the beautiful location of Craig-y-Nos… What a truly amazing work-life balance to have…

This is the view from Bob’s workshop!

Having taken my new Ashford home, I decided that I would call her Valerie after my late Mum.  That way, every time I spin I will think of her.  I couldn’t wait to start putting her together.  I opened the box and checked nothing was missing, before I waxed all wooden pieces ready to assemble.

  I couldn’t have found a ‘newer’ wheel second hand even if I tried!

 

It even still had the original packer’s details in the box!  I wonder if she’s retired now…

Having assembled Valerie, I couldn’t wait to start spinning!  I think I did a good job of the assembly.

Sadly, Bob and his friend tried their best with Angharad, but despite shortening the footman, shortening the flyer and fixing the metal part that connects the footman to the axle, it still wasn’t viable.  To be honest, I don’t think it had ever been used!! It seems ironic that someone would go to the trouble of putting so much time and effort into making such a beautiful spinning wheel that would never work.  The bobbin was fixed to the flyer – although it would spin, you can’t remove it and it’s so small, it would hold hardly any yarn!  I now have to decide whether to keep the wheel for it’s beauty or whether to sell it on as an ornament! Pete is hoping that I will sell her as the house is fast being taken over by my hobbies!

This was my first attempt at spinning on Valerie.  My friend and neighbour Debi was kind enough to give me some Corriedale fibre that she didn’t need, so this was my first go.

As you can see, it’s quite ‘chunky’!

But to be fair, as I want to use the yarn for weaving weft, I can still use it.

My next spin was a merino wool which I decided would look interesting plied with the corriedale.

I was quite pleased with the end result…

  I tried some experimenting with the plying technique, to see whether I could make some interesting bobbly effects.  It’s all a learning curve!

I think my next attempt was a lot neater.  I used an art batt that I purchased, and tried my hand at making a thinner yarn this time…

Around this time, we went up north to visit Pete’s family.  I decided to take my spindle, to practice my drafting.  It worked really well in the car and it also gave me a chance to feed my new-found addiction to spinning!  I think I managed to spin a much thinner yarn and it’s all practice isn’t it.

     

I’m still picking up the spindle in between spinning on Valerie, and it’s now nearly full!

I have purchased a lovely book to help me in my quest to learn spinning.  I have to say, when it arrived, I was so impressed with it.  I was lucky enough to buy an unused second-hand copy, and it’s like new.  It kind of matches my purchase of Valerie.  Both previously owned by someone who never used them.  For a novice spinner like myself, I can honestly recommend this book by Sarah Anderson for its clear instructions with beautiful illustrations. But it’s equally good for experienced spinners who want to learn new yarn designs…

Here are some of my creations, I hope you like them!

   

I also invested in a cute little Niddy Noddy, to help me put my yarns into skeins.  I opted for the type that can be taken apart and fits into one of my many fibre boxes (see Pete, I am trying to reduce the space my hobby is taking up in the house!!) I also bought the extension for it, so I can make 1 or 2 yard skeins.  I got it from a great little Etsy shop called Hairy Dog Crafts and it works really well! I love the names on some of these shops!

Of course, no blog from us would be complete without the usual interfering cats.  To say they are still as fascinated by wool fibre goes without saying but I have discovered that for Eccles, it also extends to pictures… here she is having taken over my book!

And Elliot had to make his usual blog appearance of course…

But sadly, the little man somehow managed to open a sealed plastic box to retrieve my yarn.  I didn’t realise until I saw him acting ‘sheepishly’, and discovered my beautiful yarn under the dining room table looking more reminiscent of a birds nest than my lovely yarn!!!

I still can’t get over the fact he managed to open the box.  He is one very clever cat.  But I’m so glad I managed to save this other one before he managed to redesign it…                           

I still have a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the journey.  Alex came over this week, and he had a try at the wheel.  His little legs only just reached the treadle!  I think it will take him a while to get the hang of coordinating his hands and his feet, but I can see great fun for him in the learning process and together, we can enjoy playing with new designs we make to weave.

 

Inspired to felt an Iris (prototype)

Inspired to felt an Iris (prototype)

Last week I watched an online workshop with Tjarda van der Dussen. She was showing how to Needle felt a realistic Rose and Butterfly which had blue patterns on one side of the wing and brown on the opposite side. Originally, what I found fascinating was her ability to work very thinly with a lot of surface detail (particularly with the butterfly).

As I watched her workshop, I was impressed with her ability to do surface work (shallow insertion of the needle only affecting the top layer of her piece.) She achieved this partly through the angle of the needle and partly by very good depth control. She said she preferred spiral (twisted) and star needles for her work. She used them in a wooden single needle holder.  I am not sure if she has tried Crown needles, which as you know, have only one barb per side but all are located very close to the tip of the needle (making it ideal for surface detail felting). I think she said she was using 38 and 40 gauge needles. She also had one of the 7 needle fake clover tools (the blue rather than the original clover green) which she used mostly with a shallow insertion.

For her working surfaces, she usually started with the clover brush tool, used covered with cotton fabric. She was lifting frequently whatever she was working on, so it would not stick to the cloth. She would, at times switch over to working on a wool mat that she had made herself. (I do want to figure out how she made that!)

She used a pattern or template for the petals that reminded me of the paper flower patterns I have seen on Pinterest occasionally. I should go take a browse and see if I can see a pattern for an iris. (I miss my iris now that my front garden is all shade). Tjarda would compare the petals she was making to the template, first getting the general shape, then adding the indentations indicated for each petal shape.

She used leather finger cots (protectors) as she held the petal and template to work on the edge with the needle. If you don’t have finger cots you can make them out of scraps of leather or you could try to “accidentally” cut the fingers off a strong leather glove. If you go for the latter plan, it may be best to find one stray glove and hope the other doesn’t reappear later. Also, test the leather with a felting needle to make sure the leather is thick enough to protect you while supple enough to use to hold your project.

Her last tool that intrigued me was a “mini Iron” for sewing and crafting. After a bit of searching and price checking, I found one online. This iron requests a heat mat which I have not yet tracked down. There are similar-looking tools for taking the wrinkles out of leather and another that fixes dents in car bumpers, both are reportedly much hotter and a lot more expensive. The ones I saw described for quilting while looking identical to the Craft version were more expensive. If you find one at a garage sale you may want to get it if it’s a good price. Hopefully, it’s one of the ones that has a temperature adjustment and rest for the hot end.

She used the little iron to flatten the petals and also add a bit of shape to them. The most important aspect seemed to be the flattening and increasing the adhesion of the felt. Unfortunately without a heat mat, I didn’t want to try out this part of her workshop. I will try it as soon as I can find the elusive mat.

Now on to trying to create a flower, not a rose but let’s see if I can find a paper flower pattern for an iris. So off to Google image to see what I can find. Success! I found a page from what looks like an old book on flower making. There were also pages out of another book, in Russian, that look interesting but it took me a while to find an iris.

1) https://i.pinimg.com/564x/9d/4f/76/9d4f76d3d25433c7582e8db41be8d7e6.jpg

2) https://i.pinimg.com/564x/9d/af/ac/9dafacd4d3bdeecf0a766c7b7b9ddd29.jpg

I found a more modern-looking page from a book that had templates for Iris petals. I tried to track the image back to find out what the English book was called and if I could still get a copy. I think it might be “Handmade Flowers from Paper and Fabric” but I can’t find a view of the inside to check. I will have to watch for a second-hand copy. Maybe Ann will spot a copy at Value Village?

3) cover of the book I think the pattern may have come from

4) Iris pattern

https://i.pinimg.com/564x/ab/6a/b3/ab6ab390722260765a706977a3bc3b21.jpg

OK, I have found a general pattern shape to do a test run on.

Iris test run.

I printed off the pattern and cut out the pieces, then transferred them to card stock. I used the pattern to layout fibre for the petal.

 5) original pattern pieces and transferred to card-stock

My first petal was “A”, (it’s the petal that has the beard on a bearded iris). I lay down thin wisps of variegated blue from the remnants of a braid of merino.  (yes I do have a bit of Merino wool)

6) Pattern “A” fibre laid out

I did not have a clover brush tool like the one that Tjarda had used, instead, I tried the Red higher density kneeling pad. After removing the template from under the wool, I was focusing on thin like the ice dragon’s wings…..nope that’s too thin.

7) adding more wool to thin spots in the petal

I added more fibre and used the fake clover tool very lightly to fill in the thinnest spot. I found that the fibre tended to spread a bit and I had to check the template regularly and readjust the edges.

8) shaping the edges with the felting needle (if you are careful you can hold the pattern and petal in your fingers and very carefully needle felt the edge)

Each petal does not have to be identical but it should be quite close to the same size and shape.

I carefully lifted the wool off the foam regularly turning the petal.

9) Gently lift the wool off the work surface and turn it frequently

I followed the instructions and made all the required petals. (Ax3, Bx3, Cx5 I am going to make the leaves later)

10) all the petals are now created.

The next step was to insert the wire into the petal. I made sure that the wire was hidden in the fibres and not visible on either side as much as I could. I added a bit more fibre to make sure the wire would stay hidden. I did this for each of the 3 “A” and “B” petals.

11) slide the wire into the petal and hide with a bit more wool if needed

At this point, I realized I didn’t have a high heat ironing mat. So decided to fall off the instructions and skip the anatomical correctness for the lower petals and instead had a bit of extra fun.  (this is just the prototype to see if the pattern pieces work or if the size needs adjusting.)

12) the cool Mini Iron II, with extra bits! (but not a heat pad)

I had been looking at my photo reference for a Bearded Iris, Instead of a small beard (practically a goatee as it were), I went for the full ZZ Top facial hair on my iris. If you are going to have a beard, you might as well see how long a beard you can grow. I had a bit of Bernadette’s combing waste for the beard.

After adding the excessive Beard-age to the lower “A” petals, it was time to start the assembly. I paired an A with a B and twisted the wires together. This gave me three pairs of petals, which I positioned and twisted together in one stem.

13) The ZZ Top of Bearded Irises!

14) the bare twisted stem

 Next, we need to have that green base just at the top of the stem with the twisted wire I did not have trouble adding green fibre to cover the wire, building it up under the iris.

15) the stem gets wool at the base of the flower and down the stem

I will still need to make leaves for the flower but let’s move on to the bud so we can get it to about the same spot as the flower is at this point.

To make the bud I made a round-bottomed cone with a floral wire embedded in it. I then added the remaining petals, one after another,  adding them around the cone core.

 16) the bud

I had no trouble building up the green base to the bud but wrapping the stem was not as easy.  I followed Tjarda’s lead and tried clear fabric glue on the wire before adding the wool. This worked but was a bit messy on the fingers. It did allow for a very thin layer of wool to be added so I may try it on other tiny-er projects.

17) Tacky-fabric-glue,  make sure it drys clear

Now it was time to make leaves. The pattern instructions suggest 4 long leaves and 2 short for around the bud. I had a nice (feels like Corriedale) green in the bag I had found the blue roving in.  I think this was the bag I put together to make wet felted iris flowers at a felt in at Carsonby Hall a few years ago (no wonder I seem to have almost all the colours I wanted in it!)

18) first of the 4 long leaves to make.

This is long Iris leaf #1 done with the wire inserted. I will need to make at least 3 more but not today.

It has been dark and overcast all day today. Looking out the office window, I keep seeing little occasional white bits floating past. Not enough to rebuild the snowbanks, but too much when I have just planted the first pot of snow peas! I also have the front yard grass raked and the topdressing with grass seed has been applied!! This is not the time for even a few flakes of snow!!! What happened to plans for spring and getting the side yard felting studio ready to work in?

Oh well, at least I am well on my way to having a nice blue Iris to look at even if our plans for spring change suddenly back to winter.

19) the full-bearded Iris

20) iris and bud with the first leaf.

Next time I will try out the T40 Crown needles and press the wool. I am still pleased by the thinness of the petals on the prototype especially since they are not ironed.

Have fun and keep felting and I hope someone is enjoying spring.

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