Carding and Blending

Over the break at New Year, I thought it’d be a good time to tidy up our supplies from the Well Being Centre. I mentioned at the beginning of the year I’d made a start on the fabrics tub. I also cleared out the equipment tub. Which inevitably led to clearing out the main wool tub! Not surprisingly we end up with lots of scrap bits of wool tops from the classes, from wisps left over from projects, to strips which have got clumped or matted from being in the bottom of the box or shoved around during searches. I thought it was easiest to just bring home all the wool to do a stock check. I sorted it all into piles, starting with single colours which had just become matted, or pulled all to bits:

Then I made piles of all the small left over bits, and grouped them according to colour. Reds, oranges and yellows Merino:

Red, orange and yellow textured tops (made from a previous scrap tidy up, some of these are probably 5th generation now!)

There were purples, blues and turquoise Merino shades:

And lots of Merino greens:

I started with carding the single colours which just needed refreshing or neatening up, then moved onto blending. We had a few other supplies I could add in, and plenty of my own to add a bit of brightness or contrast here and there. I tried not to overblend them so they had good shows of colour rather than just making a new shade. It’s not that easy to see with the blues though! This is one of the batts made from the mid blues:

The mid to dark blue one with a few flashes of purple refused to be photographed as a batt, but rolled up is fairly accurate:

I forgot to photograph one of the green ones, but this mid-greens looks nice:

The orange textured batt looked much the same as it did before, but is now useable again!

And the Red, orange and yellow batts always look good:

I think the blue blends I took in have already been used and half each of the reds/greens 🙂

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A Spin in.

Saturday I spent the day at a spin in not to far form home. There were lots of people there. More people arrived after I took these pictures, mostly wheels but ther were a few of us on spindles.

There were things to buy of course

There were door prizes.

And show and tell, this amazing blanket Rams and Ewes I think it is called. it is a double knit so it is double thick and the back is different then the front. The wool is all natural coloured Shetland I believe. Click onthe picture to get a batter look. here is a link to the pattern if you are interested.

I got a close up of this dog collar and leash,

Here are some other . I didn’t get  picture of the table after it filled up, sorry. I was to busy chatting.

And lastly some tiny little handwoven pillows. So if you thought you don’t have the room to weave , you do.

This is my loot, a bag of Massum, a bag of silk cocoons, and a new sketch book.

That was my Saturday well wasted. Nothing better than sharing a fun day with old and new friends doing something you all love.





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First Quarter Challenge Part Two

The First Quarter Challenge is all about adding mixed media to surface design. I wrote earlier about adding poured paint to the surface of felt and cotton fabric. It took several days for the poured paint to dry but it eventually did.

Here are two photos of the poured paint on felt piece. The photo on the left is when the paint was still wet and the photo on the right is when it was dry. Quite a change for sure. It isn’t quite as hideous as it was.

Here’s a comparison of the cotton piece, left is wet and right is dry. So the pieces do change quite a bit as they dry. If you try this, don’t get too attached to a pattern that is still wet.

I peeled the felt and cotton off the canvases because I wanted to add machine stitch to the fabric. One lesson I learned is that I should have pulled the felt/fabric off the canvas when it wasn’t bone dry. It did come off but both pieces were really glued down to the canvas.

Here are the two canvases after the felt and fabric was removed. The one on the left is from the felt and the one on the right is the cotton. I am considering whether I will add more paint to the one on the right as it looks very “galaxy” like. But I haven’t decided yet.

Here’s the back side of the felt on the left and the cotton on the right. It’s interesting how different the front is from the back side. I considered stitching on the back side of the felt but I really didn’t like the look of the white paint. It reminds me of bird poop and I just couldn’t get that out of my mind. So I stitched on the front side.

The felt was very stiff and pretty thick with the paint on it but I used a size 90 embroidery needle on my machine and free motion stitched some simple organic lines. I used orange and blue green threads. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, you can see that there are more than three stitched lines. I used straight stitch and zig zag stitch. It actually stitched much more easily than I thought it would. The needle did make some awful noises when it hit a hard piece of thick paint but it didn’t break the needle or even cause much issue with thread breaking. I probably should change that needle though before I sew something else. I decided to keep the stitching fairly simple and not spend an enormous amount of time on this piece. It isn’t the worst or ugliest thing I have ever made but it certainly isn’t a masterpiece either.

Here’s the back after stitching. I do think this side adds a bit more excitement to the piece but I still see bird poop.

After stitching, I stapled the felt back on to the canvas. Not bad considering how ugly it was after I poured it. You can see how much surface texture there is in the close up. The paint certainly gives the felt a different look. So I may try this again. If so, I would try a finer felted surface such as merino to see how it accepts the paint.

Now I have to decide what to do with the piece of cotton. Should I add stitching to this one? Or should I cut it up and applique it to another surface? Or should I make it into a small bag? It’s only 8″ x 10″ so the bag would be small. But it has a nice feel to the fabric because the paint gives it some ‘body’, almost like leather. What would you do?

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Life Felting

A year ago, I signed up for a life drawing class, not really sure what to expect but I knew I needed to expand my portfolio if I wanted to study art and design / textile design further.


I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it, Tuesday evenings soon became the highlight of my week. Like everyone else, I was working with charcoal and pastels but a turning point came when I met a lady at an untutored life drawing session who was making collages of the model with acrylic “felt”. I cringe to call it felt, the fuzzy plastic she was cutting up bears very little resemblance to the woolly gorgeousness that we all know and love 🙂

The following week I turned up with a sheet of commercial needle-punch prefelt as a base and large  bag of wool tops and fabrics for felting. Sarah was my first muse and I am still working on her, she is being treated to a lot of hand-stitching that is taking weeks to complete, this was her after felting and adding some stitch around her eyes:


And as she looks today, still lots more stitching planned, she is giving my hands something to do while sat in front of the TV in the evening:


Chantelle and Omar were the models at the next session, this time I used some low-immersion dyed prefelts as the base and Chantelle was collaged from screen-printed prefelts I made during Ruth’s online class.

Chantelle is still at the prefelt stage and she needs a lot of work,


but Omar’s hands are progressing nicely,


I think the background could be more interesting, what do you see  when you look at the dyed background?


This is a line drawing on a printed photo that could be one option…


And finally, I tried a new technique with Terry, mixing rust dyed fabric with Kap Merino. Kap merino is a very short fibre wool that is lovely to “paint” with but unfortunately it isn’t that easy to source, I bought mine from Woolknoll in Germany.


Kap merino with cm measure

Terry is still at the very soft prefelt stage but I am happy with today’s progress and I hope to take the sander to him later this week. This is what he looked like first thing this morning…


And after another 5 hours work on him today… I can still see areas that need fixing, it is funny how you see things looking at a photograph that you don’t see when looking at the felt 🙂


Are you interested in finding a life-drawing group near you? Most further education colleges with an art department offer evening classes, these are usually quite structured and they are great way to get a grounding in traditional methods of drawing the human figure but they might not be so keen on you turning up with a large bag of wool instead of charcoal 🙂 Alternatively, most towns have informal life drawing groups, where someone organises for a model to sit each week or month and you pay per session or series of sessions. I found Meet Up to be a great source for finding these groups (and other art and craft groups). They are typically untutored so they are much more amenable to weirdos like me turning up with armfuls of fluff and a bottle of soapy water! 🙂  Do check how long each pose will last before turning up with your wool though, I would find it tough to work with anything less than hour. Be prepared for lots of questions about what you are doing, I think most of the Guildford group are genuinely fascinated by what I am doing and the models say they enjoy watching me work too (they normally just have the back of easels to look at).

If you are curious to see these pieces when they are finished,  I will be posting about them here in the coming weeks.

And finally, a shameless plug 🙂 Registration for the very popular concertina hat class, the one with the cute snail hat tutorial, will open tomorrow please follow this link for more information and fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page if you would like to join us. Alternatively, you might like to admire the wonderful creations from previous students here.


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Jan’s 3rd Quarter 2017 Challenge Part 3

Now the final installment of Jan’s 3rd quarter challenge.

Part 3 finishing

I had been working on pieces of the waves while waiting for my mom at various doctor appointments. So I was able to try out the parasol to see if the concept would work. I was pleased but most of the crowd looked confused.

The demo display of felting included Miaka’s Cat Cave Coelacanth fish and the sheep head I had made at a workshop with Wendo (a local felter who felts very quickly) everyone seemed very interested in the little balls of wool top. I think it was the bright colours.

I continued refining the colour on the octopus and adding more sections of wave pieces at the weekly Monday social at the guild. I also showed off the progress at Show and tell during the guild meeting.

It was getting close to Christmas and I knew I would have 2 days to finish the polar bear I was also working on and come to a decision about the boats and fishermen. I did decide to add the fishing boats but let the octopus play with…Er, “rescuing” them. I made the 3 long skinny canoe like boats underneath there is a keel and you may be able to see the upturned prow. Other than shape and general colour I did not do as much detail with them. I was pleased overall with the final look.

So let’s review the original inspiration and what has happened to it!

Into the box to be wrapped as my nieces Christmas present. She is good at swimming and likes the water so I hoped she might enjoy the octopus.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about how I finally got the 3rd quarter challenge finished if just a bit late. But I hope it was worth the wait. I do have a polar bear that I could show you if you are not too overwhelmed with pictures! Maybe I should save that in case Ann ever asked me to write you a note again!
All for now, Jan.

I hope you all enjoyed Jan’s story. I will share her other posts later in the winter.

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Jan’s 3rd Quarter 2017 Challenge Part 2

Part 2 of Jan’s post: 

Part 2 create the base and start the octopus

Layout the background.
I had a bag of mystery white wool and some super wash merino, combining them together, I started my base layer. Then I lay in a line for the sky line and spent hours playing Runescape (AFK stuff like fishing and harassing trees) on the computer while hand blending the golden tan colour for the sky. I worked over the big 3 inch thick foam square I got at Walmart for the 12 x 12 pieces I did earlier in the summer. It again worked great with my wicked multi-needle metal tool to make a quick base from which to start.
     10 Needle Felting Tool – Aluminum

I had to put this project aside to work on the guild library, restructuring the Dewey Decimal Classification project, but was able to return to the Felting Challenge in September as my demo project at the carp fair.

There was a lot of interest in felting and lots of requests for Felting workshops this year. I directed them to the guild website and told them there would be more workshops for 2018 on felting so check the new schedule when it was up in November.

Carp Fair demo – the octopod is created…..sort of.
Carp Fair is an old fashion rural fair on a big scale. The Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners guild is in the Antique section. Usually we freeze since it’s the last weekend in September. We have spent many years demoing weaving, spinning and felting there, cursing the cold weather. (I can spin without feeling my fingers but not for too long or too well.) Well this year our pleas were answered. We had the hottest weekend of the summer, we were fine as long as we stayed in the shade of the tent and didn’t stand up! SO I got a lot of felting done.

Using my photo reference I chose the general shape and pose I wanted for the octopus to have. I had brought a package of pipe cleaners from the dollar store and had decided that 2 twisted together would make a good leg support armature and allow me to bend the tentacles as I wanted later.

Math is not my best skill it’s right down there with spelling actually but I can count to 8 twice. So I laid out 8 pairs of pipe cleaners beside me on the table, twisting them together as I put them down. (Are you having awful premonitions yet?) I pulled out my Rideau Arcott core wool and started shaping the slope back for the head, and adding the first leg. Then wrapped it with wool.

Friday is when all the kids come to the fair to do “research” for a questionnaire they have to fill out and to do the games and rides. They usually wander through the antique section in waves, it wasn’t too busy this year. We also had a canon being fired and a tractor parade in our area. So it was a bit busy in the early morning and later in the afternoon, it was quieter at the hottest part of the day.

Got to the last leg and started to build up the tentacles with more core wool to get the more triangular shape. By the end of the day I had what was obvious some kind of octopus like creature.

Saturday morning;
Once I had the general shape to my liking I started with the super wash to lay in the colour. I have discovered that super wash has exquisite colours and take forever to felt…. I will not be lured in by the evils of super wash again! It will felt with needle felting but it is a lot of extra work and it makes felting a lot slower! I will likely just save the super wash and blend it with corriedale or merino that still has all its scales.

One of the woman who was working at one of the other displays in the antique section came over and asked “does your octopus have 7 legs?” No I’m sure I put out 8 sets of pipe cleaners to start with. Oh no, one is missing, too late.

Sunday Carp fair;

The Octopus has its base colour layer, and one-sided blow-hole. I used a few fine skewers to rap the wool then Felted it quite firmly pulling out skewers as it shrunk. Thus making a hollow blow tube which I added to the skin fold just behind his/her eye.

You will have to wait for the next post to see how he/she turns out.

Posted in Challenges, Design, Guest Writer, Needle Felting, sculptural felt | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Jan’s 3rd Quarter 2017 Challenge Part 1

My friend Jan really got into the 3rd quarter challenge. She worked on it most of the summer and fall. If you have read other posts by Jan you know she is a great story teller. So, I had to break this into 3 posts. This post and the next 2 will take you on a journey with Jan from concept to finished challenge.

3rd quarter challenge part 1 the Plan

I was instantly intrigued by the third quarter challenge. I have always appreciated the aesthetic of Japanese prints and the Hokkaido wave had been particularly interesting to me. A bit strange when you consider I really don’t like getting wet. Ok, I am a bit hydrophobic. When I look at the Wave I don’t concentrate on the impending death of the fishermen in there precariously tipped boats, the fact that mount Fuji may be plunged into unpleasant wetness at any moment but that the repetitiveness of the design on the inside of the wave reminds me of a Japanese umbrella. Umbrellas are good. They keep you from wetness. A giant umbrella in the middle of the ocean sounds almost appealing, as if you might stay dry surrounded by all the wetness.

OK, I have a theme. Now who would need an umbrella in the middle of the ocean? Hmmm. An octopus!

The Great Wave off Kanagawa also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833 in the late Edo period as the first print in Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It is Hokusai’s most famous work.

As you may have noticed I tend to do flat pictures with a bit more thickness than flat pictures usually have. So the concept of taking a print you like and using it to inspire something from it but not make a copy will not be a problem. OK wave as umbrella, and octopus holding umbrella. Other elements of the print to work into the finished pieces. The sky, the other littler waves and maybe the boats with fishermen, or maybe not the boats with fishermen. I have nothing against fishermen, I really do like to fish. But I’m not to fond of boats. They are just tempting fate. Why leave nice solid ground if you don’t have to? So let us leave the boats for a later consideration.

I had a plan and all within half an hour of reading the email. A quick sketch (I thought I had lost it but found it inside my new needle felting box. This is why the original idea and the preliminary execution differs quickly. I lost the sketch by putting it somewhere safe.)

Then a trip to the wonderful internet to “acquire” reference photos and do a bit of research.

I’ve got the wave (I found 3 graphics of the wave one with the fishermen very easily visible) so let’s get umbrellas.

Now for some octopuses/octopi.

Phase 1 Planning is complete.

Posted in Challenges, Design, Guest Writer, Inspiration, Needle Felting, sculptural felt, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments