4th Quarter Challenge 2018

The theme of this year’s challenge has been Surface Design. So far, we’ve had Mixed Media, Nuno Felting, and Beneath the Surface. I was torn between a couple of ideas, but went with the one I had when the 4 of us discussed the theme for this year: something about rolling and twisting fibres. So my challenge is: Twists, Tubes and Yarns. I made a post not too long ago with some pieces I made with wool twists and tubes, and there is a video at the bottom which shows how to make the tubes using a kebab skewer. This is a pile of softly twisted wool I made:

To make the twists, I take small amounts of wool and fibres and while holding one end, roll the fibres across a surface, a piece of bubble-wrap is good. I then hold the other end, and twist again. You can ‘set’ the twist by spraying with a little water too. I made this piece about 10 years ago, it’s still one of my favourites:

You can make blends of wool in different colours, or blend fibres in. This piece is made with twists of wool and plastic fibre:

And, this piece is made with twists made with wool and commercial novelty yarns:

The wool tubes, or ‘kebabs’ are something I love to make, just making a pile of them feels creative and is really relaxing. I first made them accidentally when I realised a kebab skewer was great for poking into my little hand carders to pick up trapped fibres, and they’d come out easily if I rolled it around. I ended up with some funky/random tubes.

Like the wool twists, the wool tubes can be made of just wool, or wool blended with fibres, threads etc. Have a look at this post for some ideas: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2017/08/14/felted-wool-kebabs/
This is one of my fave pieces, probably because it had very little planning/thinking involved, I just grabbed a couple of colours of Merino and a handful of already made tubes:

Handmade yarns can be made from anything you can twist (try organza or plastic bags if you haven’t already!) and can be used in many ways. This piece is made with wool and some old threads and unravellings from fabric, from a previous challenge:

This is a wet felted piece I made using some of my earliest attempts at making hand made yarn on a drop spindle:

I tried out some other early yarn that I made on two pieces, one was wet felted:

And the other was needle felted:

It’s great for weaving with:

Or, if you want something a bit more adventurous, how about needling it onto a vessel (scroll down) https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2012/12/12/yarny-vessel/

So, there’s just a few ideas, if you’ve tried some or all of these before, step out of your comfort zone, try something new, and maybe even use some of this years previous challenges for inspiration or in combination!

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A picture for exhibition

Last week I missed doing my blog post because I had no power or internet. My area was hit by 6 tornados. We were not hit we had no damage.  Some areas near us were hit very hard, the large power substation near us was hit and some of the cell phone and internet towers too.

Before all that I did manage to work on my piece for the guild exhibition and sale. I  do not think I will get it done in time as it is due in a week.  The theme was a 100-mile inspiration. I decided to do a scene with the Parlement buildings. I am using 2 prefelt layers with a piece of cotton gauze in the middle for the background.

First I found a simple outline picture I could use for the outline of the building. I cut that out and tried it on the background.

I pinned it to another piece of prefelt and cut it out.

Then it was time to work ou the clouds.

After I took the picture and looked at it I realized I had made the clouds to symmetrical. Its funny how looking at a picture sometimes shows you more than just looking at it. I tacked all the pieces together with a few jabs of a felting needle

Next was adding fireworks as I am thinking it should be Canada Day.

Then I cropped the picture to see better how it will look.

I wet felted the piece and now I need to do some stitching around the building so it will show better.and my daughter said I should add beads around the fireworks like the sparkles you see with fireworks. I thought maybe some sparkly thread and a bead at the end of each firework.  What else would you add to this silhouette picture?











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Annual Art Retreat

My local art group had our annual art retreat the first weekend of September. We were lucky and had gorgeous weather and no smoke from any forest fires. We get together on Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday mid afternoon. Our two activities were deconstructed screen printing and gelatin plate printing.

Here we are inside doing some gelatin plate printing. The area in the middle is covered with plastic and we lay out all our work to dry. I took the photos from up in the loft. The floor was covered with loads of wonderful color by the end of the day.

Most of the photos that I took at the lodge didn’t come out all that well. The light isn’t good inside the building and it was a bit windy to take photos of papers outside. And I didn’t get any photos of screen printing because I always get so involved in the process that I forget to take photos. The slide shows below show mainly my work because I took photos afterwards but there are a few from other members. Anything on fabric or felt is not mine as I only printed on paper this time.

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These are deconstructed screen printing. Paula brought some paper coasters that we tried printing on too.

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And these are the gelatin plate printed samples. We used a variety of methods including stencils, magazine transfer and alcohol inks.

And here is the pile of printed papers that I can now use for my art and design class. I use them for collages and backgrounds. We had a great time and we’re already looking forward to next year. We have big plans for all our monthly sessions and I will share those as we go along. Do you have a group of people who you create with? We’d love to hear about it over on the free forum. It’s free to join and you can share your work, talk with other felt and fiber makers and ask questions. Come join us!

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Exploring Botanical Printing

A few weeks ago I spotted a last minute ecoprinting workshop that Kim Winter from Flextiles was running, this is a technique I have been curious about for some time so I jumped at the chance to go play with a lovely group of ladies. It turns out this is the perfect time of year (in the northern hemisphere) to be ecoprinting as most plants are at the end of their growing season and I don’t feel so bad about denuding my beautiful Acer knowing it will shed its leaves in the next few weeks anyway.

The workshop focussed on printing on silk, probably the easiest of fibres to print as it doesn’t need to be mordanted first. These are the pieces I made during the workshop, out of respect for Kim I am not going to share her methods here but I think most of what we learned is available on the net. All but the first piece were printed with an iron blanket:

Printed and simultaneously dyed with onion skin, note the repeat (ghost) prints as no barrier was used

Silk dyed with tanin and iron blanket

I also took a  few scraps of nunofelt along to the workshop just to see what would happen and was pleasantly surprised with the results:

Top piece was dyed with tanin before printing

Although I came away from the workshop with a good range of samples I wanted to test more of my local plants on both cotton and silk and with my notoriously hard local water. The cotton was mordanted with 10% Weight of Fabric (WOF) Alum (Aluminium Potassium Sulphate), rinsed and dried before use. Mordanting is a process that makes it possible for the dye to form a chemical bond with the fabric, therefore making the dye colours stronger and more light- and wash-fast.

For almost all the leaves I placed one leaf (on the left) with the veins facing the fabric and a second leaf with the veins facing up. In almost all cases the side with the veins gave the best print.

These are my results on silk, as you can see, some plants produce much better prints than others. Clicking on the photos should enlarge them enough to read my plant labels, I am ashamed to admit I don’t know names for all of the plants are, so some are just location labels for my own reference:

And these are my results on alum-mordanted cotton (the cotton is pink from a magenta coloured top included in the mordant bath, but had the unintended benefit of revealing which plants might discharge the dye):

In the next photo the leaves in the lower left corner clearly discharged the dye.

I also had a play with some natural dyes too, madder and logwood. My biggest learning is that madder loses its colour above 60ºC so printing with steam onto madder-dyed fabric causes the colour to fade. But how I love logwood! You can get anything from pale grey-purple through to the deepest indigo-purple colours depending on the strength of the bath and how long you steep your cloth.

Pre-dying cloth with logwood has opened up the option of discharge printing, a technique that relies on the ability of certain plants to remove the dye from the cloth. These are some of my test pieces, very few of the plants I tried removed any of the logwood dye:

Feeling brave I raided my local charity shops for pale coloured clothes with a high cotton content and these are the results of my first attempts, some I am really pleased with and have been wearing at every opportunity 🙂

This was my first attempt, I was a little disappointed that the large fern frond I placed on each side only left a pale smudge rather than a print but otherwise there were some nice geranium prints.

This was the offending magenta top that dyed my test cottons pink but I was really pleased with the subtle crimson prints it gave.

This one was initially shibori-dyed with logwood – that gave the barbed-wire effect across the top (best seen in the second photo) and then printed with sycamore and deutzia leaves.

This is my favourite print so far, it was predominantly sycamores and acer. The lovely orangey-yellows were from just one tree, it still amazes me how different trees from similar species give such different prints.

This shirt was dyed with logwood and then printed with sacred bamboo and sycamore leaves. Unfortunately you cannot see distinct leaf shapes from the bamboo, it looks more like I splattered the shirt with white paint, the sycamore leaves gave a nice crimson print though.

I tried reprinting over the white areas with some more sycamore leaves and some virginia creeper. I’m still not happy with it… perhaps I will dye it with logwood again and just print with sycamore leaves instead.

I found some very pale lilac jeans, they still had their original shop labels, clearly whoever bought them had second thoughts about them by the time they got them home. Initially I printed them with chestnut and geranium leaves but was really disappointed with the pale quality of the prints so over printed them with sycamore leaves, that added the yellows and greens you can see below. Some of the yellow patches were in some rather unfortunate places…

So back into the dye pot they went! This time I rolled the jeans up with more sycamore leaves and a few from my acer tree and put them in a logwood dye bath….

I was hoping the logwood would reach the groin area on the front as well as the back but I do like the way the purple plays against the yellow.

If you are interested in exploring ecoprinting, these are some resources that I have found useful:

Printing with Botanicals FB page – there are several FB pages dedicated to ecoprinting but this one insists that anyone posting their work shares the method they used – incredibly helpful for beginners.

Wild Colours  – a UK supplier of mordants and natural dyes but they also list methods and recipes on their website.

For natural dyeing I can recommend Jenny Dean’s book, Wild Colours, she provides recipes and methods as well as colour swatches to give you an idea of how alum and iron will impact the final colour.

If you are concerned about the toxitiy of mordants used in natural dyeing (that was my main reason for not attempting it sooner) you might find this post interesting: https://alpenglowyarn.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/mordants-and-natural-dyeing-the-great-debate/

Confused about the difference between mordants and chemical assists? Take a look at this:  http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/mordants_and_assists.shtml

Have you tried eco-printing? What results did you achieve?


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Finished Needle Felting

I finished the needle felted piece I showed in my last blog post, and with some nice, bright weather I managed to get a good photos of it too!

I also finished another piece that I made using the same wools from Cathy which I showed in a wet felted piece previously:

The natural dyed fibres look far less ‘harsh’ than the acid dyed ones, I think. This is the same Turmeric dyed locks I used on the wet felted piece:

And, I don’t know what this was dyed with, but I think it’s Alpaca:

And one last needlefelted piece, I had forgotten all about this one! I was looking for a box to use and found one on top of a bookcase, it didn’t seem to have much in when I shook it, I was surprised when I opened it and saw this! I’m not sure if I’d considered it finished or just forgot all about it. I made it using scraps I’d saved, I think I got concerned about some of the threads which had got mixed up in the ‘wool for birds’ tub, after reading about how threads and long hair are responsible for pigeons losing their feet. It’s really soft and lightly needled:

I think I’ll be making felted soaps this week, we made one at the well being centre on Monday and I didn’t hate it! What are your plans for this week?

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Liberty Bodice

This is a guest post by one of our forum members Antje Ream. 

Many women of a certain age will remember ‘Liberty Bodices’. These were the vests of the day. At the age of 7 or 8 I was not a fashionista, not like so many children today. We had more serious things to do like play doctors and nurses with our dolls or build dens with bed sheets over washing lines etc. All I remember about them was that they kept me warm but more importantly they had EXTREMELY fiddly rubber buttons down the front. Some bodices even had them on the side.

As already mentioned I am of a certain age, but to my surprise one of my bodices resurfaced a couple of years ago when my late father asked if I remembered this ‘cloth’. He had been using it for decades as a shoe polishing cloth.  Although badly stained it was still complete and somehow it set my creative juices going….which meant dad had to find ‘another’ cloth! Sadly the rubber buttons totally dissolved when I laundered it.

Above I’ve started stitching, although I didn’t like it. Nearly two years later and the juices had found the right recipe. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. I started to stitch around the stains using different colours and types of stitch, but nothing tooooooo complicated. It helped me remember many happy times growing up.

From my avid explorations and research on (read that as addiction to!) Pinterest I gleaned some useful ideas, combined with input from my EPH (Ever Patient Husband – he is a brilliant hobby painter so has a good eye) and others, I finally completed my slow stitch piece. The last few days were not quite ‘slow’ stitch as I wanted to enter it into a village show. Then came the method of presentation problem.

Using a piece of polished driftwood, I roped my neighbour into helping me create the stand – the night before!

I titled the piece….Polished Childhood. I could say more about the colours and continuous line of stitches but I’ll leave that to your imagination. Unable to replace the original buttons I recreated them by making individually patterned ‘Dorset’ buttons and stitching a comment about the rubber ones as a reminder. Dad would have loved the result and we would both have laughed and giggled at all the memories. Writing this has just made me realize the bodice is a tribute to him (and my still active mum)….totally by chance.

EPH and I arrived at the show just at packing up time….WOOHOO……..a red ticket I will certainly treasure!

Thanks for the wonderful post Antje! I am sure it will bring smiles to the faces of those who remember wearing the same type of bodice.




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West Carleton Fibre Guild’s tour of the Puppet exhibit

Although the Ottawa Valley weavers and spinners guild is the largest guild in eastern Ontario, we also have many smaller neighbour guilds. One of the closest neighbours is the West Carleton Fibre Guild who hold their meetings on a Tuesday afternoon in Dunrobin, Ontario (just a bit past the west end of Kanata).  But the September’s meeting was special.

1 door of the museum

Back door of the Almonte Textile Museum


They had a field trip to the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte. The trip was planned so they could have a special tour of the Puppet exhibit by Noreen Young.  At present there are 3 exhibits at the museum.  There permanent display of Mill equipment and modern weaving looms, a spectacular quilt exhibit and Noreen Young: a Puppet Retrospective.  With 150 examples of some of her life’s work in puppetry.  She is internationally known and has received the order of Canada for work with producing, writing and puppeteering in many children’s and educational programs.


2 Poster for the exhibit            3 fist puppet in the exhibit

Poster for the exhibit.                                   First puppet in the exhibition (a rod puppet with detachable legs

4 Noreen with her first puppet Noreen with her first puppet

She gave us a tour through the exhibit explaining different puppets and giving anecdotes of her work with them.  She was asked if she had a favorite and told us her Granny character, Mrs. Gertrude Diddle and Gloria Gopher she was particularly fond of.  She took some down from the display and showed us how they moved and what they voice sounded like.  She did the voices for most of her puppets but occasional had to lip sink to a voice actor which was harder.

Almost all her puppets were to be worked with the puppeteer below holding one arm up to operate the mouth and the other hand controls the rods to move the hands. She showed us how it was important to make the puppets bob as they moved or it looked like they were skating along or floating in the air witch just wasn’t right.


Her earliest work was in the 60’s “Hi Diddle Day” 1967 to 1976. These puppets are in a glass display case with a couple more the puppet cast.  Not all the puppets are in display cases though.


Displayed on shelves with monitors showing bits of the program they were used for beneath them were the Puppets for “under the Umbrella tree” which ran on CBC, Disney and Canal Famille from 1987-1997.



She explained about the studio being an old garage and having a lower ceiling than studios usually had.  So the puppeteers had to sit on rolling boxes since they could only raise the live actor up a certain height before the ceiling was a problem.  For most shows she said the puppeteers stood on the floor with the live actors raised on platforms so they could interact with the puppets.  The head bands the puppeteers are wearing holds their mikes.  This insures the mike is always the same distance from their mouth as they switch between looking up at the puppet and down at their scripts.


There were puppets from series I didn’t remember but am now sorry I missed. “Bats” from a 1987 Pilot.


Also “Wacky Palms” from 1994 about a small boutique resort in the Bermuda triangle.  Run by a cow with a theatrical past and with an eclectic staff.  Strange things happen when a time portal opens and havoc is unleashed upon the hotel.


She said that some of her most effective puppets had elements of movement such as the feathers for hair, parts that dangled or the way the fabric moved with the puppet.


Noreen was also known for her Caricatures of real peoples.  Her Prince Charles from 1975, created for “What’s new” a kids news show for CBC, is very recognizable.  She also made a copy of the mayor of Ottawa.



She has made caricatures of may Almonte area people (about 50 on display) who have been used in various puppet shows in the area.  She was the artistic Director for “Puppets up!”; an annual international puppet show from 2005 to 2016. International puppet shows from across the planet performed in the tiny town of Almonte.

There are some puppets that can be interacted with.  It will take 2 people to run them one is the head and hands and a second person runs the feet.

She did puppets for and educational spot about food nutrition.

This is the Granny Bride puppet she made for a friend in 2000.


I didn’t recognize this group of puppets but it looks like an interesting cast.


Her last work was with a puppet opera called “sleeping rough” which was performed in Ottawa 2018 as part of the series music and beyond.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVQGUjLM-WU&feature=share )


Most of Her puppets are made by sculptor the head in plasticine then casting it.  She uses the cast to create the flexible, expressive rubber faces she uses in her puppets.

She has given 3 workshops on making puppets during the run of the exhibit and has another lecture to do before the exhibit closes. My husband was lucky enough to get a spot in one of her workshops.  She said he was very well prepared and had amazing focus making his puppet Blacksmith.  He said he had a blast and was very glad he had gone.


Glenn Martin Blacksmith puppet


This exhibit made me smile!  I couldn’t help but feel happy looking at all the puppets many I recognized. I am sure you would enjoy seeing them too.  Keep an eye out for Noreen she says she drops by regularly to the exhibit.


The Exhibit runs to September 22 2018 so if you have a chance jumps in the car and ask the GPS to take you to the Mississippi Textile Museum https://mvtm.ca/?exhibition=noreen-young-retrospective


3 Rosamond Street East, Almonte, Ontario K0A 1A0

Phone: (613) 256-3754
Email: curator@mvtm.ca

Fall/Winter HOURS

  • Tuesday to Friday 10am – 4pm
  • Saturday noon – 4pm
  • Closed Sunday & Monday

Museum Admission: $7.00
Members admitted without charge. Children under 12 are always free.


Posted in Fairs and Shows, Guest Artists, Guest Writer, Mixed Media, Uncategorized, workshops | Tagged , , | 7 Comments