Lapwings Felt Picture

Lapwings Felt Picture

I’ve recently made a new felt picture of lapwings so I thought I’d show you how I went about it.

As you’ll know, if you’ve read my other blogs here, I live on the East Kent coast in the UK and am particularly fond of the local birds. I’ve seen some beautiful flocks of lapwings including at a small nature reserve just along the coast at Oare. I’ve not attempted lapwings before though they are really beautiful birds, so I thought I should have a go.

I’ve only seen lapwings in quite large flocks – I’ve never seen one on its own – so I thought I should have at least 2 birds in the picture. I did a quick sketch to help me decide on the size and stance of the birds

I started with the background. The birds at Oare were on the wet, grassy edges of a lake, very near the sea. Here’s the background laid out & ready to start felting.

I spent a while thinking about how to represent the lapwings’ lovely iridescent feathers and decided on lots of prefelt.

I had some blended greenish wool that was perfect for the main feathers though I had no idea where it came from or what it was. As I made some prefelt I tested out the shrinkage – mostly just to be sure it would felt rather than getting a specific shrinkage.

Then I set about prefelt for all the other lovely colours. The dark green sections are scraps of recycled silk from my favourite source: a charity shop scarf. The others are mixtures of different merino wool colours. I was particularly pleased with the dark section on the right which was a bottom layer of blue and top layer of charcoal grey. It was just the effect I was hoping for. With hindsight I should have used silk for the light green & pink / purple too as that would have given me more shine.

Here’s the prefelt cut up & arranged in a bird shape.

And here are the 2 birds once fully felted but still wet

And here I am deciding how to position the birds on their background.

I needle felted the birds into the background then added eyes, other face details, legs (using recycled tapestry wool) & head plumes. If you look closely you can see I also fiddled a little with the background: needling in extra strands of grass to soften the edges of the water.

The lapwings went straight into an exhibition with 4 other big pictures plus some smaller pieces at my local gallery: the wonderful Horsebridge Community Arts Centre in Whitstable. Here’s my display (not a great photo, sorry).

And I’ll finish with a quick shot of a beautiful painting I bought at that exhibition.  I’ve been looking for something to hang over my bed for ages and I thought this was perfect.

Painted by my friend, the artist Josephine Harvatt. The title “When you wake up it’s a new morning”  is particularly apt for over the bed. I love it. If you want to see more of Josephine’s beautiful work, here’s an Instagram link.

Fun With Colour – Dartmoor Dyeing

Fun With Colour – Dartmoor Dyeing

The Albany (on Auckland’s North Shore) Spinners held their annual dye in April that they titled, “Dartmoor dyeing”. Dartmoor dyeing involves splitting your unwashed fleece into 4 equal portions, dyeing the portions red, yellow, blue and green, then dividing each colour 4 times, keeping 1 portion aside and dyeing other 3 portions from each colour in the other colours (so 3 of the 4 blue pieces would be distributed to the red, yellow and green dye vats). From what I have read, you can achieve some lovely variations within each section of fleece due to the lanolin in the fleece inhibiting dye uptake in some areas more than other.

I hadn’t heard of the term Dartmoor Dyeing before (have you?) but I have seen dye courses that describe mixing dyes in cups, I expect with very similar results, does that technique have a name? Sequential dyeing perhaps? This all got me thinking about a colour theory course I took as part of my Diploma in Art and Design and the dyed samples I made after the course.

Anyone who knows me or my work will probably have noticed I have a soft spot for bright colours, particularly complementary or split complementary combinations. If you’re not sure what complementary colours are, this link covers the basics of colour theory in a fun interactive way* (the tool in the top right is great if you are looking for colour inspiration too). I think colour theory, and especially its impact on human psychology, is fascinating.

*Edit – feel free to skip over the sections where they discuss the RGB colour wheel, this is specific to optical colour mixing (what computers and TVs do) and completely at odds with how dyer’s and painters mix colours.

I am always sorely tempted by the dizzying array of colours on the Dharma Trading web site but you really don’t need to buy every colour. The vast majority of colours can be mixed from just the 3 primary colours.

A word of caution before you go shopping: The dyer’s colour wheel differs slightly from the red, blue and yellow primary colours of the traditional / painter’s colour wheel. For most dye brands, the primary colours are magenta, turquoise and yellow. The brands with a wider a range of colours will almost certainly also have a red and a blue but they are invariably made from a mix of the primary dye pigments, this means that when you start mixing them with other colours you will end up with muddy tones to your colours. If your brand offers a choice of yellows and it is not clear which one is the primary yellow, pick the brightest / coolest yellow i.e. a lemon yellow rather than a sunset yellow. Yellows with the warmer tones may have been mixed with a tiny amount of magenta which will make it impossible to achieve a bright green.

My go-to colours for dyeing are magenta, turquoise, yellow, black and silver grey. As you will see below it is fairly easy to make your own black by dyeing with magenta and turquoise to saturation but I find it handy to have black premixed. I find silver grey is a tricky colour to achieve by colour mixing and I like using it for space dyeing so I keep a small pot of it in my stash.

My Dye Set Up

This set up is for acid fast dying of animal fibres (wool, silk, feathers etc) but the colour mixing could easily be adapted for fibre-reactive dyes used on plant-based fibres.

Instead of the traditional vat / large pan full of dye method, I like to use zip lock bags in a steamer so I can dye multiple different colours simultaneously with just one heat source. Because this is a low immersion technique you will get more variation in the depth of colour across the contents of each bag, if you are wanting solid, even colours using the dye vat / pan method is recommended, this allows you to move your fibre through the dye pot so the fibre is more evenly exposed to the dye.

To achieve reproducible results, especially if you are dyeing small amounts (less than 100g) of dry fibre, I recommend premixing your dye powder with water. This also means you don’t need to wear a face-mask for the whole dye session (masks are only needed while the dyes are still in powder form). I keep my liquid dyes at room temperature and they all work well, even after several months on the shelf.

To make a liquid concentrate I mix 1g of dye per 10ml of water and store them in water-tight jars. The dye tends to settle out of solution while stored so the jars will need a shake before each use.

For the dye bath, I prefer to use citric acid crystals rather than vinegar to avoid that residual “fish and chip shop” smell you get with vinegar. I use citric acid at a rate of 15-20g per 5 litre bucket of warm water and add about a teaspoon of dish-soap to that to aid wetting out of the fibres.

I pre-soak my fibres in the acid / soap solution for a few minutes while I prepare the dye and dye bags.

Let the fun begin!

For this project I was working with 10 x 10 cm (4″) squares of merino prefelt and tiny skeins of super-wash merino yarn, so diluted 2 ml of dye concentrate in 10 ml of water (this made my working solutions 0.2g of dye in 12ml water).

I chose to work with just the 3 primary colours but you could add any of the secondary colours if you wish, but note you will get a range of browns and grey tones in some of your samples.

I ended up with 16 different colours from the 3 primary colours:

Turquoise Yellow Magenta

With so many different colour combinations it is easy to lose track, so I pre-labelled all my bags:

Tip: I stand each bag in a 1 litre jug before pouring some acid water (about 150ml – just enough to cover the fibre) from the bucket the fibre is soaking in. You can add extra water after adding the fibre if you find there isn’t enough to cover it.

Then I added 1.5 – 2 ml of my diluted dye. For example the MMY bag received 1 ml of Magenta and 0.5 ml of Yellow. The TMMY bag received 0.5 ml Turquoise, 1 ml Magenta and 0.5 ml Yellow.

The bag was jiggled to mix / disperse the dye before dropping in a piece of pre-soaked felt. Excess air was squeezed out of the bag, the bag sealed and stacked in the steamer with the “zip” uppermost (just in case it pops open as any trapped air inside expands) .

I steam my bags for an hour (the dye only needs about 30 min at around 80 degC to fix but they also need some time to get up to temperature). I leave the bags in the steamer to cool overnight before rinsing the next morning.

Tip: The water in the bag should be clear when you come to rinse the fibre, if it isn’t you have used more dye than you needed to but you can still use the remaining dye to dye some more fibre a paler colour – just drop in your pre-soaked fibre and steam as you did before.

After rinsing, I left the samples on their bags to dry so I could figure out which was which!

Here are some of the samples arranged in the primary, secondary and tertiary colour wheel that most people will be familiar with:

Similar to mixing paint, I have noticed the yellow dye is not as intense as the magenta and turquoise, this is most obvious in the MY (equal quantities of yellow and magenta) square, which should give an orange colour but is closer to a scarlet red and the YYM square that should be a yellowy-orange but is orange.

The same samples as above but with the complementary colour mixes (for example mixing red and green or yellow and purple) added to the centre, by including all 3 primary colours in different quantities you can get different shades of browns and greys:

I suspect I forgot to jiggle the TMY bag before dropping the sample into it, oops!

I also dyed some super-wash yarn to saturation (approx. 0.1g dye per mini-skein) – all of these bags had a tinge of colour in the water after dyeing. The samples at the violet end of the range (bottom of the photo) are very nearly black.

I had a few mini skeins left over after the saturation dyeing so dropped those in with the felt samples, just to see how they would compare to the “saturated” skeins. The blocks in the photo with 2 skeins on them are the extra skeins. Most are predictably very similar in colour to the felt block they were dyed with but the TTM skein is definitely more blue than its felt block.

If you don’t have time to dye lots of wool samples but want a record of which colours you can achieve by mixing the dyes you already have, you can use the same technique but brush the mixed dyes onto heavy weight cartridge or water colour paper. This is an example from one of my sketchbooks where I have mixed slowly increasing amounts of one dye colour into the other:

The 3 columns on the right are what you can expect to achieve it you mix complementary colours (green with magenta, violet with yellow, turquoise with orange).

I also did something similar with my watercolour paints, this is just one page of 4 charts – I find these charts really useful reference when I am trying to mix a specific colour:

Covers for Carders

Covers for Carders

New Carders need new covers

In a recent post, I was asked about carder covers. I made mine quite a few years ago, ok at least 20 years ago, but had not got around to making ones for the other hand carders I own. (it’s just the others didn’t get out much and I got distracted, you know how that can happen I am sure!)  I had picked up 3 pairs second hand I think as part of a box lot at an auction.  They were ones with curved backs and not as old as some hand carders I have seen. These probably come from the 1970s. I have no guess as to the manufacturer. The only clue is a mysterious symbol on the back of each set.   “A”, “B”. “C”, I am afraid that these mystic symbols are not illuminating as to their origins. Luckily these strange symbols have not affected their ability to card wool.

Last week I picked up another hand carder, this one with significantly stiffer teeth than my present collection. I have also found that my safety carders have been coming with the Mers and will also need some safety covers (but not today). I have used a thin packing foam for the pet combs until I can make them covers too.

First, let’s have a look at the new carders;

My latest acquisition is made from a soft wood that is ruff on the end grain. I suspect it is probably pine.  The handles, although the same colour, seems to be made of a slightly firmer wood. The teeth are embedded in a canvas fabric, then glued and tacked to the wooden carder. Bernadette said she had a similar pair and that the stiff teeth are excellent for courser wool.

As I said the teeth are very stiff and have little flexibility. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to protect them.

second hand carders, wood is ruff on edges and teeth are very stiff handle of second hand carder, ruff with small dents (needs sanding)1-2 The new to me, carders before sanding

3 close up of Foam drying pad cut to cover carder teeth3 close up of Foam drying pad cut to cover the carder teeth

What you will need to make these carder covers

fome and microfiber dish drying mat elastic and velcro straps Quilt squares with sheep alpaca and mice foam sanding block (sandpaper would work too)4-7 Items used to make the carder’s covers

  • 1 Dish drying foam mat
  • 2 Elastic and velcro straps
  • Interesting fabric
  • (you may need a sanding block or sandpaper if your carder is a bit ruff)
  • A ruler, pen and sewing machine are also helpful.

When I made my first cover, I wanted to have something a bit softer than just the fabric cover to protect the teeth.  I found a bathroom soft scrubby pad, it said polyurethane foam covered by a “new” microfiber top. They were available at Walmart and then Dollarama, so picked a few up. Silly me I did not reserve all I had purchased for the hand carder protection as planned but used some for their original purpose of cleaning!!! they were available for about 3 years and then mysteriously disappeared from both my sources. They were replaced by a much larger, but similar, product called a “microfiber dish drying mat”. Its tag says Polyurothatin foam and 100% polyester cover. It is very much like the original pad but huge at 15” X19.5”! (I  could cover a large drum carder rather than just small hand cards with it!  ….HUM………NO! NO! That will have to be a later project!!) Luckily it is easy to cut to the correct size to fit the little carders with my cheap paper scissors. Ok, now I have the foam pads to protect the teeth.

For my newest set of carders, because the end grain is ruff, I will also need a sanding block to smooth it and prevent splinters. (Splinters are never good, they wind up in either your fingers or the wool.) I found a two-pack of foam sanding blocks at Dollarama. The local hardware store will have them or some old fashion sandpaper and a block of wood. In a pinch, a foam nail file will work as sandpaper too

  8 sanding the back of the hand carder taking out chips at edges ad little scratches and punctures8 sanding the back of the hand carder taking out chips at the edges and little scratches and punctures

half the hand carder handle is sanded the other half is still ruff 9 half the handle is sanded(lower half)

working at smothing the end grain of the carder, the wood is likly a soft pine10 working at smoothing the end grain

Now that I have the worst of the roughness smoothed and have pieces of foam to protect the teeth. now I can get the fabric and measure it out to make the covers.  The overall pattern is simply, a rectangle with long tabs attached at one end.  Depending on the shape of the fabric you have, changes where you will put your seams.  If you don’t have much of the fabric you like (say one with sheep), you can use a different fabric on the inside. luckily I have just enough!!

To make the cover closure you have a few options, sew-on Velcro is easy to use and seems to be common.  If you haven’t quite got around to sewing on the Velcro, you can try what I have been using  “Stretch utility straps” (elastic with Velcro on the ends.)I wrap the elastic over the tabs and connect the velcro to hold it closed.  I remember seeing closers made from ties, and even buttons, but I like the Velcro and strap closer the best.

Shark Boy has offered to help show you the old carder cover so we can make a pattern.

11 Sharkboy volunteers (his parents are cuddling in their project bag)11 Sharkboy volunteers (his parents are cuddling in their project bag so he offered to help)

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12-21 Shark boy removing the cover and foam pads off my old carders

Now that Sharkboy has opened the carder cover,  we can look at the shape and make measurements.

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22-28 measuring the original carder cover

29 size I am going with yours may be a bit different depending on your carders size29 This is the size I am going with, yours may be a bit different depending on your carders size

We should also notice you have three main options as to how you orient your carders for storage.  (the variations are more dramatic when viewing the curved cards than the flat ones but it’s still worth considering the options available for both styles.)

30 teeth to teeth (the handles now spread away from eachother)30 teeth to teeth

Option 1 stored teeth together – this leaves the teeth inter-meshing, while it may keep the teeth from snagging on any nearby object it is not great for the teeth. It also causes the handles to point outward if you have a curvature to the paddle part of the carders. This is the way most naked carders are stored.

31 Back to back/ teeth out (the teeth face out and are unprotected, the handles tuch at the end but dont ballance well on eachother)31 Back to back/ teeth out

Option 2 stored teeth out – this is a bit silly (but it is a possibility even if it’s silly), it will put the teeth in contact with anything in the vicinity (including your fingers) and give the carding cloth surface no protection. The only advantage is that the handles don’t stick out oddly. (I am trying to be positive.)

like the 3 bears looking for the perfect bed, this brings us to the final configuration.

 32 teeth to back (the handle fit together, so dose the curvature of the carder back. but teeth will be pressiung into the back of one carder) 32 teeth to back

Option 3 stored teeth in the same orientation – Since one carder sits above the other, this would cause the teeth to be stored against the back of the upper carder. Ah, this is where the foam pad comes in. There were masks on the backs of the new second-hand carders which suggested this was one of the ways they had been positioned. This orientation also alines the handles which makes them fit easily into a bag or basket when they need to travel.

Now let’s make the pattern.  There are two main rectangular shapes for carders; a shorter rectangle for wool carders and a longer rectangle for cotton carders. I have now seen “Student” carders which are smaller than the standard wool carders. Both shapes of carder require a very simple pattern so just adjust it to fit your size. If you are not trusting of numbers you can make a pattern using a couple taped together pieces of paper to check the fit.

I had been over at Walmart looking in their craft/sewing department. There was a selection of precut “quilting squares”, which were actually rectangles, that I looked through. They were not the finest of thread counts but they had 3 patterns with sheep, the odd cat/alpacas and one with mice.  The size works out to approximately 16” wide by about 20.5” long, close enough to what I had used last time!!  this is not like sewing an Elizabethan corset so if your fabric is a bit shorter in length it will still work, but with shorter tabs.  As long as you have fabric adequate to cover the width and enough length to wrap around the carders with their foam spacers protecting the teeth, the extra will be the tab length.  Two of my older carders have lived with a stretchy elastic with velcro and the foam pads for many years (they’re the ones that don’t get out much!) so you can fudge it if you are a bit tight on your favourite fabric.

Your other option is to make the cover out of 2 different fabrics if you’re short. This could be a fashion statement, flipping whichever side out that seems to fit your outfit that demo.

Let’s get sewing

 33 End and side seem in, laing the old cover over the new fabric for locating tab length 33 End and side seem in, locating tab length

Since I am folding on the long side, I will have a seam at the end and down the opposite side. (seam is on the left short side and at the top long side)

34 Making wider tab ends34 Making wider tab ends

35 Marked in pen on backside of fabric to sew in tabs35 marked for sewing

This time I wanted to try a wider end tab to give a bit more protection for the carder. I found the center on the unsewn end and estimated the seam placement.  I used the edge of the pressure foot to give a thin seam allowance. Remember to leave the center area between the tabs open so you can turn the cover inside out. (I almost didn’t on the first one! It has been a while since I have been sewing, I should practice more.)

 36 NO WRONG WAY!!! (leave the space between the tabs un-sewn) i put the presherfoot down in the rong spot! 36 NO WRONG WAY!!! (leave the space between the tabs un-sewn)

37 extra wide seem allowance along open section, about 1 inch with a diagonal cut into both corners

Trim the area between the tabs to about 1 inch from the end of the sewing line. clip back to the corner  (see the pictures). The flaps will get turned into the opening and the nail pressed down after the cover is turned inside out.

38 turn out body of carder through opening left between tabs38 Turn out the body of the carder through the opening left between tabs

39 turning out tabs39 turning out tabs

Turn the body out through the open space then turn each tab right side out.  Tuck in the extra wide seam allowance at the opening. If your iron is not handy you can nail-press the opening.

40 turn out corners with chopstick

Lastly, take a rounded-end chopstick and get the corners poked out. There are more expensive tools for sewers to get into corners but this works and was in with the felting tools.

The elastic straps with Velcro

41 Sharkboy shows you the two different lengths of velcro (short and long)41 Sharkboy shows you the two different lengths of velcro (short and long)

The elastic straps at Dollarama come in two sizes which are not always the same length. pick one that is not too tight and compressing the foam covers but not so loose it won’t hold the carder cover on. (I know that was obvious but some really are quite different small or large than the previous ones I have purchased.)

If you want to make yours extra fancy, top stitch along all the edges. You can add two strips of sew-on velcro to the tab and the main body of the cover (try it on your carder to get the best position. If you want a fashionable 2-sided carder cover I would go with the elastic and Velcro arrangement my first cover has. (so you can turn it either side up)

For odd-size carders, you need to add teeth protection and stack them as you would like to store them. measure the distance from the base of one handle (at the edge of the carder) going directly across the width of the carder down to the underneath carder, across it stopping when you reach the other handle base. Call that X. Now decide how long you would like your tabs (t). X+T+ seam allowance= the long side of your rectangle. The width plus seam allowance x 2 is your other dimension. When in drought just use a string with knots or make a mock-up in paper. (I have found numbers can be just as tricky as letters!)

I do hope this is somewhat clearer than mud! If you decide that this is all too much work or you can’t remember where you put your sewing machine or your hand sewing needles there are a number of people selling premade covers on etsey.

Lastly, Sharkboy got all the new covers on the carders and staked them up for me. He has been working very hard and needs a treat to reward him.

Sharkboy is trying to stack the carders he has wraped 43 he is determand to get the 4 newly covered carders neatly gathered

42-43 Sharkboy is determined to organize the newly covered carders

This weekend (back willing) Mrs. Mer and her son Sharkboy will be going to a fibre festival south of Ottawa in search of hair. I will let you know how all our shopping goes.

Sharkboy says goodnight he is standing on his tail-fin and leaning on a carder he has been trying to move.44 Sharkboy has had a busy day helping with this project and says goodnight

Finished Pin Cushion.

Finished Pin Cushion.

My Pin cushion is finished. the start of it is here:

I added a door so the hobit could get into the house. I used wool that I have had for years, it’s a mix of browns with a little dark purple. I don’t think they sell fibres anymore. all I could find was yarn.


And then I seem to have forgotten to take pictures until I added the stream. I added the stream with the felting machine. It was so much faster and easier.

Next, I added a window and some bushes and a tree. Here are a few shots of that.


I wanted to add flowers but wasn’t sure if I should do French knots or little felted blobs. Then I thought I don’t need to add any flowers, the pins will work as flowers. I had some pins with little coloured heads.  I am sure the little neat flower garden in the front won’t stay that way but it looks nice for now. I also added a door knob on for the door.




Felt Mushroom

Felt Mushroom

Teri wrote a post a while back about making mushrooms. She inspired me to give it a try. I already had a small circle resist (7 inch diameter) and just needed to add the stem. I cut a rectangular piece of floor underlayment (6.5 inches x 2.5 inches) to add to the circle.

Book page resist for mushroom created out of duct tape and floor underlayment foam.

Here it is after I duct taped it together. Now ready for wool. I wanted the process to be fairly quick so I chose some colors from my selection of short fiber merino which felts very quickly.

Purple and yellow wool laid out over resist to create mushroom.

I decided to ad a few pieces of pre-yarn in brown to the base. I should have put these on the outside layer but I covered with more yellow before wetting down.

Here you can see both sides of the mushroom resist covered with four layers of wool and wet down. Then on to rubbing and making sure the edges were taken care of so I wouldn’t end up with a ridge around the resist.

Purple and yellow felt mushroom upside down on shelf lining material before removing resist.

Here’s the mushroom before I removed the resist.

Felt mushroom laying on it's top with stem upward, felt cut and resist removed.

Once it was partially felted, had a good skin and starting to shrink, I removed the resist. Then on to working the cut edges and begin more aggressive felting, fulling and shaping.

And here’s the finished mushroom on a plastic base with a rod in the center to hold the mushroom erect. I didn’t quite get the bottom even enough for it to stand on it’s own. This was a fun, quick project and I plan on making a few more with a bit more surface design next time. Thanks for the inspiration Teri!



Where wool begins: Keeping sheep safe

Where wool begins: Keeping sheep safe

In my last post, I introduced you to how we raise sheep (and wool!) a little differently than most in Canada — our sheep live outside year-round and graze solar installations and cover crops as their day-job.

In that post, our livestock guardian dogs made an appearance and garnered plenty of attention, as they should. We couldn’t graze sheep like we do without our dogs!

Where we farm, coyotes are a major threat to sheep. Our sheep are also vulnerable to attacks by ravens and even bears, though it has been years since that has happened here. Did I mention we are in Ottawa city limits? We are! But yes, there are black bears, sometimes wolves, and plenty of coyotes to worry about.

There are a few options for guardian animals, including dogs, llamas, and donkeys. We’ve had the greatest success with dogs — it takes a predator to smell, spot, and deter a predator. And that is our goal: unless a coyote or group of coyotes is preying on our sheep, we leave them alone. We would rather not hunt or trap the coyotes, but it does happen from time to time that a troublesome animal or family moves in and even the dogs can’t keep them back.

We’re always asked what breeds of dogs we use. Most of our dogs are a mix of breeds — there are a surprising number of guardian dog breeds, all of which have been developed over hundreds of years alongside sheep flocks. Most of our dogs are Maremma (an Italian breed), with some Great Pyrenees, Akbash, and Karakachan in the mix.

A child and adorable puppies
Charlie and some puppies, March 2022

Our dogs are sometimes born here, or at other sheep farmer’s set ups, but it’s so important that they be from working parents and are born and raised with the charges they will protect. A pup needs to bond with sheep from the beginning so that they treat them as their own. The instincts these dogs have been selected for are truly amazing, but they still require training and support to eventually make it as a livestock guardian. Not all of them do.

We run about one adult dog per 200 ewes, but prefer that the dogs work in pairs. The final number (up to three or four) all depends on the coyote pressure, the terrain, fences, and whether we are lambing or not. There are always young dogs coming on and older dogs slowing down. It’s a real challenge to find the balance of new and experienced.

A livestock guardian dog watches as a ewe has her lamb
A livestock guardian dog watches as a ewe has her lamb. The paint on the ewe is to identify with breeding group she is in. It mostly washes off the wool, I promise.

We’ve just started lambing this week (see above) and two of our newest dogs are doing an amazing job keeping watch over the newest lambs. These dogs not only keep the ewes and lambs safe they also clean up the lambing areas (gross!) which serves a real purpose — less scent for predators to pick up on or come in to investigate. The relationship between these dogs and their flocks is incredible.

Even with many good dogs, losses still happen. This past fall and winter were some of the hardest for coyote kills in close to 10 years. They even took down a mature ram, which is rare. We did have a few trapped, and that seemed to help, but our goal is to add more dogs to keep the pressure down.

A livestock guardian dog looks over his sheep after being sheared
T-Dawg, a livestock guardian dog, looks after sheep

Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and if you’d like to see more of our solar grazing and lambing adventures check us out on Instagram at @Shady_Creek_Lamb!

Weaving with my stash

Weaving with my stash

So, what are you going to do with all this – stuff?  Its a valid question posed by my grandson.  He’s helping me clear out the house and storage spaces and there really is a lot of ‘stuff’ to deal with.  Time to get weaving.

I chose a warp that had a khaki base made up of lots of different fall colours so it could handle loads of different colours in the rest of the warp.  Colours don’t have to ‘match’ when weaving. The don’t have to match ever come to think of it.  This is the colour palette I chose.

hand spun skeing of khaki green beside mixed fall colour threads

This warp was longer than usual because I wanted to attach any subsequent hand spun warps to the wastage.  Wastage can be very expensive and finding a way to minimize this loss is good economics.  My plan is to have a yard/meter of extra fiber at the end of the weaving that I can tie the new warp onto.  This will save me wastage of a meter/yard per warp.  The only wastage will be a few inches at the beginning and end of each new warp until that extra yard is all used up.

The colours look great and the yardage I was able to get from my hand spun was really surprising, kind of shocking actually.  Really looking forward to getting started on the threading and weaving.

multi-coloured warp on leash sticks to keep cross in place

When making a warp a cross is introduced on purpose to keep the threads separate.  This cross is maintained throughout the threading process; it protects the warp from turning into a tangled mess.  The oldest and simplest way to do this is by inserting sticks on either side of the cross, tying them securely in place and getting on to the next step of threading the loom. This time I chose to thread from front to back of the loom.  Starting by threading through the reed – the metal comb installed in the beater – and then threading the threads through the four different harnesses.  Each thread has a specific spot on the loom where it fits.  Its a bit like programming a computer by hand, really by hand.

The threads were sett at 10 ends per inch which might be a bit snug, but it looks good and once the scarf is finish it should be soft and snuggly.

repair a broken warp thread with inserting and weaving thread

When a thread broke I was not surprised, it’s almost inevitable, especially with the irregularities of hand spun, so I did a repair by pinning a thread in place, threading it through the reed and it’s spot on the harness.  Then it was weighted in the back of the loom with a small weight.  I use clip on table cloth weights for picnic table cloths. Once the damaged thread is woven in a sufficient length the true thread can be brought forward, pinned in place, woven for a little distance, then the weight removed from the patching thread.  This patching thread can be cut.

If you look at the purple stripe, everything looks fine.  The scarf is done, the length is just what I wanted and then I spotted it.  A whopper of a mistake that will set me back a little on my plans to reuse this warp, save time, blah, blah.

I have been weaving a very simple tabby, over-under, super basic.  It’s deceptive because its very difficult to get an even look to such a basic weave.  The threads had to be pulled into position, not beaten.  This way they would make nice little squares when the scarf was washed and fulled (hopefully).

Then I spotted the threading error, nearly at the end of all this fussing around drats.

Not threading error

Threading error

Not the end of the world, just a bit disappointing.  I’ll have to rethread about half the loom, and be more careful this time! Oh, and fix that single green thread that has errors all the way down the middle of the scarf.


Keeping Mrs. Mer from getting chilly

Keeping Mrs. Mer from getting chilly

Mrs. Mer has been having a difficult time since I started working on her hand a couple of weeks ago. It has been hard to stay warm with only one hand to keep herself covered!

1) Mrs Mer at the gaming/felting convention. Felting needles working on SCM muscle in her neck, as she covers herself with one hand.and I am about to start working on the other.1) Mrs. Mer at the gaming/felting convention. Felting needles working on SCM muscle in her neck, as she covers herself with one hand and I am about to start working on the other.

This only got worse when I started to add her eyes and she could see the people around her!  I had sculpted her skull so that I would add eyes and then add lids over the eyes. (I had then used one of my longish thumbnails to create the curve for her brow, which had worked quite well. I was sure I had snuck a picture of her, pre-eye lids (it was truly unfaltering) but when I went back through the camera memory cards I could not locate it. I am starting to suspect small hands with the help of lidless eyes may have deleted the truly shocking shot of Mrs. Mer.

I had been invited to a small spin-in with some friends.  I was looking forward to seeing them especially after 3 long days in the guild library working on donations and the book count (checking that each book was on the shelf where it should be.) I have the circulating books done and am partway through the magazines. That leaves the reference books left to do.

I know it was a spin-in that I was going to but, my friends are very patient with me when I bring fibre but don’t have a wheel or spindle. Instead, I arrive with little barbed pieces of mettle, a garden kneeling foam and possibly a Naked mer-woman.) Seeing that she now had eyes (that sounds like a pun) I felt I should really help her keep her modesty or keep her warmer at least. I decided she needed a top.

Eventually, she will need a top that suits her fish parts and hair but for now, a quick top in white should suit the purpose. I found some white in the project bag she and her hubby have been…ummm ……hanging out in. (who knows what they’re getting up to when I am not watching!!  They may need an open plastic project bag soon!!!)

At a recent sale of one of our local guild members, I was able to buy an actual clover tool and clover brush.  I have wanted to try one for quite a while now. I have a large collection of Fake Clover Tools, this is the first time I have tried a real one. I found they are a bit quieter than the blue fake version, the green clover handle is comfortable and the movement is a bit smoother than the blue one is too. If you spot one second-hand and in working order I would suggest trying it. The blue is quite a bit less expensive and is still a good alternative if you are trying to stay frugal (saving your money for more fibre).

2) Green Clover tool (multi-needle holder) and the first layer of wool, both sitting on an old green foam felting base.

Under the Mer’s in their project bag, I found some white, which I started to lay out In a bra-like shape.  I started with the traditional double triangle and would add more fibre for an upper strap and a longer lower tie. I had considered a ribbon but I only had blue at hand. Which I did not think would work with her eventual highlight colours. I started with the clover multi-needle tool to get the basic shape firmed up.

3) the basic flat shape of the halter top3) the basic flat shape of the halter top

As I am sure you can see, the flat shape would not be very comfortable and there is the likelihood of gapping, which could cause drafts or wardrobe malfunctions.

4) the beginning of curvature in the top I have yet to add the halter strap or the under bust tie. Fiber is sitting on the green foam with the clover tool in the back ground.4) the beginning of curvature in the top I have yet to add the halter strap or the under-bust tie. Fibre is sitting on the green foam with the clover tool in the background.

To bring the flat shape into a more fitted full-figured shape, I switched to single needles (a T-36 & T-38). I started by making a dent to fit under the underarm.  Then I focused along the bottom edge of the braw to create the same effect as a dart or gathers. I put arrows on the diagram below, to show you the direction of needle insertion (Poking) to get the fibres to contract allowing the cup to start to form.  Another way to have made it would be to use a small rounded support like a foam ball or curved support shape.  If you were making a more rubenessque mer-woman you might want to consider some wire support (under the wire) for a mer-woman with greater endowments or substantial cleavage.

5) Arrows show the direction of fiber movement to create the cups and fitting under the arm.5) Arrows show the direction of fibre movement to create the cups and fitting under the arm.

I had her try on her top a few times adjusting a bit at a time. (She is very patent but I did promise to add her eyelids as soon as I could make her a somewhat respectable top.)

As you will see below I had laid in her eyelids before it was time to head off to see friends.

6) Mrs Mer shows off her new top and eye lids.6) Mrs. Mer shows off her new top and eyelids.

7) You can see how well fitting her new top is from this angle. On the table behind where I am working are some of the snacks we were nibbling on.7) You can see how well fitting her new top is from this angle. On the table behind where I am working are some of the snacks we were nibbling on.

8) If you missed the tempting tasty snacks hiding behind Mrs. Mer here is a close up of a couple of them! Paper napkin has Udderly Delicious with a cow picture on it.8) If you missed the tempting tasty snacks hiding behind Mrs. Mer here is a close-up of a couple of them! The paper napkin has Udderly Delicious with a cow picture on it.

9) Mrs Mer and felting tools sitting on the table, snacks a pop and Mr Mer to one side of the table with Bernadette and Ann in the background.9) Mrs. Mer and felting tools sitting on the table, snacks a pop and Mr. Mer to one side of the table with Bernadette and Ann in the background.

Mr. Mer also attended, he stood on a chair at the table and was holding a Mountain Dew (highly caffeinated carbonated lime/grapefruit flavoured beverage). I think that Mrs. Mer having eyes and a stylish top has captivated his attention since he did not flirt with anyone else that was there.

 10) close up o Mr. Mer sitting at the table with his bottle of pop, some wool and a pair of scissors. Behind him is a window with a hanging plant. 10) close up o Mr. Mer sitting at the table with his bottle of pop, some wool and a pair of scissors. Behind him is a window with a hanging plant.

He may like this beverage since it goes well with his hair.

It was a fun day and great to see a few of my friends especially when I am not working on the library but just being social.

I Dropped off Ann on the way home and then stopped to take pictures of the early spring colour changes. There are the reds, ambers and light greens of new buds.

11) Scrub brush in the colours of spring. Red wood branches, bits of green budding , amber and green grass. Small trees, and old fence posts leaning aesthetically.11) Scrub brush in the colours of spring. Redwood branches, bits of green budding, amber and green grass. Small trees, and old fence posts leaning aesthetically.

Lastly, I have a question for you about an upcoming post.  I have 3 hand carders which need covers, which fabric pattern would you choose?

12) fabric squares, Patterns from the top Right; Mice and yarn balls, Black white and gray sheep on clouds, Alpaca that look like long necked cat faces, blue paisley, Black White and Grey sheep with numbers, Cute fluffy white sheep on gray back ground. In the plastic bag, a second paisley and a light grey graph check.12) fabric squares, Patterns from the top Right; Mice and yarn balls, Black white and gray sheep on clouds, Alpaca and long-necked cat faces, blue paisley, Black White and Grey sheep with numbers, Cute fluffy white sheep on gray background. In the plastic bag, a second paisley and a light grey graph check.

One final shot of Mrs. Mer’s progress  (starting to work on her left hand and arm.

13) Mrs Mer with Needle in her Left wrist as she lounges on her back on the studio table at a guild social.13) Mrs Mer with Needle in her Left wrist as she lounges on her back on the studio table at a guild social.

Next is a Spring Tree.

Next is a Spring Tree.

I have been thinking about my spring tree for the 2nd quarter challenge. I have decided I will not try to make my tree a real tree but an imagined one. That will give me more scope to play. I did some thinking and the best way to show flowers will be to do a close-up of a branch.  I did some sketching on my pad for that. I am not a very good drawer but I think it’s not a bad branch.

sketch ideas for a tree and branch  sketch of a tree branch

I’ve decided I want some long, hanging flowers.

sketch of a tree branch

Next, it was off to the internet to look at long, hanging flowers. I think I know how I want to do them.


Then I had to have a good rummage to find the felt I used last time. How do things become lost so quickly? Well, I know really, I don’t put things away. 🙂 I did find it, and some felt I had forgotten about. I will try not to lose it again. It is just a white rectangle at the moment. I am trying to decide if I leave it that way or if I felt it light blue for the sky. I am not sure.

white felt for making a picture

That’s as far as I am at the moment. We are working on clearing things that don’t belong out of my studio. I need to rearrange in the house, to get another piece out. Another job for the list.


Experimenting with Paper: Felting and Joomchi

Experimenting with Paper: Felting and Joomchi

Our local art group made some Joomchi a couple of months ago and since that time, I have been thinking about adding paper to the surface of felt. I realize that there is a well known online course about how to do this, but I have not taken the class and these are my experiments on adding paper to felt. If you haven’t heard of Joomchi before, it is made from layers of mulberry paper that are wet down and agitated. Essentially, wet felting layers of mulberry paper together. If you search online for it, you will find YouTube instructional videos and some beautiful artwork made with the technique.

Six pieces of mulberry paper laid out over yellow wool batt.

I have a variety of mulberry papers in my stash that I used. I cut a 2 inch square from the different papers and laid these out on a couple layers of short fiber merino batt. I figured that the pinks and reds would probably run from leftover dye in the paper but that didn’t concern me. I just wanted to see how the paper would felt in.

I covered the wool and paper with a synthetic sheer curtain on both sides and wet down with cold water. This seemed like nuno felting to me, so I followed my routine for nuno felting. I treated the piece gently, used cold water until the fulling process and rubbed over the surface of the paper pieces to encourage the wool to migrate through the paper. I fulled mainly by rolling but did do more aggressive fulling in hot water once the paper was holding in place.

Six pieces of mulberry paper felted to the surface of yellow wool.

Here is the result. All the paper types felted in very well. You can see that the red paper shared it’s dye with a couple of the white pieces of mulberry paper.

Two pieces of mulberry paper felted to the surface of yellow wool.

The close ups show that the paper does crinkle a bit but it is adhered well to the wool. I like the use of inclusions in the paper and the surface is interesting.

Two pieces of mulberry paper felted to the surface of yellow wool.

The fibers in the top pink paper almost look like a silk but I don’t think they are. It’s probably that the fibers take the dye differently than the paper pulp.

Two pieces of mulberry paper felted to the surface of yellow wool.

As you can see on the red piece, the “tinsel” or whatever the gold strands are, migrated almost completely out of the paper. If you pull on the gold strands, you can pull them right out.

Photo of pink joomchi - layered and manipulated mulberry papers.

Now on to the Joomchi. Most of my mulberry paper is red and pink. I used about 5 layers of paper, wetting down each layer as it was placed on a corrugated rubber surface. I then used a piece of pvc pipe and rolled over the papers. I kept turning the paper at right angles and also flipping over to the other side. Once the papers began holding together, I crumpled them in my hands, then gently pulled them back out flat and continued to crumple them. I thought the texture that developed due to the fibers of the paper beginning to break down was very organic and beautiful. The process also causes shrinkage of the papers, another similarity to felting.

Photo of green joomchi - layered and manipulated mulberry papers.

Here’s the piece that I made with our art group. I borrowed other paper colors so I didn’t have to use pink/red again. You can see a bit of my red at the bottom left corner.

It was fun experimenting and I’m happy with my samples. Now to consider how I can use this in my work. Have you done any experiments lately? We’d love to see or hear about them, you can upload a photo here.

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