Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Meet the Supplier: The Olive Sparrow

Fibre 3, 2, 1

Q-3 Three types of fibre you can’t live without?

  1. Swiss Mountain Sheep (Walliser Sheep – Valaise Blacknose —

I just love this fibre because it makes both amazing wet and needle felted items. It comes in batt format in 49 dyed and 9 natural colours. At 27 micron it is a rougher fibre and has a moderate staple length of 3-5cm.

I fell for this fibre not just because of its felting qualities, but also because the product is made by happy sheep that spend their summers up in the high Swiss alps — travelling on ancient roman roads to get there. After they are shorn in a traditional manner, the wool is transported to a small Swiss family business where it is washed only with washing soda (aka sodium carbonate or soda ash is a natural cleaner and a powerful water softener. It’s very basic with a pH of 11). The washing process is environmentally friendly and the wastewater is safely returned to the local mountain stream. The wool is dyed carefully and without any harsh chemicals — using just natural vinegar and acid dyes. The wool is dried outside on warm metal roofing (weather permitting). In winter the warmth created by the dyeing process is used to heat the building.
The fibre is exceptionally clean as the carding machines have special vacuums installed to remove VM (Vegetable Matter naturally occurring in sheep fleeces) and ensure it doesn’t get back into the wool.

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Due to the ease of felting with Swiss Mountain Sheep wool, kids love working with it. The fibre can also be laid out very thin to create transparent felts.

Combine Swiss Mountain sheep with Maori or other Bergschaf yarns. You can also combine it with 18/19 micron to create an inner layer that is next to skin soft when making garments. I love making slippers with an inner layer of 18/19 micron merino batt or Kap Merino and the outer layer being Swiss Mountain, combining softness with hard wearing wool.

 

  1. Yak and Mulberry Luxury Roving

A custom blend made for The Olive Sparrow — this is a commercially triple-blended roving/top which mixes the silk with the yak to create a lovely variegated roving. Although it requires some gentle coaxing to wet felt due to the high content of mulberry silk, the resulting felt is an absolute dream to wear right next to the skin.

The yak fibre is naturally fawn coloured, the mulberry silk is undyed.

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To produce yak fibre for felting, the soft fine under hair is the desirable element of this animal’s coat and is removed commercially by dehairing, which separates the soft under hair from the coarse outer hair, known as guard-hair.

This also makes a lovely spun yarn.

Using acid dyes on this fibre is very interesting — the yak and its brown/yellow undertones combined with the undyed silk to absorbs colours differently and will make mottled/variegated tones. As the fibre is very fine, it lends itself to be dyed after felting or spinning.

 

  1. Mint Fibre

The fibre length is 75-80mm.

I love using mint fibre in the same way as mulberry silk — the softly off-white colour and the slight mat sheen give a look between the extra shiny mulberry silk and the much softer gloss of tussah silk.

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Mint is a new biodegradable cellulose fibre that is infused with mint powder that is extracted from peppermint leaves. It does not smell of mint and has a lovely soft and cottony texture. This soft golden fibre has antibacterial properties and natural cooling properties. Mint infused roving can be dyed using natural plant dyes and mordants or other dyes suitable for cellulose fibres. Perfect for spinning and blending with fibres such as cotton, silk, wool and Linen. Great surface inclusion for wet felting. A wonderful vegan needle felting alternative.

 

Q-2 Two tools you use all the time?

 

I use my ball brauser — I generally have two on the go at the same time. I also love the hand-pumped vegetable sprayers from the garden centre to wet-out large areas. When doing a sculptural piece, handheld massage tools make shrinking of specific areas very fast. Thin painter’s plastic as one layer on bubble wrap — and I always use the bubble side down when initially starting to felt.

Q-1 One fibre art technique you love the most?

Having been blessed with learning handwork techniques from grade 2 onwards, my arsenal of techniques means that I often will blend them all together in a project. Because of the shop keeping me quite busy and still being needed as a mother, most of my creative time I spend making dolls or knitting simple items. Yet especially in doll making, I frequently wet felt garments for the dolls. Doll making lets me use all my skills. In wet felting, I love making long voluminous shawls — generally using at least a 4m length and 30” width. I also love working with Teeswater locks — washing, sorting, dying them. I sew them into wefts for my dolls and use them as fringes in shawls.

 

General Questions

What is your business?

 

The Olive Sparrow.

Good Hand-Made Goods made by You and Me

Here is a bit of background information about how this all came to be:

The Olive Sparrow is me, Monika Aebischer, I am a felter and a natural fibre doll artist. I quite proudly call myself a crazy when it comes to collecting books about wet and needle felting.  In a previous life, I was a mixed media artist with work in galleries across Canada. Sadly during the 2008 financial crash, the art market collapsed and I was forced to re-invent myself. As I had fallen in love with felt making during my student years at the Ontario College of Art and Design and had taken some wet felting workshops in Switzerland, it seemed to be the right direction to go. It also worked very well with my doll making — I needle felt the heads of my dolls and also make felted clothing for some of them. While growing up in Switzerland as part of my apprenticeship in selling women’s clothing, I studied fibres and textile manufacturing.

 

 

The Olive Sparrow shop started as a way to bring supplies to my felting students — I taught a 5-day felting intensive workshop at Loyalist College for 4 years every summer from 2011 – 2015. Every year I would import specialty felting fibres from Europe for my students. These students then wanted to purchase fibre after the workshop. Learning that there are several Fibre Festivals around Ontario made me realize that there was an opportunity to share these fibres with other felters. My painting studio slowly turned into a shop — alongside my selling on Etsy. I decided that the shop was going to focus on Felting supplies and not be another general fibre shop. I also decided that the focus will be on European felting fibres, rather than local fibres.

 

After 20 years in that space, I was forced to move in 2018, as the old building was being turned into condos. Now located in the East end of Toronto, the shop is in an industrial building — and open by appointment. There are about 600 square feet full of fibre, commercial 100% wool felt, Waldorf doll supplies, Sajou notions from France and select other items. The shop is also somewhat flexible, in that it can be transformed into a workshop space for 1-3 students.

Before we were in this Pandemic, the Olive Sparrow could be found at various fibre festivals — Twist, Picton, Woodstock, Peterborough, Knitter’s Frolic, Kitchener/Waterloo knitters festival, and other smaller events. 2020 has meant a focus on building out the online presence and extending inventory.

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What kind of items do you sell?

Too many to list, however, here is a sampling —

18/19 micron roving in over 100 colours

24 Micron roving

Swiss Mountain Sheep batt

Kap Merino

19 micron merino Batt

Pre-felt (both in 40 x 40 cm sheets) and by the meter

Margilan silk

Maori and Maori/Bergschaft batt

100% wool felt by the sheet and many colours by the meter

Unicorn Power Scour

Premium locks – Teeswater extra length

Wool felt balls/hearts/stars from Nepal

Silk – Mulberry, Tussah

Viscose

The Olive Sparrow is an official DHG Dyehouse reseller — carrying all of the pre-felt colours, as well as an extensive selection of 19 micron roving, 19 micron batt, sari silk waste, mulberry silk and a variety of other fibres.

 

What do you think makes your business different from similar ones?

Unique premium products from Europe — all our goods are imported from Europe. Volume discounts to help small-scale makers. Teaching workshops – private and customized — creativity counselling. Very hands-on knowledgeable. A brick and mortar shop that is open by appointment and sells online.

Where are you located?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada – at 19 Waterman Avenue — which is an industrial area just south of Eglinton and just off the Don Valley Parkway.

 

Where can we find you on the internet?

www.theolivesparrow.com

 

Monika is doing 2 Giveaways

To enter leave a reply below. Do not post your email but make sure there is one associated with your post. You can’t win if we cant reach you. The two winners will be announced on June 4th

 

Giveaway #1 — 100 grams of premium washed Teeswater locks 12″ undied/unsorted ready for you to decide what you want to do.

Giveaway #2 – 150 grams of Swiss mountain batt (you can choose the colours if your name is chosen)

Second Quarter Challenge Part 2

Second Quarter Challenge Part 2

In Part 1, I showed you my design process for this challenge. It’s based on Art Deco ideas and color schemes but I created my own design.

The first thing I needed was to buy some black wool yarn. I was going to order unspun yarn, which I think would work best for this technique but I didn’t manage to get it ordered. Instead, I went to Michaels (hobby/art store) and purchased this cheap, wool yarn. At least that made it so I could move forward.

Next I placed my enlarged design under a piece of plastic so I could follow the lines with the black yarn first. You need to work upside down with this technique. So the black goes on first. I wet down the yarn per Ildi’s instructions on her recent felt wall hanging post. If I had been paying more attention, I would have looked back at Ildi’s design and seen that it was much more spread out than mine. But on I went.

Here’s the layout after I had laid down all the wet black wool yarn. I found it was easiest to cut all the lengths that were similar and wet them down at once. The yarn had a tendency to just lie on top of the water and not get wet. So I took 6 cut lengths at a time and dunked, patted and pushed the water into the yarn. Then I laid the yarn length along the pattern, sometimes squeezing the ‘corners’ to get a sharper turn in the yarn. I cut off the extra lengths as I worked.

Then I started laying out the colored wool. This was wet down in advance too. It was a bit awkward filling in the areas to start but I soon got the hang of it. I pinched off a bit of fiber, got it wet and then ‘smooshed” (that’s a technical term) it in place. My estimates of the amount of wool needed also got better with practice. I filled in the background color too to make the first layer of wool level. I did look at Art Deco color palettes and chose one that was similar using what I had on hand.

Then I added more of the background wool on top. I wanted it fairly thick so that it wouldn’t shrink too much and squeeze the design down even more.

I covered the wool with a sheer curtain and pressed the air out and added a bit more water to get everything flattened out. From the blue green side, I folded over any stray fiber and made a kind of circle with the background. I figured I would cut it later if I wanted everything to be even.

Then I spent most of my time rubbing and putting pressure on the blue green side. I didn’t do much rubbing on the front design as I didn’t want it to shift. I always use a piece of corrugated rubber underneath the felt while I rub and have the felt covered either with plastic or sheer fabric. Once the design was set and everything was staying in place, I fulled the piece with a rolling pin and with hand pressure. I didn’t do any throwing, rolling or heavy rubbing.

Here it is after felting and fulling. I was surprised at how straight my lines stayed. I did do a little stretching along the length of the lines if they started to get wonky. But all in all, I thought the method worked great. It does take a long time to layout but the design stayed put. The cheap wool yarn worked fine so I didn’t need the more expensive unspun yarn. But I think unspun yarn would felt in more easily and perhaps have less “hairiness” when felted.

And here it is after I cut the edges. It would make a nice hot mat or a design on a bigger felt piece such as a large tote bag. The piece is about 10″ in diameter (if it was a circle). I’m not sure what I am going to do with it. Thanks Ildi for the idea and thanks to Lyn and Annie for another good challenge. Art Deco is an interesting time period to use as an inspiration!

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

So, I finished my last post having admitted to a rooky mistake (I had laid and worked the cord at 90 deg to the vertical! Opening out the wet structure gave me a distorted shape with 2 sides longer….oops I should have placed the cord on a curve. With my former career I have no excuses for (and nowhere to hide from) this mistake.) – the implication of that mistake went further….right to the base.

In perfect 20-20 hindsight, I should have stuck with my very original idea of a book resist, but in reality it was just so enormous….far beyond my comfort zone!

Putting that to one side, as the upper part of my structure (not the base) was the most important I decided to concentrate on getting that right.

After three days rest, while my brain was quietly whirring away in the background, ‘Gaudi’ was brought back into the action….

As I wasn’t happy with the previously stitched-in ‘cord’ that had created a fold on the inside, I cut it out – from the outside, as it would be covered later – it took a bit of tugging. The cut was then stitched closed and fibre stitches placed over to heal the long slit.

Still pondering the correct radius line – the arch was now measured and then finally, the appropriate curve drawn….this should all have been so simple for me!!!

After which I re-made and re-laid the cord.

Then it was onto the previously pre-felted ‘skirt’ – I cut triangles out to shape the ‘skirt’ onto the base, stitching the edges together (with thread & fibre) before felting the entire piece.

It was at this point inspiration hit (read that as drastic thoughts). As the mediaeval crowds might roar ‘Off with his head’….I simply shouted ‘off with it’s bottom’! In fact it proved the silver lining as it gave me the opportunity to get inside (without trying to do it through the resist removal hole) to felt the fibres and also to turn it inside out.

Ooooooh boy – my hands were just continually covered in stray fibres….the result of using-up un-named supplies!

Wet damp, but not dripping, it weighed 1.2 Kg and was a monster to work.

After drying it was off to the groomers with the hairy monster! There was so much surplus.

I don’t know how many razors (or lighters) I used

Several weeks have elapsed, and I’m feeling sufficiently energised to tackle it again….mentally & physically! I think we can all get to the point of being disillusioned and I had reached it. Although I didn’t go as far as a friend who, when she reaches this point, throws her work on the fire!

I have since wet felted a bottom using the various pieces of the leftover (from creating the ‘skirt’) pre-felted quilter’s wadding which I stitched together.

I love the surface texture of the piece and how the edge sits and will use it elsewhere. I’m wondering if it will take dye well?  

I’ve started applying decorative stitching, how much to do is an unknown. So too, I am undecided whether to apply its bottom (which I would attach with more decorative stitches) and create its ‘turret stopper’ or simply leave it all as it is….the little grey cells – they need to start working!

In the meantime, I have participated in 2 online felting courses – Paper & Felt with Fiona Duthie (I’ve yet to finish this in my own time) and the Milkweed seed with Judit Pócs which I successfully completed and have explored further adding a 3D resist into the mix. If you want to add to your repertoire of felting techniques, I can definitely recommend these courses.

Jan’s last post was about needle felting a tulip, a stunning framed piece for which a lovely tulip in her garden was the inspiration. I too adore tulips although our current beastly weather (frequent hail showers – some with 1cm stones!) has taken its toll. However, in amongst them there have been some surprises.….

….and some unusual seed pods have emerged too!

Just thought I’d share them with you.

Happy Mother’s Day 2021

Happy Mother’s Day 2021

Last year I made Mom a felted picture of tulips for Mother’s Day. She is very fond of tulips but not so much taking care of plants. Thus, the felted tulips seemed the best option. I told you about them last year (https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2020/05/10/a-bouquet-for-mothers-day/) so I hoped you might be curious if I gave her another tulip.

This year we have been having a long slow spring. Spring flowers started early and have lasted for weeks! It is a big improvement over some springs. We occasionally go from snowbanks and snow mould to crocuses to 20c+ weather in the space of a couple of days to a week (there is a lot of flooding those years). Ottawa is a wonderful place to experience weather in one year you can live through +40c to -40c. (I am glad there is a lot less of the -40c than when I was a kid)

this year with such a slow spring we got to enjoy the flowers for much longer! While we were working on the sinking garage sort and clear, I snuck out to the front garden to take a few pictures to see what would inspire me for this year’s Mother’s Day Felt picture.

The violets are out as well as the lungwort but mom really does like tulips

1-3 Harratige Violets and Lungwort

It’s still a bit early and there are more daffodils out than tulips in full bloom so let’s see what we have for inspiration options.

 

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4-11 2021 Early Spring Garden

After much deliberation, I chose the lighter of the peachy pink and orange tulips.

 12  The photo was taken May 2nd, 2021. The needle felted picture is based on this tulip and was started the evening of May 6th and then worked on over the next 2 days while Glenn still puttered on the garage clearing.

The base layer is an inexpensive commercial felt in antique white. I have shifted the grey background to a more blue tone. The wool is a combination of superwash merino, Corriedale and a small amount of BFL.  The background was worked with both a single T36 as well as the fake clover tool with T40’s.

13    I used the template method of transfer, although the felt was thin and light so if we had a sunny day I could have done the window or lightbox method. I did not want to use the black permanent black markers and could not remember where I had put the coloured permanent markers so I used coloured pens instead. (the lost markers could have been replaced at Dollerama but are not considered essential!!!)  I measured out the 5×7 box and since my cardboard mat has also disappeared after I cleaned my desk I just kept checking with the ruler to make sure I was staying in the correct size for framing. (It is a lot cheaper to work in a standard size so you don’t need to cut a custom mat later.)

Looking at the picture, I have the Red Maple tree out of focus as the background. This is very gray/brown out of focus bark and is not really as appealing in the felt version. Well, we can fix that, if you need to move a tree, go ahead and move the tree! If the sun is not shining, just turn on the sun In your painting if you would like it to be there! you are God in your creative world! So I used the Magic of Tree-be-gone and switched it out for the amorphous sky and nondescript foliage.

 14-15 I laid in the background first and used both the single needle and fake clover multi-tool to get the background blocked in.

Yes, that is more what I was wanting.

16 Messy desk yet again

Next, let’s look at the colours. I ransacked my wool to find Pinks, purple, navy, greens, yellow, white and a scarlet red I could blend with the pink. The red was from a bit of superwash merino I had bought from the Black lamb and used on last years’ tulips. Unfortunately, I got quite absorbed in the colour blending and layering before I remembered to take another picture.

17-19 thin wisps building up the colour

I had started with the yellows and peach colours at the back part of the flower and worked forward. I found the tulip needed more contrast at the intersection between the edge of the leaf and the background. So working with the fibres generally parallel to the base of the picture  I added wisps of a slightly darker blue to the edge, then folded the fibre back into the blue. In a few spots, I used my fingernail to pull back the tulip so I could work in the blue(if you don’t have scary talons an awl would have worked too).

20-22 getting a stronger contrast along the edge of the tulip

 

I decided after adding the contrast I needed to add bits of lighter wisps to keep the sky from looking too grey. I cut up and blended bits of white and blue. If you are doing a lot of cutting little bits of wool you may want to wear a mask (I know we are still doing a lot of that, but in this case, we are avoiding wool lung, not covid)

 23

I was finally pleased and decided it was time to see what it looked like framed. I had bot extra frames from Dollerama for my felted picture workshop. I use to have Ikea picture frames but they now are using Plexiglass which isn’t as nice with wool pictures. (plexi is not as clear as glass and can get quite a static build-up, not the best if it’s only lightly felted). So I went with the Dollerama black wooden frame, I may get a precut mat upgrade later since the frames now come with a thin paper mat. Unfortunately, we are still in lockdown so no upgraded mat is possible at this time.

24-26

Yes, I think Mom will like that!

When I was done I printed out the info (Happy Mother’s Day 2021 and the photo that inspired the picture.)

 

I also collected the pieces I had used for the template, the reference picture and a bit of the wool I had used. I put them in an extra-large sandwich bag to keep as a reference. I will eventually get around to organizing my work into a binder showing photos and references used on each project.

 27-28

 

I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day and Maybe even received a mother’s day present. (Possibly tulips or some very nice wool? Or the whole sheep?) Even many years after having expired from old age, my furry kids sent me a spectacular felting book; “Landscapes in Wool, the art of needle felting” by Jaana Mattson. I am looking forward to reading more of it. The back part of the book has paintings in felt she has made while the front half has step-by-step instructions on how she has made some of her pieces. I’m always intrigued to see how other felters work and see if there is something they are doing that I could incorporate to improve how I work.

 

It’s going to be 23c today so I guess spring is over and it’s time to get the 2 pails with dahlias out to their planters. After a call to Canadian Tier, I found out the garden center is open and the lines were much shorter in the evening (do not tell anyone, I still have a couple more plants to find).  Glenn came with me. he pushed the cart I pushed the walker and selected plants. I was successful and got most of the herbs and vegetables as well as a purple Raspberry and an exotic-looking honeysuckle! We put all the pots tucked between the planter boxes in the driveway.

29-30 No felting for me until I get most of this planted.

I also checked out the front garden the tulips are trying their best but are not going to like this weather.

  31-33 The later spring garden

 

 34  This is the same tulip I was felting. Now it is almost finished blooming and will soon drop its petals. What an amazing colour change!

I hope you have been inspired by spring. If your own garden has not inspired you this year then I hope you will find inspiration here and borrow mine! (Maybe just ignore the construction sign, though it is colourful!)

 

 

 

My 2nd Quarter Challenge is Progressing

My 2nd Quarter Challenge is Progressing

I’ve been working on the stitching for my basket organizer.  The first part I did was the waves. I liked them but I didn’t like how the edges were fuzzy.

 

I went looking in my stash for the right size yarn to edge it. I found my stash of Briggs and Little Sport singles. I picked up several colours cheap from a weaver who had finished a project.  I picked black to outline the waves.

 

I used the outline stitch. I used the tutorial in this great stitch dictionary. https://www.embroidery.rocksea.org/stitch/stem-stitch/outline-stitch/

You can see how the wool yarn is raised adding texture as well as definition. I enjoyed following the curves with my stitching. more fun than straight lines. I only

And finished. I like it much better the black outline really makes the waves pop.

Next was the rectangles on the flap at the front bottom.  I used some red this time.

At first, I thought I would do a Fly stitch up the middle of each one.  My stitching was really uneven. I didn’t like it, so out it came.

I decided to put two lines up the rectangle. the stitching isn’t fabulous because I had no line to follow. the only thing I had to mark it was chalk. I did try it to see how it would brush out and it was really hard to get off the felt it wanted to move further into the felt rather than come off.

And after I cut off all the tails.

So far so good. I have a plan for the last part of the decorating. It will need lines for me to follow so I will have to wait for the heat erase marking pens I ordered. After that is the really hard part……….. the finishing.

Second Quarter Challenge Part 1

Second Quarter Challenge Part 1

The second quarter challenge is to be inspired by the 1920’s and I decided to look at some art deco designs for inspiration. What I noticed most was repeating patterns, many with floral themes. During this research time, I was also inspired by a recent post by Ildi K. and thought I might want to give her technique a try. So why not combine these ideas into one project? Then I remembered that I had already done some design work based on Montana wildflowers in my Level 3 Art and Design class. Maybe I could use some of those floral designs and create my own “art deco” pattern?

This is a Mariposa lily. It blooms in June or July here.

These are some quick sketches using that flower shape but creating a simplified design that was more abstract.

I used the final design in several ways on paper. I could have just used one of these as my final design but I had noticed that many art deco repeat patterns were in squares or triangles. I thought perhaps I could fit the flower portion of the design into a triangle.

So on graph paper, I created a triangle pattern and fit the flower into it. What a jumbled mess! Obviously, I don’t create repeating patterns much. It’s way too busy for me. But perhaps if the triangle lines were more visible?

So I darkened the lines of the triangle and I liked this better. I think it would be better with a blank triangle in between the floral design but I left it as it was.

Now if I was going to do this in felt, I needed to enlarge the design. So I expanded it by 200% on my copy machine and then just used one portion of the design. Next up was to figure out a color scheme and see if I had the correct materials on hand. I thought I had some unspun yarn in my stash but I was wrong. I felt that would work best for the outlines so I have to order some before I can get started on the felting portion of this challenge.

Have you created something based on the Roaring Twenties? We’d love to see it over on the forum.

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Two weeks ago I took advantage of Covid restrictions being lifted for self catering holidays in England and took off for a weeks holiday in one of my favourite UK destinations. Rothbury in Northumberland is a small, picturesque town nestled in the Coquet Valley.

Looking towards the town centre from south of the river
Heading downhill from my apartment into town

Unfortunately the weather forecast was looking bleak but I was going to make the most of it. I set off with my car packed with as much crafting gear as I could fit in i.e. fibre and felting equipment, fabric, sewing machine, etc, etc the plan being to have a relaxing break, do a little walking and create a piece of work inspired by the Northumbrian countryside. I would return home feeling refreshed, fit and with a finished piece of work…..if I only managed two out of those three (and I did) I wouldn’t have guessed which would have fallen by the wayside!

The view from the patio was pretty good.

Although there were occasional (very) heavy showers and lots of cloud the weather turned out be a bit better than I had expected so it made sense to pack a rucksack and walk during the day and leave the creative stuff to do in the evenings.

Rothbury is a great base for anyone who likes walking with beautiful scenery and lots of trails in the surrounding hills, forests and along the riverbank. Plus it’s only a forty-ish minute scenic drive to Beadnell on the coast, another favourite haunt, with almost deserted beach walks to Dunstanburgh castle heading south or Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle heading north.

Climbing the hill behind my accommodation gave stunning views of the Simonside Hills on the opposite side of the valley.
Crossing the river and heading for the Simonside Hills
A terrific downpour has just passed over!
One of my favourite lunch stops on the riverbank
Harbour at Seahouses
Pace Hill is a tiny spit of land jutting out into the sea just to the east of Seahouses Harbour.
After clambering over the rocks I reached the curious stone construction which turned out to be a Grade II listed building dating back to 1886. It was built to store gunpowder used in blasting when the Long Pier and New Harbour were being built. On the horizon to the left you can just make out one of the Farne Islands.
Lunch stop on the Harbour Wall on my way to Bamburgh Castle
Approaching the imposing Bamburgh Castle from the south on an almost deserted beach.
This is one of my favourite images of the castle and will definitely inspire a textile piece. I’m seeing the background and castle painted and the foreground grasses stitched.

I also came home with lots of dry stone wall images…..as if I don’t have enough already!!

Although I had every intention of being productive in the evenings the combination of loads of exercise, beautiful clean air, wine and a well stocked book shelf in my apartment, meant I didn’t get much creative work done at all while I was there! Who cares!! I had a terrific time and came home with a few of what I refer to as my ‘bacon rashers’ (lengths of abstract felted pieces, often with fabric included) in colours and textures inspired by my walks. Plus all the inspiration I needed to produce a large abstract mixed media piece based on the Northumbrian countryside including those beautiful rolling hills.

‘Bacon rashers’ formed from a variety of fibres and silk fabrics drying in the sun
Pinning together with sheer fabrics to try different layouts.

Since getting home the rashers, plus various other slivers of sheers and painted Lutradur, have been assembled onto a background of painted Lutradur measuring 110cm x 60cm and are now being stitched in position.

So far so good but the top left corner needs some thought.
A few extra pieces of felt have been made to fill gaps while a fine tip soldering iron is used to cut the slivers of painted Lutradur.

Now I’m happy with the placement of all the pieces it’s just a matter of adding more free motion stitching until it tells me it’s done. Lastly I will make a wooden framework to mount it on and then it’s ready to include in the ”Final Show” (of the now defunct CCN group) Exhibition at the Sam Scorer Gallery in Lincoln from the 8th June.

It’s still a work in progress but the end is in sight!
Key Dish and Pot Plant Mat – 1920’s style

Key Dish and Pot Plant Mat – 1920’s style

Lyn

I chose ceramic artist Clarice Cliff for inspiration in the second quarter challenge because I liked this plate that she decorated in 1929.

I planned to make a shallow bowl and matching pot plant mat, in the style of Clarice’s plate decoration, using the resist method to make a pod

This is the shape of the shallow bowl I wanted to make.  It would be white on the outside (like the reverse of the plate above) and decorated on the whole inside surface.  The large circle that would be cut out from the top would not be wasted but would be worked into a pot plant mat.

I have made a similar bowl before using this method so I was confident with my idea.

I took my colour palette from 8 plants that are growing in my garden during the second quarter of 2021 – red, mauve, green, orange, yellow, pink, white, blue.

I cut a circle of paper 24.5cm (9.5”) in diameter then drew shapes on it – similar to those above on the plate – then I coloured in the shapes using the colours of the plants…

…then I set about making 8 pieces of pre-felt to match.

To enable me to cut accurate shapes from the pre-felt I used freezer paper – the paper has wax on one side.  Tackling one colour at a time, I traced the shapes onto the non-waxed side of the freezer paper then pressed the paper waxed side down onto the pre-felt using a medium iron for 2-3 seconds.

After cooling, the paper will stick to the felt making it easy to cut the shapes out and the paper will peel away very easily.

Here are the shapes after cutting out – I didn’t realise until I was up to my elbows in wet felt and soap suds that I forgotten to cut 2 of the orange shapes.  There should have been 10 – doh!

I placed the paper pattern onto the bamboo mat then covered it with a clear plastic circle.  I misted the plastic with soapy water then I made some black yarn wet and very soapy – hopefully to make it ‘sticky’ – then placed it onto the plastic circle following the lines of the paper pattern beneath it.

I dunked the felt shapes, one at a time, in a dish of soapy water then placed them on top of the yarn.

I covered the circle with 2 layers of white merino wool top before flipping it over.

I removed the paper pattern then once again put down the black yarn following the pattern showing through the clear plastic circle.

Then I placed the coloured shapes on top as I did for the first side.

For this project, I put 4 layers of white merino wool tops on each side then worked it as described in the pod tutorial.

I cut the hole, as shown below, leaving only a narrow edge.

I finished the felting process on the circle that I cut away for the pot plant mat, then I turned my attention to the bowl-in-progress.

My plan was to make a shallow bowl in the shape shown below.

I’m not sure what went wrong but the felting gods were definitely not smiling upon me and my shallow bowl didn’t form as I’d planned.

So after a quick re-think I cut away the edge of the non-bowl then turned the remaining circle of felt upside down on a cake tin to form a dish in the shape of a pin-tray by Clarice Cliff (2 pin trays shown below).

It took a lot of soap and persuasion to get it shaped and my fingers looked like prunes after a while but I was very determined!

I did achieve my pot plant mat, but instead of a matching shallow bowl I made a key dish instead!

They would be ideal for a hallway table.

I hope you feel inspired by the 1920’s to make something in your chosen medium, and if you do, please post a photo in the Studio Challenges Section on The Forum.

Armature experiment 3; Comparing Parallel wire with twisted wire (and ..the Garage)

Armature experiment 3; Comparing Parallel wire with twisted wire (and ..the Garage)

During the wire adhesion and rotational experiments, I awoke in the middle of the night wondering if the use of parallel wires would reduce wool rotation? Would parallel wires increase the likelihood of needle entrapment leading to breakage? How would the flexibility of the sample be affected by the use of parallel wire?  How would parallel wire compare to twisted wire of the same gauge? Am I not getting enough sleep since I seem to be dreaming about wire?

Since I had found the floral tape was helpful with adhesion and may reduce the entrapment of the needles I applied it to the twisted and one of the parallel samples.

Sample 3.1 twisted wire sample with floral tape compared to the parallel sample 3.2 with floral tape. Both are 10ga/3mm Aluminum.

1-5 Parallel vs Twisted, both with Floral tape

Sample 3.3 parallel, without floral tape also in 10ga/3mm Aluminum.

The second investigation on parallel wire, this time without the floral tape. Found that there was rotation in both the wire and wool. I used elastic on one end just to keep the wires together while the wool was wrapped.

6-7 Parallel without floral tape

The lack of adhesion to the wire allowed the wool to be compressed which was not seen in the other samples.

8-9 Wool compression along the length of wire.

I tried bending both with the wire stacked and adjacent. I found the Stacked was stiffer than adjacent.

10 Double bend with wire to investigate if the alignment of wire will make a difference in flexibility

11 Stacked (one wire on top of the other)

12 adjacent (one wire beside the other)

Would parallel wires reduce wool rotation?

  • parallel bare wire, greatest rotation of the three samples
  • twisted wire with floral tape, less than bare wire
  • parallel wire with floral tape, least rotation of these samples

How would the flexibility of the sample be affected by the use of parallel wire?  

  • parallel wire with floral tape, when stacked seemed the stiffest but still flexible.
  • adjacent alignment of both parallel samples seem similar to the stiffness of the twisted sample

Would parallel wires increase the likelihood of needle entrapment leading to breakage?

I did not find the needle catching between the wires but I wrapped the wires when they were straight, not shaped so this may have reduced the likelihood of catching. I also suspect the wires with the floral tape would be less likely to catch than the bare mettle. If the wires are twisted loosely there is more opportunity for the needle to get caught in the looping sections. Only two samples may be too small a sample size to be definitive.

Being conscious of the working depth of your needle and not speed stabbing will also reduce your rate of breakage.

How would parallel wire compare to twisted wire of the same gauge? For these samples at this gauge, I found:

  •  if taped the parallel gives less rotation of wool
  • depending on the wire alignment at the bend, it can give either a similar or stiffer flexibility to the twisted wire
  • if no tape is used and the sample section is straight, the wool can be compressed after wrapping.

The use of parallel wire may have an application depending on what you are creating. The ability to compress the wool along the length of the wire was interesting. I will keep it in mind but don’t have an application for it at present.

Dealing with the Pointy bits:

I found that the ends of the parallel samples were very pointy and sharp. To reduce this, I tried my rasp file to take off the point and then softened the edges with a metal nail file. This worked very well and maybe worth considering at least for the larger size wire.

13 Hardware Rasp and metal Nail file

Am I not getting enough sleep since I seem to be dreaming about wire?

  • possibly not, so I am now thinking about a studio in the garage…… ah, renovations!

Thinking of the garage:

In case I have been over investigating the wire options for armatures I have turned my thoughts to another topic. Glenn is on holiday and we are still in lock down so have to stay home. Instead of heading off on a vacation, we went to the garage at the end of our driveway, the detached and sinking one. We have been wanting to sort through the stuff that is in there and then try to fix the sinking walls and aesthetically dipping and twisting roof (someone did not put in an adequate number of roof trusses…you should not skimp on roof trusses!).  We had been pulling gardening pots and other essential stuff out of the garage when we, (OK, Glenn is doing the lifting) started hearing odd noises from the back corner of the garage. It grew louder when I adjusted the sonic mouse deterrent. (It’s a plug-in high-frequency sound generator that is said to be offensive to mice and drive them out of an area. It only works in straight lines so if your area is well cluttered it does not work as well.)

14 Squatters trying to make a run for it!!!

On further investigation we found we had squatters living in the garage, three of them had taken over the ruff-tote bin with air mattresses in it!! Well, they need to be evicted!!! NOW! Not only are they not paying rent they have shredded a foam sleeping pad, cardboard and chewed at the roof decking (there is a tarp on the roof so the hole isn’t leaking).

15-16 Odd, I was sure we saw three of them in the bin originally.

Glenn went back in to start to clean up the mess but heard more noise from the corner and emerged with raccoon number three.

17 Oh no here is number three

OK, now he can clean up… and is that another one?

18 Number four is added to the bin.

While Glenn returned to clean up I gave them a thorough lecture about their eviction and that they were not welcome in the garden either. I am not sure if I was successful since they fell asleep as I was telling them they had been evicted and were not allowed back in the garage.

19 Well they don’t seem too stressed about being evicted if they are sleeping through my eviction lecture!

Back in the garage a fifth squatter was found unsuccessfully hiding behind the leg of the shelf they had been living on. (Hiding is not successful if we can see your butt on one side of the shelf leg and a paw on the other side!) After more moving of the stuff number five was evicted too.

20 eviction number five.

Glenn has not had the extensive hunting by hand experience that I had growing up (snakes, a soft-shelled mud turtle, frogs, crayfish, mice, moles, voles and a squirrel). Unfortunately, the mind remembers how, but the back is very insistent that I am not bending and reaching to catch a teen raccoon, at least not at the moment. Glenn’s more limited snake and feral cat experiences have been greatly augmented by the eviction of five raccoons. Neither Glenn nor the Evicttees seemed stressed by the experience.

21 There are now five teen raccoons in my air mattress bin!

By the time he had all of them out of the garage and done a check for alternate entry points and blocked them it was getting late in the day and the temperature was getting a bit chilly. I retrieved one of the lids and put it askew over the racoon-lets to keep them warm. (I may be Evil and have evicted them but I’m not totally heartless)

22-23 Glenn secured the perimeter and I added a lid for warmth until their Mom comes to collect them.

The next morning I went to check on the evicted and found the lid off and the bin only holding chewed-on air mattresses. My plastic owl was also knocked over. So we can report the eviction was a success, so far no one has tried to move back into the garage!

24 Successful extraction… now I think I should have kept one for the soft possibly feltable fur.

We have another week to keep sorting through and clearing the garage before Glenn is finished his vacation. Then it’s back to having fun with felt. I may yet find some raccoon fur to add to my felting since we still have more stuff to move and sort through.

Giveaway Winner and Another Little Bag

Giveaway Winner and Another Little Bag

 

First, the part everyone wants to know, who won the Custom Fibre Chest. The winner is Karen Cantwell. Congratulations, I am sure you will enjoy your basket of goodies. For everyone else get a Free goody bag if you place an order this month. Just mention you saw it on the Felting and Fiber Studio Blog. 

 

And now the less exciting part,

I decided to make another little bag to keep things in my basket organized. I am going to use some thick prefelt I have. The nice thing about the thick felt is you can split it and cut away a layer so you can overlap the edges and not have a thick seam.

Here’s the layout ready to wrap around. I use a felting needle to keep it all in place before wetting.

I thought it would make it more versatile if it had a little loop so it could be attached to something if I wanted to use it somewhere else, maybe attached to my sketchbook. to add it I used the offcuts from pealing the prefelt and some of the yarn I am using to decorate it. It’s handspun wool and silk. This is the back with the loop wrapped up so it won’t stick down. I needled the ends of the yarn down.

And this is the front. I may embellish it after it’s felted. I will see what it looks like. It looks very blank at the top but I will be cutting that later to make a foldover flap.

 

It felted down really well and you can’t see where the joins were. The join is right down the middle top to bottom.

I added the pen for size and a little piece of white felt so you can see where the opening is. It didn’t show with the black on black. I will probably add a magnetic closure if I have a small enough one. If not I will add a snap.

 

I love the way this yarn worked. This yarn is handspun. it’d shredded sari silk and wool. I don’t remember spinning this but looking at it I think it must be mine. Firstly it is a very small amount and I typically do this. The other is how it’s plyed. It looks like it sat in a center-pull ball or on a spindle a long time before plying. When you do that the yarn sets and when you ply it, it doesn’t really look right until you wet finish it to give the yarn back its spin energy.  I almost never bother to wet finish my yarn because I won’t be knitting with it. Essentially I’m lazy about it, what can I say?

I didn’t look at this too closely before using it, I just liked the colours and thought they would look good on both the black and grey. Now looking at it after felting I suspect ( I would have to go look to be sure) that it was plyed in the wrong direction. I plyed it in the same direction as the spin so added more energy rather than plying in the opposite direction, removing energy and balancing the yarn. If you look at the yarn now you will notice it sometimes looks like two parallel yarns and sometimes one wrap around the other and that seems to be happening in the same direction as the single yarn.  It didn’t just all unravel because I have tacked down at both ends.

It is another fun thing about making your own yarn. You can do some cool stuff on purpose or by accident. It fun, you should try it. It’s all the same supplies you already have. You just need a cheap drop spindle. You can even have lots of them, cheap and expensive and still not be in as deep as one spinning wheel.

 

 

 

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