It’s holiday time again and we ran a holiday card exchange with members from the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum again this year. People signed up a little over a month ago. I ran the names through a random name generator gave everyone their partners name and by now all the card should be mailed. I got Ruth this year. I usually just do one card but I hedged my bets and made 2 this year.
Here is how I made it. I started with 2 layers of white prefelt. I added the sky and then the snow.
Then I used some darkish green prefelt to cut out triangles for the background trees. And some light gray to add some shading so the snow wasn’t flat.
Then I added the foreground trees using some blue faced Lester curls fluffed out. The one on the left is the one that ended up as Ruth’s.
And some silk for the clouds.
This is what they looked like felted but still wet. They are very lightly felted. I had planned on felting them more but I liked them as they were and didn’t want to distort them.
Then I added more curls to fill out the trees and to make them stand out from the background. I tried to make them all a little darker on the right side. Then some snow. The snow did 2 things: first, it added some nice high lights but it also made the branches look like the go side to side and not up and down. I added the locks up and down and it was noticeable.
I decided the silk was too shiny for clouds and covered them in a very thin layer of the light gray wool.
I liked the picture but it was lacking something so I added some French knot sheep. They were tricky to do because the felt was not firm at all. The thread didn’t want to stay where I wanted it but pull over or sink in. If I had been thinking I would have put some stabilizer behind it.
I needed to make it into a card. I chose to do a postcard. I made one up to the right size on my computer following the basic template. I used iron-on facing to glue the card to the back of the felt.
I trimmed it and popped it in an envelope and sent it on its way to Montana. I crossed my fingers it would get there in time. We were having rotating postal strikes in here in Canada. Fortunately, the postal gods were smiling on it and it did make it there in about 2 weeks. I still need to add some sheep or something to the other picture. I do not know what I will do with it. I may just frame it.
Layout the background.
I had a bag of mystery white wool and some super wash merino, combining them together, I started my base layer. Then I lay in a line for the sky line and spent hours playing Runescape (AFK stuff like fishing and harassing trees) on the computer while hand blending the golden tan colour for the sky. I worked over the big 3 inch thick foam square I got at Walmart for the 12 x 12 pieces I did earlier in the summer. It again worked great with my wicked multi-needle metal tool to make a quick base from which to start. 10 Needle Felting Tool – Aluminum
I had to put this project aside to work on the guild library, restructuring the Dewey Decimal Classification project, but was able to return to the Felting Challenge in September as my demo project at the carp fair.
There was a lot of interest in felting and lots of requests for Felting workshops this year. I directed them to the guild website and told them there would be more workshops for 2018 on felting so check the new schedule when it was up in November.
Carp Fair demo – the octopod is created…..sort of.
Carp Fair is an old fashion rural fair on a big scale. The Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners guild is in the Antique section. Usually we freeze since it’s the last weekend in September. We have spent many years demoing weaving, spinning and felting there, cursing the cold weather. (I can spin without feeling my fingers but not for too long or too well.) Well this year our pleas were answered. We had the hottest weekend of the summer, we were fine as long as we stayed in the shade of the tent and didn’t stand up! SO I got a lot of felting done.
Using my photo reference I chose the general shape and pose I wanted for the octopus to have. I had brought a package of pipe cleaners from the dollar store and had decided that 2 twisted together would make a good leg support armature and allow me to bend the tentacles as I wanted later.
Math is not my best skill it’s right down there with spelling actually but I can count to 8 twice. So I laid out 8 pairs of pipe cleaners beside me on the table, twisting them together as I put them down. (Are you having awful premonitions yet?) I pulled out my Rideau Arcott core wool and started shaping the slope back for the head, and adding the first leg. Then wrapped it with wool.
Friday is when all the kids come to the fair to do “research” for a questionnaire they have to fill out and to do the games and rides. They usually wander through the antique section in waves, it wasn’t too busy this year. We also had a canon being fired and a tractor parade in our area. So it was a bit busy in the early morning and later in the afternoon, it was quieter at the hottest part of the day.
Got to the last leg and started to build up the tentacles with more core wool to get the more triangular shape. By the end of the day I had what was obvious some kind of octopus like creature.
Once I had the general shape to my liking I started with the super wash to lay in the colour. I have discovered that super wash has exquisite colours and take forever to felt…. I will not be lured in by the evils of super wash again! It will felt with needle felting but it is a lot of extra work and it makes felting a lot slower! I will likely just save the super wash and blend it with corriedale or merino that still has all its scales.
One of the woman who was working at one of the other displays in the antique section came over and asked “does your octopus have 7 legs?” No I’m sure I put out 8 sets of pipe cleaners to start with. Oh no, one is missing, too late.
Sunday Carp fair;
The Octopus has its base colour layer, and one-sided blow-hole. I used a few fine skewers to rap the wool then Felted it quite firmly pulling out skewers as it shrunk. Thus making a hollow blow tube which I added to the skin fold just behind his/her eye.
You will have to wait for the next post to see how he/she turns out.
My friend Jan really got into the 3rd quarter challenge. She worked on it most of the summer and fall. If you have read other posts by Jan you know she is a great story teller. So, I had to break this into 3 posts. This post and the next 2 will take you on a journey with Jan from concept to finished challenge.
3rd quarter challenge part 1 the Plan
I was instantly intrigued by the third quarter challenge. I have always appreciated the aesthetic of Japanese prints and the Hokkaido wave had been particularly interesting to me. A bit strange when you consider I really don’t like getting wet. Ok, I am a bit hydrophobic. When I look at the Wave I don’t concentrate on the impending death of the fishermen in there precariously tipped boats, the fact that mount Fuji may be plunged into unpleasant wetness at any moment but that the repetitiveness of the design on the inside of the wave reminds me of a Japanese umbrella. Umbrellas are good. They keep you from wetness. A giant umbrella in the middle of the ocean sounds almost appealing, as if you might stay dry surrounded by all the wetness.
OK, I have a theme. Now who would need an umbrella in the middle of the ocean? Hmmm. An octopus!
The Great Wave off Kanagawa also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833 in the late Edo period as the first print in Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It is Hokusai’s most famous work.
As you may have noticed I tend to do flat pictures with a bit more thickness than flat pictures usually have. So the concept of taking a print you like and using it to inspire something from it but not make a copy will not be a problem. OK wave as umbrella, and octopus holding umbrella. Other elements of the print to work into the finished pieces. The sky, the other littler waves and maybe the boats with fishermen, or maybe not the boats with fishermen. I have nothing against fishermen, I really do like to fish. But I’m not to fond of boats. They are just tempting fate. Why leave nice solid ground if you don’t have to? So let us leave the boats for a later consideration.
I had a plan and all within half an hour of reading the email. A quick sketch (I thought I had lost it but found it inside my new needle felting box. This is why the original idea and the preliminary execution differs quickly. I lost the sketch by putting it somewhere safe.)
Then a trip to the wonderful internet to “acquire” reference photos and do a bit of research.
I’ve got the wave (I found 3 graphics of the wave one with the fishermen very easily visible) so let’s get umbrellas.
Canvas 3: arctic Fiber Gold, Qiviut!! Now that is Canadian
Now I was on to canvas 3. I had been looking and thinking of quintessential Canadian topics, I considered moose and had selected a couple reference photos that I may do at some other time but just wasn’t quite what I wanted. Then I started thinking about the arctic. Muskox!!
My brother Dave is a Geologist, he has worked up north most of his career. He told me of being on a mapping traverse and stopping to sit on a bolder. He had been innocently enjoying his lunch when he heard a Whiffling sound behind him. So he turned to see what it was. It was a muskox squinting at him. He seemed to be trying to figure out what Dave was, likely hoping for a sexy new female muskox and not an interfering male one. He got a little closer and seemed to realized it was only a geologist having lunch, did a snort, looked indignant, turned and left. INSPERATION!! I will do a muskox. (But without Dave and the rock).
I kept to the same work process as before, Research first; off to the internet to look at lots of muskoxen, eastern arctic, western arctic and Greenland. I looked for various pictures with details I wanted. Coloring, body shape, horns, feet, nose, eyes. I spent hours having fun surfing Google images. I made of folder of the ones I thought most helpful.
When I had a good selection of reference photos in my file, I grabbed a scrap of paper (which now I can’t find to show you) and did a quick composition sketch to fit the 12×12 square format. I wanted the muskox to be emerging from the background. So I would need the head and shoulders forward and land for the muskox to stand on. Ok I will need a background to work this from. I am not fond of getting wet if I don’t have to so needle felting is my preferred method of working. I made a gray brown back ground so I can add foliage and muskox to it. I used a felting tool I purchased at the fiber festival Twist. It is perfect for background work! You can get it here https://halcyonyarn.com/felting/68862190/10-needle-felting-tool-_-aluminum
Next was to build up the core of the muskox and base. I had used an armature in the frog but here I was only working with part of a muskox, so the front legs and one back one have an armature, as well as the neck, head and horns. It was very handy to be able to tilt his head up so I could work on his chin!!!
I continued using Rideau Arcott for my core wool. It was free, unfortunately it was also dropping veggie matter all over the floor. But it made a good solid base for the muskox and the promontory he is standing on. I added the armatures in as I built up the structure. The flexy neck was really odd in this under layer form.
Next I went to the living room and started searching for the colours I would need, I used alpaca for some of the black and reddish brown as well as merino Shetland and assorted bits I wasn’t sure what they were anymore. The pull it apart over and over again blending technique really worked well here. I used the photos to try to get a realistic colour. I started adding the colour layer from the Hooves and nose first and working up the body. I blended only a bit at a time and re-blended to create more so there is uniformity in that I am using the same base colours but the exact percentages are changing as I mix each batch. I was not blending to the point of a uniform colour so the individual colours still showed as I used them which lets the eye blend them. I also considered the light source as above and slightly behind the muskox. So you have was lightening of the colours from both sun damage and visual lighting conditions to consider as I worked up the fur.
To create the fur effect I used a combination of securing the fibers at one end and the fold over technique to get the shaggy fur look. I used a single needle and a tiny bit of black blended alpaca for mouth and eye details. It was amazing how little fiber could create so much detail.
Mounting: With the canvas removed it was easy to use double sided Carpet tape to position the piece and then sew it around the stretcher bars. I again used the indentation of the stretcher bars to give myself more height for the piece. I carefully adjusted the foot and attached it to the promontory then adjusted the head down and made final adjustment to the horns. This is the show and tell presentation at the guild. Sorry that Froggy is giving you a cheeky butt view.
Today we have a guest post by Jan Scott she is a great needle felter.
The concept of the show.
As you likely read in Ann’s earlier posts the Ottawa Valley weavers and spinners guild was given a proposal to have an art show of 150 pieces of a uniform 12inX12in size to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. The originally the idea had been discussed at socials to decide the rules for the submissions.
The rules were quite simple:
Rule #1 – the artwork could be any medium of fiber arts, spinning, weaving, felting, knitting, were all ok. But the rest of the rules quickly developed as I started to propose ideas I would like to try to Carlene who was going to present the idea at the meeting. My first thought at hearing the format was AH!! Cascading waterfall in felt over 3 canvases!Rule #2 – all 12×12 pieces must not extend past the canvas. My second question was can we do this in 3 dimensions?
Rule # 3 – nothing should extend above the canvas more than 3 inches.
I’m glad I dint ask any more questions.
Art show Piece 1:
So now with the parameters decided and 3 canvases purchased I started to consider ideas. I had to find something that was quintessentially Canadian to me. I thought of all the places I liked best in Canada and settled on my parent’s cottage and the summers spent with my giant bullfrog friends. So I started to plan frog on lily pad as art work #1 and Lilly pads in flower as my second piece.
My work process seems to have developed as; first research images on the internet. (or looking thorough my photographs no wonder I have been taking pictures of everything through most of my life!). Then decide the general composition with a couple sketches. Do more researching for details of the composition. I created a folder of frog pictures that had elements I wanted to work from. Toes from this picture and the profile of the head of that one. Coloring from another shot. I selected the best bits from various photos and printed out a few reference photos to work from. With the frog covered I looked into lily pads and flowers, did you know they have huge lily pads that are used to photograph baby’s floating on them? I think they were in Thailand definitely not the ones from the cottage so I mostly ignored those.
My next problem as I started to make an armature for the bullfrog (a bit smaller than the life size ones I had played with) was how to make sure he/she was under the 3 inch height limit? Ahhhh. I turned the canvas over and looked at it again. Working from the back gave me almost an extra inch so Froggy could still be crouched to spring and fit in the height restriction!!!
I worked on the armature using mostly pipe cleaners and light gage wire to make the framework. I made an upper and lower skull/jaw, dorsal lines in the back and all appendages with articulating tows. It was somewhat frog like!
I had gone over to Ann’s to get help with carding Free Fleece from agriculture Canada’s experimental farm flock. I had washed the excessively dirty and vary spongy fleece but wanted a really cores carding to make core wool. That is the wool you use for structure but don’t want anyone to see. She put it through her picker which helped immensely and then we carded it on her really impressive electric drum carder. Much bigger than the home use ones we normally see. Ann’s help was greatly appreciated she saved me a lot of time!
So I started with stuffing rolled up balls of core wool (likely a redo Arcott blend) into the center of the frog frame armature. Until I had the body formed and started rapping the legs and the first foot. It was quickly apparent I had miss judged the tow length and had to give Froggy finger extensions in pipe cleaner! After quick osteology surgery to repair his bone structure I continued giving him muscles until I was happy with the overall shape. Next I needed Froggy like colours. I started looking through my stash of spinning and felting wool. Hummm, Green does not seem to be my favorite colour. I have Lots of blue though! I had won at one of the guild auctions a bag of lime yellow green that I had planned to use as a core wool on something but hadn’t got around to it. I did a run to some of the local supply places, bought some more fiber at the Chesterville spin in and begged a bit from Ann’s stash and a bit from Bernadette too.
The horrid yellow green was perfect for the under colour for the lily pads, but I didn’t have quite the green I wanted for the frog colours so it was time to think like a painter and blend my colours.
Maybe now is a good time to tell you a bit about myself. I am severely dyslexic you likely have figured that out by the spelling or lack of it. From Pre-school on I wanted to be a paleontologist but decided you had to be able to spell your profession so gave up on that idea in grade 6 when I realized I still couldn’t spell paleontologist or most of the dinosaurs’ names. My other interest was Art (I can spell that!). I loved technical illustration, I was really bad at it but was good at layout and design and kept being told I should be a fine artist not a commercial one. So I wound up with 3 years of commercial art and 3 years of fine art and art history. With Dyslexia and all the commercial art background I tended to approach my fine art projects at school with a slightly different perspective then the rest of the class. As an example we had a large scale painting assignment. I asked if I could use un-stretched un-gessoed canvas with acrylics applied in watercolor like washes and was allowed. So I arrived each class with my painting folded in my smallest portfolio and some painters tape to tape it to the studio wall. While my classmates tried to figure how to get there monumental pieces on and off busses.
It has become apparent to me over the years that the dyslexic brain does not take a straight line to get to the solutions to a problem. Of the 150 pieces created by members of the guild only 6 canvases were turned and worked from the back. Froggy, Lilly pads, muskox, polar bare, the forge, were mine. The only other one was the Hudson’s bay blanket woven on nails attached to the back of the canvas. So problem solving tends to result in a nonlinear solution not usually arrived at by the majority of the group. This can be a good thing or not. In this case I think it worked out very well.
So now you know why I looked at little balls of coloured wool and was excited about colour blending like my long unused acrylic paints. As well as thinking about layering colours like washes of acrylic used like water colours. My third important concept was grisaille painting technique where you paint you’re under painting in gray scale and then overlay the colour over it. This is used to give amazing depth of colour at the end. I thought about the under structure of the armature and core wool as my underpainting then layered over the colour and shading as the final layer. This make it much easier to get a Froggly look to my Frog.
I tried two technique to bend the colours. The first was very traditional using dog brushes from the dollar store as if they were little carders. This tended to give more uniformity to the blend but dint look quite rite. So method 2; I took little bits (a bit longer than the staple length) of the constituent colours and started to bend them by holding the tips and pulling them apart. Over and over, this produced a more stripy colour which looked much more natural. It took a long time to get the colours blended in this way but I think it was worth the extra work. This blending technique which I practiced on Froggy I think really worked most effectively on Muskox and Pole bare.
I had purchased from Noble fiber last November at the guild exhibition and sail a piece of pre-felt to be used for the backing of a picture. I had chosen a large piece of blues and greens in colours that reminded me of both the cottage and Monet water colours. Unfortunately I should have bot 2 pieces. So I allotted the one to the lily pad background and started colour blending to make the second for Froggy and his lily pads to sit on. I made the background large enough to rap around the frame and attach to itself thus making a form base to work from.
The lily pads were the next to make. I used a mix of both wet and dry felting to create them. I discovered that pipe cleaners don’t shrink at the same rate that wool dose and had to do a bit of patching to cover up the differential shrinkage. I laid in stylized veining and darker edges to the leaves. Then started to bend the pipe cleaners to the shape I wanted the leaves to be. I used thread to attach the leaves to the felt backing.
Next step Froggy must grip the edge of the leaf with his little articulating fingers and prepare for his grate leap to the lily pads in the next picture. So I got to play with bending and posing Froggy until I was satisfied. Than he too was sewn to the lily pads and felt below.
Canvas #2 the lily pads
I created the lily pads as I had the first 2 Frogy is sitting on. Pipe cleaner armature sandwiched by 2 layers of wool on either side. Using again wet and needle felting to get the structure I wanted. Over laying the final colours to give a representation of a lily pad.
For the flowers I made a core that was sort of lozenge shaped with a point at one end. The base of the core wool had 2 entwined pipe cleaners for the stem. I then created triangles with the tip firmly felted and the base left unbelted. I added white over the core wool for the center of the flower then the triangles for the white petals that surrounded the core. The outer layer was triangle of the limey green I had used with the lily pads. I needle felted each petal onto the core and stem until I finally rapped the base of the flower and stem itself.
I made 3 flowers and 3 leaves. I split the pre-felt base and rapped it over the back of the canvas frame attaching it securely. Next I played a bit with the leaf composition, no draping off the frame or flowers poking up too high. When I was finally happy I used button hole thread (since it’s nice and strong) to sew it all down.
I started working on the Froggy/lily pad combination idea in November just after the exhibition and sail and was pleased with parts by the February meeting. Originally Froggy was going to get a lily flower too but it make him too high so all the flowers went on the second canvas frame.