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Dipping my toe back in …….

Dipping my toe back in …….

During most of the Covid 19 lockdown in the UK I couldn’t travel the 8 miles to my studio. I did bring wool home, but I haven’t made much felt recently. Early on in lockdown I decided, while the weather was good, to focus on my long-neglected garden. I thought it would take a couple of weeks to knock it into shape. The weather stayed good so I stayed in the garden. 10 weeks later I found I’d slipped into gardening full-time.

As the only fibre involved in my garden project was the permeable membrane under the reclaimed brick circular patio I built…

brick circle
Very proud of my reclaimed brick circle!
View from brick circle
View up the garden

….that adventure doesn’t have much relevance here. So, I’m going to tell you about my first felt-related venture back into the outside world.

One outlet for selling my work is a beach hut gallery in Whitstable harbour (the coastal town where I live). It’s an open-air market offering locally created art and craft plus international food. I’m a member of a group called ‘Made in Whitstable’ which rents one of the harbour huts year-round and we share the time there between 7 individuals / groups.

As it happens, one of my weeks in the harbour came very soon after open air markets were allowed to reopen in England on 1st June. What to do? The leap from venturing out only once a week (to food shop) to market trading seemed quite daunting. After much thought and discussion (via Zoom and FaceTime, of course) I decided I’d give it a go.

clean hut
I gave the hut a good clean as it’s been empty for a while

The market organisers have done a lot of work to put in safety and social distancing measures in preparation for reopening. I visited the market before it reopened to have a look around and see what other traders thought.

I then filled the hut with my pictures (about 50:50 felt and photo canvases). I only took felt that was behind glass as felt asks to be touched and I couldn’t be sure that was safe. I stocked up on hand sanitiser and antibacterial cleaners. I made various signs to cover different scenarios. I thought I’d probably only take card payments, though I did have my cash bag and disposable gloves just in case.

inside hut left
Inside left
Inside hut left felt
Some of the felt pictures
inside hut back
Back Wall
inside hut right
Photos on the right

I planned mostly to stay outside the hut when open but I had two fallback positions in case there were too many people. First, I could cordon off the entrance so I could be in the hut and other people could look in but not enter. Second, I could close it and go home at any time.

I had a few ‘social distancing’ nightmares in the nights before opening the hut and did feel quite anxious as I took the short walk from my home to the harbour on the first day.

Hut with barriers
My hut with barriers & tape

There were lots of barriers and hazard tape everywhere; signs reminding people to keep 2 meters apart; a one-way circulation system with arrows on the floor and boxes drawn around the hut entrances. It looked a bit like a crime scene!

My first day, a Friday, was very quiet in the morning. People seemed to be a put off coming into our part of the market. At lunchtime it started to rain, so I closed and went home. Saturday and Sunday were warm & sunny. Whitstable is a very popular day / weekend trip destination within easy reach of London and can get very crowded, especially with good weather. Was this going to be a problem? No!  There were lots of people on the beach and the food huts were busy but the footfall in our area was low.  By Sunday the barriers were slightly adapted to improve flow. By Monday, even more so. There was always the option of putting in more barriers or limiting the overall numbers but these weren’t needed.

market and relaxed barriers
hut with no barriers


Sales overall were disappointing but I don’t regret having a go. It was nice to chat to people, even if it was from at least 2 meters away. There were some issues with queues near the food huts but people are tackling them and they didn’t impact on my area. My next week in the Harbour is in late July and this has given me a chance to try things out; to see how it works and how it feels. Indeed, the chance to dip my toe back into the water. I can look forward to the next time with more confidence that I can cope with and adapt to the new environment.

whitstable panorama copy (2)

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Around December of last year, I was asked by a friend and customer to make a life size sculpture of a raven. I’d never done one before, so it was an exciting challenge to accept.

My husband, a professional painter and sculptor, helped me create a template. I then created the core with needle felting foam rectangles, which I cut and glued to size. I then covered the foam with wool.

Feathers were another challenge for me, I researched quite a bit online to see how other people were making them and tried a technique whereby you add wool top to fusible interfacing, add a wire in the middle and steam iron everything together, but the interfacing was just too white and showed through. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of these, they would have looked very nice in a differently coloured bird. This part stumped me and took ages to resolve.

I left the feathers conundrum to simmer in the back of my head and moved to raven feet. I made mine out of wire that I covered with pipe cleaners and then wool.


Although the feet looked nice enough, they were not too lifelike. As it turns out, the wire was also not too sturdy for something this big, since it became clear it was too soft to hold the raven’s body at the angle I wanted. The poor thing stood too much like a duck!


It became clear I needed to replace the feet, so I did some surgery: I cut the original wire out, then added a sturdier one and repaired the cut site with more wool and felting. I had an idea to use polymer clay on the feet at first because I thought it would look more lifelike but it was an absolute fail: clay, once hardened, has obviously no yield and therefore can’t be posed, which can be a problem depending on the surface you’re placing your sculpted animal on. Back to wool it was.

Enter a magic technique I had never tried before: wax.
Adding wax to wool makes it look less like fibre and more like a proper part of animal anatomy. See below:


You can see by one of the pictures above that I got the feathers to work eventually. After much musing I cut felt sheets to size and put the sewing machine to work to add the central stem you normally see in real feathers. Some of them still had wire in them for structure.

Because I really love how the feet looked after adding the wax, I couldn’t wait to play with this new-to-me material on another part of the corvid: the eyelids.

Here’s an image of my raven without eyelids. The poor thing looks too startled and weird to be real.


Now behold, with eyelids!


What a difference. I wonder how I made it without using wax on sculptures this long.

After making more longer feathers for the tail, my corvid was ready to be unveiled. Photographing black wool is notoriously difficult so I apologise for not having more professional-looking pictures to show, but I believe these show you the end result well enough.


This chap has been named Huginn (old Norwegian for “thought”) after one of Odin’s ravens. I think it suits him.

I felt sorry to send Huginn to his forever home. After spending so much time (5 months!) working on him on and off, I really built a connection with this character. I’m glad he’s receiving much love and will even have a custom-built dome to keep him protected against the elements…

Let me know what you think of him in the comments, and if you’ve any questions about the making process I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading.

Dyeing some yarn

Dyeing some yarn

A year ago a friend who also owns a small fibre business asked me to dye her some Autumn-inspired rainbow yarn for her to knit with for her own client. I was happy to oblige, and very pleased with the end results. This is the picture of the leg warmers she made. Her name is The Crimson Rabbit on Ravelry and here is her profile.



Now, repeating a colourway when you have no written data on how you accomplished it the first time can be a bit tricky, but not impossible. If you’re used to the same dyes you sort of develop an eye to recognise them, and this is more or less what happened in this instance.

You can see the yarn starts out a very light yellow and progresses to a slightly more orange-toned one. I mixed some dyes up, eyeballing the colours and dipping a corner of kitchen roll tissue in the liquid to determine when I was happy with the mixture. I did the same for each colour. I was lucky I recognised the yellow-brown dye at the end or I’d be in a lot of trouble to reproduce that particular one.


This is what the skeins look after they’d been steam-set and dry. I think it looks quite similar from the original one, don’t you? Winding these two skeins back to functioning yarn took me (I kid you not) around two hours. I had divided and tied up each section previously by weight, and boy it’s a lot more work to put it all back together…

Now, since I know my post is a little late (sorry about that) and a bit on the thin side, allow me to share a couple of images of the park near me when the cold arrived. Our friends over in North America will no doubt think this type of cold is cute, but I sure felt it in my bones…



Finally, another exciting commission: a raven! I was asked to make this and it had to specifically be a raven, not a crow. Not sure exactly how to tell the difference between the two, I did some internet research and, a few documentaries and image searches later, I think I’m a bona fide corvid geek now…


What exciting stuff have you been up to in the fibre world? Share away, I’d love to hear it.


Liberty Bodice

Liberty Bodice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Chico the needle felted dog

Chico the needle felted dog

Hello, Leonor here. My guest post for today is going to be a simple “show and tell” as the weather here in London is too warm for complicated thoughts!

Some of you might be aware that I am a fibre artist by trade. Anything wool and I love it. I got into this business a little by accident, and making custom needle felted dogs was even more unexpected – basically, a friend asked me for a mini of his whippet, I took the challenge, and the rest is history!

I’ve now been playing with wool professionally for around 5 years, and I must confess there was one hurdle I was yet to conquer in my work – creating an open mouth. I’d tried once and it didn’t come out right, so I more or less gave up on it. That is, until I made Chico!


At first I was going to make his tongue out of polymer clay (the idea of finishing it off with a nice layer of glossy varnish to mimic moisture was very attractive to me) but then I decided not to. I liked the idea of a 100% fibre sculpture better.


I made the lower jaw separately, making sure the upper section was thin enough to accommodate both parts without looking weird. I added a layer of black around the edge to make it more realistic, and then a little white on the back for teeth. The tongue was made using two shades of purplish pink blended together. I made two mini tongues and chose the one that fit best.


I received a few reference photos to make this little guy, my favourite was one where he was sitting with his leg to the side and smiling. I just had to make him this way.


I love the detail of paw pads, the feet immediately look real. You can’t really tell from this picture, but Chico is er… anatomically correct. I like a realistic sculpture!


Below is a picture of the original Chico. The mini version is off to a Spanish island as a surprise for the whole human family. I hope they like it!


Have you ever created a needle felted animal? What wool did you use and how did you like your experience? Let me know in the comments section.
Questions? Happy to help, just leave a comment!

The magic of blocking your hand knits

The magic of blocking your hand knits

Hello, Leonor here guest-writing for this week’s post.

After reading the title, if you’re not a knitter, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. What on earth is blocking and why am I writing about it?

Simply put, blocking refers to the act of stretching a knitted item with the aid of specialised wires and pins, with the intention of making it look a certain way. Think of all those airy, lacy shawls you’ve seen people wear – those have been carefully and mercilessly blocked into submission.


Above is my latest project, the Banana Leaf Shawl. It looks nice-ish, but it lacks that finesse that one usually finds in store-bought shawls. The stitches look limp and you can see the differences in my gauge. Let’s make it right.

Firstly, soak the item in room-temperature water (add a nice wool wash if you want; I used Eucalan, a no-rinse Grapefruit-scented one). Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then carefully extract the excess water. Your knit needs to be damp but not dripping.


Now comes the fiddly part. Using blocking wires, you’ll need to catch the edges of your project so it’ll keep the shape you want (in my case, everything’s a straight line, but it can be crescent-shaped, for example).
I decided to do this just before going to bed, thinking it wouldn’t take me long – how wrong I was. After one hour, I was losing the will to live. I’d need another hour to finish getting the wire through all the edges.

Next, you’ll need to pin the wires to a surface. There are special fancy mats you can buy for that, but I got some for home gyms that are a fraction of the price and do the job nicely.


Because I have cats, I couldn’t risk them getting hurt on the blocking pins, so I had to move my blocks vertically for the night. I then used my desk chair to keep everything upright.

Once your finished object is dry, you can take the pins out and because fibre has memory (like the mohair and silk of this shawl), it’ll keep its shape… until you wash it again. Yes, blocking needs redoing every time a knit gets wet! Don’t you have a newfound respect for all the people who knit delicate lacy shawls?


And here’s the finished product. I hope you can see how different my Banana Leaf now looks, comparing it to the first photo – from a slightly misshapen piece to one with sharp, well-defined edges. It’s grown quite a bit, too.



The stitches look so much better, too, neater. They’re suddenly really well defined. This shawl now looks like something one would see in a shop front, if I do say so myself.


Even if you’re not a knitter, I hope you’ve marvelled, like I do every time, over the magic of blocking knitwear. If you fancy reading the technical bits about this particular project, head on over to my Ravelry page.

Have you ever done blocking? Can you think of any ways this technique could be used for other fibre endeavours? I’d love to read (and steal) your good ideas.

IFA Conference

IFA Conference

This is a guest post by Anne H. (penguin), one of our forum members who recently attended the IFA Conference that was held near her home. Thanks for the post Anne!

I’ve only been felting a couple of years, and I’m certainly no expert, but when I saw that the International Feltmakers’ Association was holding their annual conference (with workshops of course!) only an hour away from me I couldn’t resist. I was a little nervous going on my own as I’ve done a few residential courses before (for embroidery) but I’ve always known some of the people there – however, the group of approximately 65 ladies (and one man) couldn’t have been friendlier, and I had a wonderful time. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it!

The whole event was also extremely well organised and there was something to do all the time – although of course you didn’t have to join in with everything. Shortly after we arrived an aluminium jewellery workshop started, and later that evening there was a mini-marketplace with a few members’ stalls and a bring and buy charity sale, and Annemie Koenen, one of the tutors and a remarkable felter, had brought an entire shop with her from Holland – lovely dyed wools, tools, soaps, silks … most of us wanted to go home with the lot!

The meetings are held alternately somewhere in the UK and somewhere … not in the UK. Next year it’s Sweden. I wish I could go! We had someone from Canada and someone from Iceland, and two or three from Holland, although most people were UK based.

The two workshops I did were with Zsofia Marx – hat making, and Chris Lines – Felt Faces. The one with Chris was on the first day and I learnt an incredible amount. I was going to use a pic of my hubby, but he’s got a fair bit of hair and a beard, which would have made him a very tricky first subject. So instead I ended up doing a brooding looking popstar – Chris couldn’t remember who hewas but I liked his face!


One of the ladies from another workshop came round and said, ‘Coo, who’s HE?’ I managed to keep a dead straight face as I said, ‘Oh him? That’s my husband!’ The look she gave me was priceless. ‘I’ll be round yours tomorrow!’ she said … but then I couldn’t hold the straight face and had to confess that I had no idea who it was really.

Chris, the tutor, was horrified that I was using Carex hand soap and gave me a lecture on why olive oil soap was the ONLY thing to use. So why had I taken Carex? Because Zsofia, the tutor for the sculpted hat workshop, had said to bring liquid soap.

Well that evening myself and another lady who was going to be doing the Zsofia workshop next day decided we had better create some liquid olive oil soap – so I made a kind of gel in a tub with a lid, and Pat made a big (lidless) tub of soapy water, which she spent the whole of the next day trying to get people to use so she could get rid of it! Zsofia was most amused at what we’d done and said the soap I had bought would have been fine! A classic example of how every felt maker seems to work differently and swear by different things.

I’m still using my olive oil gel now and it’s great! I have to say that I did actually find things felted much better and much more quickly with the olive oil soap so I’m now a convert!

I didn’t get ‘my face’ finished during the workshop hours so I skipped the talk that was laid on that evening and went back to the workshop to finish off. Just as I’d finished my effort, another lady came in to finish hers, so I stayed and kept her company until bedtime. Unfortunately she’d used Superwash for her background without realising and of course it WOULD not felt! In the end she needle-felted the rest to her background and it looked fantastic so all was not lost.

The hat making workshop was terrific – Zsofia, a Hungarian-born lady now living in Holland and speaking superb English, was delightful. She started us off by showing us a variety of hats she’d made and then had us all trying them and telling each other, frankly, if they suited or not, while we looked in the mirror in the ladies’ toilets – as there were no mirrors in the classroom! This meant that most of us ended up not making the hat we liked the look of sitting on the table in the workshop, but the hat that actually looked good on us! I wanted to make the hat with the crazy rose sticking out of the side but it looked terrible on me! (two back on the right of the photo):

So I made a much more simple, pleated hat instead.

’Thanks to some excellent advice from the Felting and Fibre Studio forum I’d taken a selection of colours too. My intention was to make the hat purple with some peach decoration, but that was shouted down by Zsofia and the other ladies, so I stuck my hank of turquoise/green stripy merino roving on my head and said ‘What about this then?’ and they all said that suited me perfectly, so my purple hat ended up green! So much for trying to move away from my comfort zone – but at least it goes with a lot of clothes I’ve got, and my glasses; I always gravitate towards turquoise!

The hat was laid out on a 2D resist with coarser wool inside and the finer, coloured wool on the outside – except that the layout was inside out so the merino was against the resist and the other wool, in my case Corriedale, was on the outside.


Corriedale wasn’t the best choice as something a bit courser would have been good, but I had a lot left over from the Chris Lines workshop so that’s what I used!

Zsofia took us through the whole process from laying out, to wetting out and rolling, rolling, rolling … and then eventually cutting out the template (see photo below).

Then came fulling the hat into a 3D shape, first getting rid of the ‘seam’ from the template, and then gradually shaping the hat through rubbing until we had a fairly shapeless and ugly cone!

Then the magic happened as Zsofia showed us how to pleat the hats and set the pleats using steam.

I must say I’m really thrilled with the result, and was amazed that we all got a finished out of the process and that they were all so different!

After the second workshop we had the ‘Gala dinner’ where we were all asked to wear something we’d felted. I took a couple of scarves and also a completely mad, over the top jacket which I’d made for an exhibition a couple of years ago but never worn. I mentioned this to a few people on previous days and the answer was basically, ‘Look luv, if you can’t wear it here, where can you?’ so I braved it and it elicited much interest and some complements, so I was glad I did!

The following day we had a big show and tell in the main hall where we got to see everyone else’s work. I didn’t photograph everything but I was especially taken with the tops and dresses from the Vivienne Morpath two-day workshop:

And of course the variety of Felt Faces we managed to produce between us:

as the AGM, (which was relatively painless as these things go), and then lunch and homeward bound.

All in all a terrific weekend and I’m so glad I went. I hope I’ll be able to go to many of these meetings in the coming years.




Three Tall Trees

Three Tall Trees

Today we have a guest post by Karen from Lincs In Stitches.

Three Tall Trees

About eighteen months ago I discovered LINQS, a group of 5 ladies who had thrown down a challenge to anyone residing in Lincolnshire to create art quilts influenced, in any way at all, by the work of the great British artist David Hockney.  Joining this group proved to be a great move for me as I’ve made so many good friends, all with a common interest, and learnt such a lot from being in their company.

Researching Hockney’s work was an eye opener.  Before visiting the Hockney Gallery at Salts Mill the only paintings of his that I was familiar with were the “poolside” ones.  At the Hockney gallery in Saltaire, Lancashire I found myself drawn to his landscape paintings, in particular his depiction of trees.  Some of his work I really liked while other pieces I strongly disliked but the time spent researching his work led me to developing a fascination of my own for trees and woodlands, particularly tree skeletons stripped bare of their leaves in Winter.  Influenced by what I had seen I began photographing trees wherever I went and my Three Tall Trees 30” x 40” quilt is based on a photograph I took while out walking in the woods at Woodhall Spa.

woodhall spaOnce I had worked out my design on paper I set to preparing my fabric for colouring with Procian dye by soaking it in a solution of soda.  Unfortunately I think I must have used too much soda.  Although I covered it before ironing I still managed to burn the entire area of fabric above the tree tops!  My nice crisp, white sky was ruined and my heart sank at the thought of having to start all over again!  I set the fabric to one side, put the kettle on and broke out the cake……feeling happier now I decided, rather than start again, to cut out the woodland, back it with Vilene and make a huge piece of appliqué. Not only did I save myself time and fabric but this also turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it was so much easier to handle under the machine than the whole cloth would have been!

colouring the fabricLayers of organza and netting were used to create shading and depth for the forest and then the background trees were stitched by machine using various coloured threads.  I made a test piece first using free machine embroidery but it wasn’t giving the sharp edged look I wanted so I swapped to using the walking foot instead.

layers of organza and nettingThe textured woodland floor was created with painted muslin, organza and hand stitching.  Vilene has become one of my favourite materials to work with as it won’t fray and can be cut, painted and sewn so easily, I found it was ideal for making the foreground trees which I painted using Inktense blocks and then added some detail with Inktense crayons, blending the colour with water.  Once the the finer tree branches had all been hand sewn the three tall trees were tacked in position.

foreground treesThe final stage was to add a backing and then machine sew through all the layers to quilt the three trees in place.  I figured I didn’t have to do too much more quilting with the backing on as I had done plenty of sewing through the various layers as the piece had progressed.  As far as I was concerned  it was already  “quilted” but I made sure that it had enough quilting across the work to hold the back in place.  It’s now finished and will be going on tour nationally, with the rest of the LINQS “Inspired by Hockney” quilts, starting with the  Springfields Quilt Show in Spalding on June 3rd

finished quiltMany thanks to Karen for writing this post for us.

2nd Quarter Challenge Guest Post

2nd Quarter Challenge Guest Post

Today we have a Guest post by Leonor from Felt Buddies:

A few days ago, I decided to respond to this quarter’s challenge and make a colour palette out of a favourite picture of mine. I decided to go with one of my cat Squish.

I used Color Palette FX. If you are using an image of something real, you can almost make sure the colours will go well with each other in different ways and thus have a nice palette to work with.

Jungle SquishIn our daily lives we get so used to just looking at things with narrow focus – my cat is black, his eyes are yellow, plants are green, light is white. But if I take the time to actually notice things properly, I’ll see that there is depth to his black, with purples and blues showing, and his eyes have a beautiful green popping out. The plants are at least three tones of green and the reds and oranges just catch your eye. And look, the light is white, ecru, and yellow.

This is the result of the website’s narrowing of colours, still probably more than I’d notice with a naked eye.

Squish PaletteThe next step would be to choose the colours and the medium to work them. I went with a limited palette of the closest colours I had in my fibre stash. Below, starting on the bottom left: sari silk waste, natural white mohair, three batches of merino (purple, mint green and forest green), short silk fibres and dyed bamboo.

StashThen it was drum carder fun. I had to decide how to layer the fibres: most of the merino was placed first and then I added the other fibres, placing some in between the wool layers as well.

Drum Carder 1More fibre added. I just kept adding fibre until I ran out of merino (or the drum was full, whichever came first. It was the former.)

Drum Carder 2The bottom of the batt…

Bottom of Batt…and here the top of the batt is in all its glory. I really like how it turned out.

Long FibreThe finished item. That top left pile is fibre I took out of the drum carder when I was done.

Rolled Up Fibre 1bMy next step is to spin this, but as always, I still fear my spinning knowledge won’t do it justice, so I suspect it might stay in my stash for a while. Here’s hoping for some (near) future courage…

Rolled Up Fibre 2How about you, what are your plans for this quarterly challenge?

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