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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!
Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Mystery Fiber – Identify It, Felt It, Take it Further

Hello all.  My name is Arlene Toth and I am a Fiber Artist.  It sounds like I am owning up to an addiction, and I am.  I am addicted to working with wool.  If you don’t know me already, I have a blog called Adventures in Felt.  I took up needle felting in March 2019 where they were giving a demonstration at my local haberdashers.  The first thing I ever made was a bumble bee from a kit.  From then on I was hooked and it just snowballed from there.  As with any addiction, I eventually got hooked on the hard stuff, wet felting.  The first thing I ever wet felted was a very tiny vessel.  I used to paint for 10 years, but painting hasn’t had a look in for over a year.  I wonder at times how I have lived so long and didn’t know about felting until now.  I feel I have a lot of lost time to make up for.  Starting any new hobby is an adventure and I am always up for one of those.  I love this so much that I have immersed myself in it completely.  I have amassed a library of felting books, watched tons of videos (good and bad), and taken online classes.  I am so grateful to those out there that share their knowledge.  So I blog about what I learned.  As far as I’m concerned, it is all an experiment, and like painting, not everything is going to be a masterpiece.

One of the things I have learned is that making samples is important.  Most of the time I just jump right in, but there is value when making small samples especially if you are unfamiliar with the product you are using or the method you will be felting.  For instance, I bought some Botany Lap Waste from World of Wool.  I ended up with a lot of fiber that I thought was merino as it was so soft and felt like superfine merino, but turned out to be alpaca.  How do I know that?  Well, I initially felted with some of it, but it didn’t felt like the merino.  Fortunately, the item I was making was mostly merino, so this mystery fiber did ultimately felt.  I then decided to make some samples as I had a lot of mystery fiber.

Firstly, you need to identify your fiber if it isn’t labelled.  The first way to check if it is animal hair is to burn it.  Yes, burn it.  I used a fire lighter and took a piece of the fiber and it singed and smelled like burnt hair.  If it does that, it comes from an animal.  It doesn’t matter at this point which animal, but an educated guess reckoned that it was alpaca.  Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but some types will felt and some won’t. I have a lovely knitted alpaca hat I bought in Peru which is so soft and warm.  So either way I am going to be a winner here.

Now that you have determined that your fiber comes from an animal and it isn’t synthetic, you will then need to felt a sample, step two.

I had three mystery fibers in grey and the black is merino that I used for my control.  I laid them out with two layers.  I wet them out with tepid soapy water and started the felting process by sanding on boths sides, rubbing and rolling.  This is what they looked like.

B was looking as it should for merino, but neither A, C or D passed the pinch test.  I kept working at the samples and I finally got them to do a little something.

I can honestly say that if you want to become a good felter, you need tenacity as this is not a quick craft!  Not only was this fiber slippery and hairy, it was also squeaky!  You can see my lovely control Fiber B doing what merino is supposed to do.  Neither A, C or D is suitable to felt on its own.  D looked like a complete disaster!  Now, some people might think D was superwash, but superwash will not felt, at all, with anything.

So, I completely wasted my money right?  No!  You can stop right here, but if you know how to spin, you can spin with alpaca to make a lovely yarn.  I don’t know how to do that yet!  I was going to give some to a friend, but then we had lockdown, so I just labelled the bags as alpaca and put them away.  However, if you are like me, you will take it further, step 3.

How do you take it further?  You add wool to it.  Something you actually know is wool that will felt. People in the feltosphere suggested that.  So I did.  I got out the blending board and blended the alpaca with merino.  I used the black merino for the dark alpaca and natural grey merino for the other two.  Here they are all laid out as before.

I then wet everything out and felted as before.  As you can see below, adding the wool made a huge difference and made for a better felting experience.

Here we are above drying out in the sun.  They felted better than expected, especially D.  Here is the final outcome below.

Sample A) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, took the longest to felt, hairy, and has some fine holes in it.

Sample B) From 9 squares to 6 squares square, was the quickest to felt.  Sturdiest and best felted of the three.

Sample D) From 9 squares to 7 x 6.5 squares.  I couldn’t get it down any more than that, but considering it was falling apart on its own, this is a good result.  Has some holes, but more like superfine cobweb.

This is the condensed version of 3 blog posts regarding this mystery fiber.  My conclusion is that I shall only keep sample C as it felted the best with the merino.  The other two will be used for spinning, once I learn how to do it!  So, if you get given some fiber that you are unfamiliar with, make a sample and see what happens!

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Heres another throw back post. I thought if I do not remember doing this maybe you won’t either. I hope you like it.

After seeing Ruth’s jacket it reminded me I had made a small one for one of my daughter’s dolls years ago. I thought I should give it another try but life size this time. I thought about doing it seamless but decided that it would make something that is a simple design into something complicated. Although I am not a great sewer I was sure sewing 2 straight seems on my machine should not be beyond me.

There are quite a few pictures so I have put them in a gallery for ease of viewing. If I could figure out how to post pictures side by side or in groups I would but that is beyond my skill level.

First I made a large piece of nuno felt. I used silk gauze and merino wool. After it was finished I put it in a red dye bath. It came out quite nice. It’s hard to tell from the picture because my camera did not like the red at all. The one you see was the best of a bad lot.

The next thing to do was the shibori. I finger pleated the middle of the piece starting at one short end. I very carefully held it flat and tight while I tied it. The first tie is the hardest one. After that you just pleat it up tying every couple of inches. You don’t want to be too neat about it. If the pleats are to perfect you get straight lines. You want your pleats to be tight so some of the material will resist the dye in the second bath. This type of shibori is supposed to make a bark like pattern. I put the tied up piece in a purple dye bath hopping for a nice red purple to appear on my cloth. It came out black. After it was dry the gauze side had more of a purple look but still very dark.

I sewed up my jacket. I made the material far too wide so the jacket ends up long. The short sides overlapped a lot when folded up. I had to have long “lapels” to make it work. It is not a mistake it’s a design feature, just ask me :O) It is still to long for me. I think it may look good one someone who is tall and thin. Two things I am not.

All in all not a bad try. I’ve made another piece of nuno felt to try again, I made it narrower this time. Now I have to find the time to sew it up.

Autumn Necklace

Autumn Necklace

Although we’ve got baking temperatures and scorched grass outside, indoors I’m amassing quite a collection of Autumn leaves made from Lutradur!  I’ve decided its time to start thinking about what I’m going to do with these leaves and incorporating some of them into new pieces of work.

This particular leaf has been painted with Dylan bronze fabric paint to give it a metallic look.

The leaf, top right, before painting.

Bronze painted Lutradur leaf

I decided to incorporate it in a very simple choker type necklace.  The leaf is quite intricate so anything fussy would distract from the detail.

I began by cutting out a 4cm wide crescent shape from a piece of white superfine Merino prefelt 20cm x 29cm.

This was overlaid with Oyster Merino on the left and Antique on the right.


I made the felt quite thick and really worked it hard to shrink it and firm it up which resulted in a very textural effect and a subtle change from one colour to the other.  The leaf was sewn in place using a bronze coloured linen thread.  There is a chain fastener across the back but for now you will have to take my word for that…….I didn’t think to photograph it and I’m writing this post sitting in my B&B in Scotland while the Necklace is back home!  I will take a picture and add the image when I get back.

What To Do With All The Little Bits Or Fun Batts

What To Do With All The Little Bits Or Fun Batts

I am very busy getting ready for the first Farmers market of the season and forgot it was my turn to make a blog post. I thought You might like to see this one from 2012 again.

Ann

Last week I sorted out my wool and put all the decent size pieces on the new shelves. this left me with a lot of little bits. I usually keep bins of little bits to use as accents. Now I had way to much of that too.  I sorted it all, picked out the stuff I really wanted to keep and put the rest into 4 piles for carding.

I have a large carder, a Patrick Green Cottage Industry Carder.

A friend came over and we carded it into a 4 fun textured batts.

pink/red/purple batt

orange/yellow batt

brown/gray/black/white batt

blue/green batt

The batts came out really nice and will be great for felting or for spinning textured yarn. I didn’t think I had that much until we fluffed it up to card. It is amazing how much you can compress wool when you’re stuffing it into a little storage box.

Making Socks from Start to Finish

Making Socks from Start to Finish

Our guest artist is Leonor  from Felt Buddies who is sharing a special sock story and process.

Today I’m sharing with you some sock making, from the dye pot to the finished product.

A few months ago, I got a new tattoo from my husband’s co-worker Jim (if you’re guessing my other half tattoos for a living, you’re guessing right). In exchange for his work, Jim asked me to knit him a pair of socks – he’d seen me knit whilst in the studio and was fascinated by the concept of having a garment made especially for someone. I happily obliged!

Because I own my own fibre business, I have a lot of sock yarn available to dye at my pleasure. After talking to Jim about his colour preferences, I got to work. I loved that he asked me for three of my favourite things in socks:

  • Mismatched colours with contrasting heels and toes;
  • Bright colours (you can’t get brighter than magenta and purple!)
  • Socks that glow under UV light.

I had some yarn I was keeping for a special occasion and this was the perfect time to use it. It’s a very soft alpaca/merino/nylon blend.

For some reason, at the time I thought it was a good idea to break down the yarn into four pieces – two for the main body, two for the heels and toes. I’ve no idea why I did this, since I was only using two colours, but hey. I simply weighed the skein and took out 15 grams for each foot to make the smaller parts.

I then soaked the fibre in some water and synthrapol in preparation for dyeing. Synthrapol is a wetting agent and helps the wool absorb more dye. It’s also excellent to rinse out fibres.

After the yarn was thoroughly wet, I made my dye stock using professional-grade acid dyes and to the pots I went.

After adding the colour to the water, I placed one little skein and one big one in the pot and let the fibre sit for a few minutes without any heat. Because this yarn isn’t treated to be superwash (non-felting), the dye takes longer to penetrate the fibre, so I wanted to give it some time to get to every bit of wool.

I then turned the heat on and once the water started simmering, let it be for about 10 minutes, turned it off and let the wool cool completely in the pot. This allows for the remaining dye to be soaked up, and also makes for a brighter finished colour work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to turn my skein of yarn into a ball, I used an umbrella swift (pictured above, on the left) to hold the fibre whilst I pulled it onto a skein winder (above right) to make a neat ball. I have all the cool gadgets!

Once the yarn was dyed, washed, rinsed and dry, it was time for knitting. I had made an impression of Jim’s foot beforehand and used it as my template to make sure they’d fit. If you’re curious, this is a technique taught in a pattern called Fish Lips Kiss Heel that makes for fail-safe sock fitting (and heel-making). It’s available on Ravelry at a very low price and I highly recommend it.

And here’s the finished socks! I still had to weave in the ends in this picture, but I’m happy to report that’s been done since and I have presented this squishy pair to a very enthusiastic Jim.

Now, for a fun little extra: I asked for a photo of him wearing the socks for my social media. Be careful what you wish for! Jim took the picture, alright – he got down to his underwear and struck a hilarious sexy pose for me. If a bit of skin doesn’t offend you and you like a good laugh, hop on to my Instagram @feltbuddies and look for yourself. There’s a black and white photo with a disclaimer about the partial nudity, and after you swipe there’s Jim happily wearing my socks… J

 

Thanks Leonor!  If you’d like to follow more of her fiber adventures,  you can see her work here:  https://www.feltbuddies.co.uk/

 

Carding and Blending

Carding and Blending

Over the break at New Year, I thought it’d be a good time to tidy up our supplies from the Well Being Centre. I mentioned at the beginning of the year I’d made a start on the fabrics tub. I also cleared out the equipment tub. Which inevitably led to clearing out the main wool tub! Not surprisingly we end up with lots of scrap bits of wool tops from the classes, from wisps left over from projects, to strips which have got clumped or matted from being in the bottom of the box or shoved around during searches. I thought it was easiest to just bring home all the wool to do a stock check. I sorted it all into piles, starting with single colours which had just become matted, or pulled all to bits:

Then I made piles of all the small left over bits, and grouped them according to colour. Reds, oranges and yellows Merino:

Red, orange and yellow textured tops (made from a previous scrap tidy up, some of these are probably 5th generation now!)

There were purples, blues and turquoise Merino shades:


And lots of Merino greens:

I started with carding the single colours which just needed refreshing or neatening up, then moved onto blending. We had a few other supplies I could add in, and plenty of my own to add a bit of brightness or contrast here and there. I tried not to overblend them so they had good shows of colour rather than just making a new shade. It’s not that easy to see with the blues though! This is one of the batts made from the mid blues:

The mid to dark blue one with a few flashes of purple refused to be photographed as a batt, but rolled up is fairly accurate:

I forgot to photograph one of the green ones, but this mid-greens looks nice:

The orange textured batt looked much the same as it did before, but is now useable again!

And the Red, orange and yellow batts always look good:

I think the blue blends I took in have already been used and half each of the reds/greens 🙂

New Felted Hat in Progress

New Felted Hat in Progress

If you are on the forum you may have seen the resist for this hat in the daily dose of fiber thread for this month. daily-dose-fiber-october-2017

I used wool in 3 layers because I wanted most of the shrinkage to be around. I wanted some height to play with.

After I cut it open I worked the edges and the rest as normal but near the end I also cut the top part of the right hand curled brim. I worked those edges to get them sealed. the rinsed all the soap out and let it dry because I was out of time for a few days. Today I finally got some time to work on it some more. I wet it all down and popped it onto a regular hat block and twisted the two long cut pieces around each other and then curled the ends around some tiny “pool noodles” I over exposed the picture trying to get the twist to show but the wool is just to dark.

Then I put in two sloped folds and pinned them with the little double pins. I found them after spending half an hour trying to fined my T pins that I gave up on finding. I am sure they are somewhere that was logical at the time but isn’t any more. I am not sure how that happens but it happens to me all the time.

It is now drying. The hat is sitting on another flat toped hat block and the pop bottle is holding the rim up so it dries in a better position.

When it is all dry I will take a picture of it again and show it to you.

Have you been working on any new designs lately?

 

Nothing Spooky Here

Nothing Spooky Here

Update on Maneki-Neko:

I took Lyn’s advice and made the whiskers from wire.  Here is the new look.  I also decided to put her on a pedestal to see out the window rather than sitting on the windowsill.  I found an old pot and turned it upside down, but I’m thinking gold may be better.  Although, when she’s in the window you can’t see the pot.

 

I recently realized I needed to carry on my tradition of giving each grandchild a pumpkin wall hanging.  I have a new grandson, Ken who arrived early in April.

But I didn’t really have a nice orange to make the pumpkin.  So, I made a batt using hand dyed Corriedale, a funky orange pink merino, bright orange coarse commercial fiber, gold merino, hand dyed Domestic 56s with Logwood from Cathy and a touch of white.  You can see the batt in the back.  I think the color turned out well.  I also used the merino/silk mix for the stem that I had used in the Edo challenge with the Sakura branches.

I had made a sketch of how I wanted the pumpkin to look.  A bit different than his sister Lisa’s girly pumpkin from last year.

Of course, I got into laying it out and cutting the prefelts and forgot to take pictures.  But here is Ken’s dried pumpkin.

Then after a little shave.

Now I guess I’d better start thinking about the upcoming holidays.  Did you do anything for Halloween?

Pandagirl’s Maneki-Neko for 2017 3rd Quarter Challenge Part 1

Pandagirl’s Maneki-Neko for 2017 3rd Quarter Challenge Part 1

I’ve still been in the mood to explore the Edo Period.  I remembered when my oldest son was in high school and brought home a Japanese exchange student who gave us a little kitty statute to bring prosperity to our home.

Of course, when I looked for it I couldn’t find it, but found plenty of pictures on the Internet.  It is technically called Maneki-neko which means “beckoning cat.” Of course,  there are many stories behind the cat.  You can read a few of them here:

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/maneki-neko/

There are also different meanings and results for different colored cats.  I chose black since it helps with good health (or getting rid of evil spirits).  Different writings have different meanings.  I did see one for green for good health, but I just wasn’t ready for a green cat.

Normally the traditional white cat brings wealth and prosperity and is seen in Asian restaurants and shops.  There is also confusion as to whether it is Japanese or Chinese.  It was the Japanese in the Edo period who developed this character.

I knew it was going to be a bit more complex than just making a resist for a pod.  Since I didn’t have a particular size in mind, I just made a resist I felt I could get enough detail on and manage.

I used prefelts for the first layer and merino wisps for the sides.  I also added needle felted noses, cheeks and prefelt and cotton batting for the one arm. Then added three layers of corriedale putting the eyes under the last two and prefelt for the ears.  On the back I also made a small tail using needle felted Jacob wool.  Not much of it is visible on the wet cat.

Then I added some silk with throwsters waste to add a little bling.

Then I fulled it and stuffed it with bubblewrap to give it some shape.  I did forget to open the eyes.

I rewet it and opened the eyes. So, next I will have to add all the details needed to finish.

Stay tuned!

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