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Needle felting a toadstool

Needle felting a toadstool

Is it too late to wish you all a Happy New Year?

I haven’t properly picked up my felting needles in quite some time. I can’t tell you why, but my mind just hasn’t been “in the right place” to make anything particularly unique.

Things changed when I got commissioned to make a mushroom sculpture. It was just simple yet challenging enough for me to see if this would finally open those creative doors. The client wanted something similar to what I’d made before, so all I had to do was look at an old photo and start felting. I’m not copying something that needs to look exactly like something else, but it’s also not mindless felting. Perfect.

This is the old mushroom she saw in my online shop and wanted another of (sorry the resolution isn’t the best):

I really enjoy looking at past work because I’m often surprised at the fact this is mine. Do you get that feeling with things you created a long time ago? I am particularly chuffed when I get that “oh, that’s pretty” feeling before it registers it came from my brain.

Now, for the new sculpture. I gave my client a few fabrics to choose from, but she went for the same as the first one. Not surprising, as she really liked the original item and was very motivated to have a mushroom like it.

I started with wire wrapped in wool to make the stem. The top was created with leftover wool felted into shape, then I sewed the fabric to the top and some tea-stained gauze to the bottom.

The base looks very messy, so I’ll be adding some wool to cover it.

Then comes the fun part: assembly!

I chose some hand dyed mohair locks, plus some natural Wensleydale ones and put it all together. After that, I sewed the beads and stones here and there. Here’s the finished item:

The finished object is just different enough for me not to feel I made a complete copy, and the familiarity helped make the felting process easy enough for my Lockdown Brain to not feel too flustered.

Finally, not related at all, but here’s a photo of a lovely Edinburgh sunset for your enjoyment.

Have a lovely weekend and thanks for reading!

Do I have a finished vest? (Spoiler: I don’t)

Do I have a finished vest? (Spoiler: I don’t)

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well, or at least managing not to randomly yell at walls.

If you remember, the last time I wrote I was working on a Victorian-style waistcoat mockup, and I was determined to have the real thing ready soon. Famous last words!

Once lockdown happened, my energy levels plummeted, lots of food was eaten with no exercise (in which my waistline might have increased ever so slightly, making the waistcoat a bit more er, snug) and my creative mojo went out the window.

So… this is where I am now:

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After two mockups, I thought I was ready for the real deal. However… see the puckering on the armpit area? It’s driving me mental and I don’t know how to sort it. I’ve tried pinning and tucking but so far, nothing has helped. Argh. Suggestions?

The good bit is, I definitely did practice my tailoring techniques. Using horse hair canvas and a special type of tailor stitch, I partially lined the inside of the waistcoat to make it sturdier. This also helps with shaping – see how the lapel is bending in the right direction? That’s the horse hair canvas and the stitching doing its magic. Behold, my tailoring efforts below.

 

Another issue I’m having is the fabric itself: since the wool is on the thick side, each bit I add (such as the inner lapel) adds bulk, for which the pattern doesn’t account. That, plus my recent indulgence in delicious comestibles, and I’m in trouble… Next Winter should be interesting.

Another thing I’ve done so far is to topstitch the lapel by hand, so the fabric doesn’t pucker when the waistcoat is buttoned up. I think you can tell the slight difference between the topstitched right half and the left, yet to be worked on:

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And that’s pretty much me done for the moment. For those who might complain that I’m not showing any felting, look! I’ve needle felted a couple of little balls to see if they look good with a bead, for knitting stitch markers. What do you think? I’m not in love so far.

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Finally… I need a distraction from all my recent mask making, so I’ve decided to work on a miniature felt jacket for a lady rabbit I sewed a while ago. Naturally, Quality Control Kitty was there to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.

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Hopefully in my next post I’ll have a finished waistcoat and a mini jacket to show you…

Oh, and one last thing: I’ve been having trouble commenting on everyone else’s posts, which makes me very sad. Tech is annoying. Please know I’ve been reading them. I really, really hope the tech issue doesn’t impede my being able to reply to your comments, fingers crossed!

Have your lovely selves a great day 🙂

Needle Felted Animals

Needle Felted Animals

Since I started running workshops in 2017 I’ve often been asked if I will teach needle felted animals, maybe how to make a hare or a fox, etc. and my answer was always the same….. “sorry no, but I can put you in touch with someone who will”. There are so many terrific needle felters out there and, not only that, I didn’t really fancy spending hours stabbing fibres when I could be wet felting.

That changed when I got an email last November from a guy who wanted to buy his wife a needle felting workshop as a Christmas present. It was time to change tack so I agreed to run the class and immediately went out and bought various grades of wire and pipe cleaners and started hand carding fibres to make my first hare.

I didn’t concern myself too much with realism or body part proportions! Harriet went through several stages, at one point looking like an otter, at another like a kangaroo, before blossoming into a hare.

By the time she was finished I was hooked!! Two more hares followed in quick succession, the last one being this simplified version to use as a one day workshop for anyone who hasn’t needle felted before.

Happy with the hares I turned my thoughts to making a squirrel. If you google “anatomy of a (whatever)” you will find lots of diagrams and images of skeletons which can be used to get the correct proportions and shaping for your animal armatures. I used one as a reference for making my red squirrel armature as I wanted this one to be as lifelike as possible. It’s also useful to save photos, taken from all angles, of whatever animal you are making and refer to them constantly. I know a lot of felters use glass eyes for their animals but I decided to stick with felting mine as I think you can achieve more character that way.

Each animal is made with Cheviot fibres for the core and then cladded with carded Bergschaf or Corriedale. I was very pleased with how this one turned out.

I recently made a frog and this turned out to be my favourite piece. He seemed to take the longest but you can place him in all sorts of different poses and I just love him! Again, a quick search on the internet produced a diagram that was used to get the proportions and create the armature.

I changed my mind about the colour scheme part way through so he ended up with pink feet and a green body which just looked wrong! I couldn’t face starting again with the feet so I simply dipped his toes in Inktense paint and cured his problem!

So as you can see, this reluctant needle felter has really got the bug! I’ve done my first two classes and I’ve four more lined up, which I’m really looking forward to. The Christmas present of a hare workshop was well received and that particular lady, Jo, has since been back and made a red squirrel and her daughter in law made the lovely mouse…..pretty impressive for first attempts!

Jo’s Hare

Jo’s Squirrel

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My only problem now is deciding what to needle felt next!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone.

I hope you had a great time ringing in the new year and are enjoying the first day of a new decade.

Time to think back to what I have done and what I want to do.

Last year I did some experimenting with pots.

Did some more artwork

Took a few classes

And taught a few classes.

I took on organizing my guilds annual sale and exhibition with the help of an amazing group of people.

Next year, I am not really sure. I am chair of the sale and exhibition again this year.  I know I am doing more teaching (LINK) and I need to update and sort out my website.

Plans early this year are to get the pictures done for an online class. Jan is going to help with this so I have to get felting to have different stages so we can film more in one day. I am sure Ruth has lost hope of me ever getting it done.

I want to do more artwork with hand stitching. I really do enjoy sitting and stitching. It looks so nice on the felt. To that end, I made a few picture blanks between Christmas and new year. Sorry Its not a great picture I just did it quick while writing this.

Beyond that, I really haven’t planned much. Do you have plans for the year, big or small we would love to hear what they are? We would also love you to share pictures and chat about what you are doing over on the Forum. (LINK)

 

Third Quarter Challenge – Part 2

Third Quarter Challenge – Part 2

I showed you my ideas, concepts and sketches for my cityscape last week. Now on to the felting.

First I needed to make some prefelt for the buildings. I had a mixed brown batt already in my stash so I decided to use that as the buildings in my inspiration photos were variegated brown.

Once I got the brown wool to prefelt stage, I let it dry and then used my sketch to make pattern shapes for the buildings. I used tracing paper to trace the shapes and then cut them out of the prefelt. This is when my perspective began to go wonky.

I found a piece of hand dyed silk in my stash that looked like night sky. I put that over a piece of commercial white prefelt and then laid down the black base, trees and prefelt building shapes. I thought they were well positioned for the perspective I needed but with felting they must have shifted slightly.

Here it is after felting. The buildings are getting wonkier. There is a reason that I don’t usually felt man made designs. I have difficulty keeping the perspective correct and as I progressed in this process, they just seemed to get more and more off as I went. But I had hopes that with the addition of windows and doors, this would improve.

I did fold the extra silk fabric to the back and hand stitch it in place. This gives the edge a more finished look.

I eyeballed where the windows and doors should go and tried to get the perspective correct with them. But that didn’t really work out so well. In hindsight, it might have worked better to stitch my lines for the wooden siding first and then added the windows and doors afterward.

Next week, I will show you the machine stitching and the finishing technique I used to get a starry sky. If you have created a cityscape, please go over to the forum and post it here. 

First Time Felting

First Time Felting

Quarto Creates, the book publisher for The Complete Photo Guide to Felting, is taking parts of that book and creating a book for first time felt makers.

The book will be out in the fall of 2019 but you can pre-order it on a variety of online book selling sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The emphasis in this book is on needle felting but it does have an introduction to wet felting as well. You can check it out here.

When the book comes out, I will do a give away for all of you lucky readers so look for it in the fall. If you already have my first book, then you will already have all the information that is in this book. But if you are a beginner and would like the basics to start with, this is the book for you!

 

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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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Now behold, with eyelids!

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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.

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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.

Monet Challenge

Monet Challenge

I came across a couple of these pieces recently when I was packing up for a craft fair. It’s one of my favourite Challenges (My favourite was Ann’s Stewert Stephenson one) and these are some of my favourite pieces, so I thought I’d do a Throwback Post for anyone who missed it:

I didn’t get a chance to do any felting for a while until this week because we had a ridiculous heatwave here. I did manage to make a few batts for the Monet challenge though. After choosing some of my favourite paintings, or ones which I thought I might be able to use as inspiration, I made a simple montage:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI then messed about with it in Photoshop:

Using this for inspiration I made a couple of green batts; a purpley one; a purple and yellow blended one which looks kind of mustardy/mossy, and a mixed blue one. Looking at Monet’s style he mostly had a straight/dashy style, but some paintings or certain areas of paintings had a softer swirly style. For the first piece I made using the batts I laid out areas of different colours then added softer wispier swirls of wool and fibres:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made this piece using the batts too. Neither of these first pieces copy Monet, they are just inspired by the colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wasn’t very confident I could do an actual ‘copy’ of a Monet painting, but I thought I’d have a go of at least doing an impression of a Monet piece 🙂  I chose Morning On The Seine In The Rain.

Morning-On-The-Seine-In-The-Rain-largeI was actually quite surprised when this started to dry and it actually looked like something! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve stared at the original so much that I can see the similarity and that it’s meant to be it, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was fluffing up the fibres for the swirly piece, I thought I might have a go at needlefelting a piece too. Since I had all the colours out, and had really started to like it, I thought I’d do another based on Morning On The Seine In The Rain. I used a piece of thick commercial Merino prefelt as a base, and blended some texturey wools like Icelandic, carded lambswool and Devon longwool with Merino to get the colours and texture I wanted. I like the way this turned out too 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you ever want or need some inspiration to get your creativity flowing, click on ‘Challenges‘ in the Categories drop down menu on the right hand side. We have new ones every quarter, but you might find something you prefer, like this Monet challenge, in our archives 🙂

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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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

 

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading this in the US! I hope you had a nice celebration.

Today I’m sharing some rainbow-y fibre I created, plus a “throwback” item that I hope you’ll like.

Being an indie dyer means I get to play with dyes fairly regularly, but it had been some time since I adventured into the world of saturated rainbows. I think it was the grey London Autumn that got me inspired, I just needed to get a colour fix. Off to the dye pot I went.

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One of the things I’ve been a little obsessed with lately is how yarns look when they’re in skein format – I love it when colours look cohesive and have a certain progression to them when displayed, so I went for a red “bottom” that would change as the eyes look up. Hopefully you’ll see that this was done consciously.

I knit this into a hat (complete with a pompom) that I think looks very cheery. It’s going to be a Christmas present so I hope the recipient likes it.

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I hope you’re not fed up with bright colours yet…

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Although not technically a rainbow, this wool top came out super bright and happy (to my eyes at least). If you’ve ever dyed wool top or roving you’ll know it can be an adventure to control where the colours go. This is superwash wool (it doesn’t felt) so it wasn’t as difficult to get “right” as non-superwash fibres, but I’m still perfecting my methods. Suggestions are welcome!

This being the Felting and Fiber Studio, there should be some felting, so here is a little Piglet I made a couple of years ago and gifted to a friend. I really loved creating this little guy and think he came out really well. I got to see the sculpture again a few days ago at a friend’s house.

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Have you done any hand dyeing or needle felting lately? Share your experiences with me in the comment sections.

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