At the Waltham Textile group we have a biennial exhibition with a main theme, supported by any other smaller works we’ve produced during the two year lead up. Our current theme was launched in August and I was really happy to get a thumbs up when I suggested we have a nautical/coastal vibe…..if you know how much I love to create rockpool themed work you will know why I chose it! Within this theme we each get a metre width of wall space for a large hanging or several smaller ones and we’ve agreed a few specific group projects such as we all make a 3D fish, a 3D jelly fish, a decorated box and contribute to creating an Octopuses Garden.
Coming up with a title is always going to be tricky when it’s done by committee and, believe me, we debated many of them! Eventually we settled on “Making Waves” as its catchy, links to the ocean/shoreline but of course it can also be interpreted as rocking the boat or doing something subversive. Strange but no one in the group has mentioned this meaning so far, surely I can’t be the only one who’s planning on being subversive with (at least one of) the group challenges?
The general consensus is that the fish be attractive but my immediate thought was “angler fish“ due to its dramatic and sinister appearance. However a bit of Google research has opened up a whole new world of ugly fish, these are just a few that grabbed my interest. The red lipped batfish is probably the weirdest one of them all, I can’t help thinking it looks like someone’s added a face and four legs to a mushroom! That really is a face that only a mother could love! Collecting images of ugly fish is a whole new rabbit hole opening up so best to get back on track…..
It’s been a busy time recently with shows and workshops, plus playing catch up after being knocked off my feet for a couple of weeks with Covid. This has meant I haven’t made much progress but I have at least started one exhibition piece. If you visit the Felting and Fibre Community Photo page you may already have seen this as it’s made entirely from materials I had to hand and therefore fulfils the criteria set for the last challenge.
My aim was to create a wet felted vessel with a blue/green colour theme, an undulating surface and lots of texture. A student had recently commented on one of my necklaces saying it reminded her of rocks and coral and this passing remark inspired me to use the same technique and materials for my “Making Waves” vessel.
Using differential shrinkage is a great way to manipulate the surface of your felt. Thin areas have the potential to shrink much more than thick areas thereby creating hills and valleys in your work. These can be symmetrical, as in the yellow/grey bowl, or asymmetrical which was my aim for the necklace and this vessel.
The grey and mink fibre used is mostly World of Wool 23 micron Merino although, because I was using up left over short lengths from previous projects (remember the F&F challenge), I think there’s oddments of superfine in there too. The thicker areas are prefelt covered with hand dyed silk fabrics, printed viscose paper towels, sari yarn and wool yarns to create a variety of textures and after felting it measured 36cm x 17cm.
The eagle eyed might spot two pieces of lace which are on the layout but not the finished vessel, these didn’t look right so were pulled of. I’m now looking forward to some spare time next month to complete it with more hand embroidery, beading and shells.
Some of the first felt objects I made were vases: made around a flat u-shaped resist that I designed to try to get a good even layer of felt on the base (wobbly bases not being good for vases). Every so often I get the urge to make a few vases, so I thought I’d show you some I’ve made recently.
My felt pictures are often inspired by my coastal environment. So, I thought I’d make some coast-inspired vases.
I prefelted some recycled silk scarf pieces to make pebbles then added pebble shapes to the lower section. The sea area had a pewter-coloured merino base with blue and green wisps of wool plus some silky fibre for the sea foam. The wave was a combination of some sort of knitted yarn I’d also found in a charity shop, with added mohair and the same silky fibre (I’m not completely sure what it was, it was just hanging around and looked suitable!)
I made 3 in total – here are the other 2.
Sometimes it’s the materials themselves that suggest pieces rather than the local scenery. I put some beautiful bright coral-coloured dyed locks against contrasting duck egg blue and teal merino and thought that might be interesting
Continuing my vase-making spree: I’d dyed some merino for a workshop last year and I thought it might be a good idea to use up some of the hand-dyed wool on vases.
Now enter stage left the plant pot. A friend who’d previously bought a plant pot holder from me asked about making one specifically to suit a plant she had. I wrote a blog a while ago about my love / hate relationship with commissions but that was about pictures – I felt much happier about a plant pot as it’s not such a big commitment.
I was keen to include her in the design so I did a couple of very quick potential design sketches and consulted her on the fibre colour choices. As the plant was only in a plastic pot with holes in the bottom, I scoured my local charity shops and found a beer bucket to make the plant pot water-tight.
We decided to go for coral / pink / burgundy colours to highlight the under-sides of the leaves and an overall texture rather than a leaf-shape pattern.
I decided to do the top of the inner 2 layers green so it would show when you look down at the pot. With hindsight I should have done the whole of the inner layers green but I wasn’t sure I had enough of the green so did the lower section white. I carded together various colours of merino and silk fibre rather than use the fibre labelled ‘carded’ on the fibre picture – but keep and eye on that as it comes back later on….. Then laid locks on top.
And here’s the plant in its personal designer pot. My friend was very pleased with it.
Then it was back to the vases but with a twist. I recently found in a charity shop an old chemistry lab heavy glass 3 neck flask and, as ever, I thought….I wonder how that would work with felt. There’s a little corner of my brain that is devoted entirely to felting possibilities and it kicks into play whenever I’m mooching about charity shops, which is often!
On the same day I found some interesting yarn in another charity shop so I splashed out a further 20p and thought I’d bring these 2 finds together.
I was clearly wearing my sensible head that day as I made a sample with the yarn to make sure it would felt and see how it came out. Even more sensibly, I used it on both sides of my sample (I wish I always remembered to do that) so I could decide which effect I liked best
I stared to ponder the engineering challenge of the 3 neck vase and decided I’d have to have a hole underneath. Usually my vase covers are solid on the under side and the glass slips into the top. With this I wanted the felt to fit tightly round the necks so I’d have the glass entry point on the base. I carefully measured and calculated at least 40% shrinkage then made my resist. This time an upside-down U-shape
I laid 4 layers of natural white merino over both sides of the resist then ran a single strip of the yarn around. I then added single black nepps below the yarn line, more densely near the yarn and just a few further down the shape. This seemed like a good idea but it took absolutely ages to separate out individual nepps, pick out only round ones and of a similar size, and then place them where I wanted them to sit. One of those decisions you regret before you’re half-way through but can’t bear not to finish as you’ve already invested so much time in it!
Anyway, here’s the finished vase. Actually, I’m pleased with the pattern, although I’d intended the yarn to sit a bit further up the flask. I’d not properly taken into account how much of the felt would be underneath.
I thought I’d find some more old 3 necked lab flasks. Having consulted both EBay and Google it rapidly became clear that they are not to be had. I have not found a single similar 3 neck flask (there are new ones which are much thinner and tend to have domed bases, no good for vases). The nearest I could find was a similar heavy glass 2 necked flask which is on EBay for £40. £40! I now feel I can’t sell my vase as I don’t want someone to buy it for the flask and rip off the felt! So, that one is staying with me, at least for the time being.
And finally we come back to the pre-mixed fibre I mentioned (labelled ‘carded’). If you’re ever lucky enough to visit World of Wool in Yorkshire, you’ll see they have two huge skip-type bins full of ends of lines and wooly remnants (one with coloured fibres and one just cream /white). There’s a low fixed-price per weight for the content of each bin and you can ferret out all sorts of hidden gems. I can spend a long time almost falling into those bins. This mystery fibre-mix was one such find.
I thought I’d make a vase using that plus a piece of a pink silk scarf I’d just found in a charity shop. That day, alas, I was not wearing my sensible head and didn’t think to make a sample: partly because I didn’t have a lot of the fibre and partly, well, because I just didn’t think about it.
I laid out 2 layers of a matching pre-dyed merino, 2 layers of the mystery fibre and a strip of silk and set about felting. Fairly soon my error became clear. The mystery fibre was not felting at all. I persisted. It still didn’t felt. I persisted. And persisted. In the end it did felt, presumably with help from the 2 inner layers of merino. It shrank more than I’d expected and the fibre hadn’t been all that keen on pushing through the silk, which means the silk ruching is rather loose in places. But it’s fixed completely round the edges and anyway, I like a bit of loose ruching.
So, here are my recent adventures in vase-making, with a little diversion via a plant pot. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Do you have a favourite?
With the first quarter challenge being all about making samples by deconstructing/reconstructing different materials I had intended to spend a day doing precisely that and detail them in this post. Like a lot of well intentioned plans time slipped away and I’m sitting here with no new samples and a post to write!
For the sake of getting this post out on time I’m going to have to cheat and show some of the deconstruct/reconstruct work I’ve made in the past.
This sample was my first attempt at Nuno Felting, made with synthetic sheers and some cotton fabrics. I remember thinking at the time “never again” as the process seemed to take forever! Obviously I did do it again and soon learnt which fabrics I prefer to work with. This sample eventually got cut up and used for brooches. Thanks to Helene and her post, which you can find here, for reminding me about these.
My second sample had silk fabrics top and bottom, cut from charity shop scarves, with a piece of my aunties wool shawl in the centre. As you would expect, being somewhat bulky, the wool section shrunk far less than the silks but all three pieces felted very quickly and easily so I was encouraged to go on and make lots more Nuno felt.
It hung around for quite some time before I decided to cut it down, add some stitching and put it in a frame. It’s now a lovely reminder of aunty Das who has since passed away.
Off cuts of prefelt, or deconstructed fully felted pieces, never get thrown away as they are always useful for cutting up and using as inclusions beneath fabric when Nuno felting.
This little fossil sample was a trial using Merino fibres and cotton wadding left over from a quilting project. The wadding felts very easily and is useful for creating ”lumpy” relief designs.
One of the great things about making felt is that, even if it doesn’t work out how you wanted, it needn’t be wasted. This mossy pebble necklace is an example of that. I had intended it to be asymmetrical but when it was finished it wasn’t asymmetrical enough. There’s a fine line between something looking intentionally asymmetrical and looking like you tried to make it symmetrical and failed! This looked the latter….. just plain wonky!
Thinking I would work on it at some point I left it on display next to a grey Bergschaf bowl……… and months later had a light bulb moment! The necklace was deconstructed and recycled to create the large surface “bumps” on this bowl.
Another deconstruct project was this triangular scarf. I loved the combination of the Superfine Merino and Viscose Fibre but wasn’t particularly happy with the design of the scarf. Several months later, after never being worn, it got cut up, pleated, beaded and recycled to create this chunky, highly textural bracelet.
My final samples were inspired by a photograph I took of barnacles. I can’t remember now what they were attached to but I saw them in the harbour in Ullapool and just loved the shapes and colours.
The hand dyed cotton fabric, left over from an old project, was given to me by a friend. The barnacles are constructed from several pieces sewn together on the machine and stiffened using acrylic wax. The next step will be to sample materials and techniques to create the very textural background.
If you have any deconstruct/reconstruct projects you would like to share, big or small, we would love to see them over on the Forum.
It’s that time of year when there are lots of Christmas fairs coming up & I need to make some festive items.
Recently, I picked up some Christmas-themed small wooden blanks (for tree decorations, or maybe gift tags) very cheaply in a charity shop. I started doodling on them with acrylic pens and found I was enjoying myself – it made me think about the recent popularity of adult colouring books. Good for mindfulness.
Some examples of the painted blanks – there was quite a variety of shapes.
I know these aren’t fibre-related but it set me off thinking about doing something similar with felt. I bought some bauble-shaped wooden blanks online and after colouring a few in (colouring in is a little addictive) …..
Some of the painted baubles
….. I decided to make a sheet of white felt, decorated with bits of vintage lace, old tatting and shadow-work embroidery, all bought in charity shops. I have a box full of old strips of hand and machine made ‘lace’, old dressing table doilies, bits of fine crochet….anything I think might felt. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to do some creative up-cycling.
As I was making the felt it struck me that I have lots of handmade felt off-cuts, test pieces and samples that I could use in a similar way. A good opportunity to recycle work and release a little studio space. To continue my recycling theme, I even used charity-shop-bought crochet cotton for the hanging strings.
These were cut from square samples I made during Fiona Duthie’s Ink + Felt class
Left, some more ink + cloth samples. Right, samples I made for my ‘hippie’ bag earlier this year
Left photo: Top left a nuno sample I made using recycled linen; the others were off-cuts from other projects
Right photo – the yellow was a coaster I made with coloured yarn; the green and pink are nuno samples, the blue is an example of paper felt with some acrylic pen
Finally, I painted some of the wooden bauble-shapes white, and married them with a broad strip of black vintage lace.
So, the chance purchase of second-hand wooden blanks led me to upcycling vintage textiles and recycling some of my own felt off-cuts and samples. I love seeking out and using second-hand materials, especially small hand made things, usually made by women, that tend to be disregarded by many people. Often they are from something that has worn out, like a pillow case, or is rarely now used, like dressing table sets or antimacassars.
I have one particular piece of embroidery on fine silk that I couldn’t bring myself to use. The work is so fine I endlessly marvel at the skills of the woman who made it. It’s so intricate and beautiful with such tiny stitches it makes me feel slightly sad. I bought it in a charity shop for £2. To me it’s a disregarded masterpiece.
Silk and embroidery (hand / finger included for scale)
The silk is starting to disintegrate and I’m really not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A couple of years ago a friend alerted me to the wonderful Australian magazine simply called “Felt”. It’s only published twice a year but I look forward to it eagerly as it’s always crammed with interesting photographs and articles including artist profiles and project tutorials.
One of the artists featured in the latest edition is the Canadian born feltmaker Christianna Ferguson. Christianna’s work is very colourful and textural and, as well as teaching and exhibiting, she also creates what she calls “more functional art: scarves, purses, cuffs, tea-cosies and wearables.”
So, having read about her work, when I turned the page and saw the tutorial for making her fabulous little Nuno felted and hand embroidered cuffs I had to have a go!
The fasteners are particularly cute and make an interesting feature but I struggled to get them as firm as I would have liked. For an added twist I’ve included some hand stitching and a bead to my fasteners. I added some hand embroidery to my green cuff but wasn’t happy with it…..looking back at Christianna’s examples I can see that my stitching wasn’t subtle enough! I much prefer the grey one which I left plain.
The good thing to come out of this exercise, having made two in this style, is that I’ve been reminded how much fun cuffs are to make. I designed several Nuno felted & free motion stitched cuffs for my sales tables last year and this has encouraged me to get on and make more.
I also got thinking about other possibilities and how much more sculptural I could make my cuffs. The next set are based on the design of one of my bangles, using a felt ball as the fastener and keeping the little beaded element.
They were all fun to make but I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the irregular shaped, Nuno style with the stitched edging (from last year) so I’ve come full circle! These are two I started this morning…..
And this is them finished. Christianna said that when she makes hers “each cuff feels like a little piece of abstract art” and I couldn’t agree more. Although I love creating larger pieces of work there is something very satisfying about making these little cuffs and ending up with a totally unique, wearable item.
I started working on some nuno felted landscapes in April. It has been stop and start on getting them completed. But I thought I would give you an update on the results so far.
I showed you Flathead Lake at the end of April. I got a few comments on perhaps adding more stitching to the trees. It took a bit of contemplation about whether I should add more stitching. The main reasons I decided to go ahead and add some stitching is to bring the trees more into the foreground and to hide some of the horizontal stitching that I did on the lake area.
I used a #12 variegated cotton thread and free motion stitched the branches. I do like the highlights that it added and it definitely helped cover the horizontal lines of “lake stitching”. Now I need to find a “matte” fabric and get it ready for framing.
This is another background. I decided to hand stitch this one. I’m not sure why since it is the biggest one. It should take me quite a while especially since I have become disenchanted with it. I was working on it steadily but that has gone by the wayside.
Here it is after stitching the distant pine trees.
Then I stitched more foliage and aspen trees. I am using seed stitch and using a variety of colors. I was thinking it was similar to impressionist paintings with little dots of color. I think painting is significantly faster than stitching. So this is definitely a slow stitch piece.
Here’s a closer look at the stitches. I think I got discouraged because I still had so much to fill. I will be adding some different stitches into the foreground but I have to get the further distances completed before I can start on the foreground. What do you do when you get discouraged in the middle of a project? I have been working on other stuff, so it isn’t that I am not doing anything. But this one is not very appealing right now. Any suggestions?
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)
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from the states. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful day with friends and family.
Last week, my friend Deb told you about her experience with nuno felting. This is the piece that I made during that nuno party.
The plan was to get a nuno felt piece completed at the party. This piece is only about 5″ x 5″ and I planned to get at least one more done but somehow I didn’t manage that. The other two goals were to create a colorscape for the 4th quarter challenge and to use the end result as one of my Level 3 color studies.
So the color scheme is red orange, green and blue. I originally thought I would lay green threads on top and then couch them down. Then I would add some french knots as poppies? But here I go being too literal again. It was just supposed to be a “colorscape”. I needed to keep it simple.
So I found some thin, hand dyed green thread and added it in with running stitch, also called Kantha stitch.
Then I added the red orange thread in Kantha as well. I like how the Kantha mimics the same texture as the nuno felted silk. So here is my colorscape for the 4th quarter challenge which is also going to be part of my homework for class and it was completed at our group meeting. So I managed to get three things off my list in one piece. Yay!
This is a guest post by Deb Stika who is a member of my local art group.
I’m a member of Ruth’s art group and am back reporting on Nuno felting. The above photos are of the finished product. I really wanted to like Nuno felting but I can’t honestly say I did—even though my art group buddies repeated the tutorial session for me because I missed the last one—thank you everyone!!! Nuno felting is a lot of work. Some of the work very tedious and messy…
Getting to work with lovely wool fibers was nice…
Pulling the fibers apart was fun…
And laying them down was satisfying…
Smooshing around with soapy water… endlessly…
And rubbing…rubbing…rubbing…then rolling…rolling…rolling…
And rubbing some more…
And then you toss the darn thing…HARD!!!
Ruth said if I was not happy with doing Nuno felting that I should not try felting. I
don’t think there is any risk of that happening!!! Thanks again to my group…I
enjoyed being with you as always!
Do you have experiences with nuno felting that made you feel like this? We’d love to hear about them.