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Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!

Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.

In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.

To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.

I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!

April….mmmm!

Upholstery……..April….mmmm!

A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!

I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.

Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.

I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!

So far so good.

Research & idea gathering

More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.

By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.

I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.

I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.

A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.

I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!

Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.

The photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!

Developing the raindrops idea.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!

The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.

Organised chaos and smoke screens!

Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.

The final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

The published 1998 Calendar photo

Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!

Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.

I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!

I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk Thrums – what DO you do with them??

Silk thrums are gorgeous, jewel-like bits of temptation, rich in colour, shiny and sparkly, promising all sorts of lovely uses that will amaze everyone. Or not. Silk thrums are one part of the left overs from the sari silk industry. This is what can’t be woven on the loom and has to be cut off. I would like to see how saris are woven to understand the way the wastage is generated, it still puzzles me, but silk thrums are available in vast quantities to crafters all over the world. The problem with sari silk, and its a huge problem, is how the silk is dyed. There do not appear to be industry standards for colour fastness. Silk is a tricky fiber on a good day, so if dyers can’t determine dye acidity, water temperature, water hardness, or can’t properly degum the silk, the dye will run. I decided to try to use this characteristic of sari thrums to an advantage to see if there could be any benefit to be had.

I took a brilliant red thrum, trimmed the ribbon end and trimmed some silk fibers. The ribbon was soaked in hot water to leech out the dye. The colour saturation was evident as soon as the ribbon was in the jar. The water was totally red, but there is no way to do any metrics on this because the original silk was dyed with an unknown quantity of dye. All this is just a “see if this works” experiment. I snipped a tiny quantity of silk fiber, set it aside to mix with the wool roving I had chosen for dying.

I spun the rest of the silk threads into a single ply yarn. I’m taking a liberty in calling this a single ply, it is in fact a multiple thread yarn. The sari silk is made up of extremely fine thread. I respun those into a single thread with added twist. I can’t show them to you because my camera just can’t pickup the delicacy of those threads.

It was difficult to spin at first, because the fibers are nearly 36 inches long and tended to get tangled. I’ll try a different method next time, but it is possible to spin this into a reasonably nice yarn. The single yarn is plied against some of the merino top that is the basis of the dye bath test. I’ll use this later as part of the dye test.

When I plied the single merino wool with the single red silk they worked well together This is the most durable, hard to break fiber I have ever handled. Silk really is amazing.

I presoaked the remaining merino, drained, opened it along a mid-seam, sprinkled the snipped silk threads all along the centre. I then rolled the merino into a tube and wrapped it with the ribbon from the soak jar. This was set in an acid bath and topped up with the dye water from the soak jar. I use an oven to dye my wool. I cooked this for about two hours at 100C/220F. I expected a more vibrant red, not the pale orange, but this is an experiment, so expectations have to go on the back burner.

 

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!
Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

Today we have a throwback post. It was originally posted by Zed in 2011. Jan is ill and can’t make a post and I thought this would be interesting to everyone.

A few years ago I was given some gorgeous multi-coloured Throwsters waste in a fibre swap. I’ve always used it sparingly, worried it’d run out and I’d have to begrudgingly pay a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny handful. Then a few months ago I was ordering wool and fibres from World of Wool and thought I’d take the plunge and order some gummed throwster’s waste since it cost less for 100g than most people charge for 10g dyed. I had no idea it’d be so stiff and dull! The complete opposite of what I was used to. I had absolutely no idea how to de-gum it either 🙂

A couple of days later after a few hours searching the internet, I was confident I’d pieced together enough info to try de-gumming for myself. I thought I’d probably have to try it a few times before getting it right, but was pleasantly surprised to see it work first time with excellent results 🙂

If you’d like to try it yourself or are just interested in the process, I’ve made a tutorial with lots of photos and an easy to follow table for working out quantities.

Degumming Silk Throwsters Waste

I’ll be following up later this week with a tutorial for direct dyeing small amounts of animal fibres with acid dyes, which can be used to dye your degummed throwster’s waste some gorgeous colours 🙂

I have to say Thank You to foragingfibers whose pictures convinced me it was worth trying to degum my own throwster’s waste 🙂

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.

Die Cutting Felt

Die Cutting Felt

Today I’m pleased to welcome Tracey Thompson as our Guest Artist. Tracey has been an active member on the forum and will be showing us her Die Cutting Machine and her experience cutting felt.

A recent post in the Felt and Fibre Forum led me to comment that I had tried to cut felt using a die cutting machine.  It was given to me free by a friend because she wanted to treat herself to the next model that had more bells and whistles!

Here is the die cutter, it is a Spellbinders Grand Calibur.  It cuts beautiful images in  card stock but how would it cope with felt?

I tried both commercial felt and my own prefelt in this machine.  The results were mixed with both felts, but I think this was largely down to the dies.  The more intricate the die, the more it mashed away at the felt, sometimes obliterating it!

I then remembered that I had a quite simple die in the shape of a snowflake, and as I still have Christmas cards to make, I thought I would have another go.  This next picture is my prefelt with the snowflake die and a Merry Christmas die.  The hole in the middle of the prefelt was where the snowflake came out perfectly, and the mashed up bit at the bottom was where Merry Christmas didn’t!

So I thought I would make a simple card to use the snowflakes on.  I put down two layers of Tanzanite from World of Wool, as I wanted a night time feel as a background.

I also wanted simple decoration, so I just lay a few blue and white mulberry silks on the top.

Here it is after felting.

I then ironed a piece of interfacing onto the back to make the stitching more stable. I had cut out a few snowflakes using a white commercial felt, and I used a double silver metallic thread to attach them to the felted piece.

So here is the finished card, it is a fairly simple one but it’s one to tick off the list!

Tracey, thanks for sharing your experience with us and for helping to fill in on my leave!

Maneki-Neko for 2017 3rd Quarter Challenge Part 2

Maneki-Neko for 2017 3rd Quarter Challenge Part 2

I never dreamed this project would take me almost two weeks to complete.  But it is finished.

If you missed part one, you can read about it here:

https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2017/09/25/pandagirls-maneki-neko-for-2017-3rd-quarter-challenge-part-1/

It would seem adding the details to finish would be easy.  Not!

I needle felted blue roving around the eyes.  The gems underneath are actually blue, but because they were put over black it wasn’t obvious what color they were.

Then I spent time looking for a gold bell, but decided on using a wool ball instead.  When I added the ribbon I made a slit on both sides of the arm to pull it thru.

The nose and mouth are also needle felted.  But at one point, the nose fell off and had to be reattached.

I curled over the raised paw and secured it in order to show the paw and nails.

The nails proved to be a real challenge and after ripping them out at least a half dozen times, trying needle felting, then using floss and finally rayon thread.

I tried needle felting the arm in front and the tail in back to show the dimension, but it was negligible partly because of it being black. So, I stitched around them which helped.

Another challenge was the writing on the coin.  I made a gold prefelt and copied the characters I had translated from an app for Good Health and confirmed with my daughter in law, Mari. I transferred the characters to a stabilizer.

I thought using the satin stitch on my Pfaff machine would work, but its not a straight satin stitch, but the stitches varied.  So I decided to use a triple stitch which was fine until I reached curves.  I ended up finishing by hand. I’m hoping I haven’t butchered the characters too much.  After finishing the coin, I slip stitched it to the kitty.

The final addition were the whiskers.  They are a little funky and I had to use a little GAC to give them a little stiffness.

Now its time to find her place facing East in hopes of bringing Good Heath to my household.

What challenges have you had lately?

 

 

 

Year End Giveaway

Year End Giveaway

This year we’ve talked a lot about embellishments whether they were new fibers or scraps and saw a lot of samples.  A little embellishment goes a long way.  So, I decided to go thru my embellishment stash and choose ten different types that someone may like to try.

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There is approximately 10 grams of each.

Starting with the left hand row from the bottom up:  Ramie, Hemp, Milk Protein and Texas Mohair.

The second row:  Black Tussah, Yak and a multicolored silk Tussah.

The last row is Tencel, Mulberry silk and degummed cocoons.

Please note the Texas Mohair and the cocoons contain some VM.

I’ll mark each bag with the name and weight.

A couple of years ago I made a “sampler” book cover with a bunch of embellishments as a reference.

  https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2014/09/19/two-in-one-felt-project/

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below by December 30.  The winner will be drawn by a random number generator and announced on January 6.

Good luck! Happy Holidays!

Finishing the Panels

Finishing the Panels

Last week I showed you two large panels I made using scraps.  Since then I created three more.

One long panel.

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20161118_122511Two short ones.

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Here they are laid out on the floor.

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Here’s the final project.

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So, whats underneath?

My Simplicity Needle Felting Machine naked.  Sorry about the lighting, this was our first snow and kind of cloudy.

Now you see it.

20161204_142455Now you don’t.

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I was amazed that I got the sizes right.  I purposely left the edges organic.  Its a little lopsided but the top of the machine is narrower than the bottom.  Now I can change it around for a different look when the mood strikes.

Did you see that coming?

We have three spots left for sponsorship to keep our forum ad free, if you’re interested, please visit the forum and leave a response under 2017 Sponsorhips.  Thanks!

Creating Panels for a New Project

Creating Panels for a New Project

I had such a good time using my scraps and embellishments for my coupon case, I decided to do a larger project using panels.  And using up more of my scraps.

Here is the first large panel.  I started on white prefelt and added  bits of leftover batts creating a cloud effect for the background..

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Then I added silk selvage, pieces of cheesecloth, silk pieces,  scraps of scarves, metallic fabric, yarns and a little of this and that, topped with threads  and a bit of wool wisps to secure the threads.

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The next panel I forgot to take a pic of the cloud background.  But for this one I used silk selvedge, silk scraps, cheesecloth, boucle yarn bits, mohair, prefelt offcuts, and pieces of leftover roving amongst other things including threads.

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It was fun just picking out things from bags and literally throwing it on. The textures are great.

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Closeups:

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I love the way the threads cross over and look like roadmaps.

Here is the first one finished with closeups.

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I was surprised the prefelt just grabbed everything.  I had to shave each panel to get some of the glittery stuff to shine again.

Three more panels to go, so stay tuned.

Have you done your 4th Quarter Challenge yet?

 

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