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Monstrous Felting Retreat

Monstrous Felting Retreat

A few weeks ago I experienced the delight that is the Auckland Fun Felter’s Retreat, 2 full days of felting bliss! 🙂

We were 13 like-minded ladies at a retreat centre, tucked away in a quiet and leafy corner of west Auckland, we had the entire centre all to ourselves and were blessed with some lovely weather.

Jenny, our organiser extraordinaire, asked if anyone would be willing to teach / lead a short workshop on Saturday morning. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to teach face to face since 2019 so jumped at the chance and then immediately panicked that I had nothing to teach this incredibly creative and experienced group (most of the members have been felting at least as long as I have!).

After several weeks mulling it over and talking to other AFF members I settled on “animal textures in felt”, I thought this would lend itself to a series of pre-prepared samples that we could discuss the potential pitfalls and then each member could incorporate one or two into their own project. This group is so experienced I couldn’t imagine any of them wanting to waste their precious felting time watching me laying out fibre over a resist.

We all arrived on Friday afternoon, settled into our rooms and started playing with our fibres in the main hall. After talking to a few members I realised not everyone would be happy for me to share some samples and tips on how to achieve different effects, they wanted a project to follow…. my heart sank, I hadn’t planned for this, how was I going to come up with a project that included, fur, scales, eyes and locks before tomorrow morning?!!

So it was that Fugly was born….

A little pod critter, with eyes, scales on his back, a lambs tail and an unfortunate ear-hair problem – for the record I would never normally recommend trying to cram so many different techniques onto one item but now he is finished I do find Fugly quite endearing 🙂

To my surprise most of the group also made pods that incorporated most or all of the techniques and we ended up with a ?gaggle, ?fright, ?laughter <insert collective noun of your choice here> of funny little monsters:

A couple of members applied to techniques to small bags with great effect…

This weekend was such a success we agreed to do it all again in just 6 months time! 🙂

The never ending silk recycling is finally woven

The never ending silk recycling is finally woven

The silk recycling is woven, it’s all done, finished, tutto finito bandito! I actually ran out of the red and orange silk so for the last little bit I had to dig in the bag and retrieve some matching silk with blue, red and orange. It looks just fine. Once the weaving was done I hem stitched the edge, wove in any loose warp threads and washed the yardage.

The whole mass went into the washing machine on a regular cycle, in cool water with my usual detergent. This is the way I plan on washing the finished jacket. I also did this to release any dyes that are lurking in the silk. The jacket will probably bleed dye for the rest of its life because some dyers do not set the dye in silk. The cotton warp took on a slight pinkish tint, so that helped to level the overall look of the fabric.

I plan to hang dry the jacket, so the material was taken outside to hand dry and freshen in sunlight. This proved a tiny bit problematic. The fabric was really, really heavy when wet. This is also when the light began to dawn that this was not, I repeat not, just a four yard warp. I left the fabric to dry on the railing overnight, where it promptly froze into position. Freeze drying works too, so two days later, in it came.

I was able to measure and confirm that this was clearly a massive piece of fabric. Originally, the warp was estimated to be ‘maybe’ 4 yds or 3.5 meters. It was purchased at an estate sale from one of our guild’s best weavers, but the labels fell off and things got a bit muddled when best efforts were at hand. I knew I was taking a risk, even getting it on the loom was a challenge, but I have no regrets. The length proved a great surprise and reward at the same time. It also explains why I ran out of weaving material. There are 8 yards or 7.5 meters, plenty here to make two jackets if I’m careful!

The final product is gorgeous. It just shimmers in the right light and I really want to do it justice. Even though it is a recycled product, or maybe because it is recycled, it’s important that the final result show the very best characteristics of the fibres that have gone into making it.

Our guild has an amazing resource for researching just about anything fibre related. Jan is our librarian. She is the lead book slinger in our heavy rental group called Jan and the Librarians; they have sessions once a month at the guild. I joined in last weekend and Jan supplied me with my requests for information on Japanese clothes, braids and ‘Saori’ weaving.

Japanese clothes design save weavers from the angst of having to cut their beloved fabric. The patterns are usually straightforward, basic, and interesting. I qualified this statement with ‘usually straightforward’ because I had never seen Saori weaving before nor the clothes that have been designed to use the material woven on a Saori loom. the book is in Japanese, the patterns are like origami on crack and they fascinate me endlessly. Until I can figure out the patterns I opted for a very conservative jimbei pattern from the jacket my son lent me. There are examples of simple patterns in one of the books.

This jimbei is meant for hot summer days. The sides are not stitched close but fastened with a cable stitch or stitched close with a decorative embroidery stitch. The underarm is left open, again for summer comfort.

The front is loosely tied or left open as preferred. I was interested in the reinforcement used at the bottom of the sides. These were the same reinforcements I found on the kimonos, so they clearly work.

The female version of this simple jacket has a closed wrist. It’s called a hippari. I might do one of these for winter if I have enough material left. The photos of the jimbei and hippari are from “Make your own Japanese Clothes” by John Marshall ISBN 0-870110865-X, I really enjoyed reading this book, lots of ideas for ways to incorporate the Japanese style into my life.

There are so many new things I will need to explore once I decide to start sewing this jacket. I’m really looking forward to getting the sewing machine out again.

 

Deconstructing/Reconstructing

Deconstructing/Reconstructing

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.

Weaving for the First Time

Weaving for the First Time

This is our first blog for 2022 and I can’t believe we are in February already!  Christmas seems ages ago now, but I wanted to talk about a gift that I had for Christmas.  I’ve been wanting to have a go at weaving, and have been looking for an excuse to splash out on a loom for quite some time.  But I was really lucky, because my partner Peter bought me one for Christmas.  Boy was I chuffed!! Having it as a Christmas present meant I didn’t have to explain why I was adding even more fibre equipment to my ever-expanding hobby!   Poor Pete, at this rate he’ll be baa-ing me from the house!   I knew that he was getting me one, as having tried to find his way around the copious models and types of loom, he thankfully realised that a surprise was probably not the best way to proceed! So I was lucky enough to get the loom I’d had my eye on for about 8 months, having settled on an Ashford 16″ loom as it looked to be a great starter model and the reviews were good.  Nothing to do with the fact that about six months ago, Pete offered to go and pick up a second hand loom I bought off Facebook Marketplace, that turned out to be a 16″ Vari-dent reed instead!! (It could only happen to me lol)

 

So, after Christmas, I couldn’t wait to get started on putting it together.  I’d watched YouTube tutorials, so had a pretty good idea how to put it together, but I also wanted to make my setup my own, by staining some of the wood a different colour.  I knew from a previous project, that if I diluted Cuprinol external wood paint, I could change the colour whilst still allowing the  grain to show through.  Having stained the stand the colour I wanted using a sponge as an applicator, I left those pieces to dry before waxing every piece of the loom and stand as advised.

Then the fun part – putting it all together.

I’m quite pleased with the final result, and I like some of the parts show the original colour of the wood.  I like that the stand is a different  colour from the loom.  But I found later on that I had not assembled the stand correctly, as the loom wouldn’t tilt downwards.  I found out that the diagonal struts supporting the loom should have been on the outside and not on the inside of the loom! Thank goodness for Facebook, where there are a wealth of knowledgeable people to ask for advice!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I had corrected the stand, I was ready to start weaving my first project.  Now anyone who knows me, also knows that I want to run before I can walk.  I had told myself that I needed to start with some basic wool, to practice with first.  Mmmm….that didn’t quite happen!!!!!!!  I was so enamoured with this beautiful hand spun Merino Sock Crimpy Yarn I bought from a local Welsh Etsy seller called Misguided Sheep, that I just couldn’t resist the temptation.  Risky I know, but I figured that if I really didn’t like the end result, I could always take it apart and start again!

  It’s so lush, I just couldn’t wait to use it!

For the warp, I dug out some lovely cotton yarn that I had left over from previous projects, which I had used to crochet babies’ hats.  I looked at the cerise pink yarn, and having tested it was strong enough, decided that I would use this for the warp.  I liked the contrast of this yarn with the Merino Crimpy yarn, and decided to experiment.

I didn’t take a photo of the cotton yarn to show you, but I did work out that the WPI (wraps per inch) was 20, to give you some idea of the thickness of this yarn.   I do have a photo of some of the hats I have made with this supply of yarn!

 

So – having finally managed to secure my loom at one end of my craft table and the peg at the other, I started warping my loom for the very first time!!!

I don’t think I did too badly for my first attempt.  I did have a panic at one point, as I thought I was doing something wrong when the yarn returning from the peg seemed to want to go above the warp stick sometimes and over the warp stick at other times.  But thanks for my friend YouTube, I realised that it is supposed to alternate between over and under each time you go around the warp stick!!!  Oh, the joys of self-taught crafts!!

The next step was threading alternate threads through the eye of each heddle reed.  The reed I used was the basic 7.5 DPI (30/10) one that came with the loom.

Once that was done, then I needed to tie the ends as neatly as I could to the front warping stick.

Yayyyyyy! I had done it!!!!  Now for loading my shuttle with my beautiful ‘Opalescence’ blended yarn!!

But before I did that, I had to work out how to transfer the wool from a skein! I’ve not used wool from a skein before, so this was quite a nerve-wracking moment for me as I had a vision of disappearing under bird’s nest of yarn but I managed to sort it out without too much effort, with the help (or potential interference) of Eccles (one day, I’ll be trusted to do a project without feline supervision!!!).

I found the loom useful for holding the yarn for me, much to the disappointment of Eccles, who only wanted to help bless her! (Likely story!)

So – once that was done, I was ready to start weaving…

I was quite pleased with the effect.  I love how the bobbly bits stand out from the rest of the weave.  The other thing that surprised me was how quickly the project progressed, far quicker than if I had knitted it.

I found it interesting how the bright cerise yarn changed the overall colour of the wool….

One thing I didn’t mention, was that Alex came home for Christmas, but unfortunately the day before he was due to return home, we both tested positive for Covid.  Thankfully, he sailed though it with no major problems, and the up side of covid was that by the time I managed to assemble the loom, he was still here to help me get started with the weaving!!  He really enjoyed learning to weave alongside me…

as you can see………. by the smile on his face!!!!

We were both really pleased with the final result, and we decided to have some ‘Welsh Felters’ labels printed, just for the fun of it, which I attached to the bottom corner of  the scarf!

We know it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad for our first attempt!! After Alex went home, I decided to have another go, and used the same type of cotton yarn for the warp and the same crimpy yarn for the weft.  But this time, I decided to try alternating two different shades of lilac for the warp….

  I love the candy stripes!!!

It’s surprising the difference it makes, just changing one component.  I think there is some improvement second time around, as the weave looks to be a little more even I think?

One think is for sure, we’ll be weaving more projects very soon!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cuffs and Stuff

Cuffs and Stuff

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.”

Examples of the colourful and textural work of Christianna Ferguson

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.

Some of my earlier cuffs – can’t help but think of bacon rashers when I look at this photo!
Nuno felted and free motion stitched cuffs

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.

The bangle that inspired the cuffs
The slits have been filled with half balls and metal buttons

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…..

Pre-felts laid out and wetted prior to felting
Using differential shrinkage creates an undulating surface

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.

Bubble Texture

Bubble Texture

My best-laid plans have gone awry, so I am going to show you a short piece I did back in 2012. Texture seems to be a popular topic so this should fit right in. Although this is an older post if you want to comment or ask about it you can.

People seem to be interested in how to make bubbles in felt. I know there is more than one way but this is how I did it. This is the storey of my bubble hat. I had made a renaissance hat form Chad Alice Hagen’s hat book. I t was to show a group of ladies that were taking a hat class with me. It is a big hat made on a resist that is shaped like a big droopy mushroom. When you finish it you make wrinkles in it and clothespin them till it dries. The problem is it looks great if you push it all forward and take a picture but from the back, it doesn’t look very good. I am sorry I don’t have a picture of it at that point.

What I did was use a shibori dying technique. I used felt balls but marbles or crumple tinfoil will work the same. I started in the middle. You pull the felt around the ball and tie it off as tight as you can. Move out from there repeating the wrap and tie. When it was all done I dropped it in a simmering dye bath. I let it boil for about an hour. When using this as a dye technique it is usually done on a non-felting fabric so you open it up later and flatten it out you have a die pattern. When you do it to felt at a boil it felts more and the bubble shapes stay in. Making bubbles takes a lot of felt. The hat would fit my dog now. If you put your hands in like a puppet it makes s great Muppet monster.

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.

Tyvek Brooches

Tyvek Brooches

Later this month I will exhibiting at an arts and crafts event at the Baumber Walled Gardens near Horncastle so I’ve been making various small items, including these Tyvek Brooches, for the sales table.  Since it’s invention by DuPont, Tyvek has found uses in a huge range of situations. The fact that it is much stronger than paper and many fabrics, as well as totally waterproof, has led to it being used as a replacement for these materials in many applications.  It is widely used in the construction industry but you may be more familiar with seeing it used as packaging, FedEx envelopes are made from Tyvek paper.  If you don’t have the envelopes you can buy packs of Tyvek quite cheaply from Amazon.

Tyvek paper is extremely strong and durable and great for creative crafts as it can be easily cut, coloured using any paint medium, heat distressed with an iron and stitched by machine or hand.

I made my first brooch using this material when I was looking for a contrasting texture to use with my wet felted collars.

To make a brooch I normally cut out a piece of painted Tyvek in an oval shape approximately 4” x 3” and lay it between two pieces of tracing paper.  You can use baking parchment or copier paper but I find I get a clearer picture of what’s happening to the Tyvek when I use the tracing paper.  Once it starts to react to the heat things happen very quickly!

With the iron on its hottest setting I hover over the Tyvek, just touching the paper but with absolutely no pressure on it.  The heat causes the paper to shrink creating bubbles on the underside and ridges on the top side.

Bubble side

When the paper is peeled back you will find that it has stuck a little but it cools down quickly and can easily be peeled off.

Ridges are created on the top side

The underside of the Tyvek bubbles to create a pebble effect

The next step is to cut out a piece of felt slightly smaller than the brooch and attach it to the back using a hot glue gun.  This allows me to add the hand stitched knots

Another piece of felt is cut out and has a brooch back sewn onto it before being stuck in place, again using the glue gun.

I love the fact that each brooch is totally unique as this method of working means that non of the designs could ever be repeated. My only problem is letting them go as I love them all!

2nd Quarter Challenge Piece Finished

2nd Quarter Challenge Piece Finished

I finished off the natural vessel I showed felted, but not shaped or fulled, a couple of weeks ago:

It’s made with various wools, I took a range of naturals to the well being centre and I think the first two (inside) layers are Portuguese Merino from a batt, and the next two are brown Finnish. I took lots of locks in too, mostly Swedish breeds/crossbreeds from Zara in lots of shades, but I might have used a few BFL locks too:

If you saw my post last week, you might be interested to know how the thing which looked a bit like a pizza base turned out. This is my entry for Ann’s 2nd Quarter Challenge, which is “using fabric as a surface design instead of a base”, but Ann then added “As an extra challenge to you it can’t be a sample and it can’t be a book cover” 🙂 Luckily, I’d already had an idea which would fit the challenge, since we’d been doing ‘extreme nuno’ and vessels at the well being centre, I’d planned to combine the two at some point, and Ann’ challenge gave me the push to do it.

I cut out a template, sort of bowl shaped, but not for any reason, I just wanted something big and not square. Then I started adding strips of white fabrics to it: synthetic chiffon, muslin, scrim and cotton gauze. I then added fine layers of Rambouillet. The photo I showed last week was where I’d wet it all down and had started to felt it. This photo is of the piece felted, you can see the resist starting to curl from the shrinkage:

As soon as I started to full it on the bubble-wrap it really puffed up!

I removed the resist and carried on fulling, I turned it the right side out, and realised I’d accidentally made a felted cow stomach!

Close up:

I did a bit more fulling and tried it on a balloon to shape and removed it see if it was fulled enough:

It wasn’t, so I did a bit more fulling, , this isn’t the best photo, but you can see the shrinkage, it started out the full height of the netting:

I rinsed it and left on a balloon to shape and dry. This is how it looked finished:

Another side:

This is some nice ruffley chiffon on the bottom, between some Cotton Gauze and cotton scrim:

The chiffon ruffles up so nicely:

This is an area where I overlapped different fabrics:

And, since the thought behind the idea was that it’d make an interesting lampshade, here it is on a lightbulb (btw, if you tell someone to look at how cool something looks on a lightbulb, warn them when you’re going to take it off, apparently some of us forget and ‘blind people for hours’!)

Close up:

Different angle:

So, did I fulfill the criteria, Ann? 🙂

Year End Round Up

Year End Round Up

I hope everyone’s enjoying the Holidays 🙂 I have one more scarf and scarf sample left to show you. This first one is a grey marl Merino on hand dyed cotton gauze. I blended up 4 shades of 18.5 mic Merino, 2 greys, a duck egg and black. It wasn’t very easy to get photos, they kept turning out blue!:

The sample is a fabric which might look familiar as I bought 3 scarves with the same design in different colours. I think this is the first time I tried it with 18.5 mic Merino:

Whenever we do posts looking back over the year, I think I haven’t done much, but then get surprised! I think there was a definite theme of texture and surface design for me this year, so, here’s a slide show of some of the things I’ve enjoyed making this year:

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Thanks for reading over the past year and leaving comments, I hope to see you in the New Year!

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