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Felted Cat Cave, A Quick How To

Felted Cat Cave, A Quick How To

Another old post from me. This is one of the most visited posts we have, so thought everyone might like to see it again.

I have been wanted to make a cat cave for sometime now. I decided it needed to be bright. I picked some Blue Faced Leicester  wool so it would be strong and dyed it chartreuse. Then I picked some purple and magenta for the spikes.

Spikes and Wool

I wanted an oval cat cave. I used my oval hat form to get the shape and gradually sized it up.

Drawing the Resist

I laid out 4 layers of wool for strength and even shrinkage. I put the first side aside and after laying out the second side I poked holes to put the spikes through.

Spikes in the Wool

After wetting it all down I wrapped each spike in plastic wrap so it would not get felted down flat.

Spikes all Wrapped Up

I covered it with a sheer curtain and rubbed both sides for a while and rolled it for a while and then wrapped it up and put it in the dryer twice, changing the position of the felt each time.  It was starting to shrink so I cut out the resist and switched to rolling it in a stick blind. I find the stick blinds to be very aggressive and shrinks felt quickly.  I did do some throwing too. Finally I rinsed the cave out in a bucket of alternately hot and cold water being quite aggressive with it. I then had to stretch the top so it would be domed up. I steamed it to heat it up and make it easier to stretch. Mostly I used a wooden spoon to push in a sliding motion to get the shape. Here it is on top of the resist so you can see how much it shrank.

Finished Cave on top of the Resist

Here it is in use, it didn’t take long for one of my cats, Wu, to take up residence.


Cat in Cave

As a foot note Wu ( queen of all things) is no longer with us. This is one of my favourite pictures of her. She really like the cave and we buried her in it, here on the farm.

Writing a Tutorial

Writing a Tutorial

It doesn’t matter how many times I write a tutorial, and many people will understand this, I always massively underestimate how long it will take. Actually, the underestimation probably increases each time as I think it should be easier/quicker having done it so many times! I started a new one recently on how to make one of those soft, wispy, scruffy, colourful pieces of felt everyone seems to love. We make them in about 45 minutes in classes, so I thought I’d just need one day to take all the photos, except my camera battery died after the layout photos. I probably won’t need all 120 photos, but I like to be thorough! This is the photo of the finished layout:

Luckily, it was bright enough the next day to finish off felting and get the rest of the photos done. This is just before it was rolled in a towel and left to dry:

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I take photos for tutorials, I jabber on to myself in my head, giving a running commentary on what I’m doing. I suppose I’m talking to ‘the reader’, so I can make sure all the steps are covered and I don’t miss anything out. This was going really well while I was doing the layout, I’m usually over-cautious (as the 120 photos would suggest) and end up with loads of photos unused. Let’s face it, even a complete beginner doesn’t need to see every step of the wool tops being laid out 🙂 But when I downloaded the photos and looked through, all the photos of adding the embellishments were missing! Where were they? Did I forget to download them and then delete them off the camera? No, because I didn’t download/delete anything until the 2nd day. So where were they?  I must have zoned out as some point, wandered off to get a drink or put music on, then got too engrossed in adding all the yarns and shiny fibres because there were no photos between finishing the top layer of wool, and that finished top photo above. Luckily that was all I’d forgotten. Or so I thought! I wanted to show the versatility of the felt pieces and how they can be made into other things, such as the concertina pieces I’ve made into danglie decorative pieces:

So, while I was ‘on a roll’ with the felting, I took photos of the process of how to do that. Here it is all bundled up:

And then how it doesn’t have to become a concertina piece, but a more 3D ‘sculpural’ piece:

But that meant, not only did I not have any photos of adding embellishments, I also didn’t have photos of the finished dried piece! Luckily, I’m used to myself and how gormless and forgetful I am 🙂 And when you don’t have to take 120 photos of the process, doing a layout is really quick and easy, so it wasn’t too time consuming to re-create the piece and take photos of the missing stages.

Tutorial on Adding Details to Simple Painted Landscapes

Tutorial on Adding Details to Simple Painted Landscapes

Zed had requested a tutorial on how to paint in the details on the simple painted landscapes that I showed you last month. I found the painting of the basic landscape tutorial/video by Jude Atkin at the Start2 website.

This tutorial is what I do to add some depth and finish the paintings. One thing I would suggest is to take a look at landscape photos or paintings and look carefully at what gives the illusion of depth to the landscape. There are several ways to create more depth. I think one of the most important ways is to realize that things in the far distance are lighter, hazier and more blue-grey than those in the foreground. So the colors in your foreground should be a little brighter than those in the background. Also, there are changes in size as you move from bigger in the foreground to smaller in the background. If you google how to create depth in a landscape, there are numerous tutorials and articles that explain this better than I can.

original web

Here is one of my mini landscapes. I have been doing almost all of these on a 4″ x 6″ pieces of paper that I can then use to make 5″ x 7″ note cards. This is what the landscape looks like after I follow Jude’s instructions on painting simple landscapes. I do some in vertical orientation and some in horizontal orientation. I think one of the more important tips that Jude gives is to use a mix of complementary colors (on the opposite sides of the color wheel) to create your mountains and your foreground. With acrylic paints, the colors separate out during the drying process and give more variation than if you used just one color straight out of the bottle. The foreground here is a mix of purple and yellow ochre. The mountains were a mix of several colors including black and purple that I remember for sure. I tend to mix up some colors and then keep adding extra colors in or mixing two of the mixed colors together. I also like to let the sky get mostly dry before adding the foreground and the mountains. I paint the foreground, quickly add salt and then quickly paint in the mountain color and add the plastic wrap. If you let the foreground paint dry, you end up with a hard straight line across the top of the foreground which is distracting to me. If you paint both the foreground and mountains at nearly the same time, the paint colors mix together in the transition area and I like this effect better.

supplies web

Here are the supplies that I use to add details including colored pencils, Derwent Inktense pencils, Caran D’Ache water soluble crayons and a water brush. I use these because I can travel with them and many times I take these little landscapes along with me when I have to wait somewhere so I can work on them while waiting. You could easily use watercolor paints and a regular small brush. Or you could use watered down acrylic paint. With the watercolors, I don’t wait for the paint to dry completely between layers of paint. With acrylics, it will work better if you let it dry in between or you will lift the paint away from the paper when trying to add another layer.

The first step is to use a colored pencil that matches the color of your mountains hard edges. I used black here. Then I draw in the top edges of the mountains where there are funny jagged edges left from the plastic wrap. The photo on the right shows where the mountain tops have been drawn. Remember to draw unevenly and make the mountain tops different sizes and shapes.

To use the water-color crayons and the water brush, squeeze a little bit of water into the brush and brush some color from the crayon. It doesn’t take much. Start with less, you can always add more. Fill in the spaces created when you drew in your mountain tops. I usually dab the paint on with some areas lighter and some areas darker but not dark black. These are the furthest mountains and therefore will be more gray than the foreground ones. If your mountains are a different color, choose a color that is closest to the main paint color in the mountains.

mountain tops painted black web

Here I have completed painting in the grey on the tops of the mountains.

Now I like to add in further color into the mountains. Depending on the color of your mountains, choose a second color that works with your secondary mountain color. I chose purple and then added dabs of purple paint in different areas of the tops of the mountains. Again, some areas may be lighter or even mid tone but none that are really dark or really bright colors.

mountain tops painted purple web

Here is what mine looked like after adding in some purple to the tops of the mountains. You can also leave some of the areas the original sky color and it ends up looking like there is snow on the tops of the mountains as long as your sky color is light. I hope that you can see the subtle differences in each of these photos as I don’t really add that much paint to these details.

Next I like to take the secondary mountain color and add a bit more into the areas of the mountains that look really pale. These seem to be too light against the dark mountain color here so I added purple to these areas. In the second photo, I took some of the purple down into the transition area and then even into the foreground. If your foreground seems too bright, one way to tone it down is to use its complementary color and paint a wash over top of the entire foreground. I didn’t do that here but have on several that were overpowering and bright. The photo on the right shows the piece after I had painted in all the purple.

The next color that I used is a yellow ochre. This is the main color of the foreground. I like to take some of the foreground color and work it up into the mountains just a little ways. I also add more yellow ochre over the top of the purple that I just painted in the transition area between the mountains the foreground. Again, I just dab on the paint. I may work over the area several different times with the two colors that I am using. Or I may add in a third color if I want to add some more variety.

Then I went back to black paint. I chose an area in the scene where I felt would be a good separation of the background mountains from the ones that were closer. I added black paint all along that line. I just do light grey to start and build up the black to give the illusion of depth along that line. I also work some grey up into the background mountains to create further depth. I usually let that dry and then if more grey is needed, I add another layer.

While I have grey on the brush, I add a bit of grey to the transition area to create a little depth from the foreground. I paint the grey in dabs across the area where the mountains transition into the foreground and may even bring some grey or darker areas into the foreground at this point. The photo on the right shows after I am finished with the grey in this area.

The last details I add are to the foreground. Here I used an Inktense olive-green pencil to draw in a few suggestions of grass or leaves near the “flowers” that are created from the salt. You don’t need very many of these. Just a few clumps that are created with varying lengths of lines.

finished 1 web

And here is the finished landscape. I am usually surprised how much better they look with just this little bit of detail added. Don’t go overboard and try to draw or paint in specific “things”. I find that less is more and you’ll be happier with the results if you don’t over do it.

Now I will show you three more that were done a little differently. I will show you before and after details and give an explanation of what I did on each one.

This one is to show that you don’t need to make hard lines on all the mountain tops. On the left, you can see where I drew in on the left side to fill in the mountain sides. I forgot to take the photo before I drew on it. On the right is the finished piece. I did nothing to the soft edges of the top of the main mountain. It just makes it look misty and snow-covered. I added in grey paint to fill in the areas on the left inside my drawn lines. I added a bit more purple on the bottom but then I decided I needed a bit more color. So I added some orange into the “flowers”. I darkened the base of the mountain just slightly with grey and added in some shadow at the base of the distant mountain to make it appear a bit more distant.

This is one that I was attempting to get a water/sea-shore scene. In the original on the left, I thought the water was too green and I didn’t like that smudgy bit up on the left hand top corner. So I first filled in the center rock with a mixture of purple, orange and black in several layers. Then I added a dark blue over most of the water. Next I added a lighter turquoise blue in places in the water. The lighter water needs to go closer to the rocks and shore. The next step was to add white paint. Notice that I made a big wave to cover the upper left corner that I didn’t like. Not sure it is so believable but it’s OK. The last step was to put in the bright white accents with white gel pen. The white is put in mostly where the waves are crashing against the rocks.

Then there were a few of the landscapes where I put the plastic wrap too far up into the sky. The mountains took over the entire sky as you can see in the photo on the far left. So I flipped it over and made what was initially supposed to be foreground into the sky. The center photo shows where the piece has been flipped over. The far right photo shows the finished piece. All I did was add a purple line for the tops of the mountains and fill in with purple. I added a blue “haze” over the distant mountains to make them drop back further into the background. I added a little more purple into the base of the mountains and a little pink into the sky.

Here are three more that I have decided to turn over and make the original foreground into sky. I haven’t added any details yet. The original is on the left and the turned over version on the right. I could probably leave the top right landscape as it is but I don’t really like that piece that reaches the top on the left side. It will be easier just to turn it over and fill in the blue part to make it into mountain. In the middle landscape, you can see that there is a green blob in the left hand top corner of the original sky. Instead of calling it a total waste, I will add more green into the now foreground and lower mountains. And the last one I think definitely looks better flipped over without even adding any details. So if you are unhappy with the landscape you painted, turn it upside down and see if you like it better that way.

These are the rest of the landscapes that I painted that day. I have been painting a dozen at a time. All of these will be fairly simple fixes, penciling in the mountain top edges where they are needed and adding a few shadows and blue grey for creating distance. The bottom left one is bugging me a bit because it looks so much like a dome. I will probably take the mountain top edge off to the left and draw the edge above the pink sky. That won’t give such a regular shaped appearance to the resulting mountain.

I hope that this tutorial is helpful for adding details to your landscapes. It really doesn’t take a lot of artistic ability, just a bit of knowledge on how to create an illusion of distance and a little practice. So why don’t you give it a try and show us your results over on the forum?

Christmas Balls

Christmas Balls

This last week I bought some empty Christmas ball to fill for an upcoming sale. I am always looking for something a bit different. They are plastic. They are very clear. I had planed on getting glass but theses where so clear  I though it would eliminate the breakage problem.  I was going to get a different shape as well but for some reason a flat circle cost twice as much.

pink 1

First you pop of the top and then add what every you like.

pink 2

You can add anything that fits through the hole. This is silk throwsters waist fluffed up.

pink 3

When it’s full you pop the top back one and your  done.

pink 4 pink 5

I used Blue Faced Leister Curls, some mohair curls, silk hankies fluffed up and some throwsters waste. in a few I added some sparkly angelina.



Giveaway Winner

Giveaway Winner

Last Friday, I offered a Giveaway Prize of my new PDF ‘Handmade Felt Book-Cover Project‘ together with a Project Pack of everything you need to make a book cover (wool, fabric, fibres, delrin clip, thread).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning, I printed out all the names of everyone who entered, cut them out, folded them up, put them in a plastic teapot (it was closer than my hat!), swished them around and the winner is … Vicky Petrie 🙂

Giveaway winnerVicky, can you post a reply to this post, so that I can get your email to send you the PDF and ask you what colours and fibres you want in your fibre pack? (Don’t post your email, it’ll show up on the Admin page) Thanks a lot 🙂

If anyone is interested in the PDF, all the details are on my blog, here, or on etsy.

I haven’t done anything else this week, so here’s some Supermacro photos 🙂




Final CoverI’ve just finished a  tutorial with everything you need to know to make a piece of flat felt and turn it into a book-cover with a flap closure and delrin clip. It took forever because I started toying with the idea of doing workshops and started working on updating and expanding my Wet Felting tutorial, and I also wanted to do the tutorial for making the book cover, and in the end I decided to combine them.
I thought I’d never finish, but I finally got it uploaded to the hosting site yesterday (hopefully, I did it right!) so I’m giving away a copy. It’s a 59 page PDF and has lots of different sections and loads of photos right through the whole process of planning, making a sample, laying out the wool and fibres, wet felting, cutting out the pieces, and sewing it together. For more details you can read the full blurb on my blog.

Compilation 2You don’t need to do anything special to enter, just leave a comment on this post. If you’d like to spread the word through your blog or facebook etc, it would be very much appreciated but it isn’t a requirement. I will randomly draw the winner 6 days from now, on Thursday 27th February 2014, so please check back on the 27th to see if you’ve won, and leave a comment on the announcement post so I can contact you with the download information.

comp picAlso … together with the tutorial, I am giving away a custom ‘Project Pack’: enough wool, fabrics and embellishment fibres to make a sample and piece of felt big enough to make a cover for an A5 notebook ( they’re about 21 x 15cm or 8 x 6″), a delrin clip and embroidery thread. I’ll make up the wool batts to your specifications, whichever colour theme you want, which embellishment fibres to blend in, some texturey wools if you like, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll even do you a pink theme if you like 😉

Ice Dyeing – A Quick How To

Ice Dyeing – A Quick How To

My local fiber art group did some ice dyeing yesterday and I thought you might like to try it. It’s a simple process, doesn’t take long and gets great results.



The supplies needed are ice, cotton or silk fabrics, fiber reactive dye powders, soda ash, water, a container for the soda ash liquid, a container about gallon (3785 grams) sized to dye in, dust mask, gloves and a spoon to apply dyes. I have not tried this method with acid dyes but it would probably work. You would just need to steam the fabric before rinsing it out.

The first step is to mix 1 cup of soda ash with a gallon of water, stir until dissolved. Place all your fabric in the soda ash water and soak for at least 30 minutes. Take your gallon container, glass jars work really well for this, and place a layer of ice on the bottom of the jar. Put one piece of fabric on top of the ice and just squash it down into the jar. Put more ice on top of the fabric. With your gloves and dust mask on, sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dye powder over the ice. We used 2-3 colors per layer.

ice dyeing 4


Place another piece of fabric on top of the dye powder layer. Put more ice on top of that fabric and sprinkle more dye powder on top. Keep layering fabric, ice and dye powder until the jar is full. I used reds, blues and blacks in the jar seen in the photo above. You can use any colors that you wish.

ice dyeing 3


You can see Carole layering her fabric, ice and dye powders.

ice dyeing 2


Bunny used a large dye pot to work in and it worked just as well as the glass jars. Plus it holds more fabric so you could do larger pieces easily this way.

ice dyeing 7


Once your jar is filled to the top, do a last layer of ice and dye powder and then close with a lid. If you don’t have a lid, use plastic wrap over the top. Then set the container aside for 24 hours. The ice will melt and the dye powders will mix with the melting ice and dye the fabric with fantastic patterns.



Here are my two jars after melting for 24 hours. The hardest part is not disturbing the fabric. Pour out the excess dye liquid and then rinse the fabric. I rinsed three times in cold water in the sink and then put the fabric in the washing machine with a small amount of Synthropol and washed with a regular wash cycle. Then iron the fabric. 



This is one of the pieces of fabric that was at the very bottom of the red and blue glass jar. It’s very dark but I think it will be really nice with stitching using a light-colored thread on top.



I used a variety of small pieces of cotton of various weights that I had handy. 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis is 90# cheesecloth and this is just a small portion of it. It dyed beautifully. You could also put cotton thread in the dyeing jar but I didn’t have any white thread to try. You can also over dye fabrics this way so if you have a fabric that you don’t particularly like, try over dyeing it with this method.



I loved this one. It was on the very top of the red/blue jar.



This was some cotton muslin that was stitched together prior to dyeing. It reminds me of sunlight through the tree tops.



The ice melting really gets different reactions of the dye with the fabric than you can get in other methods. This works with snow too but for those of you that rarely get snow, ice is simple and gives good results.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe colors will be lighter if you use less dye powder and darker with more dye powder. You can mix a variety of colors or not. The results will always be different and you won’t be able to duplicate your results but that to me is the best thing about this method. Each piece of fabric will be unique. I didn’t have any silk but this will work with silk as well. I think this method would be really good to use on silk that will then be nuno felted. 

If you try out ice dyeing, please post photos on the forum or on our Flickr group, we’d love to see how it worked for you.



Batch Editing Photos

Batch Editing Photos

One thing that a lot of us who share photos on the internet have in common, is that we can spend hours editing them. Almost every time I do a blog post, I have around 5 or 6 photos that I need to crop and shrink so they aren’t too big when they’re clicked on, and so they don’t take up all the storage memory.
A lot of the photo editing programs have ‘Batch Editing’, this allows you to open multiple photos and edit them all in exactly the same way very simply with just a few clicks, so you’re not having to sit there and manually alter every single one. It really saves a lot of time and effort. It is particularly useful if you have to shrink a lot of photos or have a batch that all need brightening up, or maybe you want to add a signature or apply an effect to create an abstract design….I found this really useful when working on photos for Ann’s abstract challenge a few months ago.

I’ve written a tutorial showing how to use the Batch Editing feature on Photoshop. I’ve only ever used Photoshop, so I can’t be sure that other programs do it the same way, but this should give you a good idea of what to look for on other programs. I’ve used shrinking as the example on the tutorial, because this is one I use most often. I know a lot of people like to add signatures or watermarks to their photos, batch editing is really good for this as long as you want the text to be exactly the same on each photo.

It’s always a good idea to have a practice first before recording an Action for batch editing. I usually keep notes for each effect applied, type size, or what the brightness and contrast levels were etc, then it’s easier to recreate. One thing that is important to point out, for certain effects, alterations or filters, for the results to be exactly the same, the resolution of the photos must be the same as each other and as the photo you originally worked out the Action on. If not, you could end up with type of different sizes for example.

I hope you find it useful and if you have any ideas for other tutorials, please let us know 🙂

PDF Tutorial: Batch Editing in Photoshop

Making Felted Soap

Making Felted Soap

I have a show coming up soon and I am almost out of felted soap. They are always popular at Christmas time.

Here you can see some of my bins of small amounts of different colours, the pieces of nylon stocking I use for felting in and the first soap wrapped up in wool.

first a wrap a thin strip of wool around the edge of the soap then roll it up in a wider strip of roving. Next I pic a complementary or contrasting colour to wrap around the soap. I usually do a spiral from one side to the other.

I use small pieces of nylon stocking to put the wool in for felting. It’s the only thing I use nylons for these days. The reason I put the soap and wool bundle in a stocking is to keep it under control. the first thing that happens when you wet the wool is it gets bigger and its hard to keep it all in place.

Here is a soap with some silk added. this is silk roving that is teased apart. I also us pieces of silk hanky to give it a marble like appearance.

I managed to get this far yesterday but I didn’t manage to get them felted. so here is a picture of a different batch all finished. there are 2 with silk hanky on them.

That’ s the way I do it. If you have any questions or tales of soap making tell us about it.

Dyeing Some Waste

Dyeing Some Waste

Dyeing some waste.  Throwsters waste that is and I suppose it must have been trash at some point or they wouldn’t call it that. Throwing is was they call reeling silk for thread and this is the left over little bits.  I have a batch of white and needed some colours for a project.  The pictures of wet silk an bags did not turn out but I have some nice pictures of the end.

I dyed small amounts in plastic sandwich bags. First I placed each blob of waste  in a bag and added some soapy water to get it wet. I let it sit to soak while I got the dye ready. I used MX dye as it would be the fastest and easiest. I poured of the extra water out then poured in the dye,  just enough to get it all wet. I squished it around in the bag to make sure it all got dye.  No worries about felting the silk, a nice change from dyeing wool.  I did the same for all the colours and let them sit for 10 min. I added a solution of PH up and water. Buying the pool chemical is the cheapest way to buy Sodium Carbonate, especially at the end of the season.

I made a solution and poured in enough to cover the silk. I let it sit for about half an hour then drained and rinsed the silk. Here is what it looks like drying on my front porch.

Throwsters Waste Drying

Not so great looking. I had squeezed all the extra water out of them. However after they were dry I fluffed them up and they look like this.

Fluffed up
Second Half All Fluffed Up

As you can see fluffed up they barely fit on the same drying rack in 2 batches. My project didn’t work out, the waste I used  on the surface sank into the courser wool I was using and disappeared so I have nothing to show you right now. I am planing to use some more on hats so I will do a post with them later.


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