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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! 🙂

We Need a New Door Stop

We Need a New Door Stop

Recently we have acquired a new bookcase for our living room.  It was actually made to fit in the space between the front wall and the door of the room.  However it has a sort of lip around the top, the corner of which was banged by the glass of the open door if we were not careful.

2 Views of the book case against the glass (with some of my menagerie in view on the book case)

Obviously we needed something to stop the door before it fully opened. After some thought I decided that it needed to be tall (so that we didn’t have to bend down too far to move it – the floor gets further away the older you get), but it needed to be thin too otherwise the door wouldn’t open far enough to let one of us safely into the room, especially with drinks in hand.

I wanted it to go with the colour of the carpet and I knew that I had somewhere in my stash a blue wool sweater that I had felted (on purpose) by putting it through the washing machine. I finally rooted it out and decided that I would use one of the sleeves, which had a pattern knitted into it.

The Other Sleeve – what’s left of it – the pattern looks a bit hazy but hang in there, you’ll see it later.

Initially I thought that I would make a tall thin pyramid shape to fit in the gap between the side of the book case and the door. I sewed up the cuff of the sleeve and, to make sure it didn’t keep falling over, I begged a piece of flat lead sheet from my husband which I fitted into the bottom of the stuffed sleeve, and then sewed up what had been the shoulder to make the base. 

Well it was ok, but I thought it needed a bit more interest and decided to turn the door stop into a cat.

Out came the felting needles and my scoured merino, which I use as core fibres. Then for the “top coat” I sorted through the blues in my stash – normally jealously guarded because I don’t have a lot now as I use them for sky in my pictures – and found some which almost matched the main blue of the sleeve. Obviously he wasn’t going to be a realistic cat so I tried to “cartoonise” his features, and rather than give him needle felted eyes as I might normally do I fished out some bright orange glass eyes from another stash which would go well with his dark blue face. I used some of the blue to make a wet felt sheet, out of which I cut his ears.

Having made his head, I attached it to the tall thin pyramid. It’s sewn as well as needled on, but even so I was concerned that if he was picked up by his head it might come off. I made a piece of blue cord and attached that as a loop behind his head so that he might be moved safely. And here we have him.

Smiley Door Cat

Not long after this, we acquired a new pinky-grey bathroom carpet and also new pink and grey towels to replace very tired old red ones. Until then we had been using the bathroom scales as a door stop – that door will slam very hard if the wind gets up when the window is open. So now I decided that we would need another door cat.

When we got the new carpet we did not change the basic colour scheme as we didn’t want the hassle of changing the suite (vintage Pampas) or the tiles. The colour scheme is essentially derived from the tiles, which are pink and grey with some crimson detailing. Originally we had a red-ish carpet and red and dark grey towels, but when I bought those towels I could not get a bath mat to match, so I made one by stitching two red hand towels back to back.

Bathroom Tile

As the new carpet shed fibres quite a lot to begin with I thought of making the new door cat out of that fibre, but after a little more thought I realised that that would not be a good idea. We would keep falling over a camouflaged cat in the gloom of a late night visit!

So I thought I might find another felted sleeve, but couldn’t come up with something the right colour. Then, because we still had touches of red in the room, I decided that I would deconstruct the old red bath mat and use one of the pieces for the cat’s body. I had already given away the rest of the old towels to my friend for her dogs.

I felt that a “loaf cat” pose would be best, less likely to tip over if the wind caught the door, but I’d need too much lead sheet to make it a suitable weight. So I visited the garden and found a triangular(ish) shaped piece of rock, washed it and wrapped it in a couple of layers of non-woven cotton towels, secured with masking (painter’s) tape. I made myself a paper pattern of the body and cut out two body sides and a gusset for the base and chest. I cut out the pattern pieces from the towel and stitched it all up (first inserting the wrapped rock and stuffing it with polyester stuffing.

I had seen a cartoon of a smiling cat, which had enormous ears, which looked really cheeky. I thought I’d have a go at making one like that. I started with the core fibre again and got the head substantially how I’d like it and then thought about fibres for the coating.

Head ready to be covered in “Top Coat” (for some reason enlarged umpteen sizes)

I did not have exactly the right red, so had to blend a couple of pieces of pre-dyed merino tops which seemed to work ok. I did the same to make a pinky-grey blend for the chest, face and inside of the ears. I had decided that I would make the cat’s chest a similar colour to the carpet which meant that I had to make a wet felted sheet of the pinky-grey batt to cover the original red towelling. I cut the felt into the shape of the chest gusset, leaving enough for a pair of large ears.

I needled some of the red onto the back of the ears, and this resulted in a darker pink on the inside where the needles had pushed fibres right through, which was actually a benefit I think. I needled the blended red on to the back of the cat’s head and neck, and the pinky-grey onto the face, attached the ears and gave him a darker pink nose. I “shadowed” the smile and blinking eyes and I also gave him some laughter lines.

Nearly finished head, along with my felting cushion and a trapped needle holder

Then I stitched the head onto the neck, and the chest piece over his front, catching in the head at the neck.  I covered the join with more needled fibres and, using another piece of towel, attached a handle to the back of his neck so that he could be moved without his head coming off.

Loving Blinks from the new Door Ward

My husband has already named him Yoda.  We each confessed the other day that we both chat to him (in fact I pick him up and cuddle him too – he just fits into one arm)

What about the poor tatty sheep at the beginning of this post? Well, many years ago now, when I was a fairly new needle felter, I decided that I’d like to make myself a door stop for my bedroom door. I had acquired from our Guild a Jacob fleece, which, as it turned out, was ideal for needle felting. It certainly wasn’t a lot of good for wet felting – it wouldn’t, whatever I did to it. I suppose I must have had an old ram’s coarse and kempy fleece palmed off on me, when I was too naïve to know what I was getting – no wonder it was cheap!

Anyway, I got a body shaped pebble out of the garden, and washed it, wrapped it in some of the un- wetfelted fleece and started in with a No.36 felting needle (I only had 36 triangle and 38 star needles in those days- oh and a No.19 which was so thick it wouldn’t really go through anything I had with any ease). I bust quite a few needles before the pebble was covered. I added a neck to one end and then decided that my sheep would need eyes and a pair of horns. At that time I did not know that Jacob sheep often have 4 horns and wear them as if they had put them on in a hurry in the morning whilst still half asleep!

I made the horns and eyeballs using pipe cleaners and white Fimo polymer clay, baked and painted with acrylic paints. At that stage in my career I had not thought of using PVA glue on needled fleece to make horns. I needled a head shape around the horns and eyes, and then attached it to the neck. It did not occur to me to strengthen the neck with the ends of the pipe cleaners, I had cut these short and just put the horns on either end, and did the same with the eyes.

Well it all worked and for years he sat by my door, getting moved when necessary with my foot.  Now he’s a sad old thing, but being sentimental I can’t bear to get rid of him, even though he’s lost a horn and is definitely the worse for wear.  Perhaps I’ll give him a “makeover” sometime.

Poor Old Jacob, grown old and infirm in service

 

 

9 Vases & a Plant Pot

9 Vases & a Plant Pot

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

‘Locks’ vase

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?

Felt on a ball class fun

Felt on a ball class fun

A couple of weeks ago I finally got to teach my December Felting on a Ball Class. My guild had a group of ladies that wanted to try felting a pot on a ball. We scheduled the class for December, then we got locked down again for Covid, so we moved it to January and had a big freezing rain event so we moved it to February.

We used Corriedale wool. It is easily available in lots of colours. to make things more different than the regular felting on a flat resist and blowing a balloon up in it, routine, we made them with 3 different colour layers and we made them thick so they could be cut.

The first step was to make a small sample so cutting could be practiced later before cutting the pot.

With this method, you work inside out. So your embellishments go on first.

 

Then we moved on to the task of getting your wool onto the ball. the gerti balls are nice because they are a bit sticky. If you use a kid’s beach ball putting soap on it helps the first layer stick. The first layer is not too hard the second layer is harder and the third layer is harder still as it gets bulkier and bulkier.

 

Adding the pantyhose tops is fun. If like me you use the legs of pantyhose for making felt balls this is a good use for the top part that is left over.

After that the is lots of rubbing and bouncing and rubbing and bouncing until they are felted enough to remove the pantyhose and deflate the ball.

Then there is rolling and rubbing and some throwing if you like. sorry, no pictures of that part. I forget when I am talking.

 

The next day student cut their samples and started to cut their pots. Some cut more than others.

 

Carlene decided she wanted hers covered in locks so added more where they had shifted in the felting process.

Nicole needle felted her cutouts back onto the outside of her pot.

Christine did some cutting

Diane did lots of cutting and then added lots of beads.

 

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.

Monstera

Monstera

Happy New Year to all!

At the Waltham Textile group we normally have a biannual exhibition of our work but, due to Covid, it was cancelled in 2020 rescheduled for 2021 and then had to be cancelled again. It’s now been confirmed for August but in the meantime I’ve sold my main “Leaf” themed piece so recently made this mixed media “Monstera” to replace it.

I’m also thinking of submitting this piece for the 2022 IFA online exhibition which has the theme of Flora & Fauna. I’m waiting to hear if a mixed media piece will be accepted. I can’t imagine it being a problem but, if it is, I can simply crop one of the images to show the felted leaf.

I bought a 40cm x 80cm canvas with the intention of painting Monstera leaves on it and then adding a 3D Felted leaf. After drawing a template onto paper and offering it up to plan the layout I changed my mind about painting onto the canvas. It’s not something I’ve done before and the surface appeared to be a bit too textured for the look I wanted to create. Instead I sketched the leaves onto a piece of white cotton fabric, outlined them with an Inktense pencil and added a little shading. The aim was for very simple, very smooth, perfectly formed leaves looking more like curved metal than the foliage on my cheese plant. I think this was influenced by the very smooth metallic looking Tyvek seed pods I’ve been making lately. The Monstera in our lounge has been a bit neglected, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it for this post!

I don’t consider myself a painter but I do like painting on to fabric. If you need to paint precise lines a good tip is to use aloe vera (by far the cheapest) or acrylic medium instead of water when applying acrylics on fabric. This keeps the paint where you want it to be and avoids it bleeding into other areas. I managed to get a tiny bit of black paint on the lower section of the fabric but stopped short of starting all over again when I realised the felted leaf would cover it up!

My paper template for the painted leaves was 13” x 18” so to make the felted leaf I multiplied by 1.4 enlarging it to 18.5” x 24” to allow for shrinkage. Layer one was a very yellowish green Merino (might have been lichen but not certain). Layer two was a combination of various shades of grey with the yellowish green running down the centre. This was topped with a layer of dark green Merino and Ireland Viscose all around the edge and snippets of gold Viscose down the centre. These images don’t give a true representation of colours but you get the gist.

After wetting out I measured the fibres and found they had spread to approx 20” x 27”. At the fulling stage, every now and then, I put the original template on top to check for size and ensure I was keeping to the right shape.

Once it had shrunk to the correct size it was left to dry. The next stage was to add wires to the back of the leaf so it could be shaped. This could possibly have been done with directional laying of the fibres and lots of fulling but I wanted the option of posing the leaf once it was attached to the canvas and wires are a good way of doing this.

The wires were spaced out and attached on the reverse using a zigzag stitch which also formed the veins on the front side. You can see that bright yellowish green colour on the reverse of the leaf. Once that was done it was just a matter of cutting into the felt to form the individual leaves and the characteristic little holes of the cheese plant.

After attaching to the canvas with a few strategic stitches the leaf was given its final shaping. It’s now hanging in the lounge above my cheese plant where it will stay until the exhibition…..although if I do get the chance to sell it I suppose there is still time to make another!!

A Wool and Felting Study Group

A Wool and Felting Study Group

My weavers’ and spinners’ (and felters) guild has had to move online during the pandemic. One way we have been interacting is with Study Groups. For those who don’t know a study group is a bit like a workshop but not. There is a leader, and they facilitate the learning and do the organizing. It is an interactive learning experience with everyone participating and sharing information.

To that end, I will be running a Wool and Felting Study Group. It is open to anyone anywhere around the world, but be aware of the time difference.  Here’s the link. https://www.ovwsg.com/events/event/2200-wet-felted-fibre-study-group/

 

The group runs for 5 Zoom sessions over 10 weeks and has a dedicated space to share pictures, information and ask questions between sessions. The space will be available for 3 weeks after the last session.

Dates:

  • Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)

Time Zone: North American Eastern Standard Time(EST)= GMT-5

We will be sampling wool and how it felts. We will sample as many kinds of wool as possible and share results online and using a standard form and pictures, so we are all getting the information the same way. We will discuss possible uses for the different wools and outcomes.

We will share pictures (taking and sharing pictures is a requirement) and if everyone agrees to the extra work and expense(fibre and shipping), I will collect and distribute real samples to everyone in the group. If time and resources permit, we will try some non-wool fibres and possibly how adding non-felting fibre affects the felting outcome

The prerequisite for the study group is to be able to layout a simple 10×10 square and feel it and take and share pictures. We will discuss techniques and how they affect the outcome. This study group requires you to participate so everyone can learn and grow, it is all about sharing.

 

I hope some of you can join us for this fun way to find out about different wools and share with a group of like-minded people.

It would be a great Christmas or whatever you may or may not be celebrating (Happy Friday works for me) present for yourself or a friend. And no shipping fee.  Adding some unusual wool would make it even better.  

 

Autumn Pumpkin

Autumn Pumpkin

It’s that time of year again, when the long warm summer nights are fading and the nights are drawing in.  I love all the seasons, but the Autumn season is one of my favourites as I love the colour pallette nature provides, with its hues of amber, yellow, orange, red, brown and every shade in between.  It’s the time when the earth starts going to sleep, sound in the knowledge of new beginnings in the spring.

 

As our blog this time falls a few weeks before that famous holiday date at the end of October, we thought we would make something that people would have time to make before the holiday period arrives.  Hense, we made a pumpkin.   I apologise in advance that this blog is not unique, as others have done this before but our original plan did not seem such a good idea once the pumpkin was made.  I had planned to make one that could be used as a ‘trick or treat’ container.  But once it was made, I just wasn’t sure that it would be strong enough to hold up to my plan to cut a 3/4 circle for the lid and still hold its shape.  The idea was to find out who would be brave enough to slide their hand inside, to find out whether they were dipping into a treat, or a trick.  Although the pumpkin held its shape well, I did not feel it was quite strong enough to fulfil the purpose, so I’m afraid I chickened out because I didn’t have enough time to make a second pumpkin if it all went wrong!! But it’s still something I would like to do in the future, now that I know the strength of this 3 layer pumpkin.  So next time, I’ll make it with 4 layers!

 

I’ve made a small pumpkin before, using the method demonstrated by an American lady, in her weekly tutorials on Living Felt.  That turned out really well so I decided to use this method again, only making the pumpkin much larger.   I searched my house and garden for a circular template, and found a large green planter tray that I use to catch the water underneath some of my bigger pots.  It measured 38cm (15″) in diameter and was perfect for the job.

 

    Here you can just make out the planter tray, holding my palette of wool batts and merino tops.  Also, you can see my first born little pumpkin that I made last year!  He had to make an appearance (can’t have them feeling left out!)

 

I chose a two-colour wool for the outer layer, that was a combination of a yellow and red carded together.  For the inner two layers, I chose a lighter yellowy colour, so that the inside of the pumpkin would be paler than the outside.  (At this point, I was still planning to make the pumpkin trick or treat pot.)   The red and yellow mix for the outer layer weighed 1.3oz  and the yellow wool for the pumpkin flesh weighed 2.4oz, as I would need two layers of this colour.  The merino tops were for decoration and accent colours on the outside of the pumpkin.  I also wanted to add in some additional bits and pieces, to add interest to the surface of the pumpkin, so I collected some silk hankies that I already had in my supplies, and also some orange neeps and curly tops (which in the end I didn’t use in the wet felting process).

I love these colours!!!!!!!!!         

 

I then started making my resist.  Making the circle was the easy part, but I then needed to make eight petal-like protrusions, to form the lobes of the pumpkin.  My partner did look at me rather strangely when he saw me rummaging through the crockery looking for a suitable saucer-like object that would fit nicely for the job.  I eventually found a bowl that was a good fit, and used this as a template to make the lobes around my circular resist…

 

  As usual, Eccles had to get involved!  She is not a problem, but Elliot (her brother) decided to strike while I was looking for the bowl, and pinched three of the merino wool tops off the tray.  By the time I came back, I had three bird’s nests which I then had to card to get them back into some sense of order!  That cat has such a passion for wool, it’s unbelievable!   I don’t have a photo to show, as I forgot to take one but he really made a mess of them!  He also managed to pinch the little pumpkin out of its box where I had safely (or so I thought) hidden it.  I later found it under my dining room table, where he’d left it after playing with it!  I must be mad to have taken in another rescue cat, but she is adorable and I couldn’t resist!  Here is Penny!

I think you can  safely say she’s made herself at home!!!!!                                           

 

Anyway – back to pumpkins!  I then began laying out the fibre.  I started with the yellow wool batt, putting two layers on each side of my resist.  I added soap and water and covered with a mesh before gently agitating the fibres to start them knitting together.  After a little gentle agitation, I flipped the resist before  folding over the edges of the wool each time ready to start the next layer.

          from this…………………………………………………………………………………………………….to that…             

 

After putting two layers of yellow fibre on each side, it was time to put the red and yellow mixed fibre….

  Here you can see I have put one layer and flipped the resist ready to do the other side.  You can see the edges of the reddish fibre curled around the edges of the resist.

And now, the final layer…

I love the effect of the two-tone fiber, which shows well in this photo in contrast to the yellow above….       

 

Now for the fun part!!  Time to start the embellishments.  I used some of the wool top to accentuate the lines in between each lobe, and I wanted to try out some silk hankies to make some sheen on the pumpkin.  Here are the different designs I made on each side.  I wasn’t sure how dark to go with the wool top lines, so chose a brown for one side, and a redder colour for the other.  I went with an olive green for the silk hanky.

 

            I left ‘tails’ at the edges, so I could wrap them around the other side.

 

Now to start felting.  Recently, I purchased a sander because I do suffer a little with my joints.  I hadn’t tried using it yet, but thought I would give it a try on this project.  I would say at this point, that anyone considering the use of a sander in felting, needs to do their research.  I was quite scared at first, as electricity an water (as we know) don’t mix.  Also, some countries don’t have the safety systems built into their domestic electricity supply, so doing your research before embarking on using an electric sander is a must.  But having done my research and purchased my sander, I thought I had better try it out.  I only used it at the beginning of the process, and I was careful not to take the sander up to the edges of the resist, only using it in the middle and in between each lobe.  But it certainly helped considerably, and after I had finished the project, I didn’t feel my usual pain and fatigue, so that’s good!

  I can’t wait to make a scarf next!!!!!

 

After using the sander, I hand-felted the edges of the pumpkin, to make sure it was all nicely knitting together before I started rolling it.  Once I saw the felt was starting to shrink, I removed the  resist from inside  the pumpkin.  Easier said than done!! I didn’t want a large hole left in the pumpkin, but my resist was quite thick and firm, so it took some time to remove it as I also wanted to keep the resist for future use (I know, I’m a skinflint, but I’m also ecologically conscientious).

After the rolling was finished I fulled the pumpkin by throwing it a little until I was satisfied with the shrinkage.  Then it was time to rinse the soap out, give it a quick soak in vinegar water to restore the PH levels and I always like to give a final rinse in water containing a nicely scented essential oil.  I love to hold my small pumpkin and smell the fibre, as it often helps my emotional wellbeing at times when I am stressed.  Is that strange?! But it works for me!

 

After removing the excess water by wrapping it in a towel, I then stuffed it with a shredded bed sheet.  Wow – I was surprised to find I could fit a whole king-sized bed sheet in that pumpkin!

    and then I tied string in between each lobe, so accentuate the shape as it dried

 

Once it had dried, quality control arrived for his weekly Chinese Takeaway!  Alex checked my work and told me that he really liked the pumpkin.

By the look on Alex’s face, I can see I’m going to have to make another one because his sister Lizzy has been patiently awaiting a pumpkin for her new home!!

 

Once it was fully dry, I removed the copious amounts of shredded sheet from inside.  It was at this point, I had cold feet about cutting a lid in the top.  Although it kept its shape well, I was not sure how cutting it open would affect the stability of the structure so I decided at this point, just to stuff it and keep it intact.  I will try this idea another  time though, because I would like to make a felted ‘creepy hand’ to poke out from under the lid.  Seeing people’s reactions would be funny!

 

I decided to make the stalk out of needle-felted wool.  I chose different shades of green, charcoal grey and yellow to felt together to make the stalk.  I also put a pipe cleaner inside, so I could bend the stalk into the shape I wanted.  I also needle felted a leafy-looking base at the bottom of the stalk, just for effect and added some bright green curly tops to look like tendrils.  I did make a pumpkin leaf for it, but in the end I didn’t like it so did not use it.

 

I quite like the yellow accents on the stalk……..           

 

It didn’t take Elliot long to get involved!  But then again, he’s the right colour isn’t he?!!

 

 

And here’s a photo taken in natural light for colour comparison……

 

We hope you like the pumpkin.  Happy Autumn!!

Lisa and Alex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!
Hexagons and Holes

Hexagons and Holes

OK, I have to hold my hands up yet again….I hadn’t looked at my diary yet this month and so completely forgot about today’s blog post!! It’s funny how it’s so easy to forget what you should be doing when you really don’t have anything much to remember anymore, thanks to Covid!

Thank goodness for our quarterly challenges….always a handy blog subject when you’re caught out last minute! I’ve really enjoyed the first one of 2021 which was to make something inspired by the decade 1900-1909. Lyn gave us lots of examples of people, events, etc from that era which could be used as a starting point to fire our imagination and get us thinking about what we were going to create. As soon as I read the dates I knew instantly that I would be using the book Art Forms in Nature as my main source of inspiration. The book is a compilation of illustrations by the German botanist and zoologist Ernst Haeckel.

I’d bought the book about a year ago having accidentally come across Haeckel’s illustrations during an online search. Although based on reality they are very stylised and have an instantly recognisable quality which has led to them being used as inspiration by artists and designers from the Art Nouveau period through to the present day.

A recurring shape seen throughout this book is the hexagon, hardly surprising as it’s everywhere we look in nature……from the basalt pillars of the Giants Causeway to honeycomb, it’s also found in the eyes of insects, tortoise shells, fish scales and as a cloud formation around the North Pole of Saturn…..the list goes on and on!

There are lots of fascinating facts about hexagons in nature which I hadn’t ever given a thought to in the past, but that’s a great thing about doing these challenges…..you never know where they might lead you or what you might discover.

I like working in 3D so decided to use the hexagon as a raised surface decoration for two wet felted samples. They were both made with the same size resists using Bergschaf fibres and each piece is approximately 32cm across and about 5cm high.

The first was a very simple form which can be open or closed. The second was created using exactly the same template but what was negative space on the top layer in the first sample became positive space in the second, creating a totally different look.

The domed shapes were created using differential shrinkage so didn’t need padding but I’ve added it anyway so I could get a little more height in the centres. I’ve also added a few Colonial Knots to one of them.

I don’t do enough sampling so I’m now working on some more designs of this size but, rather than keeping the backgrounds circular, I’m thinking of cutting them into hexagons so I can join them together without gaps as one large “sampler” Wallhanging.

Another challenge I’m currently making for is titled “Filled Holes” and this is one I’ve set for my local Belchford group. It came about during a Zoom meeting when Lucy showed us a project she had done for her college course. As you can see from this image Lucys is very small, the holes have been made from magazine pages and some contain found objects.

I set off with the intention of making circular holes in fabric and using a soluble backing to fill them with free motion stitch. As often happens before I knew it I’d veered off and ended up with something completely different! I found some fabric I had stamped with leaves and acrylics and another piece that I’d rust dyed ages ago and done nothing with. The one painted with acrylic was quite stiff and so perfect for creating raised domes (this must have been at the back of my mind since the hexagon samples). The other had small rust marks from washers and bolts which could be framed by allowing them to peep through the holes.

I’m really happy with how these three pieces turned out, and each little hole does have a rust print “filling”, but are they “Filled Holes”? I’m not totally convinced I’ve met my own brief so next time I will show you what I did when I returned to my original idea of using the soluble fabric and the free motion stitch.

Source of images.

Giants Causeway: https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/giants-causeway-p696331

Insect eye: https://nautil.us/issue/35/boundaries/why-nature-prefers-hexagons

Tortoise shell: https://www.tortoiseowner.com/can-tortoises-turtles-live-without-their-shell/

Honeycomb Cowfish: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/acanthostracion-polygonius/

Saturn: https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/hexagon-abounds-in-the-natural-world-153183

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