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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

Hello From Romania

Hello From Romania

This is a guest post from a new contributor to our site. Please welcome Ildi Klozsi!

I’m Ildi Kolozsi from Romania, Europe. I live with my family in a small village in Transylvania. I started working with wool about 18 years ago, and from then on I have had a special connection with this material.

The wool is part of my life, sometimes I dream of my next project or work. I love to try new techniques.

I also teach adults and children, I think that it’s very important (for everyone) to recognize the beauty of this natural material.

The project that I have showed you in this post was made for a custom order, she wanted something with birds, not too much color and inspired from nature.

I love to felt bird designs, maybe because I live close to nature, I’m part of this.

ReConnect

ReConnect

Happy New Year!

I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that, at some point later this year, we might actually be in the position of being able to safely congregate once more in large groups. Zoom has been, and continues to be, a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but it’s also proving invaluable for many creative groups allowing us to carry on meeting, have our regular show and tell, exchange ideas and generally stay together.

Another creative positive from last year was online shows and exhibitions. Ok it’s certainly not the same as actually being there but it has allowed artists an outlet for their creativity and, in turn, provided inspiration for those of us who have visited, albeit virtually. In some cases it may be that, having seen a body of work online, we might be all the more likely to make the effort to travel to see it in the flesh once things return to normal. For me, the most inspiring work I saw online last year was the Hinterland collection created in 2017 by Gladys Paulus and featured in the 2020 video Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman. Gladys’s work is incredibly skilful in its design and execution and I’ve been in awe of this body of work since it was first made public but not had the chance to see it on display. With this film we are privileged to not only see but also hear the story behind this collection, as narrated by the artist. This takes the viewers experience to another level. Its a very personal and very moving story, if you haven’t already seen this film please take a look.

Another “positive” that some of us were able to take from last year was a “reconnect” with nature. Prior to lockdown my morning routine with Maddie was a short walk to the local park where I would throw her ball for half an hour while chatting to other dog walkers. On days when I was working this would sometimes feel rushed and I would be constantly clock watching to ensure I wasn’t making myself late.

Lockdown meant my days had no time constraints, it was also no longer socially acceptable to stand around in groups in the park chatting, and the government were encouraging us all to get fit……Maddie was about to discover doggy heaven! The lengthy weekend walks, anything from one to two hours across the fields and through the woods, now became our daily routine. When we return to work I’m going to have to set my alarm a lot earlier as this is one routine I’m not prepared to give up!

Country walks are always a great source of creative inspiration and, if you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of photos saved “just incase”! Someday you might get around to starting that felted/textile project on weeds, lichen, frozen puddles, frozen leaves, dried leaves, tree bark, tree skeletons, fungi, seaweed, stones, bracken, insects……..the list goes on!

One thing I hadn’t particularly noticed, and hadn’t deliberately photographed, prior to last April was shadows. I’d not given them a thought in the past but with time on my hands, and what seemed like never ending sunshine, I found myself noticing them. The most interesting were on a tree lined stretch of the Viking Way. I’d walked this path hundreds of times before but only now was I seeing these wonderful lacy patterns and thinking they could be the starting point for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging.

I didn’t sketch or design my layout or colour scheme, it simply started out as a white Merino background with clouds of pale Viscose. Several layers of “shadows” were built up randomly on top, the first was green Viscose, the others Merino. After felting I added detail with free motion stitch and lots of Colonial Knots – my favourite hand stitch! The addition of texture started to move the piece away from “shadows” more towards bark/fungi but I was happy with that as it was keeping the tree connection. The finished piece is approx 42cm x 58cm.

Due to ongoing restrictions the International Feltmakers are holding a virtual AGM on 27th March and to coincide with that they will be launching their second online exhibition of members work. This years exhibition title is ReConnect and any work submitted has to be less than a year old. I’ve chosen this piece as my submission as its creation back in June was sparked at a time when a lot of us were reconnecting with the natural world, taking the time to notice things that have always been there but which we may have previously overlooked. It’s world’s away from the imagination and expertise of Gladys but we all need someone or something to aspire to…..fingers crossed it gets selected!

I wonder which feltmaker/textile artist you find particularly inspiring?

I Got My Hat Started.

I Got My Hat Started.

I finally started my new hat.  first I had to make the template. I started with one I had then changed one side.

I was down to the last of my purple so I decided to use black for the middle layer. the purple is so dark black seemed the best choice. Now I will have enough of the purple to make some mitts after the hats done.

For some reason, I decided to fiddle with the silk for the inside next. It would have made more sense to do it after laying out the wool. the silk sticks out past the bottom. this is sow I can fold it back over the edge of the wool along the bottom. so the bottom will remain open.

Having done this first I had to leave it on because it wouldn’t go back on properly If I took it off. If I had wet it, it would stay without the clothes pins but I don’t like layout out on top of wet stuff.

So onto the laying out of the wool.

All done and ready to assemble.

After wetting it down and wrapping the sides around I added the silk lap.

That’s it for now. I am hoping the open bottom works. I haven’t made a hat that way in years. I should be able to tell you next week in my next post.

 

Fingerless Mitts or maybe they are Gauntlets or Wrist warmers

Fingerless Mitts or maybe they are Gauntlets or Wrist warmers

I am super busy getting ready for our last farmers market of the year. We sold so many meat pies I will be frantically trying to make as many as possible for this Saturday. I thought you might like this fingerless mitts post I did a few years ago.

 

I decided I want to sell some fingerless mitts this fall. Or maybe they are gauntlets or wrist warmers? Does anyone know what the difference is?

First I have to make a pair of resists. I traced my arm from knuckles to almost my elbow.  then measured around my arm to see how much I had to add for depth. then I figured on 30% shrinkage.

fingerless mitt resist

Naturally, I picked purple wool. I used about 60 grams for the pair. mostly because that is what was in the ball of wool I grabbed.

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fingerless mitts ready to felt

Here they are finished

fingerless mitt finnished

They turned out fine and they fit me and my much thinner daughter so sizing is good.  I may add some stitching and beading.  I think they are a little heavy or thick. I was going to put a thumb hole in but I think it would be uncomfortable with the thickness. Next time I think I will use 40 grams of wool and see how that goes.  I may try making the part over the hand pointed too. I think it would look nice.

 

Who could resist

Who could resist

My name is Janet Bayar, I’m 60 years young and live in the lake District Cumbria. 2018 January I attended a day felting course,a Christmas present from me to my daughter, with my daughter and now I am hooked. I have created art all my life but feel that now I have found “the one”. I am excited for the journey ahead. Apart from the day course I am self taught and live by the “what if” mantra.

When taking part in the beginner wet felting day like many I couldn’t get my head around how you could make this fibre and flat felt into a 3 d item. With patient guidance from my daughter , who has a degree in art , I mastered the craft of felt vessels. My mind then went to , well if you can have one resist why not more and thus the journey began.

I am often asked , what do I mean by a resist. A resist is something that stops wool fibres from felting together. In vessels it could be a simple piece of plastic sheet , in shobori it could be a button or marble. Something that stops the fibres of the wool knitting. Recently I began thinking about using the same techniques I have used in vessels but adapting them to 2 d pictures. I first laid down a base of Marino topps then used herdwick in various shades sandwiching between three different sizes of circular plastic. After wet rubbing until I knew the fibres were well felted I cut out the plastic

Shaping the piece was next. I have mainly used the ever forgiving Marino in the past and wasn’t ready for the harsh corse herdwick and must admit ended up skinning the side of my hand rubbing the fibres into shape. In the end I put on disposable gloves and used bubble wrap to creat the shape.

I loved the process so much I then went on to experiment more.

This shows the piece with only one resist cut out. You can see where the other resists are positioned.

I will now develop these. I always treat the felting pieces as the base of my canvas. Sometimes I go into a project with a concept of where I am going it sometimes the piece takes me by the hand and leads.

In this case my sample piece is developing. It’s early stages yet but I know where I am going but will post how it develops to the final outcome.

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.

Basket Mark 2 Finished.

Basket Mark 2 Finished.

This week I finished the basket. All it really needed was to have the handle finished and that would have been fast and easy. But a white basket is not only boring it does not fit with me. I can’t keep anything white clean for long.

So faze to of the basket: dying.

I have a turkey fryer/corn cooker for dying outside. After clearing a spot on the porch for the dye pot and my son cleaning all the bugs and spiders and webs out of the hose and burner I got some water heating. Usually, when you are going to dye wool you wet it first. it gets you a more even take-up of the dye. I didn’t want that in particular so I popped it in dry.

you can see I only put it in partway. Ther is about half the bottom of the basket sticking out. This is limy green. after it had cooked for about 45 min just under a boil the water was clear and I removed it and added a dye from ProChem called Mallard. It’s a blue-green and put the basket into the pot the other way up. I forgot to take a picture of that, sorry.

Once the dye was exhausted I rinsed it and blew the beach ball up in it again, another alien.  I am really pleased with the way the colours came out.

Since I had the dye pot hot I dyed some wool too.

My original idea was to use a piece of a tree branch in the handle.

It was ok when I was holding it but as soon as I put it down this happened.

It dropped right to the bottom. So much for the cream buns you just bought. It is much too heavy. Looking back at the pictures I had seen with wood in the handles, they were all small and the wood was mostly driftwood, which is much lighter. Those baskets seemed to be more decorative than useful.  I went back to just rolling all the excess wool up into the handle. It makes a nice sized comfortable to hold handle.  You can see the colour mixing better now its dry.

when I let go of the handle It still falls to the side but not nearly as much, so the cream buns are safe.

You may have noticed that one side of the basket stretched out more than the other. I think it was from the ball being blown up in it. I should have rewet it and fulled it some more but I didn’t want to. I was thinking of how to fix it or make it a feature rather than a flaw.

I pinched it a couple of different ways and that would have worked but I didn’t really like it. the heck with it, it’s just for me.

The basket part feels a little light even though there is 200grams of fibre in it.  It was a bigger resist but I reasoned to myself that there is more wool in 200 grams of Corriedale then there is in the same weight of Fin. I didn’t put any yarn in it, mostly because I forgot. I wanted to prevent the basket lip form stretching out any more. I tend to overfill my baskets and bags. Off to search my handspun for some appropriate yarn. I found a yarn that is predominantly the same colour as the Mallard on the bottom of the pot and did some decorative and structurally helpful stitching. I am pleased with the results.  Sorry about the pictures. I was trying to keep my arm out of the way and get far enough back to get the whole basket.

I think there will be more baskets in my future.

Second Quarter Challenge – Mark 1

Second Quarter Challenge – Mark 1

So we are just starting the 3rd month of the second quarter challenge and I have a finished piece. Everyone, please clap because I actually finished it in May, very early for me who usually finishes the challenge after the next one has started. Here’s the challenge if you need a refresher.  2020-second-quarter-challenge

Last time I teased you with the beginnings. No one could guess what it was. Grey didn’t seem to be a very summery colour. Well, I made a basket. I had seen a few online and thought that’s a good idea. I liked that they looked rustic and functional rather than pretty. Best laid plans of mice and men as they say.

I started with a pattern. I wanted it to be big enough and I thought an oval would be the best shape to start with.

I wanted a sturdy basket so I used 160 grams of Finnish wool. In retrospect, I think another 40 grams would have been better. I thought the handle and where it attaches will take the most strain so I added 5 strands of Briggs and Little sport singles between the second and 3rd of the 4 layers. This sort of thing is always much fiddler than I think it will be.

I added 3 lines of the Briggs and Little to the outside.

After rubbing and rolling and for a while it was time to cut the handles.

I measured to get the handle in the center and made a template but then not thinking I cut the whole piece out. I had intended to only make the horizontal cut. I cut both before remembering that was not what I had intended. Oh well, I can fix that later.

The shrinking went very well. At first, I thought the ends dipping down would be a problem and I tried to stretch them up but after shaping it I realized it was a good thing as the middle shortens as you open it up. I already knew that I just wasn’t thinking it through, probably because I was still mad I cut he 2 side tops off.

When it was dry I pinned the two cut off peices back onto the handled.

And used the machine to sew them back on.

Next, I wasn’t fussy about the edge of the basket so I used some fleece, double-fold bias tape around the edge. I had some grey in my stash so that worked out.

As I feared the red stripes all but disappeared. This is the best place they showed, not very impressive.

So, I went and got some of the yarn, the red and some yellow and stitched on 3 stripes. You can see the old red stripes more in the picture than you can in real life. I think I would just do the stitching next time. It is much easier really.

For the handle, I rolled up one side flap, then wrapped the other side around it and stitched it in place. It feels sturdy and comfortable in your hand.  I used the red and yellow yarn around the handle to make it more visually appealing. If you wanted the stipes to say exactly in place you could catch the underside of the handle as they go round.

Here it is in its entirety. I am still not thrilled with it but my daughter really likes it so it is probably just me. It is growing on me. I know what I will do with the next one to make it better, besides paying attention and not cutting off parts that I want to stay on.

 

 

Playing with Color Mixing in a Bark Sample

Playing with Color Mixing in a Bark Sample

I’m still playing around with Ponderosa pine bark samples. This time I wanted to play with colors and add some nuno felted silk to the top layer. I wanted to see how neutralized the colors would become with fiber migration in the felt. You can see my first bark sample here.

So I started with blue green and red orange, complementary colors on the opposite sides of the color wheel. When you mix these type of colors with paint, you will get a neutralized color leaning towards brown or black. So what would happen with felt with the fiber migration? I didn’t have a true blue green so I used a layer of darker green leaning towards blue and then added turquoise on top of that. Then the red orange on top since the Ponderosa pine bark leans toward more red orange. I used a herringbone style layout.

Then at the last minute, I decided I wanted to add more texture and decided to use the left over pieces of pre felt from my poppy vase I showed you last week. It wasn’t even really felted at all, just laid out and wet down. I put it underneath the layers of laid out wool as you can see in the photo on the right. I should have used harder felt as you will see later.

I then wet it all down. You can see the back in the middle photo. On the right, I added some cut pieces of hand dyed 5mm silk that Paula gave me. (Thanks Paula!) These were cut in the shapes of the bark after it falls off the tree and I just randomly applied them. There are two layers of silk in some places.

Here is the piece after felting. We have been having a discussion over on the forum about rubbing vs rolling and I was thinking about everyone’s replies when I was felting this piece. It seems everyone has different ways of felting. Check out the discussion here. We’d love to have your input too! If you want to know how this piece was felted, I use a ribbed mat underneath and mainly rub, apply pressure and gently vibrate with my hands.

And here’s the piece after fulling. I fulled this piece very hard as I wanted a lot of fiber migration and mixing of colors. I did that by rolling the felt against itself on the ribbed mat, throwing, and scrunching between my hands. I will definitely have to play with mixing colors more this way because I love the end result. I think I will try making some batts with these colors and then felting them to see the difference in color mixing. I didn’t like the end result of the use of prefelt to add more depth to the piece. The prefelt just squashed out and felted into a sort of small hill. The already hardened felt in my first bark sample was much more defined as you would expect.

I am planning on adding some free motion machine stitching to get more definition in the depth. I may also add more fabric applique but haven’t decided yet. What do you think it needs?

 

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