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A Bit Of Wire Work For Mr. Mer

A Bit Of Wire Work For Mr. Mer

Mr. Mer has spent another week making subtle comments about wanting an upgrade on his muscles…the fishy ones this time. His fishy bits are based on a Northern Pike which is common in the lake at my parents’ cottage. I have been beefing up his fishy bits but he says he is not ready for his close-up. I will keep working on his upgrades and try to tempt him to show you as soon as he feels he is done.  SO we will get back to him in a blog or two.

 Northern Pike reference


While we wait for him, I had something else I wanted to show you.

For the last week, I have been watching non-felting related videos from curios mondo. They seem to mostly have crafts to do with fabric stiffening products, that they sell, but have had some other interesting topics too. I did catch parts of the nine-class, workshop series on making a wire-wrapped bug necklace with beads. (They do the live broadcast free or you can buy the workshop and watch all of them at your leisure. So far I’m cheap and have so far only watched the live ones.)

You never know what you will be able to pick up while watching or taking a class. This includes topics that are not actually on the topic you mainly do. Even with missing large parts of the workshop, it gave me some odd ideas I wanted to investigate further. (yes, I will get back to that in a moment)

The instructor, while teaching, used the stepped pliers. I had been curious as to what their original purpose was. He used them while making a bail (it attached the bug to the chain).  He also had some very tiny-nosed pliers that might be quite useful for rolling ends of finer gauge wire. I have got to track down a pair of those! He showed an interesting technique of locking the bail and a similar way of making links on a beaded chain that I likely should have written myself notes on.

Another good suggestion he had was putting a mark on tapering rounded pliers so you will get the same size ring on each turning of wire. This would be more important on wire-work that shows but could affect your armature construction if you were working on a smaller scale.

He also work-hardened the antenna of the bug with a hammer (I would have suggested the smallest flattening hammer from the blacksmithing hammers around here which would have been more effective.) This might be useful in armature construction for the tips of claws if they are exposed? Or stiffening antler wires? You don’t want to work-harden the wire too much or it will be more prone to breaking when bent or posed. So, an area that will not be repositioned frequently like tips of claws or antlers may be fine.


Now back to what I got distracted thinking about while I was suppose-to-be learning to make wire-work bugs necklaces (with beads). It just doesn’t seem fair to give Mr. Mer a tennis ball but not give him a tennis racket.

Oddly, In last weeks guild social one of our members had made a tennis racket and was next going to felt a tennis ball. I seem to be working opposite to her as I had Mr. Mer’s tennis ball (which I used as my show and tell)  so now it’s time to make him the racket to go with it.

I have tried to play tennis in my much younger days. It did not go well. My glasses move if I run or suddenly change direction so I can’t see anything beyond blurs. This makes it hard to hit or dodge a moving object. I also got tennis rackets that tennis balls seem to be able to go right through!! That doesn’t seem fair at all. But if Mr. Mer would like to try then I should let him.  It may go better for him than it did for me. I am not sure if there are different rules for water tennis. I should ask my niece about that.  She might know. (She is very good at swimming, which I am not)

Now how to make the racket. It will be wirework! The gauge will be important.  With Something larger for the rim and much finer for the stringing.  I will also need to have a wrapped handle.  The black floral tape should work. If it is not adhering well I could try black acrylic paint, mog-pog or clear glue to finish it off.

Wire gauge selection

I pulled out and considered from 6 to 14 gauge aluminum for the outer rim. I decided on 9 gauge.  The little section of the inner rim had to be finer. After a bit of looking and debating, I felt the 12 gauge – 2mm Dollerama aluminum would likely work. For the lacing I selected the 26 gauge (steel?) coated gardening wire. After making the first racket I can see a way of making the lacing a bit neater but I am content with the first attempt.

2-3 two of the wires gauges I will need

The handle needs to be wider than the width of two 9 gauge wires. I debated between four or three wires and found 3 more in scale.

4 Three 9ga wire looks better than four

Since I didn’t have a bending jig I gently shaped the oval by hand at the top of the 9 gauge wire bringing the handle ends together and adding the middle piece of wire. I added floral tape to hold the handle in shape as I measured, cut, then shaped the lower curve in the 12 gauge wire. I added a wrap of black floral tape before taping it in place on the racket.

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5-6 Lower rim of racket added

I cut off a couple of lengths of the 26ga fine coated steel wire. ( If I did this again I would have made each vertical a separate piece and wrap to give the spacing between each string.) I wrapped then laid in the vertical longer strings (9 in total).  Then, used the back of the felting needle to create a shed to pass the horizontal strings through.  (Why did I not grab the large darning needle hanging from my desk lamp? It would have worked even better.)  I added extra wire wrapping around the perimeter which would likely not have been necessary if I had done the wires individually.

7 the strung racket

At this point, I needed a bit more stabilization of the handle. It was compressing towards the base of the racket (The three wires were not sitting flat. One was trying to lift up between the other two.) I can fix such errant behaviour with more wire!!! I pulled the lengths of the 22ga black steel floral wire and carefully positioned and wrapped the thin wire around the parallel 9ga wire. This required another layer of floral tape over top and all looked much neater and more like a tennis racket!

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8-10 Adding wire to strengthen the handle

Mr. Mer was thrilled with his new acquisition! Which he held and posed with trying to get just the right look.

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11-15 The photoshoot!

Here is a quick idea of scale as I hold his new racket and ball

16 To get a sense of scale

He has put away his racket and ball carefully and wants me to get back to work on his fishiness. Then, maybe finish off the muscles of his arms….maybe some hair…… (Mr. Mer is getting demanding).

17 Good Job Mr. Mer! toys should be put away after you’re done playing.


18 A final shot

Armature experiment 2; Adhesion and Rotation of the wool on wire

Armature experiment 2; Adhesion and Rotation of the wool on wire

While making samples for the study group investigation of wire for armatures I have noticed that there have been differences in getting the wool to adhere to the wire and sometimes this seems to be leading to rotational movement of the wool on the armature.

While the rotational movement of upper quads on many of the leg samples would be reduced if a pelvis/hips had been added. I was still interested in investigating further.  Since there may be a shape I would like to make that does not terminate with a hand or foot.  Maybe a tentacle or spout?

The underlying problem may be adhesion to the wire. When twisted there is a bit of improvement in wool adhesion over the single untwisted wire.  This could be improved by adding a pipe cleaner (now called “Chenille Stems” since there are fewer pipe smokers who need to clean their pipes) which allows the wool something to grip as it is wrapped.

Sample 1; Untwisted 6ga aluminum wire with pipe cleaner on the loop half of the sample and Floral tape on the second half.

1 Pipe Cleaner wrapped 6ga aluminum.

One of our study group had been instructed to add tape to specific areas of her armature. I had at first thought this may be for added strength or stiffness to that section. Then, wondered if it was for improved adhesion to use the wool to strengthen the section with tape. I did a sample of a single 6ga/4mm wire with pipe cleaner on half the length and floral tape on the other half to compare adhesion. I had the upper quads on the leg sample to use as a bare wire sample.

Floral tape is a strange thing to work with. It is dry and a bit wrinkly until you give it a gentle tug, then it turns sticky especially when wrapped over itself. I did discover the stickiness does not last forever or even very long. So, only wrap the section you will be working on.

2-4  Pipe cleaner and Floral tape over a single wire

In sample 1; 6ga aluminum ½ Pipe Cleaner (loop end) and ½ floral tape.

Rotation is present, greater in the pipe cleaner section than in the floral tape.

Flexion test;     – both sections will make a sharp bend but are vary stiff due to the gauge.

I am also curious to see if with a weaker gauge wire if a duct tape or gorilla tape may give restrictions to bending in the section where applied. I may try a sample with the floral tape over the top since I suspect the adhesion will not be enhanced with duct or similar tapes.

5 Duct Tape and Gorilla tape. (Gorilla tape is an extra sticky extra strong version of Duct tape.)

I sampled with 18ga aluminum so it would show flexibility more than the 6ga I had been using. Note that the aluminum I have presently at this gauge is intended as picture wire and it is not coated. If you are selecting aluminum, try to perches the coated wire since it will not leave dirty marks on your fingers.

6-7 Residue from uncoated aluminum and what was on the empty plate (in case you were curious).

The two wire samples were about 10 inches long, which I divided into approximately 3rds. 2/3rds I twisted together and one-third was left single.  I put a small open loop on the single end and the fold on the other end created a longer loop. I wrapped as tightly as I could the middle section with gorilla tape. This covered about half of both single and double twisted 18ga wire.

8-9 bare wire and gorilla tape and sample covered in wool for flexibility test

In sample 2; 18ga aluminum ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape.

Rotation is present and seems equal in all sections.

Flexion test;       –  single could make a sharp bend

                            –  Taped section could make a curved bend

                            –  Doubled could make a sharp bend


For sample 3, I used 18ga aluminum as before,  ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape. This time I added floral tape over all sections in hopes to increase adhesion

10-11 Bare-wire, wire with tape added (about 6 wraps)

12 Test bending with tape to see how the tape was resisting making a sharp bend.

13 covering wire and tape with Floral tape with the hopes of increasing adhesion and decreasing the rotational movement of the wool around the wire.


In sample 3; 18ga aluminum ½ single/ ½ Doubled with center 1/3rd wrapped in Gorilla tape. Floral tape over all sections in hopes to increase adhesion.

Rotation is minimal to not noticed across all sections.

Flexion test;        – single could make a sharp bend

                             – Taped section could make a curved bend

                             – Doubled could make a sharp bend


14 Sample 3 with wool, checking flexibility in all test sections.

The use of tape may be helpful in spots where you want to allow a curve but not a sharp bend. The amount of tape (number of wraps) will change the amount of flexion in the wire. If you want to use tape to restrict a sharp bend, more sampling may be required. While the gorilla tape adhered to the wire and itself, the wool did not adhere well to it without the addition of the floral tape. The use of the two tapes together may have merit in a particular application.


The Rotational movement component may not be a problem when working on a large or thick figure or object but may be more problematic on fine legs or other skinny appendages. In this case, the assist of floral wire may be very helpful.  Another future investigation for thin appendages would be to investigate the use of waxes to assist adhesion.  Wax has also been used to create surface smoothing as seen in some felters’ bird legs. Although that may partly get beyond the parameters of wire, it may be well worth further investigation. unfortunately, I will leave that for another day.

PS; while Glenn was spellchecking (if there are more spelling errors blame me I think I have broken his spelling), he suggested I try the sticky cloth medical tape it may give an improved adhesion over the bare wire. I suspect it would likely have a bit more flexibility than gorilla tape and be a bit more expensive than floral wire. (Drat now I have to go look and see if we have any medical tape!!)


Nuno Wall Hanging

Nuno Wall Hanging

Since I started felting, my daughter in law Lia has been fascinated with the nuno textures.  So, a while back we shopped for some fabrics we thought may go with her decor and she picked colors.  Unfortunately, after making samples, the gold polyester fabric we chose even with open weave did not felt well.

She loved one scarf I had made in particular that I had hand dyed.  So, I went to plan B and dyed more silk gauze and merino.  She picked out the wool colors for accents.

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Originally it was planned to be a very big wall hanging and I calculated a 50% shrinkage rate that I had achieved with the scarf.  I had to recruit another table and used boards on top to give it more length and width to do the layout and felting. I couldn’t even get the whole table in the pic and I was standing on a high chair.


What was really fun was flipping it over to layout on the other  side. Not.

When the first side was layed out, I wet it down and began my rubbing until I felt the fibers were catching enough to flip it.  I did the same on the second side before I began the rolling.

The process went quicker than I expected and the shrinkage more than I wanted.  But the ruching was what I wanted. I had to square it up and then figure out how to hang it. So, I pinned it to a towel and let it dry.

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But when dry I noticed there were big spots that were bubbled up.  It didn’t help the shape for hanging so I added some wisps of fiber and felted them in and had to re-block it and wait for it to dry again.  Fortunately, I put enough fiber around it to get the edges to roll in for a nice finish.  But I still had to figure out how to keep it’s shape for hanging.

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After adding extra fiber to fill in big bubbles.

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Lia didn’t want to put it under glass, but wanted to keep it floating against the wall. I wasn’t sure what a framer would suggest so I came up with an interim solution. I had some thin wire that I sewed around the edges trying to keep it concealed. It gave the nuno felt more stability and shape.  I didn’t want to invest too much time in the event she didn’t like it or wanted to take it to the framer.  There were a couple of spots I wrapped in scraps of silk that showed thru the front.  I tried hanging it on the wall to see how it would look.  It’s hard to see the detail.


I felt if she liked it I could wrap the wire later and sew the wrapped wire  back on.

20150624_141143The nice thing about the wire it can be bent to help shape it.  It is not totally a rectangle and has a couple of tails, but it’s an original.

I haven’t been back to Florida, but I sent it for their anniversary and it’s now hanging on the wall and I’m told she loves it.

It doesn’t show here in these photos, bu the wall color is a very light yellow.


Smartly hung high enough so the boys can’t pull it down.


What do you think of adding two narrow panels one on each side to help fill up the wall?



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