Comments, felting problem discussed and Clasheen New Year Stash Swap

Thanks everyone for responding to the last few posts that I have published in relation to the road sign.  I have to agree with those of you who said that it did NOT explain what I was doing, I know it doesn’t but I also agree with those of you who said that it would stand out especially because of the colour!!  My thinking at the moment is that I will make a second sign in complimentary colours and the text will read ‘Nicola Brown – felt’.  This could be a permanant feature at the top of the lane and would hang above the studio open sign which could be brought inside if I wanted a day to myself!  I don’t have any passing traffic (because I am in such a rural area) so from that point of view anyone actually driving to see me would know in advance that felt is my thing.

Among the comments was a question from Deb Seeger, a brilliant textile artist who has returned to felting since following this blog, a great compliment, thanks Deb!  You can see Deb’s profile by clicking here and follow the link to check out her work, I particularly like ‘Kissy Fish’ and ‘Heart of Gold’.   Anyway, Deb’s question was in relation to a piece of felt which seemed to seperate into 2 distinct layers when it was felted.  It might be that the inital layers were not laid out thinly enough and this could be the problem, it is definitely better to lay many thin layers of wool in opposite directions (especially if you are using tops) rather than just two thick ones and I would recommend using bubble wrap to aid the felting process.  Another possibility, although I may be wrong in my analysis (still waiting for pics to see clearly) would be if two different types of wool were used for the piece of felt, this actually happened to a friend when she used two different types of wool when making a pair of slippers.  The early warning signs were there when the wool (ordered from the internet) arrived as it did say it was not suitable for felting!  The colour was GORGEOUS however and she decided to go ahead with the slippers, this wool was to be the outside colour and if I remember correctly a black merino was to be the lining.  Using the resist method the slipers were started and worked on for many hours.  It appeared as if the top colour wouldn’t take the water properly but still she persisted – the end result was a soggy mass of one colour and perfectly felted ‘socks’ in the lining colour!  This might not be what has happened in Deb’s case as from the comment it sounds as if there are 2 distinct layers of felt so one solution would definitely be to needle the top layer in place.  Another idea (if the piece is not fulled too far) would be to fully dry the piece, roughen up the texture of the felt with a wire brush where you want the fibres to join, wet out again with hot soapy water and then give it a go with an electric sander before rolling and fulling again as normal.   I hope that this is of some help and if anyone else has had this problem we would love to hear your solutions!

Sign up is now open for the Clasheen New Year Stash Swap!

This is the time for New Year’s resolutions and what better incentive to help you tidy up your stash (if like me it is getting out of hand!) than to make up a nice parcel for your swap buddy full of the goodies that you have been hoarding but never getting around to using. Try and select items that you know your buddy will find a home for using their profile to guide you. Things like yarn, buttons, ribbons, pins, jewellery, zips, stickers, unused presents, paint sticks, craft wire, anything and everything that could find a home with someone else.  We also will be swapping one seasonal receipe as usual and a small little extra.  If you want to sign up for the swap please check out our dedicated Flickr swap group and sign up before Friday 16th January and I will let you know who your swap buddies are over that weekend. Packages need to be sent no later than Friday 6th February meaning that most people should recieve theirs before Valentines Day on February 14th!

Lastly, Happy New Year everybody!

Picture of the finished felt road sign!

The finished road sign!

The finished road sign!

Here is the image of the finished sign as promised, I choose the oak leaves for the corners as I hope to plant some of my land with decidious trees and oaks are one of my favourites.  I just had a little shaving to do this morning to bring up the clarity of the colours (check out my Flickr images for a couple of close ups prior to shaving) and I also measured the piece to see how much it had shrunk.  The sign as laid out ready to felt was 1050mm X 900mm and now measures 750mm X 620mm, quite a big of shrinkage to get a sturdy piece of felt but  hopefully you will agree, worth the effort!  I now need to persuade Alan to make me a type of base to my own design, this will be what I actually hang the sign from and I think that I might go so far as to add some felt streamers to it to add to the fun effect!!  Will keep you updated.

Finished the sign and bartering

Well, I am delighted to announce that I have completed the road sign, all be it not quite in the way that I blogged about yesterday!  Before starting the rolling and fulling again (dreaming of another 52 minutes rolling X 2 or 3) I asked myself why I didn’t do a little experiment and try out my sander and my washing machine to speed up the process.  I debated with my conscience for about ten minutes, hand made versus machine assisted and finally decided that it was only a road sign, not a beautiful commissioned scarf or wall hanging.  What was I sweating it out for, time = money and if my idea worked I could get started on my nuno mosaic series of wall hangings, these will not have any mechanical assistance!  Well, I sanded the whole sign for a couple of minutes until I was absolutely sure that there were no loose fibres, bundled it into a duvet and stuck it into my machine on a quick 40 degree wash cycle.  The result was pretty good after the first go, I trimmed the edges a little and stuck it in again for a further cycle at the same temperature.  Once this was completed I pulled and stretched the edges using a pliers and then rolled the sign in my bamboo blind again for a few minutes, rotating it every now and again until I was satisfied with the shape.  Although I know that the felting process was not exactly purist I have to say that the result is just what I need for the end of the lane, a tough and hardwearing (hopefully!) sign that will alert visitors to where my studio is.  It did seem pointless when I thought things over, spending hours more slaving over the thing when I could really be starting on the series of mosaic wallhangings that I have been dreaming and plotting about over the whole holiday season!  I will take some images of the sign in the morning (writting this post in the early hours!) and also measure the exact amount that it shrunk in the making.

Bartering is fun!

Bartering is fun!

One other thing that I have done today is to sign up to the Barter Bunch.  This is a great idea for trading hand made goodies that Malissa has started on her blog, check it out and see if you might like to join. 

The things that I can make and trade are my own felt designs and include scarves, jewellery, vessels, small bags and wallhangings.  The type of items that I might be interested in trading these for include one off silver or ceramic beads, handmade cards, bags, sewing (possibly sewing my nuno fabrics into gorgeous clothes to my design!!), handmade toiletries with no artificial colours or scents ….. the list is open ended, surprise me!

Felted road sign in progress, keep the comments coming!

Sign before filling in with wool

Sign before filling in with wool

As blogged about yesterday I continued creating my new felt road sign yesterday afternoon.  This is going to be a prototype so please keep the comments coming!  Thanks to Micki and anyone who left helpful suggestions on Flickr, I need a selection of ideas for the wording, whatever I make needs to be clearly seen as you drive around the corner near the top of my lane.  For this reason my first attempt simply says ‘Studio open’ and the writing is quite big.  Although the image might not show it clearly the wording and wavy outline around it is in a deep maroon, the oak leaves in the corners are outlined in dark green and the border is a bright orange. 

The sign ready for a lot of hard work!

The sign ready for a lot of hard work!

Anyway, as soon as the image was laid out to my satisfaction I placed it on a bamboo mat and wet it thoroughly with hot soapy water.  Next I rolled the package tightly and tied it up with strong cotton string.  When learning the Osman technique with Mehmet we rolled the rugs up in a large plastic woven mat and then stamped and rolled them on the floor.  This had been my intention with the bamboo but it was obvious immediately that it was not going to stand up to such rough treatment.  My next move was to put on a Jack L cd and roll on my kitchen table for as long as I could having already decided that rolling by foot on the floor was killing my legs!  Does anyone roll by foot and is there a secret?  I know that some people say it is very relaxing and much better for large projects but how do you do it???  The cd played for 52 minutes (notice that I was counting!) and I made myself get into a rhythm and refused to stop until the last notes of the music died down.  Revealing the half felted sign was a big moment, would the words have shifted, had I laid out enough wool, would the fact that I couldn’t stamp on it ‘a la Mehmet’ mean that it wouldn’t felt at all?  The reveal was interesting …. the words hadn’t shifted although a few small gaps appeared where I hadn’t filled in with quite enough wool, the orange looked great and overall the sign appears to be shaping up nicely.  Now I am off the have a quick hot drink and am ready to rock and roll again, another couple of hours rolling and fulling in varying directions and I hope that I will have a large piece of felt ready to hang!

Craft Gossip and feedback please for felted road sign

Interesting Craft Blog

Interesting Craft Blog

Many thanks to Linda Lanese from Craft Gossip who has just written an article about me and put it up on the internet!  Craft Gossip have all the latest news from real crafts people telling you about the real stuff.  They scour the net looking for the best craft ideas and projects and review them for you.  Craft Gossip have divided their blog into many sub-blogs covering topics including knitting, crochet, bath and body,  jewelry making, scrapbooking, sewing craftsrecycled craftsneedleworkedible crafts, indie crafts and of course felting.  Each of these sub-blogs are managed by their own dedicated editor so you know that you are getting personalized attention, click here if you would like to meet the editors.

FEEDBACK PLEASE I started my felted sign last night having decided on  ‘Studio open’ for the wording.  It would be great if some of you could leave a few comments regarding what wording you find works best for you personally, I am still not sure should I have felting on the sign, felt, studio, my name or any combination of the above!  Please leave a comment on this post if you have ANY advice or words or warning.  Thanks!

Felted sign and Happy Holidays!

This evening I am planning on making a felted sign to hang at the top of my lane.  I have been debating for some time what to put on it, Clasheen, Felting Studio, Studio, Nicola Brown, Felt, any ideas???  I would like to hang it up whenever I have an open house or a workshop happening, just something personal that would be a marker for people trying to find my rural retreat!  The technique that I am going to use is the Osman technique, basically what Mehmet Girgic teaches at his workshops but I will not full the felt to the degree necessary for a rug, just enough to have a large piece suitable to hang outside in all that the Irish weather can throw at us. 

Happy Holidays to everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas as we do or just take a few days break to recharge the batteries!  Thanks to my sister Lizzy, husband Paul and my nephews and niece for a great couple of days spent celebrating the occasion at their comfy house in Co. Wicklow.  My mother and I travelled up together and we all met at my other sister Suzanne’s house for Christmas day.  Lizzy and Suzanne live aout 5 minutes apart so the few days were spent travelling between the two houses, catching up on all the news, giving out our Christmas presents and of course eating some great food!  Lizzy and Paul’s children are now old enough to really enjoy the buzz around Christmas but not too old to be cynical about all the hype so it was nice to see them all so excited about the whole experience.

I really tried to make most of my own presents this year, felted scarves, home made cranberry relish, chicken curry, covered notebooks etc. and bought other craftspeople’s work if I felt the recipient might already have an overdose of my felt!  The response that I got to the hand crafted presents was great, it definitely is nice to make something personal for someone and I think that most people also appreciate the effort that you go to when selecting the gifts.  From the other perspective I was really happy with the presents that I recieved myself, thanks to everyone for the great things that you gave me, I am actually writting this post on the new (secondhand but very fast!) laptop that I got from my mother.

Display at party and mosaic nuno.

Today Alan and I will be going to a drinks party at Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny, home of Geoffrey and Elizabeth Cope.  Elizabeth is a well known artist and Shankill was actually the place where Alan and I both met, we lived there in the late ’90s and over the Millenium!!  After last weeks open house here at Clasheen, Elizabeth kindly suggested that I put a discrete display of my work on one of her sideboards complete with some business cards in time for tonight’s festivities.  This was a very welcome offer because you never know at Shankill exactly who will be there or who might be interested in the work! 

Anyway, I decided last night to made myself a mosaic nuno neck wrap to wear this evening using some of the gorgeous silk chiffon that arrived at the end of last week from Wollknoll.  I chopped and laid out the silk in apple green and forest green with some warm yellow and soft orange highlights.  Alan arrived into the studio at that point and declared that the layout was just like army fatiques, not the most helpful comment but in a way he was right!  I laid a very fine layer of gold coloured merino over the silk and then laid a layer of a beautiful greeny/gold merino and silk combination at right angles to this.  This top colour was one of the melanges that I carded earlier this winter when I had the use of Carmen’t drum carder and I had just been waiting for the proper opportunity to make use of it.  The whole neck wrap had been laid out on thin plastic bin liners and when I wetted it out I placed another bin liner on the top.  I massaged the package by hand to ensure that all the fibres were fully wet and starting to connect, then I rolled it up and began to roll.  Once the wool was starting to migrate through the silk I then replaced one of the layers of bin liner with a long sheet of bubble wrap, I felt that this would speed up the process and so it did.  Where the silk pieces overlapped by more that two layers it took a bit longer for the wool fibres to work through but after approx 1000 rolls I was able to start throwing the scarf!  This sounds a bit frightening if you have never made nuno felt before but so long as the silk and wool have combined successfully this is the ideal way to full your work.  Dipping it into really hot soapy (olive oil soap) water, squeezing the excess gently and then throwing hard onto the bubble wrap meant that the wrap only took a further five minutes to shrink and felt fully.  The finished item has a really interesting combination of colours now that the merino and silk have worked through from behind and it will be perfect with my olive and apple green linen/organic cotton and hemp outfit that I intend wearing tonight.  Hopefully if I get time in the morning and rain permitting I will take a picutre of it and post it to the blog.

Beautiful silk arrived for nuno felting!

This morning my order arrived from Wollknoll containing a wide range of beautiful coloured silks that I am going to be using in some mosaic nuno wallhangings and hopefully some clothes!  This is the technique that Sigrid Bannier taught recently to Feltmakers Ireland members and friends, one workshop in Dublin the other in Kiltealy.  We laid out chopped up pieces of silk chiffon in random or organised designs on top of  light see through plastic, covered it with 2 layers of very fine merino, more light plastic, wet it down and felted.  We overlapped the silk pieces slightly where they met so that there were no gaps in the coverage and this made the resultant fabric beautifully tactile and supple.  The colours were wonderful all over but in some cases especially interesting where the neighbouring silks overlapped.  Sigrid explained to us how to create a long skirt in a tube form and then use a large button or brooch as a closure.  I think that I might try this as an exciting Christmas/New year project (it would be a talking point at openings!!) and commission a nice button from Hillary Jenkinson at the Demanse Yard, Castlecomer for the fastening.

The other thing that I am excited about today is that I met some very nice people today in Borris, they were planning to contact me at some stage as they are interested in some felting workshops.  It was quite by chance that the topic came up as I was actually representing my partner Alan (he is a Green Party County Councillor) at the opening and blessing of a new playground which serves children from all the neighbouring communities.  The young children staged a Nativity play, there were a few short speeches, we all went outside to the play area and then the longest serving member in the group cut the ribbon.  At that stage everyone was invited back inside for a warm spiced punch (non-alcoholic!) and a bit of networking and chat.  It turned out that the committee members had seen one of the recent newspaper articles profiling my change of career and had discussed contacting me re. demonstrating to the younger children, teaching some workshops at their summer school and also doing some workshops with the leaders and teachers in the play school.  It was great to hear this as one of my intentions in the New Year had been to put some proposals together to present to local community groups so here I am already on my way!

Craft in the Classroom is  going to be stepping up a gear after Christmas as well, my HSE Child Protection Training takes place on 13th and 14th January and at the beginning of February I get to meet my teacher in Leitrim and learn all about the class that I will be working with.  Mehmet Girgic is arriving on 15th January and staying until 23rd so all in all January will be a very busy month.  Don’t forget for those of you living in the vicinity of Wicklow that I am also teaching felting workshops on 31st January in the Old Courthouse, Tinahely, we actually have a day lined up with tasters in felting, knitting, spinning and crochet, book your space by clicking here!

Felting flops

It’s twent past four now as I write this post and today has been a bit hit and miss so far.  Carmen was meant to be coming over at lunchtime for an afternoon felting but has been delayed by several hours.  In the morning I finished one of her Christmas presents, a nuno felted neck wrap in (as I thought!) a beautiful black silk with a light grey merino.  The silk was one of the fabulous sari loom ends that I get from Susan at Essential Textile Art but for some reason the black lost quite a bit of colour during the felting process and now it is a combination of inky black, inky blue and a sort of purply grey, a bit strange to say the least!  Anyway, Carmen likes subtle colours so possibly (a big possibly) she will think that I always intended the colours to be this way, whatever the intention I think that she will use the wrap.

My next creation this morning was a fresh squid stew, always a challenge when cooking for any Spanish friends!  This turned out very well even if I say so myself, fresh squid, red onions, red pepper, garlic, chopped tomatos, oozo, red wine and fresh thyme, a great combination.  The only problem is that now the rice and baked potatos (to go with roast rabbit, nothing by halves here) are well overdone but I guess Carmen will just be happy to get any food at all!

On to my next disaster.  Sigrid Bannier had a beautiful punched cord necklace and I had decided to try and make a variation on her theme.  My first problem was that although I am now quite competent at making cords after my very shaky beginnings I still have somewhat of a mental block in this department.  Because the cord will be punched with the Draper hollow punches that I have recently bought it needs to be both round, firm and tough.  What you are looking for is a big thick cord, not the easiest to get really hard.  Anyway, I managed to make the cord, punched it and was not a bit happy with the result.  Did I mention that when rolling it I used the car mat for a minute and actually gave it rubber skid marks, not the best on a lime, white and grey cord?!  It lies dejected on my felting table waiting for inspiration to transform it into something other than a sad holey cord.

Felt, ceramic, cookies and frustration!

Yesterday morning I started the day by showing a friend Leonie how to make three dimensional stars using 1.5m strips of coloured paper!  These are great strung as a garland or hung individually from the tree as Christmas ornaments.  We chatted over a cup of coffee and before Leoine left she gave me a lovely present of some home make star cookies (very appropriate!) which her girls had make.  They are all eaten now, thanks Esme and Nessa! 

I  spent a happy afternoon  felting a stripy ‘man’ scarf for a friend’s Christmas present and followed this by stringing some simple necklaces with commissioned ceramic buttons as the centre piece.  Because I wanted the scarf to be very soft and warm I used both merino and a merino and silk mixture which I had carded myself in the stripes.  I laid out the fibres crossways practically the whole length of my big table and proceeded to felt.  Never having made a striped scarf before (amazing that when I think about it!) I possibly should have laid some of the fibres in the opposite direction as well.  Everything felted perfectly but the scarf got longer instead of shorter, much longer in fact!!  Anyway, Martin is tall and the scarf feels wonderful wrapped a couple of times around the neck, I hope that he likes it.

All the naturals necklace

All the naturals necklace

The buttons that I used for the necklaces (initally intended for felt necklaces and bags!) were commissioned from Hillary Jenkinson, a talented maker working from a studio in the Demanse Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  It is well worth a trip to Castlecomer to visit this yard, in addition to the craftspeople’s studios and workshops there is a well stocked restaurant, a history of coal museum, beautiful parkland to walk in and a brilliant kid’s playground.  Each of the buttons is a one off and I think that they look great with the crocheted cream cotton beads that I made  ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ and some simple wooden or glass beads.   You can check them out on my Flickr photostream and the necklace above is actually on sale through my Etsy shop.  This is where the frustration sets in …. I had intended to put loads of felted items and these new necklaces  on my shop this morning but the battery on my camera just limits how many things I can upload in one session.  I had thought that they would make lovely pressies and was pricing everything between E10 and E20 but after 4 hours I have only managed to get 4 items up,  aghhhhhhhh.  Anyway, here is a picture of one of the necklaces and it is priced at $20 which equals E14.16 if anyone is interested!