Felting workshop and new design of felt ring

Great first pieces of flat felt!

Great first pieces of flat felt!

Bridann and Margaret arrived this morning for our beginners felting day at Clasheen. Neither had wet felted before although Margaret had done a little needle felting and has bags of wool waiting at home for her to get cracking with the wet felting. We started the morning with a coffee and chat about the basics of felting and had a look at various types of wool and animal fibre before getting started on their first flat piece of felt. Experimenting was the order of the day to enable both ladies to get a feel for the fibres and they each decided to mix two colours for their base, Bridann chose grey and pink while Margaret chose orange and brown. I had a selection of prefelts, silks, various animal fibres and wool to select from and add as embellishment to the top layer. It was great seeing the pieces come together and Margaret who thought she had chosen ‘safe’ colours was amazed at how vibrant her finished piece of felt actually was! After a spot of lunch we started on their first 3-dimensional piece, Margaret chose to make a tall vessel and Bridann a round bowl. They really produced amazing work for their first 3-dimensional pieces and tomorrow I will upload the images. For some reason today they will not go in the position I want them to on the blog, the wonders of technology!

When we had lunch I demonstrated a simple 3-d felt flower and for some reason that inspired me to create a new style felt ring myself after the workshop was over. I used the gorgeous soft short fibre merino from Filzrausch and had great fun playing around with some simple colour combinations, blue, teal, a spot of yellow and a black centre. I made the ring piece from dark green wool and it looks as if the rings are flowers growing from the dark green stems!


Fun, fast and furious felting in the classroom!

Wow, Wednesday’s session at St. Mary’s School, Drumlea in Leitrim with 26 third, fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils was great fun and really full on, everyone made amazing pieces and Clare (the principal) and I felt as if we had run a marathon!  Dubbed a ‘taster’ session, the idea was that I would get to meet the students and they would get to see a little bit of what felting was all about and have the opportunity to try it out for themselves before we start on our main project for the residency.  My game plan went out the window to a large degree when I realised how enthuastic and raring to go all the students were, theory was kept to a minimum and really we just got stuck into things almost from the moment we had the room set up.  Clare had asked the children to bring any old buttons and beads that they could lay their hands on and everyone had the opportunity to make a piece of flat felt which next week they will embellish with the found objects.  Luckily I had brought the prepared prefelts because otherwise we never would have got as much done as we did, after a brief demo from me everyone selected the prefelt base that they wanted to lay their design onto.  One amazingly interesting thing was that most of the children chose the natural black base in preference to the bright orange, totally the opposite to what Clare and I anticipated.  I had brought a lot of scraps of wool and prefelt and they all dived into the pile of fibres, mayhem for the next hour and a half!  As with any group of people, young or not, imagination, concentration and abilities were varied.  I had to RUN around the room to keep up with the questions and lend a guiding hand if I thought that ideas needed a little bit of extra help in their execution.  Skipping to the end of the taster session (very short at 2 hours from start to finish) ALL the students had a beautiful piece of flat felt which they will now embellish before my next visit and we will stick to the front of their workbooks to document the residency.  I have set up a new blog to document the residency from both my perspective and the students perspective so if your are interested check it out over the weekend as I will be loading images of their work on the internet over the next couple of hours.  Clare and I had the opportunity to discuss our next step for the project later in the evening and we have decided to let the students really direct our process.  I would like to do some more individual work with the students to hone their technique and then a collaborative piece to hang in the school could be a nice idea, possibly incorporating felt, weaving, recycled materials and a bit of stitching.  Anyway, I will keep you updated about what is happening, now I need to tidy up my studio AGAIN in preparation for tomorrow’s full day beginners workshop here at Clasheen.

Experiment with plastic, awards, spiral neckpieces and production line of prefelt


Detail of plastic onion net in felt

Detail of plastic onion net in felt

Here is an image as promised of the experimental piece I felted using wool, silk, alpaca, scrim, mohair and an orange plastic onion net.  Using a typical Irish seascape for inspiration I created a wet felted piece suggesting rocky pools, frothy water, fishing nets and swirling sand.  It was great fun to do and now I am going to ask all my pupils in Leitrim to collect these nets as I really think that we can use them in some of our work for ‘Craft in the Classroom’.

I had a great evening at the Irish Blog Awards in Cork on Saturday.  It was a LONG drive up and down but well worth the effort, stylish hotel (amazingly the Cork International Airport Hotel!), the ladies tea party was a hoot and the ceremony itself great fun.  Congratulations to ‘Irish Blogger of the Year’ Suzy Byrne who’s blog Maman Poulet won the gong Best News/Current Affairs Blog as well as the top award.  You can check out all the winners in the various catagories and a big word of congratulations to Damien and all his crew who organised such a great fun event.

I was pretty tired yesterday after my 6 hours driving so decided to relax by making two more spiral neckpieces (pictures in Flickr), very relaxing!

Today it is back to the grindstone as I have a production in line up and running making prefelt to use for my first session in Leitrim this Wednesday.  I have decided that since we will be having a 2 hour ‘taster’ at the school the best way of ensuring all the pupils make a successful piece of felt in the allocated time is for them to lay out their design on a backing of prefelt, hence the production line!

Felting, dyeing and weaving, three inspirational books to buy!

After the Feltmakers Ireland get together on Wednesday I popped into Borders bookshop in the Blanchardstown Centre, Dublin.  Carmen introduced me to the shop and it is really great, loads of magazines, plenty of craft books, big squishy leather arm chairs and a Starbucks on the upper level!  I was really looking for something inspirational to buy with either new felting ideas or some crochet patterns that were funky and would work up quickly.  Nothing jumped out that I didn’t already have in my library so after about half an hour of browsing I  decided to cut my losses (especially in the current financial climate) and head for home.  Luckily I glanced in the discount section on the way out and imagine my absolute surprise and delight when I found three of the most inspirational books, each reduced from £12.99 to E4.99!  I am going to give you the names and authors of each book, I can’t recommend them enough if you are looking for fun, colourful and interesting books to add to your library and I think that the ideas in each book would be great to try out with both adults and children alike.  The books are all published buy Gaia Books and are …..

  • Creative Felting by Lizzie Houghton
  • Creative Weaving by Sarah Howard and Elisabeth Kendrick
  • Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook

I am off now to try out an idea that I have had since studying the Creative Felting book, results to be published here complete with pictures probably on Sunday or Monday as soon as I return from the Irish Blog Awards.

Felted jewellery, tourism course, blog awards, wrapping up the jacket saga …

Just a short post to say that I will wrap up the jacket saga over the next few days, time is not in big supply until Sunday and I have been having huge internet connection problems yesterday and this evening.  This morning I spent a great time with members and friends of Feltmmakers Ireland in Dublin, we discussed and made various items of felted jewellery and it was great to have a loom at other people’s work, enjoy a chat and have a good exchange of ideas.

Tomorrow I am starting a course in tourism development allied to Waterford Institute of Technology.  I thought that it could be a good idea to help me really progress my felting workshops/residential courses and network with other business people in the South East.

On Saturday I travel to Cork for the Irish Blog of the Year Awards, unfortunately I didn’t make the short lists but best of luck to all those who did, watch your backs for next year!  Luckily Alan will be here to mind the dogs over the next few days so I have decided not to stay in Cork for the night although I will arrive early enough to participate in the pre event ‘Ladies Tea Party’ (with alcoholic beverages!!) coupled with a crochet and knit stitch and bitch.

As soon as I get a minute I will wrap up the jacket saga, hopefully sometime on Friday internet permitting.

The various stages in the birth of a jacket

Ok, we left the jacket saga on Saturday night with a template encased package and the design being ‘drawn’ on top in merino and silk fibres.  After I wrote that post I couldn’t relax (even though time was pushing on and I was tired!) so I just HAD to go back and fill in a bit more of the design.  Suddenly it seemed to quickly come into shape and before I knew it I had side one, the front, all ready to wet with warm soap and water and rub.  Although I have made 4 rugs now and a couple of bags with these pre-stamped felt bases and love the way they respond to the felting process I had never tried my electric sander with them before but nothing ventured, nothing gained!  I wet out the fibres, laid bubble wrap on top and after pressing the water into the wooly package with my hands switched on the floor sander.  It really worked a treat but I definitely made a stupid mistake by not wrapping the edging fibres around the resist package and leaving things as they were until the next morning.  In the morning I discovered that of course the edges had stiffened and dried out quite a bit overnight so in order for the fibres to overlap around the sides and shoulders of the package I needed to wet both them and the base again with very hot water and press EXTREMELY hard before they made any kind of effort to adhere in the way that I wanted.  Not withstanding this I laid out side two, wet out and sanded again making sure to give extra attention to all the edges.  Next came the wrapping and rolling dilema, would I try out the massive plastic mat I got from Mehmet (really needed more than one person and I didn’t know if I could manage to roll it up tightly enough by myself) which obviously would be the best method, would I try bubble wrap or would I opt for the large bamboo blind and all the problems that rolling in that would entail?  Oh to be another few weeks down the road when the individual plastic mats that Mehmet is sending arrive and there would have been no debate at all!  After a couple of false starts I rolled in the bamboo blind but kept opening, rewrapping and rotating the package about every 80 rolls or so.  BIG HEAVY WEIGHT!  Check back tomorrow for the next installment, can’t believe how my wrists are still aching and I am getting tired just typing and thinking about it all again!!

Jacket underway, or is it a vest?

After a very slow start to the day at last my felt jacket is underway.  Now I say jacket but at the moment I still haven’t quite decided exactly on what the finished piece will be, jacket, tunic, sleeveless jerkin, vest, the possibilities are going round and round in my head.  I was so annoyed with myself that I couldn’t make a decision that I just decided to get going and play things by ear. Katarzyna, one of my blog readers has sent me an email as she is also starting on a jacket too and it will be really interesting to see how they both turn out!  Eventually after all my ruminating I decided to use one of Mehmet’s rug bases, tack it into the shape I want (rectangular at present with two holes for the arms) and insert a resist in the middle.  It looks really like a big square at the moment and I am hoping to shrink it more widthways as I work otherwise I may need to add a further piece of felt to the bottom to ensure that it is long enough for me.  I haven’t cut out any hole for my head at the moment but I did sew up the side seams lightly leaving enough space for my arms and this will give me the possibility of adding sleeves if I really get inspired and think that they would suit the top.  At the moment I am just laying out the wool for the front of the top and tomorrow I hope to finish this, lay out the back and then start felting.  I hope that as I progress I will get a feel for the project and at that stage I will be able to decide exactly how much to felt and full and what the actual piece will end up as!

Wet and wild weekend of felting planned!

Well, I know that it is Valentine’s day tomorrow but unfortunately Alan’s father has not been well this week (hope you get better soon Des) and I will be home alone for the next few days.  What can I do??  I just HAVE to try my hand felting a large wearable article and now I am dreaming about nuno skirts, wrap arounds, tunics and jackets!  The possibilities would be endless if I had attempted such a large project before but due to my absolute hate of sewing I am thinking to make a simple tunic style top based on a great linen top that I already have from Blue Fish in Taos, New Mexico.  I love their clothes and usually they love me!  The styles are very free and as I am tall, have long arms and a long back, am broad shouldered but not overweight it is unusual to find a range of clothes that really seem to suit my figure.  My big dilema is how to actually assemble the top; will I lightly tack (baste in the USA) the pieces of cotton together before laying out the wool fibres or start to make the nuno felt in one HUGE piece and then tack it into shape before everything really starts to felt together?  I have two options for the base material, one some cotton in my stash and the other a couple of the rug bases that I bought from Mehmet.  The rug bases might sound a bit strange but at the moment I am leaning towards them as I really think that I might be able to design and make an amazing jacket which would last for years.  Ah well, I think I’ll sleep on it!

Best of luck to all the bloggers nominated for the blog post of the year especially Darragh Doyle.  See you all next Saturday in Cork for the ‘Blog of the Year’ awards.

Romney and mohair, a totally new experience!

Brilliant swap package!

Brilliant swap package!

Wow, I recieved my swap parcel from Dawn Edwards and it was fantastic!  It is amazing to post a friend part of your stash and in return receive part of theirs, you never know what will come out of the exchange!!  Check out these gorgeous goodies (much better picture in Dawn’s Flickr images), don’t they look divine???  Obviously I could loose no time in trying out the beautiful fibre, a 70% romney and 30% mohair combination.  I was extremely excited to be trying out a fibre that was totally new to me and in some of my favourite colours, olive, golden lime and deep purple.  Carmen called over this afternoon to do a bit of felting together and we drooled over the wool/mohair mix before I decided to make a vessel as a trial run.  BIG mistake!  Before starting I searched in all my books to check out the type of project I should submit the wool to, didn’t find much info so decided to make a vessel.  I laid out 4 layers using the resist method and the colours were very beautiful but the vessel was not!!  It was patchy and definitely not strong enough for what I had intended but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I reworked the felt into a totally different shape and put it in the oven to dry.  It now is a sculptural and organic piece which I intend to stitch into (WOW, I can’t believe that I said that) and I promise to put up a few pictures sometime over the next few days.  I am going to ask Dawn what she usually makes with this type of fibre and tomorrow have planned to combine it with some richly coloured silk to make a colourful and lightweight scarf.  Thanks a million Dawn for such a challenging and great package!