Sigrid has arrived, light fittings purchased!

Yesterday morning I collected Sigrid  Bannier from the airport and we spent a couple of happy hours in Ikea!  For those of you from other continents Ikea is an excellent Scandinavian company, simple design and good prices who just opened their first Irish store in Dublin this Monday, perfect for our felting workshops next week as they have a fantastic selection of lights and components.  We got a great selection of different designs all ready to deconstruct, these will form the basis of the working components of our lightshades, now all we need is the know how from Sigrid and the inspitation from ourselves!!


Large felt sculpture workshop!

The second felt workshop that I participated in at ‘Felt in Focus’ was fairly large felt sculptures with Anna Gunnarsdottir from Iceland.  This was a brilliant experience and taught me a totally new way of looking at resists!  As with Lyda’s complex bag workshop I am going to cover what we did over several posts and this is also a good way for me to revisit all that I learnt over the 2 days.  (Please bear with me as I am having computer problems, it keeps closing and I think that I need to get it ‘attended’ to by an expert or else I will go potty!)

Two of Anna's felt sculptures

Two of Anna's felt sculptures

Anna’s large sculptural pieces are amazing and it was very exciting to learn the technique of felting large objects, my head is now full of shapes and I am just waiting for the arrival of Icelandic wool to really go crazy experimenting at home.  Once everyone had introduced themselves and explained what they hoped to get out of the workshop Anna explained and demonstrated how she stitches layers of plastic resist together to form the template for her felt objects.  I was lucky that reknowned Irish felter Elizabeth Bonner had participated in the first workshop so I had the advantage of watching her work progress and learn from any observations and tips.  The biggest help to me was knowing that creating a symmetrical template was easiest and then stitching straight up the central line as opposed to joining the layers with a curved line would be the simplest option.  Anna encouraged everyone to think outside the box when deciding on our shape and I although I had toyed with the idea of using my backpack template this proved too large to deal with in the two days allocated.   My choice therefore was a bit like a rounded figure of eight on it’s side, complete with two bumps on each surface that I intended embellishing with horse hair.  This workshop was also a great opportunity to experiment with new fibres and fishskin.  Anna had a great selection of horse hair and dyed salmon, wolf fish and cod skin, other participants had brought raw fleece and various found objects to play around with.  To be cont …. including pictures of my template and work in progress!

‘Felt in Focus’ group on Flickr and Sigrid Bannier’s arrival on Thursday

Before I left Denmark to travel home to Ireland I borrowed Holly’s computer and set up a Flickr group for ‘Felt in Focus’.  The idea for this is that the participants and organisers can share photos and continue friendships by participating in the discussion board through the group.  Why not have a look at the photos for yourself to get a flavour of what the various workshops had to offer?  I emailed the organisers today and hopefully they will be forwarding the info about the new group on to everyone who attended and over the next few weeks we should see a lot more images of work in progress and the finished items!

Sigrid arrives on Thursday and I am looking forward to catching up and learning from her again!  There are still a couple of places available for the nuno mosaic workshop on 5th, incorporating found objects into your felt on 6th and the lampshade 2-day workshop on 7th and 8th August.  Please contact me if you are interested in attending, all materials are provided and fun is guaranteed!

The finished felt neck wrap

Felt neck wrap
Felt neck wrap

Here is an image of the completed neck wrap made using the large bubble wrap and the rainbow coloured merino sliver.  I like the textured effect, it almost looks like a collection of flowers wrapped around your neck.  For anyone wanting to try this out it takes a LOT of time laying out the wool, in my case I used sliver so didn’t have to divide tops but even so a piece this small took over 2 hours to lay out.  You need to cover the wetted out wool with thin plastic before you start the rolling process, I used a black refuse sack that I had to hand.  Roll and felt as normal but do take time at the beginning of the process, too rough at this stage and the whole thing may just disintegrate!  You will notice when the wool is holding together and just seems to want to slip off the large bubbles, at this stage you can work directly on a bamboo blind or similar and just continue until you are happy with the finished piece.

Finishing the felt backpack

I decided not to attend the optional evening talk which was organised on day one of Lyda Rump’s workshop as I really wanted to get started laying out my backpack.  The resist had been cut out of laminate floor underlay as usual and I started by rolling the handle and also the dreadlocks to attach to the bottom of the bag and to use as a closure.  The ends of the handle and the dreadlocks were left dry so as to make it easier for them to felt into the middle of the bag when I added them at layer two.  It took me 40 minutes of pondering before I realised how to go about laying out my inside pocket and then I laid out one layer of the bag as well before calling it a night.  At breakfast the next morning fellow Irish felter Maureen Cromer pointed out that the way I had positioned the pocket was not how Lyda had explained the day before so so much for all my efforts that evening!  I had a word with Lyda at the beginning of day two and although my way would have worked I decided to start again as I really wanted to learn the simplest and most efficient method, that was why I was there!!  Lyda places the bag template on the working surface, covers it with the bubble wrap, lays the full 3 layers of the pocket, positions the pocket resist on top of it, lays the first layer of the back of the bag and then removes the resist from under the bubble wrap and places it on top of the layer of wool.  Then she folds over the wool around the edge of the resist and lays out the first layer on the other side of the bag.  Try it with a piece of paper on your table, it works and is a simple way of positioning the pocket in the correct place internally.  The glass nuggets and the bag straps were lightly needled in after layer 2 (this was C1 wool) and then the final layer of merino with it’s silk and gauze surface decoration was laid.  To skip to the completion of the bag, I rolled, re-wet with hot water, rolled and rolled again to fully finish the felting process and ensure that the backpack was as tough and rugged as possible without loosing the integrity of the beautiful merino, silk and gauze finish.  When I was sure that the package was shrinking and holding together as per usual I cut out the resist and at the very end I cut a tiny cross on top of the glass nuggets and then worked the area with my fingernail to widen the opening and expose the glass.  The final technique was to shave the surface of the bag like Mehmet Girgic does with his rugs and this leaves a beautiful finish allowing all the fabrics, fibres and glass to be shown to the best advantage.  Because I really worked hard on fulling my backpack the finished bag has handles that actually have shrunk more than I intended.  As I am tall the bag now sits very high on my back so for the moment I am wearing it as a shoulder bag until I make extension loops to add to the ends of the straps!  Holly Angle took some good quality photos of the bag so as soon as I get them via email I will post them here and to Flickr.

Felting with glass nuggets, Sigrid Bannier workshops and Seanchas Festival

To answer a question about working with glass nuggets or indeed stones or other found objects in felt, Lyda uses a great method to ensure that they stay in position.  Previously I have felted with glass but found that it tended to move within the felt layers therefore I could never quite predict what the end result would look like.  Lyda’s method for the bags was to lay out and wet layer one, lay out and wet layer two, position the glass nuggets, cover them with a wad of dry wool from layer two and then needle the dry wool into the wet layer to secure the glas in position.  Then you lay out layer three, wet and felt as normal.  This works like magic!  Tomorrow I will continue to write about the progress of my felt backpack but for now I just want to update you all about Sigrid Bannier’s workshops and let everyone in South Eastern Ireland know about a sustainable feltival where I will be teaching felting workshops at next weekend.

Sigrid’s workshops are filling up nicely but there are still spaces available on any of the days from Wednesday 5th until Sunday 9th August.  We have been chatting by email and Sigrid is very flexible, if anyone is interested in a specific workshop but not available on the advertised day just let me know and we will be able to fit you in with your chosen topic on one of the other dates!  Check out some great images on the gallery pages of Sigrid’s new website, if you click on any of the images a slide show will start.

This weekend sees the first running of a new sustainable festival called Seanchas which takes place near Adamstown, Co. Wexford from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July.  I will be facilitating the adult felting workshops on Saturday and Sunday, you can check out all the info about the festival and the great activities on offer via the website.

Complex felt bag workshop continues

I know that you have already seen an image of my first sample but here is a close up so hopefully you will be able to follow what I am talking about! 

Close up of sample 1

Close up of sample 1Sample 2

Lyda had brought a great selection of glass nuggets with her for us to share (apparantly cheap and easy to get in Ikea, roll on July 27th when the first store opens in Ireland!) so I decided to felt in 4 different colours to see which would work best with my wool selection.  Just by matching the nuggets up beside the raw wool I thought the the green colour would be best but also incorporated black, clear and frosted green.  I also covered one of the nugets with green gauze before covering with more wool thinking that it could prove an interesting contrast in textures when the glass was exposed.  In the close up above you can see how much shinier and visable the green glass was compared to the frosted glass and indeed these were nothing like as good as the black, black was by far the best contrast with clear glass second!  The other thing of note in the close up is how the silk chiffon that I used on top of the merino was almost totally submerged into the top layer of wool, useless for the bag as you would not have had any idea it was there at all!  I also used gorgeous silk hankies and silk twists on the reverse of the piece but again these just blended into the background.  What did stand out brilliantly however were the strips of green gauze (bottom right of image), I had never incorporated gauze into my work before and it was a revelation so off I went back into the traders hall (had to ration myself here!!) to try and get some turquoise gauze.  Unfortunately they did not have it in this colour but luckily I found some gorgeous pongee silk in just the right shade of blue.  Although by this stage everyone else was well underway laying out the wool for their bags I made the decision to make a second sample in order to discover exactly how the pongee would look against the black, blue and green for my backpack. 

Sample 2

Sample 2

With this sample I laid out the wool a lot thinner than in my first piece (everyone else’s work was much thinner than mine in sample 1) so it felted quicker but Lyda said to stick with how I usually worked and to lay it as per my first sample.  I loved the effect of the pongee silk against the merino so with a happy heart started to lay out my backpack!  To be continued …..

Day one of the complex felt bag workshop with Lyda Rump

After a great breakfast and a morning assembly all the participants in Lyda Rump’s complex bag workshop met in our classroom.  We oohed and aahed over the amazing bags that Lyda had brought to show us (check out some of them here in her gallery) and discussed how it is possible to make a felt soft to the touch but strong and hardwearing.  For most of her bags Lyda uses an inner layer of a strong wool (such as C1) sandwiched between two layers of merino.  Each of the layers is weighed out meticulously, for mine the body of my backpack weighed 97g per layer and there was extra wool for the straps, inner pocket and the dreadlocks.  We looked at all the design merits of the various bags, inner and outer pockets play a big part as do double bags reminescent of saddle bags.  Lyda is also experimenting a lot with incorporating knitting (or crochet) into her bags.  This makes them more like a wearable piece of clothing and reduces the pressure on your shoulder if you use the knitting like a sleeve that the body of the bag is attached to, very funky and individual, check out the orange coloured bag at the bottom of gallery 1.  After we had a look through some of Lyda’s sample books and images from other bag workshops everyone went into the trader’s hall to investigate what wool was available for purchase suited for the inside of our bags.  I choose Norwegian C1 wool from Ullform and selected colours that would match or complement the Filzrausch short fibred merino that I had brought with me to make my bag with, this was to match a long scarf that I had made the night before I had left for Denmark.

My long merino and silk scarf

My long merino and silk scarf



My idea was to have the main body black and use subtle blends of turquoise and green wool, silk, gauze and glass to add texture and interest.  Lyda always gets her students to make a sample first, this enables her to see how people usually felt and allows them to try out colour combinations, new wool and new techniqes. 

My first felt sample

My first felt sample


Here is my first sample, check back again for my next post where I go through the pros and cons of this piece!

‘Felt in Focus’, a mind blowing symposium!

Well, it is going to be impossible to relate all the excitement of ‘Felt in Focus’ on the blog but I am going to try!  I have decided to write quite a few posts over the next two weeks documenting the experience from start to fininsh.  Hopefully you will get a flavour of how fantastic the experience was and also learn a some of the amazing tips of the trade that I picked up along the way!!  On Sunday 4th I joined 15 other members of Feltmakers Ireland at Dublin Airport and by 17.30 we were happily checking in at our accomodation on site at Glamsdalens Idraetsefterskole in Denmark.  Every last little detail was taken care of through out the week by the amazing organisers and by 18.00 140 participants were enjoying our first 5 star meal in the large communal dining room.

Our first meal together

Our first meal together

You might be able to see from the image that there is only one man in the room, totally there were 3 men on the organisational side of things and only one male tutor, amazing considering that in many areas of the world felting is really a male occupation.  We enjoyed superb food throughout the week, it would actually be impossible to convey how fantastic it was (including amazing and innovative vegeterian fare) but suffice to say that EVERYBODY said they would rate it as 5 stars and I had three portions of a particular desert one night and I don’t really eat any sweet things after a meal at all!!  At 19.00 we had a welcome address and presentation of the teachers in the main hall and between 20.00 and 21.30 the symposium was officially opened by Jytte Ablidstrom and Birgitte Krag.  Wine and beer were available to purchase from the information stand in the evenings so after a bit of a chat and a glass or two everyone said a quick good night and headed off to bed.  My next post will start to document the fantastic complex bag workshop that I took with Lyda Rump and relate more about the participants and teachers that made the event so special.

How I made the felt shrug!

Thanks for all your comments everyone, it is always nice to get feedback.  Here are some brief instructions for those of you who want to give the shrug a try this weekend (could that be you Dawn??)!  On top of bubble wrap and with bubbles facing up lay out a LARGE circle of merino (a bit bigger that the one formed if you create a circle with your arms stretched in front of you and by joining your finger tips together) one layer thick.  I used predominantly one base colour and added splodges of green and some darker merino as well, don’t be too fussed if the shape is  not totally round as this creates an organic feel to the edges.  Place your silk chiffon (in a contrasting or complementary colour) on top of the wool almost but not quite up to the edges (for the ‘Peony’ shrug I used 2 different colours) and then lay a second layer of merino around the edges and in a few selected areas of the silk. 

Back view of 'Peony' shrug

Back view of 'Peony' shrug

I then added some gorgeous space dyed mulberry silk on top of all the areas where wool fibre was uppermost, wet out as normal with tepid water and olive oil soap, placed bubble wrap on top bubble side down and started the nuno felting process.  I did pay particular attention to wetting out all the fibres, rubbing while the layers were flat and then rolling around an insulating pipe for a couple of hundred rolls in various directions.  When the fibres and silk were holding together well but not felted fully I cut out a narrow wedge shape just like a slice of pizza!  Leaving the felt flat on the table I then went round and cut short slits all over the place but always in the direction from the outside towards the center.  Next I sealed the edges of the wedge and the holes with soapy hands, swirled and massaged it gently in a warm bowl of soapy water and then just continued to felt as normal for nuno.  I kept laying it flat again, stretching the holes but being careful not to tear them too much at the edges.  I also stretched the whole shrug so in fact it ended up not a whole lot smaller in diameter than it started.  When happy with the result (I tried it on wet a few times!) I rinsed the shrug in warm water, shaped on my kitchen table and then left it to dry shaped over my new (to me) tailor’s dummy.  Enjoy and have fun making your own shrug, remember that I want to see your pictures!  By the way, this piece in reversible and can also be worn back to front if  you prefer!!