Check out some of the great fibre related blogs that I follow!

Kreativ Blogger Award
Kreativ Blogger Award

Thanks so much to my friend Irene Lundgaard who has given me this Kreativ Blogger Award.  The rules for receiving this award mean that you link back to the person who nominated you, list 7 things that you love, link to 6 more kreative bloggers and leave a comment on their site to let them know how to keep the award going.  Irene and Stephanie (from the fabulous Yarn Room) are the main organisers of the ‘Pick up Your Needles’ series of workshops which take place regularly in the Tinahely Arts Centre.  Although crochet is really Irene’s thing she recently won the fastest knitter competition at the opening of Stephanie’s new yarn store in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, way to go Irene!  Receiving this award made me realise that I really need to update my links here as I actually follow 84 blogs through Google Reader, many of them textile and fibre related.  To whet your appitite here are six of my favourites (some of which I have linked to before, others not) ….. Florcita by Mariana, Sheep Thrills Yarn by Cedar, Ginga Squid by Vicky, Felting Your Soul by Yvette, Her Majesty Margo by Margo and Deb Seeger by the wonderful Deb Seeger!  Each of these special people I consider especially creative, they blog regularly about their passion for art and textiles and invite us through their writing to share the experience (sometimes wonderful and sometimes frustrasting!) of their arts practice.  Now for 7 things that I love excluding felting, fibre, teaching and participating in felt workshops, you already know that I LOVE all of these things so I am going for things that you may not already know about me (as if!) ….. Strong black coffee with no bitter aftertaste, dark chocolate (with/without natural orange and cardamom or with chilli), supporting local business (especially my butcher and the many wonderful art and craft practitioners in my immediate area), cooking comforting food and entertaining our friends with Alan, long hot baths filled with natural scented products, walking my collie Rex around the fields at Clasheen followed by a hot toddy in front of a nice warm fire and last but definitely not least, meeting and making friendships through this blog, our swaps, Flickr, Ravelry, ArtL!nks and other social networking sites such as Linkedin!

My nuno felt skirt!

I thought it was about time that I uploaded some images of the nuno mosaic skirt that I made during German felter Sigrid Bannier’s visit to Ireland during August.

Felt skirt and wrap outside Kilkenny Castle

Felt skirt and wrap outside Kilkenny Castle

The main body of the skirt is made from four cotton gauze nuno mosaic panels and the cummerbund section around the waist is also nuno felt, this time hand dyed merino felted into hand dyed silk chiffon.  Thanks to Sigrid and her expert sewing skills the panels are stitched to just above knee level and then the bottom of the skirt swishes and swings out beautifully when worn giving a very comfortable and interesting fit! 

Nuno felt wrap

Nuno felt wrap

The nuno neck wrap that I designed earlier in the year to match some of my linen clothes is made from the same silk and merino.  Sigrid liked it thrown around the neck exposing both the silk and wool textures at the same time, I prefer it with just the silk side showing but it is nice to have the option!

Wonderful scents wafting through Clasheen, felt laptop cover

Some wonderful scents are wafting through Clasheen this morning as felting friends have joined me for a home made cosmetic workshop facilitated by Anna Brown.  The morning session is well underway as I write this post and the most delicious scents are courtesy of fresh herbs from my garden and essential oils brought by Anna and some of the participants.  These are mixed in various combinations with other natural products (eg. epsom salts, beeswax and vegetable oils) to form ‘kind to your skin’ hand salves, lip balms, bath bombs, exfoliating scrubs, bath salts and more.  I am hoping to give all my friends and family hand made Christmas presents again this year and was planning on creating glamourous gift packages combining felt and some of these cosmetics.  As with last year I urge any of you who have not already done so to sign up to Buy Handmade and support artisan producers from all around the globe.  Especially in these difficult financial times it makes sense for us to support each other and promote the wonderful handmade products available locally and for sale via the internet.  This afternoon I will be participating in the cosmetic workshop and then later this weekend I hope to felt a laptop cover for myself, time permitting!  Because I don’t tend to carry my laptop around too much I keep putting this project on the back burner.  Obviously I do have a regular cover but for ages have been hankering for something a bit more stylish and individual.  Anyway, now is the time for action, watch this space because if I am happy with the result I might also make a few of these as presents for friends if requested!

Wool and silk on order, felting kit update!

Following on from my last post, the Icelandic wool that I have ordered is on its way and I am also now waiting for some silk chiffon and ponge silk to get here in preparation for a nuno felting marathon in the run up to December (note how I managed to avoid using the C word!).  I am very excited to see the colour selection as I definitely stepped outside my usual choices in this department, after all if I am going to be selling the fibre I need to make sure that everyone else’s taste will be catered for.  I also stopped off at Threads of Green today (my favourite Kilkenny fabric store) to pick up some more gorgeous printed silk and a small piece of a fun and funky black polyester printed with silver spiders, perfect to do a sample with a Halloween theme!  Thanks to all of you who took the time to leave comments or respond via email when I mentioned that I am planning to sell felting kits.  You definitely all endorsed the idea wholeheartedly and my plan now is to put together a selection of kits both for the total beginner and for more experienced felters.  I did manage to make one cobweb style scarf for myself the other day with brilliant fibre that I bought from Blas at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and it got many compliments when I wore it to dinner on Wednesday.  The fibre was from one of the artisan producers that Blas and Jamie deal with and was a hand carded deep green wool with flecks of purple and some glitzy bits thrown into the mix as well!  It goes brilliantly with some of my organic cotton clothing from Blue Fish so there you are, I was really flying the American flag in Ireland the other night!

Exciting news re. felting wool, Clasheen Autumn Swap and last chance to view Sculpture in Context

There never seem to be enough hours in a day to fit in all the things that I really want to do.  Luckily my flu is now 90% over so I am starting to plough through all the paperwork and outstanding letters/emails etc. that built up over the 4 weeks while I was away from home.  My exciting news of the day however concerns the Icelandic wool that I will soon be selling from my Etsy store, I haven’t linked through this time because I need to wait until the wool arrives and get the images uploaded first!  The colours are fabulous and as well as offering different weights of the wool for sale I also intend putting some fun kits together with clear (hopefully!) instructions on how to make various different items.  The Icelandic wool is superb for structural work, bags, vessels, sculpture, light shades etc. and also could be used for warm scarves although would not be as soft as merino when worn directly against the skin.  Please let me know what you think about putting felting kits together, I was thinking along the lines of …..  beginners flat felt, simple felt vessel, felt purse, felt flower, felt necklace, felt brooch etc. and then a kit with instructions for a first nuno felt scarf using the fantastic short fibred merino I import from Filzrausch.  I would include all the raw materials including embellishments and any findings, clear but simple instructions and enough bubble wrap and resist where necessary to complete the project.  All comments gratefully received!

This Thursday is the deadline for all Clasheen Autumn Swap packages to be on their way across the globe!  If you have been one of our gang participating this time please remember to get your goddies out and then to leave a message of thanks and pictures to the Clasheen Crafty Swaps pool on Flickr as soon as you receive your own package.  If for any reason you are going to be a day or two late getting to the post PLEASE just leave a message on our message board.  Everyone understands if a delay occurs (so long as it is not every time!) and it just relieves the pressure on both ends of the swap.

Next Monday I will be taking down my felt ‘Cascade’ from Sculpture in Context so if you have not yet visited the Irish National Botanic Gardens in Dublin to view the exhibition now is your last chance.  Check out this article from the Irish Times.

Article in the Irish Times

Article in the Irish Times

Cropped felt top, submission for ‘The climate is Changing’ and recommended magazine to buy

My flu appears to have abated somewhat so I am taking this opportunity of posting about the very exciting top that I felted for myself this week while getting fed and minded like a baby at Carmen’s!  I really hate sewing and for a long time have wanted to make some stylish felt wearables for myself but until Sigrid Bannier’s recent trip to Ireland have always resisted the mental thought process that needs to happen before confidently handling such large scale clothing projects.  In tandem with this, for the last 5 months I have been desperately trying to think up my response to the international call for submissions for a juried travelling exhibition portraying the impact of human actions on the environment.  ‘The Climate is Changing’ should be a challenge that I can rise to given the Green Party aspect of my background but until I finally crystallized my thoughts during a recent hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park my brain seemed absolutely dead as to how I could interpret my ideas into a piece of felt.  Without giving too much away I have also been totally inspired by an interview with Thomas Horst (my absolute favourite American felter to date!) and his details of how to make a felted coat, I can’t recommend enough buying the Fall edition of ‘Living Crafts’ to check this out for yourselves.  Thomas uses an electric sander a lot in his work and for the project detailed in the magazine the wool used shrinks by 25%.  This got me to thinking that if I rubbed or sanded my work for a significantly longer period of time than I usually do and coupled this with cooler water and less rolling would I achieve a strong and finished felt garment with less shrinkage than I usually build in?  The answer is YES!  This means that now I have a felting method that achieves a gorgeous surface finish and doesn’t need the gigantic resists that I was always imagining would be required if I needed to allow 50% shrinkage for larger wearable articles.  The unusually styled cropped top that I made for myself during the week is a generous size, has a gorgeous high neck and is made from just over 200g of the softest merino.  I laid it out on a backing of cotton gauze for drape and stability and used some of the gorgeous silk hankies and twists that I got in Denmark as surface decoration, with a little manipulation (read more concentration cutting up the cotton gauze!) this would have made a wonderful reversible nuno top.  Now I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed to create my submission.  Forgive me if I don’t give a total step by step description or an idea of the shape of my garment but I need to get the application sorted out first and one of the conditions is that no details or images of the work have been talked about or published prior to the juried stage of ‘The Climate is Changing’.

Felt, fever and frustrating flu!

Apologies for not writing sooner my promised post about Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and our wonderful whale watching trip but since arriving back home on Saturday evening I have been absolutely felled with some virus.  Carmen has been brilliant, dispensing gorgeous chicken soup and amazing seafood dishes (my appetite has not been affected luckily but does seem pretty amazing!) while we have been managing to get in a little bit of felting together during my upright hours!! When Alan and I were on our second of three flights back to Ireland I started to feel a bit nauseous and by Monday morning was obviously running a temperature.  No sleep at all on Monday night (actually had to get up at three am as I couldn’t stand it any longer in bed sniffling and sweating) and still feeling lousy at the moment but I really feel the need to conclude my American saga and then move on to the main business of felting from this moment forth.  Forgive me for the now abbreviated version of our final few days but suffice to say that Yosemite is gorgeous but unfortunately the weekend that we arrived was the scheduled annual clean up coupled with a National Parks free admission day so if you think that you can imagine the crowds, well think again.  Luckily we spent our first day and a half in the Tuolumne Meadows area and had a brilliant walk up Lembert Dome but once we travelled to the valley area of the park it was absolute mayhem.  Thousands of people were jammed into the whole area and because the park is actually very small parking was a total no no.  We couldn’t get within a couple of miles of the trailhead that we wanted to hike so eventually we decided to have a picnic (near the first spot we found to park) and then walked up the short trail to see where Lower Yosemite Falls falls in the Spring.  Both the upper and the lower falls dry out during the summer period so by Autumn the whole system is totally dry but impressive none the less.  As no accommodation was available anywhere near the valley area we decided to cut our losses and head across to Monterey a day or two earlier than planned.  We broke our journey in Merced (temperature of 100 degrees and rising!) and the following morning took a detour to the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, an interesting stop well worth at least 3 or 4 hours of anyones time.  The following morning we experienced one of the definite highlights of our trip, a 5 hour whale watching experience where we were lucky enough to observe about 6 families of killer whales (offshore variety), 2 humpback whales, risso’s dolphins and porpoises at close quarters.  To say that these creatures are amazing would be a total understatement, our trip organised by marine biologist Nancy Black’s company Monterey Bay Whale Watch was the absolute business.  That pretty much wraps up our American adventure, we had a brilliant time, loved the scenery, wildlife and people that we met (not necessarily in that order!) and would love to go back sooner rather than later.  I feel a proper felting trip in the running!  Anyway, off now for a long hot bath, a couple more Excedrin Plus and hopefully a slightly more restful night of sleep.  Next post will be only about felting, promise!

Fantastic nuno mosaic felting workshop at Urban Fauna Studio

I had a WONDERFUL time at Urban Fauna Studio on my last full day in the States!  Blas and Jamie have a superb set up, wonderful fibres, yarns, books and notions etc. all neatly laid out in a small but practical space in a quiet part of the Mission district in San Fransisco.  Alan and I arrived in the city during rush hour (I guess that should be rush hours!!) on Wednesday evening and I have to say it was only then that I discovered how far downtown San Fransisco actually was from the studio, although we had driven through the city at the beginning of the holiday I really didn’t realise that it was so big.  Luckily Alan is someone who likes to study all the local maps from an area as soon as we arrive and boy was I happy when he found out that the Muni light rail system could practically drop me from our hotel on O’Farrell Street to Urban Fauna’s door, all for the cool price of only $2, a lot less stressful than driving! 

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

I duly arrived on Thursday morning looking forward to meeting proprietor Blas and scoping out the facilities in advance of the participants arrival for our class at 10am.  Unfortunately Blas’s wife Jamie was tied up so I will just have to wait until next summer and their trip to Ireland before meeting the other half of this great fibre duo.  I was very impressed with the quality and selection of fibre and yarn available to purchase as well as interesting books, notions and other covetable items and more than impressed with how Blas manages to keep this relatively small space totally clean, tidy and organised, if only my own studio was half as tidy I would be in 7th heaven!  While Blas headed off to the local shop to pick up some fresh fruit and teas I made myself at home, first selecting some yummy and unusual fibres to bring home with me and then setting up the tables and laying out a couple of samples of my felt that I had brought with me from Ireland.  First to arrive was my online friend Nancy Schwab, the person actually responsible for putting me in touch with Blas and Jamie in the first place!  Nancy is a great nuno felter and had brought some of her beautiful scarves for everyone to drool over and this was interesting for all the participants to see as neither Flo, Nancy W-B or Laura had actually wet felted before.  We had a really fun group (two Nancys, Flo, Laura and Blas) and everyone was totally more experienced in dying fabric and fibre than I am and between them there was a gorgeous selection of hand dyed and bought silk to select from to create the nuno mosaic with.  I explained how Sigrid Bannier pioneered the technique and suggested that for the total beginners a double ended scarf would be a good project to tackle, plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour but not as large a piece to lay out as experienced felters Blas and Nancy S were going to attempt. 

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Using a guideline of three different colours everyone started to chop up their silk and lay out their patterns, a bit like making an overlapping jigsaw!  As you can see from the image of Nancy laying out her design everywhere the silk colours overlap another colour is created.  In this way a complex design is created and additional depth is acquired from whatever colour wool is used on the reverse to felt everything together.  As we started to work everyone began to appreciate that this method of working opens up the door to amazingly complex details, particularly as everyone seemed to be a dab hand at dying silk in the first place a whole new avenue of textile design is now on the horizon.  Before lunch I showed everyone how I would lay out two fine layers of merino on top of the overlapping silk and everyone managed very well with varying degrees of thickness and different qualities of wool.  Blas actually used a yak/merino mix that has to be one of the softest fibres I have ever touched, needless to say I bought some to bring home for myself and some as a present for Carmen as well!  Anyway, we wet out the first end of the scarf and started rubbing and massaging to help the fibres migrate through the silk.  After lunch around the corner in a super Japanese place (FANTASTIC food and amazingly cheap) everyone got stuck back into their work and continued to lay out more silk to complete their piece before rubbing and then rolling in bubble wrap around a short piece of pool noodle.  Once we were totally sure that the wool was migrating through every layer of silk the felt could then be dipped into extremely hot water and then either thrown on a towel or rocked and rolled on the table to continue the felting process.  Once I was happy that the work was fully felted each piece was given a final rinse and then proudly worn for a fun filled photo session!  The nuno mosaic technique does use a lot more elbow grease than straight nuno felt and takes longer to create but I am sure you will agree from the photos here and on Flickr that the amazing results were more than worth the effort! 

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

I promise that tomorrow I will put up the post ‘American wrap up – Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and fantastic killer whales!’ but for now I am off to create a nuno felt scarf all for myself!