Continuing hardships but felt and fibre reign!

A really quick post while I have sketchy internet connectivity.  Over the last couple of days I have had no internet, no water, no central heating and no electricity although thankfully the electricity and central heating are back although the water and internet is still a problem!  As soon as the internet is back to normal I will update you with …..

  • a tutorial to make the simplest felt slippers from a rectangle of flat felt although don’t make two right feet like I did yesterday!!
  • give full details for the Lyda Rump workshops, she will be bringing her own hand dyed silks and they are FABULOUS!
  • update you with the latest images of my second weaving project which will co-ordinate with the bag which I am going to create incorporating felting and weaving

Until then …….

My finished felt slippers and textile trials in our extreme weather conditions!

With the cold weather continuing and more snow forecast I made myself finish my felt slippers this afternoon. 

The finished felt slippers with latex soles

I had painted four (I think!) layers of latex on the soles allowing 24 hours between each coat, this has given an excellent ‘sticky’ sole which is both waterproof and slip resistant.  My friend Sheila Ahern from Feltmakers Ireland has a really great tip for colouring the latex, add some food colouring in the appropriate colour as you paint on the soles!  It was too late for me this time but I will definitely consider it again especially if I make slippers in dyed wool as opposed to natural colours.  As per usual I had been putting off stitching the backs of each heel AGAIN but finally all all the agonising is over and now I will be wearing these beauties tonight in front of my wood burning stove!

I still have no water here and as you can see from this photo am reduced to melting snow on top of the range if I want a cup of tea or a coffee. 

Melting snow on the range

Luckily I do have heat again so things are not as bad as they were a week or so ago but no water at all now bar melting snow means no felting until my supply resumes.  As a result, I am trying to finish off little projects that have been lurking in my conscience and during my enforced absence from felting I have also vowed to get to grips with my Ashford Knitters Loom!  This frustrating but beguiling piece of kit has had me cursing and frustrated endless times over the last afternoon and this morning.  I actually bought the loom from Stephanie at The Yarn Room with money that I earned teaching felting at one of the ‘Pick Up Your Needles’ sessions at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.  My thought process went something along the lines of occasionally (when I have NO water!) it is good to experiment in another textile discipline and sometimes in the future (when I master the blooming thing!) it might be interesting to combine some weaving with some felting.  Knowing as you must by now how incredibly difficult I find little fiddly things to master it is a testament to my not so great patience that I actually managed to warp the loom at all. 

Warping the loom

To be totally fair to Ashford, these Knitters Looms are excellent to work with and the included instructions are very clear and simple to follow.  I’m not going to bore you with all my selvedge difficulties, suffice to say that I found it totally impossible to get an even edge!  I know that it is my first scarf but really, it was amazingly frustrating not to even think that I was improving as the weaving progressed and the scarf got longer.  Early in the process I determined to sell the loom but as things went on I started dreaming of loads of lovely felt projects enhanced by a small piece of my very own woven fabric! 

Warm woven scarf

Time will tell whether I continue with my weaving but for the moment I have a very warm (all be it an extremely badly woven) scarf to keep me warm during this cold weather and a head full of ideas for future felt and fabric collaborations.

Picture of the mosaic mat and more with prefelts and reusing old felt!

As promised here is a picture of the completed mosaic mat. 

The completed mosaic mat

Obviously you can tell from the image that snow has arrived at Clasheen but the unfortunate news is that my water has once more stopped running.  Luckily my heat is OK because the outside temperature has never risen above -2 degrees today, unheard of weather conditions for Ireland although everything looks like a beautiful winter wonderland at the moment!!  It struck me when taking this picture that the mosaic method would work very well if you cut out your shapes as if you were going to sew a traditional patchwork quilt.  This may be some research that I will take up at some stage but for the moment it was a really simple way to use some of my left over prefelt.  Following on from this project I decided to experiment with more prefelt, pieces of my first long loved (but finally wrecked!) cobweb scarf and various bits and bobs of embellishing fibres that I have had in my stash.  Due to my lack of water I also wanted to work some more with Icelandic wool (as it needs loads of soap but not too much water) and melted some snow on the range to keep me going for the moment. 

Silk and mohair/romney highlights

Here is an image to whet your appetite and you can check out my Flickr photos for some more teasers of this landscape.  For anyone wanting to experiment with Icelandic wool I am offering the batts that I work with for sale through my Etsy store, please just mail me if you don’t see the colour that you are looking for!

Creating a mosaic with prefelts

My sister requested a table runner for her Christmas present and this morning I decided to use up some of the left over prefelts to create a mosaic style mat.  The prefelts were felted from chocolate, turquoise and natural coloured Icelandic wool and my first job was to cut them into 5cm squares using my cutting mat and a rotary cutter.  I then cut about a quarter of them on the diagonal before deciding on the layout I wanted for the simple mosaic design.  The prefelts were quite thick and this definitely helped when butting the edges together.  Once they were laid out I wet the design lightly with very soapy cool water, none of the squares or triangles shifted so I moved on to the next stage.  To felt the whole design together I decided on a light layer of the natural coloured wool as a backing.  The Icelandic batts are so easy to use, no stress getting fibres aligned, just pull out a wad and lay it down!  Once this was done I added some more soapy water, it is amazing how much soap this wool needs compared to merino but once the felting process starts the fibres lock down very tightly and very quickly.  I actually was amazed at how everything held together almost immediately, this was the first time that I had used dry Icelandic prefelts (last time I made them and used them wet immediately) and the whole process took only about 30 minutes after laying out the design to rinsing out the completed felt mat!  The natural coloured wool for the backing created a nice edge to the design and this style of mosaic flat felting is definitely an idea to play around with some more, photos to follow tomorrow.

Felting the nuno wrap/mini skirt

For the nuno wrap/mini skirt I decided to lay out my fibre on top of the ‘right side’ of my fabric, because of the obvious semicircular shape and due to the fact that it had been lining from one of my skirts it actually had loads of seams all around the inside. 

The fibre and fabric wet and ready to felt


For the bulk of the fibre I used a hot pink merino and then added small circles and a few strips in either apple green or orange.  The fabric that I embellished with was torn strips of the silk/cotton mix and I also added some loose silk fibres to the surface.  Once the fibres were laid out and wet I covered them with a second piece of bubble wrap and rubbed and rolled as normal.  Because this was a nuno project I started the felting process using cool water and soap, if I had used hot water the thin covering of wool fibres might have felted quickly and not migrated through the backing lining fabric at all.  Rolling was more difficult than normal, the shape made the wrapped felt want to go off in all sorts of directions rather than just rolling straight down my kitchen table!  Surprisingly quickly the fibres migrated through the lining fabric.  I did need to rub directly on top of the embellished wool for a bit and this enabled the fibre to migrate through the tightly woven silk/cotton pieces in the top layer as well. 

Front of nuno felt mini skirt

I love the texture of the finished piece but my favourite aspect of the whole project has to be how the seams from the underside become a quirky feature when the piece is worn with the fabric side out!  If you check out my Flickr photos you can see some more shots of the various way this piece may be worn, nuno really is a brilliant technique and I look forward very much to sharing the process with participants at my workshop on Saturday 23rd January. 

Close up of wrap

January felting workshops at Clasheen, Lyda Rump’s visit and reversible nuno wrap/short skirt

Now that my heat is operational again I find out that for some reason my workshop page here on the blog was on the blink, it never rains but it pours!  Anyway, I have just spent the last 90 minutes (yes, the computer is slow as well!!) uploading info on my first January workshops and letting people know the dates, titles and price for the two Lyda Rump workshops taking place from Friday 5th – Sunday 7th February.  I have decided for my own workshops to start with simple fingerless mittens on Saturday 16th January and this will be followed up by an introduction to nuno felting the following week,  Saturday 23rd.  The mittens are an excellent three dimensional project and the nuno felt introduction is a great way to try out various natural fabrics and see how they interact with wool during the felting process.  The last Saturday of the month I am thinking of a full day workshop, probably a warm winter scarf using the softest merino or else a nuno felt scarf as a follow on project to the nuno felt experimenting session.  Lyda Rump will be with us at the beginning of February and I am extremely excited to be able to felt with her once more .  I urge you not to miss these dates if you want to improve your felting, Lyda is a BRILLIANT artist and teacher!  More information about these workshops will be uploaded by the end of the week, just sorting out the final details.

Today I made a reversible wrap/mini skirt and I am thrilled with the result.  For ages I have been looking at some gorgeous deep purple fabric which I have had sitting in my stash but was just too nervous of having a disaster and wasting it that I never got into gear using it at all!  It was part of the lining from a lovely silk and cotton skirt that I had (but was not wearing) and when I deconstructed the garment I had a neat semicircular piece of fabric perfect for today’s project.  I used this as the base for my wrap and incorporated short fibred merino, silk fibre and some of the gold printed purple silk/cotton skirt material into the top layer.  Due to the semicircle shape of the fabric it was a little difficult to roll, tomorrow I will upload some pictures and explain the process further.  Off now to light my stove!

Fingerless mittens, a simple wet felting project using a resist

One of the highlights yesterday was being able to complete my first felting project of the New Year thanks to the resumption of my water supply!  Due to the really cold spell of weather we are in the middle of, coupled with my lack of heat, I have been wearing a pair of knitted fingerless mittens around the house a lot and been thankful for the extra warmth that they are providing.  With this in mind I decided to make a simple pair in felt and post them to a friend in Slovenia as a thank you for a wonderful surprise Christmas present. 

The fingerless mittens laid out

Bearing in mind that the Icelandic wool dosen’t shrink quite as much as merino appears to I used a simple rectangular resist which was just a bit wider and a little bit longer than I wanted the finished mittens to measure.  I laid out two layers of fibre around the resist and then added a simple swirl in pink, blue and green yarn for decoration, unfortunately my camera hates photograping raspberry for some reason so you will just have to imagine a rich deep raspberry wool for the background.  The mittens really didn’t take too long to felt, once I was sure that the fibres had entangled well and were felting together I opened the resist and cut the rectangle in two down the centre. 

Resist removed and gloves cut in two

I continued to roll and full the mittens together and when they were almost the right size cut out the thumb hole and then fulled each one individually.  This is a really nice project as an introduction to felting around a resist and I am now planning to offer it as my first felting workshop of 2010, details to follow of dates and times tomorrow! 

Close up of the finished mittens!

As you can see from my dry looking hand, I need to apply some of the gorgeous natural beeswax hand cream that was a great present from Ann and Alison at our last felting session before Christmas!

Two images from New Year’s Day 2010 at Clasheen

My water is running, thanks so much to Joe Power who came over on New Year’s day to make my day!  The luxury of turning on the tap, flushing the toilets, felting some fingerless mittens, washing some clothes, the list goes on …….

It’s a couple of minutes before 7pm here in Ireland and I thought that just before I rush off to put some food in the oven I would share two of the photos that I took today.  Tomorrow I will post about the fingerless mittens that I made but for now here are some pictures of the start of a new decade here at Clasheen!

Oak plantation on New Year's Day 2010

Little felt lampshades all lit up