Felt and driftwood ring

By the time I had finished my proposal for Cashel Arts Fest, had a chat and some lunch with Carmen, Mariate and Alan it was four o’clock and we (with the exception of Alan!) were all ready to get down to a bit of felting (or sewing in the case of Mariate) for the rest of the afternoon.  Carmen laid out a gorgeous scarf and I started to decide exactly how I was going to make a ring using merino and a well worn piece of driftwood collected on a recent trip to the beach.

Felt and driftwood ring

It took ages deciding which piece of driftwood to use as when you are a confirmed hoarder like me it is difficult to use anything from your stash in case you mess it up and end up wasting the piece!  I had a couple of minutes trying to work out how to attach the bit to Alan’s small drill but eventually decided just to run with my own Makita and not worry about the concequences in the event of any misadventure!  Choosing the colours for the felt was easy, the dark patina of the wood lent itself to orange, yellow, wine and green Autumnal colours, no surprises there.  Overall I was very happy with the end result and plan on wearing the ring tomorrow when I go to a podcasting course organised by ArtL!nks.  I also felted another ring using bone and merino and then made an experimental cuff using merino and some very sequined jersey fabric that Carmen got as waste from an Irish dress designer.  Unfortunately it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before I get to felt again but now that I have got started combining felt and found objects I will be planning some more pieces of jewellery and then hopefully some bigger three dimensional projects which are floating around in my head at the moment.

Busy day today and combining felt with found objects, my fun project for tomorrow!

Well, I am just going to see how long it takes to write and upload this post, started at 19.39 and counting……….

Today was Carmen’s birthday and we had an active day variously felting, weaving, chatting and catching up with our friend Martina who called in on a special visit from the other side of Ireland especially in honour of the birthday girl!  Tomorrow we are going to be joined by more friends Cristina and Mariate for a felting, chatting and eating marathon.  You may wonder how Alan fits into the middle of this activity (especially since he really doesn’t like all that fluffy wool stuff!!) but this weekend was put in motion when he announced his trip to visit his parents and since he did not travel due to a cold what else can a girl do except persevere with her plans?

My objective tomorrow is to make some small three dimensional pieces and then combine them with found objects from my stash to create unique and funky felt and recycled jewellery.  I got a GREAT book during the week through Amazon, ‘Fabulous Jewellery from Found Objects’ by Marthe Le Van.  For the first time ever I now have some technical knowledge which shows me the safest way to drill through stones, work with precious and semi precious metal and basically gives clear step by step instructions for some of the necessary jewellery skills required when working with various types of new and found objects.  Alan has lent me a very small drill ( mine is a BIG Makita power tool!) and I have loads of ideas floating around in my head so hopefully I will have a few photos tomorrow to show you how everything is progressing.

The other necessary thing I have to do in the morning is put together a proposal for the Cashel Arts Fest.  This event does not take place until November but the organisers are sorting out the workshops sometime this week and I really would like to have something fun and interesting to offer for the children.

Post complete at 19.54!

Way hey, two posts in one day but I just had to share!

I just discovered that Clasheen is one of the longlisted blogs in the ‘best specialist’ section for the Irish Blog Awards 2010 Thanks so much to whoever nominated me, the section sponsors iQ Content, all the guys and galls who together make these awards such a fun event to be a part of and congratulations to all the other nominees in all the various sections!

The other exciting news for today is that I have my new laptop at last!  Such a pleasure to work on to date, only used it for about twenty minutes so far but all is going very smoothly so here’s raising a glass to Toshiba tonight.  I am really looking forward to loads more memory and plenty of speed, be prepared for lots of posts over the coming months and plenty of pictures of all my felt in progress, hope I don’t wear you out with all my chatter!

Submission, fingerless gloves and technical problems yet again

I am not going to bore you with details of all my technical problems at the moment but suffice to say I am off to try and buy a new laptop immediately I upload this post otherwise I am going to need serious counselling for computer rage and anger managment!  Yesterday I managed to finish my arts grant submission thanks in no small part to the fabulous printer (cheers for the simplicity of Epson ) I invested in on Wednesday afternoon.  You may well ask yourself how I am going to fund all these new technical products but the way I feel today if I have to spend another 50 minutes starting a computer, half an hour trying to access gmail, over an hour writing and uploading a blog post and if 20 images of my felt cost E98 in hard copies (I nearly passed out!!!) new equipment will save me both time and money so I have to find the money somehow.  I know that Carlow Co. Council may not have many funds to grant the arts this year but fingers crossed they will send a little my way and hopefully this will help fund my intended trip to the international felt symposium ‘Felt, Naturally’ in Silkeborg, Denmark from 28th July to 1st August 2010.  This symposium sounds fabulous and I really would like to attend to further my studies in various aspects of sculptural felting.  The Danish felting group Grima are organising the event to celebrate their twentieth anniversary and if you are interested in finding out more click the word Engelsk Brochure when you link through to their excellent website.

As promised here is  a photo from my felting students at last Sunday’s ‘Pick up your Needles’ workshop in the Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely. 

Fun fingerless mittens

 

Our first project in the morning was a piece of flat felt so that participants could see how the felting process actually occurs (most participants had never felted before) and then in the afternoon everyone made themselves a gorgeous pair of warm and comfortable fingerless mittens.  Unfortunately I really was not feeling 100% on Sunday (cold was in full flow) and think that I needed to make the resists for the mittens a little bit wider.  We only discovered this when everyone got to the stage of putting the mittens on for the final felting and working to size.  Some of the mittens were extremely tight but luckily heating them up in the microwave helped stretch them a little and everyone was very understanding and delighted with their work so all in all a good day was had by everyone!

My super soft yak scarf and preparing submission for an Arts Act Grant

I seem to have picked up a bad cold over the last few days and it didn’t help that I had three individual meetings at the golf club today which were totally necessary to attend.  Following on from another excellent ‘Pick up your Needles’ at the Courthouse Art Centre in Tinahely yesterday (more details and photos to follow from my felting participants over the next day or two as soon as my cold abates) I decided to stay in my p-js this morning and not get dressed until just before my first meeting at 2pm this afternoon!  To wrap myself snugly I wore the yak and silk scarf that I felted with hand dyed fibres purchased from Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and at the risk of boring everyone this fibre is an absolute dream to work with, beautifully soft, warm and flexible to wear.  If any of you have access to Blas and Jamie’s wonderful studio/shop do look out for this stunning yak fibre.  I know that it had only just arrived in stock for the first time when I visited last September but I guess that Blas should have it regularly now considering there must be a big demand for such a beautiful fibre.

Tomorrow I am going prepare my submission for an ‘Arts Act Grant’ from Carlow County Council.  Last year they awarded me E200 for professional development and this was extremely welcome funding which went towards my expenses for the international symposium Felt in Focus.  Finances are very tight here in Ireland and it is brilliant that the local authorities are still prepared to fund certain individual and group artistic indeavours to benefit our local community.

New felt bag and how to integrate handles

Well, I shouldn’t have blogged the other day about the creative juices somewhat flowing because that just seemed to jinx things and it has taken a long time to get my new bag designed and felted!  I wasn’t happy with the initial sample (the one in various shades of orange, yellow and gold) so decided to make a large piece of prefelt from different proportions and stripes of cerice, turquoise and black merino overlaid with black and gold artificial lace, glitzy but subtle when fully felted.  This prefelt I then cut up into various shapes before felting it onto a base of apple green merino, another disaster!  In this instance I didn’t like the contrast between the different prefelt shapes and the clarity of the green when felted, by this stage I had spent a full day and a half without being happy with any of my samples!  Running in tandem with this very frustrating process I kept adjusting and fine tuning my template until at last I was happy with the shape of the proposed bag.  Eventually after some more dithering and debating I decided yesterday afternoon to just get on with the bag using colours that I often combine together (no sample this time!), black with small amounts of light and dark turquoise.  The front of the bag has inserts of textured leather and the back a few glass beads which I hope to stitch or bead around.  Now that the bag is fully felted I am actually thinking of entering it into an Irish craft competition so probably will take some shots of various details to upload here but not post a picture of the whole bag until the entries have been short listed. 

Handles for felt bags seem to be a topic that many of you are interested in at the moment.  For myself I like one of two things, either a felt handle integrated into the bag itself or a handle made from another material altogether, leather, metal or wood being three excellent choices that jump to mind immediately.  Contrasting materials and textures bring excitment to felt so keep your eyes peeled to see what unusual items you may come across that could be put to good use as a handle.  I also like my bags to have a couple of different options for use if at all possible, handbag, backpack and/or shoulder bag all rolled into one.  To this end I sometimes incorporate a loop into the back of my bags, this may then be strung with a long felt cord to form a backpack although obviously it depends on how the integrated handles are incorporated if this is to work successfully.  Now, how to integrate rolled felt handles so that they are totally strong, don’t stretch, will stand up to practically any hardship and most importantly last for many years!  For strong sturdy sculptural bags the alsolute best method that I have ever used is what I learnt from Lyda Rump at Felt in Focus in Denmark last summer.  Felt your handle/handles totally until they are extremely hard and there is no shrinkage left leaving all the ends dry.  Lay out your bag in three layers, layer 1 merino, layer 2 a strong and coarser wool such as C1 or Icelandic and layer 3 merino again.  Wet and soap lightly between each layer and after you have laid your second layer fluff out the dry ends from your handle/handles and place into position.  Don’t forget to allow for the fact that your bag will shrink, the handles should not shrink any further or only a very small bit if they are still a little soft.  This is why it is so important to felt them extremely firmly before inserting them!  Cover the dry ends with a little more of the wool from layer 2 and needle lightly into position.  Continue to lay layer 3 followed by your surface decoration and when you start to felt your bag pay special attention to the ends of the handle/handles and make sure that they felt into place exactly where you want them to end up.  As your bag felts and gets stronger pull and rub at the base of the handles to make them extremely strong and well integrated.  Another great method for handles is to cut your resist out but don’t actually remove any felt.  You then need to stretch the opening in such a way as to form your handles and then felt them fully.  Both Elaine and Carmen’s handles were formed in this way at our recent complex bag workshops and loads of books on felting give different ways of cutting to achieve this result.  Have a look at the images of Elaine laying out her wool (from my recent posts) and then her wearing the finished bag, this should give you an idea of what I am talking about if you don’t have any suitable books.

Quick break and then back to sampling

I was meant to be at the golf club this afternoon but after a morning plotting and planning a new bag I am now in the middle of making samples and don’t want to stop while the juices are somewhat flowing!  Initially I was having difficulties deciding on the shape as I would like something with a similar handle to the bag I made with Lyda but I do want to make sure that it is recognisably my own work and not just a copy of one of her templates.  I found some great images of ray, plaice and other flat fish so think that I will use a shape that is fatter at the bottom third and slightly tapered at the bottom but with a round feel, does that make sense?  Initially I was going to work in orange, yellow and shades thereof with some gold mesh and ponge silk for surface decoration plus some ‘craters’ for depth.  After my first sample I am not sure that I like the colour combination and since I have been here at the computer my thoughts are turning to a design in natural black, white and charcoal inspired by some local rock art at Rathgeeran. 

Rock art at Rathgeeran New Year 2010

I am also playing with the idea of creating a piece of prefelt with a lot of interesting surface texture, cutting it into squares, rearranging the order of the squares and then felting it into the top layer of merino.  Anyway, off now to make some more samples and hopefully by the end of the afternoon my ideas will have chrystallised into something concrete and I will be able to start on the bag proper first thing tomorrow morning.

I am also following with great interest the comments at Clasheen Uncut in relation to pricing craft and hope to blog here tomorrow about handles for felt bags and continue to explore the pricing debate over at Clasheen Uncut.

The last day of our wonderful complex bag workshop

Sunday was the second and final day of our complex bag workshop and the end of three brilliant days felting with Lyda Rump.  Because Cristina and I had worked well into Sunday morning to complete our bags we had a great opportunity to try something else whilst watching Elaine and Carmen’s bags taking shape as they felted and fulled.  I decided to make a small felt vessel which had been in my mind for a while and Lyda showed me how to design the template to give me the result I was aiming for.  Sometimes another brain or a bit of lateral thinking makes all the difference because I would have used a round resist myself and cut the opening down the middle in a wave, Lyda suggested an oval resist with a wavy top edge and this proved to be an entirely better option.  What it is to have artistic ability combined with years of experience! 

Vessel in progress

Carmen and Elaine worked on the various parts of their bags by rolling, pulling, stretching and spot fulling with a felting mouse.  When the bags were almost finished they were rinsed thoroughly in clear water and then put to drain in my washing machine with a towel to add a bit of friction and weight.  Doing this does not shrink the felt any further but it does remove a significiant amount of water and then you can work the felt further if you want or just stretch to shape and leave it to dry if you are happy that it is fulled enough. 

Elaine, Lyda and Cristina showing off the felt bags!

I don’t have a picture yet of Carmen’s finished bag as she decided to do the final shaping at home and felt a beautiful scarf during the last hour or so of the afternoon.  More about this in my next post and also some discussion about the various handle options when creating a felt bag. 

I would like to say a really big thank you all for leaving such lovely comments about my own complex bag!  It is great to be able to feel so connected to everyone through the medium of the internet and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your thoughts, tips and advice!! 

I’ll leave you with an image Lyda took as I was preparing my small vessel on the gravel for a photo, it gives a good overhead view of the scalloped edges of the opening.

Positioning the vessel for photography

My complex felted bag – the big reveal!

Cristina and I were so inspired after the first day of Lyda Rump’s complex bag workshop that we continued working after Lyda went to bed and both had our bags finished by 1.45am on Sunday morning!  We really enjoyed working together and somehow the time just seemed to fly.  Although my photos aren’t the best here goes with the final reveal! 

Front of my finished bag

I had a great piece of driftwood which made the perfect handle, Alan says I need to cut it a little shorter but I am happy with the length myself and let’s not forget it is me who will be using the bag!  Friend and fellow felter Nancy Schwab (hope to see you at Urban Fauna Studio in October Nancy!) throws out the question on her blog ‘do we have to use a felted handle for our felted bags’?  My answer is a definite no.  Obviously a felted handle is perfect for some styles of bags but other different materials and found objects can just be so exciting and unexpected.  That is not to say that many designs don’t suit an incorporated handle (more of that in my next post), just try and think outside the box sometimes and experiment with other types as well. 

Back of my finished bag

 

To answer a question from another friend and experienced felter Dawn Edwards yes, it is actual fish skin inserted into some of the ovals!

And finally ……

Underneath the flaps

‘Pick up your Needles’ and yesterday’s nuno felting workshop

Before I post about the brilliant nuno felting day we had here at Clasheen yesterday (promise to continue with the complex felt bag weekend tomorrow!) just let me remind you of the event where I will be facilitating the wet felting workshop next weekend.

PICK UP YOUR NEEDLES –  a fun day of fibre craft!

Sunday 21st Feb – The Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co Wicklow

1 Day Workshop @ €55 incl all materials and complimentary tea/coffee and homemade cookies throughout the day!  Full payment taken upon booking through www.theyarnroom.com.

KNITTING: Beginners will learn the basics of knitting and start a project. Improvers will learn to design a unique hat, work on finishing techniques or learn cable and lace stitches. You can also bring along any knitting project that you would like assistance with.
Tutor: Stephanie Kennedy

CROCHET: Beginners will learn the basics of crochet and start a project to work on at home. Improvers will learn classical Tunisian crochet and start a bag or a hat in this exiting technique. You can also bring along any crochet project that you would like assistance with.
Tutor: Irene Lundgaard

WET FELTING: Felt your own fingerless mittens! In the AM experiment with different colour combinations of fibre and in the PM design and make a gorgeous pair of warm fingerless mittens. Suitable for both beginners and improver felters.
Tutor: Nicola Brown

PICK UP YOUR NEEDLES but DROP THE SPINDLE FIRST!: Make smooth and lumpy-bumpy yarn from commercial and raw fibers using the drop spindle; preparing raw fleece for spinning or dying and spinning wheel demonstration. No experience necessary but you are welcome to bring spindles, wheels or fibers you already have.
Tutor: Catherine Cronin

Should any of you following my fibre adventures be anywhere near Tinahely on 21st these sessions are a fabulous way of getting your fibre fix at an absolutely rock bottom price and in the company of many interesting, funny and talanted people!  Why not drop along and check us out???

Sylvia's fabric, merino and glass brooch

Alison's fabric, merino and glass brooch

Now on to this weekend’s workshop!  I had a brilliant time yesterday with Sylvia, Alison and Ann as we explored the basics of nuno felting a scarf.  To get the day off to a cracking start everyone made a brooch incorporating fabric, merino and a small glass nugget.  What is absolutely fascinating to note is how different all the brooches turned out to be considering that the fabric was cut from the same length, the glass nuggets were the same colour and only the merino was a different colour in each of the experiments!  We spent a long time examing some of my own nuno felt and talked about the pluses and minuses of using various types of natural and artificial fabric.  Eventually Ann decided to work with one of Lyda Rump’s beautiful hand dyed silk chiffon scarves while Sylvia and Alison both choose larger lengths of dark violet and turquoise silk respectively. 

Ann with her stunning nuno felt scarf and fabric, merino and glass brooch

Until I went outside with Ann and Alison to take some pictures of their work I had no idea that Ann was wearing this apple green top under her fleece.  Look how perfectly her nuno felt scarf compliments her colouring and really looks fresh and springlike against the apple green top!  Alison decided to make her scarf for her mother (but possibly she may keep it for herself!!) and was concentrating on texture and movement within the design.  Check out my Flickr photos to see her wearing the finished scarf but for the moment here is a shot of the beautiful finbished texture.