US workshop details getting fine tuned, Downeville info and large vessel is HEAVY!

My upcoming workshops at Urban Fauna Studio SF, Plainwell MI and Lexington KY are in the last stages of finalising, I hope to have all the details about the various workshops ready by the end of this week!!!  I keep forgetting how difficult it is to write workshop descriptions accurately and provide enough information without overloading anyone.  I try to be flexible when I am teaching so one title often doesn’t quite do justice to the various techniques that will be shared during the workshop so if anyone has questions once the info is uploaded please shout and I will do my best to answer!

The Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat at Downeville is booking up nicely, Emma (joint owner of The Tin thimble with her mother Sharon) has written a blog post with some links to photos of previous retreats so if you are interested in more information check this out.

As I write this post my current large ArtL!nks vessel is spinning in the washing machine.  Today I have been rubbing, rolling and throwing it on top of my kitchen table, it is uncomfortably heavy to handle when wet hence the quick spin to remove some of the excess water!  Hopefully it will have shrunk some more by the end of the afternoon, I am really wanting enough shrinkage to make inserting the exercise ball necessary to stretch it into shape before a lot more fulling and finishing.  Wish me luck!

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Largest ArtL!nks vessel underway and pictures of my stash from Avoca!

My largest ArtL!nks vessel is now underway and I thought I would share this picture with you all, it’s not got the best colour contrast but it does give an idea of the size involved when you see the template beside my washing up bowl and sprinkler! 

Putting the vessel size in perspective

Eventually I decided to lay merino on the inside and mohair waste on the outside for this experiment.  I do really want to have a large vessel with the chocolate and orange design but for the first one this will be a less costly experiment if anything does go wrong!  More pictures of the vessel in progress are going up on Flickr but I don’t know how many I will have time to upload before I have to pack the truck for my session with Borris Active Retirement this afternoon.

I also promised you a couple of pictures of the goodies I scored at Avoca on Saturday, well here they are, one more to follow tomorrow!!! 

My Valentine's Day jacket from Alan

Gorgeous tweed and new stash of buttons!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!  XXX

Avoca Handweavers – a wonderful sale yesterday!

Yesterday Alan came with me for a drive to the beautifully sited Avoca Handweavers in the picturesque village of Avoca, Co. Wicklow, the small country village where the popular television series Ballykissangel was filmed.  Once a year Avoca Handweavers have a monsterous sale of buttons, handwoven fabric, odd cones of yarn and a selection of odds and ends of scarves and rugs. 

Avoca Handweavers

For some reason WordPress is playing up this afternoon and won’t allow me to insert Avoca as a live hyperlink but if you want to check out about the business the website is www.avoca.ie/ and the information about the woolen mill that I actually visited can be found when you click on the section about the history of the company.  Basically this is the location where most of the weaving is done (as opposed their main retail outlets dotted all over Ireland) so in addition to the working section some outbuildings have been transformed into a shop to showcase their finished products and there is also a super restaurant/coffee shop filled with the most yummy savoury foods and cookies.  The materials, findings and yarn are only on sale to the public once a year and the prices are AMAZING!!!!!  I scored the most incredible pure wool tweed in a fantastic check colour scheme, incredible value so I obviously just HAD to buy whatever was left on the bolt, 6 1/2 metres @ 5 Euro per metre!  There was also about 3/4 metre which had been damaged in a couple of spots and I was able to get that for 1 Euro, the width is so great that I will have plenty to play around with for felting or use to line a bag, I suspect it will melt into fibre like butter if felted.  My intention is to make (or have made if I could afford to!) curtains, cushions and a bed spread for my main guest room, I think the modern design of the tweed will really update and show off the traditional style of my farmhouse!  I also bought 3 metres of a stunning printed fabric which we thought was a very fine silk chiffon, 141 big funky buttons in various styles (10 cent each), a handfull of colourful zips (in case I ever get into the swing of sewing!) and 26 D rings which I hope to use for some new felt belts as well as an adjustable shoulder strap for a new style of bag I am planning.   I also met up with some of the ‘Wicklow Knitters’ group on Ravelry, hi girls, how brilliant the internet is for bringing like minded people together, amazing!  All in all it was an brilliant day, Alan bought me a gorgeous cream jacket for Valentine’s Day (and I might have bought him something but that is a secret until tomorrow night), it’s too dark now to take any pictures but providing the weather is good in the morning I will be out with the camera and give you a taste of the style Avoca has to offer.

American and Irish workshop updates, ArtL!nks plus FlyLady!

It’s official, Kentucky has now been added as the final stop for my American felting workshops on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May, I am so thrilled to be visiting this beautiful state and am really looking forward to meeting Jan Durham for the first time and catching up with Lindy Huber again!!!  As soon as all the details are ironed out for the workshops I will post here with all the information about the techniques we will be covering as well as update the information on the workshop page

Bookings are now open for The Tin Thimble’s annual Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat in Downeville CA (see I can use American spellings sometimes) so if you are interested in joining us (hi Carole!) for what promises to be an action packed and fun time please hurry, spaces at this event are strictly limited!!!

The introduction to feltmaking for total beginners and improvers at Clasheen on Saturday 5th March is now fully booked but please email me if you would like to be added to my waiting list in case of a cancellation or to discuss the possibility of attending on another day. 

Total mess on my studio tables and beyond

I should in fact be playing in a golf competition this afternoon but needs must, my studio is totally messy once again and I really need to get it sorted and start on my large ArtL!nks vessel by this evening (or more realistically first thing tomorrow morning) at the latest!  The mess isn’t a dirty mess but rather an excceptionally untidy one, the tables mightn’t look too bad but it is everywhere else you aren’t seeing that is the big problem, where on earth will I shove all this stuff to free up my work space???  Note the bird seed, oatmeal and sultanas too, since the harsh weather I have a selection of robins and a blackbird that bombard me every time I leave through the back door so I keep these to hand as a simple way of keeping them happy!  This last part of my ArtL!nks work will be the vessels finished using the yoga balls for the shaping.  I am thinking of making two large vessels, the first one in white Icelandic wool and stiffened with PVA to check out my template measurements and make sure the ball is a good idea, the second in white merino with chocolate and orange shapes.  This merino vessel will require a lot more time and more expensive materials to felt so you can see why I want to try out the Icelandic wool and ball first, if it is a disaster I will need to rethink my plan.

My tidy dining room with felt and fibre accessories!

Lastly I am going to leave you with two pictures of my totally tidy dining room to show that it will be possible to tidy my studio, amazing picture as all my friends know (usually this room is TOTALLY COVERED in paperwork and other assorted ‘stuff’) but it is all down to hard work and a lot of help from FlyLady!!!  Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time may remember that I signed up to FlyLady in January 2009 but I fell by the wayside sometime later that year.  Enough is enough, 2011 is the year I am trying my best to sort out the house, studio and garden in tandem with organising my diary and keeping better track of my felting work.  Keeping a balance between all these things is important but earning a working living is vital and hopefully a bit more structure and a tidy space to live in will help with that!  This first picture shows the view looking over the dining table towards a little nook livened up with a favourite painting by Majid Kahhak, a felt throw on the back of a sofa bed and a light fitting with about 45 felt flower lampshades.  There is another splash of colour in this direction where a shocking pink sheepskin provides a comfy seating place on top of a trunk if necessary, by the way, Alan does NOT like this pink sheepskin at all! 

Simple venacular architecture with individual modern table and chairs!

The second shot is looking in the other direction towards the main bedroom.  In this picture you can see the juxtaposition of the ultra modern dining table and chairs with the unchanged local venacular architecture.  Thanks to friend Duncan Russell whom I comissioned these beautiful pieces from several years ago, I had intended some traditional farmhouse furniture for this room but hadn’t managed to find what I was looking for and totally fell for Duncan’s work, cest la vie. 

When I bought Clasheen approx 5 years ago now it had not been lived in since 1928 and I really wanted to keep the structure and design as it was originally intended (with of course some modern inclusions such as water and an old looking extension to add a bit more space).  This has meant a simple and friendly home which I am totally in love with, there are some drawbacks however including lack of storage space (badly needed) and some draughty spots, even though I had external doors and windows individually made by traditional craftsmen they do not function as well as modern equivalents so I am plannning some improvements which will be put in place as finance and time dictates!

First pictures from CRAFTed project!

Only a few words today because I used most of them up with sixth class this morning!!! 

Having fun adding the surface decoration

 

I was blown away by how creative everyone was.  Each pupil was asked to choose two colours to use as a base, then they could select from all sorts of yarn, fibre and fabric to add to the surface layer.  A lot of the girls had brought in beads, buttons, pipe cleaners and all sorts of glitzy embellishments with them and these will be stitched on next Monday before the felt gets stuck to the front of their journals.  A tip for anyone wanting an easy way to decorate a copy, why not stick velcro to the book and then just press the felt to the barbed side of the velcro???  No sewing, I like that! 

Anyone see a favourite colour combination here???

Some of the pieces were fully felted by the end of the session but others will need a little more fulling at home before they are ready to embellish with stitches, beads and buttons.  It is always interesting to see how different people felt at different speeds, one of the last girls to lay out her wool was in turn one of the only girls who ended up with a fully felted piece at the end of the session!

Metallic mesh fabric, thick and thin merino, little buttons to be stitched on afterwards

There is no right or wrong way to felt either as many ways to end up with a good finished result but I always like to share with pupils what I was shown when I started because I feel it gives a good foundation to build upon.  You can check out my flat felt tutorial if you want to see what we did today.

Workshop in Kentucky anyone, another felt beret picture and house sitting at Clasheen

Would anyone be interested in a Clasheen style felting workshop in Kentucky sometime during the last weekend in May??? 

I was very excited to get an email from fibre artist Jan Durham this weekend and we have been chatting over the last few days about the possibility of organising a get together in Kentucky after my workshops with Dawn in Michigan and prior to my return flights home to Ireland.  It would be WONDERFUL to add a new venue to my American adventures so if you are interested in meeting up sometime between Friday 27th and Tuesday 31st May and having a fun time felting together please email Jan today to have a chat!  Kentucky is not a state that I have visited before and what nicer way to make an inagural trip than to meet up with and share time with other felt and fibre friends!!!

Accurate colours and textures

The weather is extremely cold and windy this morning but the biggest plus is the fact that our horrendous rain from yesterday and last night has finally stopped!  I grabbed the chance to take another few pictures of the felt beret I made and here is one showing an accurate representation of the beautiful heathery colours and textures.  I have fallen in love with the possibilities of combining the mohair waste with other fibres and hope that the ladies of Borris Active Retirement feel the same way today when we explore the potential of simple felt hats.

HOUSE SITTING AT CLASHEEN

During my trip to the States in May I am thinking of offering my house and studio to an artist who would like a peaceful rural retreat in which to concentrate on their practice for a month in exchange for providing company and walks for Rex, my canine friend!  Obviously Clasheen is perfect (if somewhat untidy at times!) for a felter or textile artist but it would also suit a writer, painter, photographer (wonderful scenery locally!) or indeed any creative person who would like the space to concentrate on their work whilst having all the amenities of a small town 6 minutes drive away.  If you know anyone who is reliable, flexible and loves sheepdogs who might be interested in living here during the whole of May please pass on this information and ask them to email me asap!  I would also be happy to consider a person or couple interested in basing themselves here for a month rent free especially if they were happy to do a little gardening or painting in exchange for accomodation in a traditional Irish farmhouse coupled with peace and quiet!  Rex is my main priority however so whoever is interested in the possibility of using my studio facilities and/or house must be a dog lover and will need to commit to looking after him for the duration of my trip abroad.

Today has been the perfect day for felting!

We woke up this morning to horrendous winds outside, the perfect excuse to hole up inside and join Carmen for a full day of felting!  By the time she arrived the winds were increasing and after about another hour of howling and wailing the rain started, great stair rods of water coming down vertically, does anyone else use stair rods as an expression for rain???

Mohair and silk throwsters waste for the outer layer of this beret, short fibred merino inside

Tomorrow afternoon I start my third series of workshops with the Borris Active Retirement group and by request the topic for our first session is ‘felt hats’.  I decided to experiment today and felt a beret combining an inner layer of short fibred merino with an outer layer of mohair waste and silk throwsters waste.  As a quick aside, I suggest that anyone interested in trying out this mohair waste that Carmen and I are using (Sharon, hope this suggestion helps) goes to their nearest weaving mill and ask if they have any loose fibres left from the brushing process.  This is where we have got ours and it has been free to collect as Carmen is a friend of the person, I know that Cushendale Woolen Mill sells their abroad but you just need to ask around and I think you would be able to access some.  Anyway, the process for the beret is almost identical to the recent explanation of the mohair vessel with the exception that you don’t create such a deep three dimensional shape as with the vessels, rather stretch and pull the felt into a flattering shape to softly cover your head.  As before, the mohair really blended well during the felting process and for this beret I added a wonderful vintage button cover I picked up during last Fall’s workshops at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA. 

Beautiful vintage button cover

The deep lilac in the centre of the button cover is perfect with the turquoise, pink and lilac silk/mohair combination!  Head on over to my Flickr photos to see more pictures of the hat in progress as well as one rather dark image of the finished beret, the heavy rain made photography rather trying this afternoon!!!