Settling in to Dagmar’s workshop at Big Cat Textiles

After our introductory day observing and sampling how Dagmar Binder lays out her fibre I decided to felt a small neck piece in the evening, this time using some of my favourite short fibre merino from Wollknoll instead of the 21 micron roving which I used for the class piece, pics of both samples are in Monday’s post. I was far happier with the results, the surface texture of the felt was much smoother and I always like the way I can blend the colours as I go along. As a result I decided to use the short fibre wool for the rest of the week, maybe if I had used a 16 or 17 micron roving I would have had a similar outcome but for me I wanted to use the fibre that I have most affinity and feeling for and didn’t want to have to buy extra wool when I already loved the colours of what I had in my stash!

Don’t the colours just sing?

Our task for day two was to felt a scarf/neck piece incorporating resists using some of the techniques learnt about laying out fibres in different directions and subsequently playing around with the flexibility of the various attachments. I choose hot orange for the main colour and added red, purple and small amounts of yellow wool as well as pieces of silk fabric, gold silk fibre and red linen fibre for surface decoration. The silk I snapped up in a charity shop in Edinburgh so yes, you can get LOADS of silk there too if you look in the skirt and blouse sections instead of the scarf, I’ve done it!

I had a concept for my neck piece which didn’t work out quite as I had planned. Those of you who know me and my style of working understand that drawing and planning to the Nth degree is just not part of my creative process, rather I start with a concept and let the colours and fibres speak to me during the layout stage out and adjust my design organically as I go along.

The perfect length to throw around my neck

As a result I ended up with rather a nudibranch styled piece, surprise, surprise!!! As I was adding some silk pieces to the main body of the felt I was actually thinking of the speckles on a trout, once I got to the fulling stages however I totally changed the shape of the ‘tail’ end (it had 6 resists in it during the layout) the end result is quite shrimp like in places so overall the piece is very piscine in nature.

I’ll leave you with a picture of it sneaking up my cotinus, make up your own mind about the nudibranch influence but I can attest that it does seem to have a life of it’s own! Tomorrow I’ll blog about the wall hanging and vessel I made on days three and four, I’m particularly happy with my large felt vessel.

Nudibranch like neck piece at large!

Action packed day and my new studio is almost official!!!

It’s been action packed and fun here today! Annette is leaving in the morning to catch 4 ferries and 5 trains home to her little Danish island and as a result we were out and about until just about 5 minutes ago. In addition to this I managed to organise public liability insurance (thanks to MAST) for my new studio at Duckett’s Grove, sign the contracts, pick up the key and actually bring Annette to see the studio and the beautiful gardens there which are open to the public every day. We then headed in to Carlow town and had a snack with Alan before visiting Philip and Mary Cushen at Cushendale Woollen Mill in Graiguenamanagh. Annette stocked up on kilos of my beloved mohair waste and woven off cuts, I’m looking forward to seeing how she incorporates them into her felting! On our way home we called in to friend and neighbour James so that Annette could see some Irish cows being milked, all in all a busy and successful day so far.

I  did promise to post more pictures from Scotland yesterday and will do so tomorrow, I just wanted to share the exciting news with you of getting the new studio keys today!!!

I’m home now and all fired up!

I arrived safely home to Clasheen this morning, tired, elated, fired up with the knowledge to put some ideas into practice and very satisfied after a wonderful week felting at Jeanette Sendler and Alison Mountain’s beautiful new studio ‘Big Cat Textiles’ in Scotland!  The week was a huge success from many different points of view: the start of a wonderful season of summer schools for Big Cat in their new studio space, an amazing opportunity to learn from and be inspired by Dagmar Binder over the course of a 6 day masterclass (three dimensional structured surfaces for garments and wall hangings), felting and having fun with great friends Merridee and Susan from the U.S., being wined and dined by Merridee’s husband Keith who cooked great tasty food for us in the evenings and then kicked us back to the felting studio, spending creative time with old and new friends, learning techniques which I know will help me become a more professional felter and overall having such a fun time and creating some felt pieces that I’m actually very happy with!!!!!

My initial sample from Dagmar Binder’s 3d felting masterclass in Scotland, attachments felted using various combinations of 21 micron merino and prefelt

It was also lovely to meet Aileen Clarke and her friend Kirsty (fellow felters from Scotland!), work alongside Britt (we met for the first time at ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009!), spend time felting with Merridee, Susan, Linda and Jenny each night after supper, all in all it the week has definitely been one of the highlights of my felting career to date!

When I got home Annette and Rex were both in great form. Today’s been spent relaxing, chatting, showing Annette the pieces I made at the workshop and planning a trip to visit Philip and Mary Cushen at Cushendale Woollen Mill before Annette heads home on Wednesday.

Small sample neckpiece combining my favourite short fibre merino and hand dyed prefelt

My fingers and thumb pads are actually worn out now from all the rubbing and soapy water during the workshop (thanks Meridee for the Compeed plasters, brilliant!!!) so tomorrow is planned to be a work free relaxing day and I’ll get the chance to spend some more time chatting and showing off the beautiful rural locality surrounding Clasheen. I also hope to to catch up somewhat with emails and paperwork, forgive me if you’re waiting for a response to messages, mails or phone calls, concentrating and immersing myself in the total masterclass experience was essential!!! More pics tomorrow from the week as it progressed, I promise!

Dagmar Binder workshop news!

I’m having a wonderful time participating in Dagmar Binder’s 6 day masterclass in Scotland. It’s such a pleasure to learn new techniques from such an inspirational felter, the other participants are pretty cool too!!! I’m going to try and upload some pics here later if I can grab hold of a computer but failing that I’ve started to add pics to Facebook and will continue to do so as the week progresses. 

Portugal, the fruits of our labours!

I promised you some pictures of the result of our felting extravaganza in Portugal and here the first few. Sometimes I have problems uploading more than 3 images in a post if I don’t have a lot of text so I’m going to try adding a few blank lines around all the pictures, please bear with me and just keep scrolling down. I’ll upload more as soon as I return from Scotland (it’s 1.17am and I’m just about to head for the airport!) but for now these will give you a small idea of the fruits of our labours.

Kellie, Karin, Terriea, Heather, Sandy, Nienke, me, Estela, Annemarie and Carla (from left to right)

First up a group shot with participants draped in and holding a selection of the completed felt including raw wool fleece combined with two fine layers of Bordeleira, felt vessels, bags, nuno felt, eco bundled and eco dyed felt too!!!

Terriea’s fantastic felt bag with flaps

Terriea with her gorgeous natural Bordeleira bag, hope you don’t mind that I grabbed this photo from your blog Terriea!

Sandy, Heather, Terriea and Nienka celebrate Heather’s fabulously eco printed bag!

Sandy, Heather, Terriea and Nienka celebrate the sucessful eco printing of Heathers Bordeleira bag!

Felting in Portugal, part four

Well the ‘tomorrow’ of  Wednesday’s post has been and gone so appologies if it’s taken me a couple of days longer than anticipated to write about our nuno felting and eco bundling experiences in Portugal! My Danish friend Annette arrived in Ireland at 12.45am on Wednesday morning and as well as enjoying her company, attending the market in Borris on Friday and sorting the hundreds of other daily things that go on here at Clasheen I’m trying to get my supplies together (not sucessfully yet unfortunately) and prepare for Dagmar Binder’s masterclass in Scotland which starts on Tuesday.  Annette and her husband will be staying here while I’m away and taking care of Rex then we’ll have another couple of days together when I return, I’m planning a visit to Cushendale Woollen Mill and we’ll be felting together too so that should be fun! Now as promised, back to our time in Portugal…..

Sandy and Stella both working on laying out large nuno felt wraps

The latter part of the week was taken up with nuno felting, flat felting with a view to eco bundling and basically a little (or a lot!) of whatever took each participants fancy based on the techniques that had been already been shared. Not everyone had previous nuno felting experience and strangely enough it proved impossible to get either cheesecloth or muslin in Portugal for everyone to share, why is this I wonder??? Between us all however we had quite a variety of suitable fabrics including the most amazing stretchy cotton gauze from The Netherlands that apparantly is something you use when making a mattress for yourself!!! Depending on the supplies that everyone had brought some participants worked with undyed Bordeleira while others worked with hand dyed silks and coloured merino. For everyone who had not nuno felted before I recommended felting their first pieces by hand to learn the different stages of the process, for those with plenty of nuno experience I shared the way I’m currently using the tumble dryer to slash the time for larger projects. Over the course of the rest of our week a selection of amazing large wraps were felted (pictures of finished work from the week will be in my next and final post about Portugal!) and some smaller nuno felt and flat felt pieces in white were made in preparation for some natural dyeing experiments.

Participants disappearing into the distance to forage for leaves, flowers and old pieces of rusty iron!

From the beginning it had always been obvious how Karin and Eelco would like everyone to use natural materials or found objects from the domain as inspiration for or inclusion in the felt that we would be making during the week. This came together very naturally with a desire to try out simple eco bundling, the olive and sweet chestnut leaves just cried out for inclusion as did various rusty bits of old metal which we picked up while out foraging for goodies! Terriea was marvellous in sharing her experience dyeing with leaves and rust, thanks Terriea for your wonderful manner and fun way of sharing a new experience!!! Our objective was to imprint leaf shapes and colours onto felt as well as trying out some experiments with the heavier cotton fabric Karin had bought originally thinking it would be OK for nuno felting with. Terriea explained that protein fibres such as silk and wool absorb natural colour from the leaves best but since we also had the cotton we decided to give it a go too, we soaked our felt and the cotton pieces overnight in a vinegar solution prior to bundling. This was all a fun and relaxing experiment so please don’t ask me for any exact measurements as shock horror, we didn’t take any!

Terriea and Annemarie with a large pot of bundles ready for the stove

On Thursday morning Sandy choose to continue working on the final shaping of her large felt vessel but everyone else wrapped a selection of different nuno felt, flat felt and cotton pieces with a selection of the leaves and rusty pieces of old metal we’d scavanged. Heather also decided to eco print a felt bag; the original intention had been to felt this together with some silk velvet but as the velvet experiment hadn’t worked out as planned this proved to be an inspired choice to print with! Carla made great use of some left over cherry soup from the previous lunch with one of her pieces of felt and I added some tea leaves to a couple of my cotton bundles. Once all the pieces were tied up with their various inclusions we placed them in two different saucepans, one for pieces including rusty objects and the other for pieces only containing vegetable matter. The bundles were covered with water and put on a cooker to bring to the boil, once boining point was reached the heat was turned down and the pots were simmered for aprox 45 minutes to an hour. They were then left to cool down naturally and the bundles stayed in the water overnight until we unwrapped them on Friday morning. This was fun, seeing how our expectations were either met, exceeded or in some cases failed, all part of the learning process and information to be stored and used in future projects! Sweet chestnut leaves (plus the long flowers), olive leaves and rose leaves proved to impart the strongest and clearest shapes on felt, Carla’s scarf using the cherry soup worked brilliantly as did Annemarie’s pieces using a mizture of flowers, grasses and fruit slices while Heather had a very successful experiment wrapping one of her large nuno felt wraps without inclusions and simmering it in the pot with the rest of the iron filled pieces!!!

I’ve got to sign out now because my bags are calling and I need to get those raw materials assembled for Dagmar’s class as well as some final clothes dried and the house tidied a little. My final post about Portugal will be memories of our last group day together at Dominio Vale do Mondego and pictures of the participants with some of the amazing felt completed during the course of this fantastic week. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get this written before I fly to Scotland at 6.05am tomorrow morning but I will try and keep you all up to date with progress at the masterclass during the week and finish Portugal as soon as I can. For now one last picture and ‘adeus’ until next time!

Having fun – Heather and Sandy watching Nienke unwrapping one of her bundles