Beautifully soft 16 micron merino

For part of the New Year Secret Scarf Swap that I am participating in on Ravelry I wanted to felt a gorgeous and soft scarf for my swap buddy Krysotfer.  I had decided to work in an amazing soft 16 micron merino which I had bought late in the Autumn from one of my favourite suppliers Filzrausch in Germany and the idea was to felt a long scarf in charcoal wool with natural mohair locks to decorate the ends.  The mohair was one of the gorgeous fibre related items that I bought on my October visit to northern California which is ironic in a way since Krystofer actually lives in San Fransisco, California and this is the city where Alan and both I started and ended our wonderful holidays from.  I hadn’t been going to upload any images of the scarf here until I was sure that Krystofer had recieved the package but due to circumstances detailed below decided to put this teaser up anyway! 

Detail of the mohair locks

 

This merino was a dream to work with, very fine, evenly carded and lovely and quick to felt, I laid out two very fine layers so the finished scarf is extremely light, warm and soft.  The only thing that I will do differently next time is give my hands a rub with olive oil approx 10 minutes before I start to felt and this will ensure that the fibres don’t snag at all on my skin.  Felting does mean that I have clean hands most of the time but I forget to use handcream when things are hectic, I can safely say that hectic just about describes every day here at the moment! 

Now the real question is why did I decide to uploaded this image after all?  Because luckily I checked through the discussion board before mailing the scarf to discover that long for Krystofer is really looooong and this scarf definitely is a little challanged on the length side of things!  What does a girl do???  Decide what the **** and really go all out to felt another scarf that is well over 10′ long, I’ve not actually measured it yet but at a rough guess it is approx 12′ and counting!  No pictures of this one going up yet but hopefully Krystofer will email me a picture of himself wrapped in the scarf when he gets it, providing of course that he is not totally hidden by the felt, it is rather LOOOOOOONG!

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!

Reno, Bodie and beyond

Having been to Vegas on our first trip to the States I kind of thought that Reno, the ‘biggest little city in the world’ would be very similar, loads of people, loads of gambling, soliciting everywhere, good food (amazingly as we thought in Vegas) smaller bed rooms (to encourage you to gamble!) and fun! 

Reno

Reno

In fact it was pretty quiet on Monday afternoon when we arrived, not too many people, most of them gambling, no soliciting that we saw, good food if you selected carefully, a huge and comfortable bed room and a great place to unwind after our delightful  ‘eco’ experience.  Ironically, the Sands Hotel where we stayed cost a fraction of the price of any of our previous accomodation as we arrived outside a weekend ($34.99 + tax), our room was MASSIVE and we had a nice bathroom which was a BIG bonus for me and the clientele were pretty middle class and conservative (not sure how pollitically correct that statement is!).  Once we had scanned the literature in the bedroom we immediately decided to gather our wits and stay for two rather than one night in order to relax a bit and take some time to visit the amazing Farrah National Automobile Museum.  One thing that became immediately obviously as we strolled around the strip on Monday evening was how the current economical climate appears to have definitely hit Reno.  Quite a few of the large hotel/casino complexes were closed and there were people sleeping rough and begging on the streets but the reason this might have been more obvious is because the lack of people staying in town was pretty startling.  When we were in Vegas it was HOPPING mid week, Reno was just exsisting and ticking over waiting for the onflux of bikers which were due to arrive on Thursday night and Friday morning for a HUGE festival taking place over the weekend.  For all of that I definitely enjoyed our stay, the town felt surprisingly safe, we weren’t ripped off in any way, I actually had my meal of the holiday at our own hotel (an excellent vegeterian pad thai) and the automible museum was brilliant although if you were one of the people glued to your slot machine possibly this would not be high on your adgenda!  Moving on from Reno on Wednesday morning we got totally tied up in traffic restrictions, this was due to the road closures which enabled the city organise for the bikers weekend and it took us about 55 minutes to actually leave the city, pretty frustrating but good fun watching all the bikes which were already starting to arrive in droves.  Our aim was to get to Yosemite but we got diverted along the way when we arrived at Mono lake and discovered that we were only a short distance from Bodie, a totally preserved mining town nestling in a desolate area of high desert.

Outside one of the larger abandoned houses in Bodie

Outside one of the larger abandoned houses in Bodie

Bodie was AMAZING!  It is absoloutely astounding to think that after the gold rush when the town was abandoned most people just left all their possessions exactly as they were.  Houses are furnished, shops and hotels are stocked, abandoned vehicles litter the desert, totally an awsome sight.  There is an excellent museum inside the main public building and we discovered that it was far too expensive to transport items out of the town at the turn of the century therefore everyone just abandoned things when financial circumstances made staying in the town unsustainable except for a few hardy survivors who stayed on well into the twentieth century.  It was a fascinating insight into the harsh conditions speculators lived in in the late 1880s, summer temperatures of over 90 degrees, winters up to minus 40.  Many of the people died due to the weather and lack of insulation but others made their fortunes, sometimes $90,000 in 3 months, quite amazing.  We then moved on to the north eastern side of Yosemite and stayed in a fun little spot called Lee Vining which was just 12 miles outside the park and had some basic but good food and accomodation plus a small cafe with decent coffee and everywhere had a nice friendly atmosphere.  Using this as our base for 2 nights we headed into Yosemite, more to follow in the next post!

Mount Lassen Volcanic Park, thrifting and heading on for Yosemite

We had an interesting 40+ miles drive on a forestry road between Lava Beds National Monument and the main road to our next port of call, Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Initally we felt pretty lucky to find accomodation nearby at Mill Creek Eco Resort but unfortunately to our minds eco was the very last thing that the resort was in actuality.  For us (as Green Party members and activists in Ireland) green encompasses energy saving, low impact on the environment, recycling, composting etc. etc. and although that was what we were led to believe when we booked our cabin the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth.  In addition to the lack of expected green facilities our ‘pillow top’ beds (space for 5 to sleep in a tiny cabin!) appeared to be mattress toppers laid on dreadfully unfcomfortable old beds and we found that the small cabin was not laid out in any fashion to encourage a comfortable stay at all.  The fridge hummed to such a degree that I got an immediate headache (for some reason certain electrical noises cause me to get a really bad sensation in my head like a vibration) and we had to unplug it before our first night’s sleep, this caused the damn thing to defrost and Alan had to plug it in again when he discovered a massive flood in the middle of the floor during the night.  I didn’t realise that he had plugged it in again and woke up with a splitting headache early in the morning, you can’t imagine how annoyed I was with poor Alan when at last in desperation I said to him ‘you haven’t plugged in that fridge again, have you?’ to discover that he had!  Many missing light bulbs in various fittings in our cabin could have been considered to contribute to energy saving measures were it not for the other lights left on in the shower and toilet areas 24/7 to which we as consumers had no access to switches in order to turn them off .  I am also not sure why the sink was in position in our TINY kitchen area as it had never been plumbed and we couldn’t use the taps or drain but luckily Alan secured a little work top space by hiding the offensive fridge under this feature and we put the microwave in the wardrobe to replace the non existant mirror, if you held your head a certain way you could see your reflection in the glass of the door!  Anyway, enough gripping about the accomodation, Lassen was brilliant.  We had some gorgeous hikes through wonderfully diverse regions in the massive park and found a great thrift store called R.A.I.N. (Rescued Animals in Need ph530-945-4152) in nearby Shingletown where I was lucky enough to pick up some fun old trimmings, a large pure wool man’s jumper, a BEAUTIFUL old button and a strange funky metal and ceramic bunch of flowers!  The one good thing about our ‘Eco’ resort was the laundry and I have already shrunk the jumper and now just need to cut it up and reassemble it as a bag, another concession to my fibre addiction as we make our way across this wild and beautiful part of the States.  We really enjoyed our time at Lassen and left on Sunday for Reno, the smallest biggest city in the world!

More ramblings from an American road trip and my fibre related finds along the way

Moving on up the coast from Arcata (but not before I bought some gorgeous ceramic beads from Talisman in Eureka) we stayed at a basic but comfortable motel at the edge of Crescent City before heading East through Smith River National Recreation Area and on up into Oregon. 

Stunning Fern Canyon

Stunning Fern Canyon

While in Crescent City we explored some of Redwood National Park including the stunningly beautiful Fern Canyon, part of the Praire Redwoods section of the greater park area.   Passing through Grants Pass we then headed South a little before turning East again and travelling to fascinating and remote Lava Beds National Monument.  On the way we spent one night at Shakespere mad Ashland (I kid you not!) in a gorgeous old hotel on the main street where I had the opportunity to pick up some great buttons and beautiful undyed mohair locks at  a handspinners, weavers and knitters delight called The Web.sters.  I have never felted with pure mohair before so am really looking forward to seeing how it felts when I get home, it feels beautiful and silky to the touch and is in gorgeous natural shades of grey, silver and off white.  We also spent some time chatting (or visiting as you folks say over here) with Alfred Hanan at his brilliant shop ‘Hemporium’, a fantastic place to pick up some stylish, comfortable and natural clothing or accessories and then met Dale Muir in her studio at the Ashland Art Centre.  Dale works with recycled materials creating wonderful funky assemblages which just had to make me smile.  The Art Centre is very interesting, one of many different co-operative type businesses we have encountered along the way and giving me lots to think about for future possibilities back home in Ireland.  We stopped in Ashland for one night before moving on the Tulelake, our base for visiting both Lava Beds and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges.  Thanks to our Californian Lonely Planet we checked in to Fe’s B&B on 660 Main St., a great choice as Fe and her husband Bob were great hosts and Fe’s delicious hot breakfasts with fresh fruit were healthy, tasty and large setting us up nicely for a day exploring the fascinating scenery and wildlife in the area.    Another nice aspect about the B&B was the fact that guests from the 4 bedrooms joined up together at breakfast and shared tables.  We got to spend some time with an interesting young couple Lizzie and Lawrence from England and had a meal together the second night at Captain Jack’s Stronghold, a surprisingly good restaurant at the side of Hwy 139 a few miles south of Tulelake.  One thing that it is hard to convey to friends at home is how BIG this country is and when you are in more remote regions it could be hundreds of miles between gas stations or anywhere to eat, decent or not! 

Alan among the lava beds

Alan among the lava beds

Both Lava Beds National Monument and Klamath Wildlife Refuges were brilliant stops on our trip.  The volcanic activity over the years has created a fascinating landscape, we did some great walks through the lava beds and and into the caves and were lucky enough to see a young mountain lion on our way back to the B&B on our second night.  The refuges provide habitats for a mind boggling array of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway and on the second morning we saw a bald eagle from a distance of about 8 feet while driving around one of the auto routes, the best way of viewing the birds as they seem to be less afraid of cars than of us humans!  We intended staying one or two nights at Fe’s but ended up there for three, if ever you are in the area call in and say hi, you won’t be disappointed with the welcome and the brilliant tasty breakfasts!!

American update (or not an update!) and gorgeous mixed media fibre brooch

Alan and I have had NO internet connectivity for the last 4 days and although the motel we stayed in last night advertised high speed access this was unfortunately not to be!  Please excuse this really short post, I am afraid that I will get cut off at any time but hopefully tonight will be better and at last I will be able to update you properly about all our travelling and my fibre activities over the last days on the road.

I was thrilled to discover that I have won a gorgeous brooch from talanted Kate on her Tastykaeru fibre blog.  This is a great blog for all of you experimental fibre and mixed media addicts to follow, lots of interesting posts and beautiful pictures.  It will be very interesting to open the package when I get home, I have only used a needle punch embellisher once myself but know that the work created can be amazingly inventive and interesting.

Just leaving for the open road again, hope to catch up with everything tonight or some time tomorrow……  guess you could call me an optimist!

Images from Sculpture in Context and meeting with black bear!

Thanks so much to fellow ‘Sculpture in Context’ exhibitor Elaine Prunty for including my felt flowers among her favourites from the exhibition, you can check out some great images on this post from her blog.  Elaine is a very talanted glass artist and it is really interesting to go back through her blog and follow the progress of her ‘seven year old tree’ from conception to installation! 

Alan and I are just about to hit the road again having spent a couple of great days walking through some of the most amazing giant redwoods ever.  On Friday we met a black bear twice, he or she was calmly picking blackberries from the briars and only about 7m away from us, quite surreal!  We also have had great fun watching giant seals, sea lions and elk, the wildlife is absolutely fabulous in this part of the world.  This morning we are heading over the border to Grant’s Pass in Oregon and from there we will be travelling down to Lava Beds National Monument and then on to Lassen Valley Volcanic Park.  Hopefully I will be able to pick up a new camera somewhere along the way, at Sears I was told to check out K Mart as they might have the Panasonic Lumix model that I am on the lookout for.  On the fibre side of things my crochet journey continues, one of the books that I have picked up on my travels is ‘365 crochet stitches a year’ and at the moment I am experimenting with a shell pattern from October 20th and using the remainder of the silk/cotton/wool mix from Noro.  To be cont …..

Silk, buttons, bits and bobs …..

As well as fantastic scenery and lovely people one of the great pleasures of holidaying in another country is picking up little notions along the way.  Moving on along the coast Alan and I had a great time at Elk beach just a little south of Mendocino and I was lucky enough to find some gorgeous pieces of abalone shell which I am going to incorporate into some felt jewellery when I get home.  I have also been on the look out for small interesting pieces of driftwood and these are plentiful to collect at some of the more wind swept beaches all along this stunning stretch of the coast.  Alan bought a picture called ‘Lemons on the Table’ by Peter Suezek from Sunshine at the Mendocino Arts Centre and also another painting on board at the Arcata Artisans Co-Op.  We have been extremely lucky while staying at the Fairwinds Motel, 1674 G Street here in Arcata that the owner Al Lukiman just happens to be a computer guru who used to work for Warner/Chappell Music.  Al very kindly showed Alan exactly how he can connect to wi-fi wherever we go so hopefully now communicating every couple of days won’t be such a problem as it was before!  As a result Alan has been able to concentrate on a bit of paper work that he needed to get out of the way while I was able to trawl some fantastic fabric and fibre shops here and in Eureka.

Buttons, ribbons, yarn and cowls

Buttons, ribbons, yarn and cowls

Talking you through the image on the left some of my booty from Arcata included hemp twine from the natural store on the square  (sorry there is no name on the receipt and I just can’t remember what the store is called), the gorgeous ram’s head and horn buttons on the bottom left from Fabric Temptations while in Eureka I picked up the fabulous large buttons, the heart buttons and some amazing colours of pure silk ribbons from Heather at the North Coast Knittery, email address info@northcoastknittery.com.  The two cowls are part of my travelling crochet project, the cowl on the left is made from some gorgeous soft merino I received in a Ravely swap while the shell pattern cowl on the right is from the Noro Furisode that I blogged about in the last post.

American update and Sculpture in Context opening!

Last Wednesday I attended the opening of Sculpture in Context with my friend Sheila Ahern (Feltmakers Ireland and board member of the Crafts Council) and despite the dreadful rain we had a great time looking at the various exhibits and enjoying a glass of wine.  The work throughout the garden and in the various green houses looks amazing so if you are anywhere in the area don’t miss this great opportunity to visit this beautiful space and view top class sculpture from all over Europe, admission is free and the exhibition continues until 16th October.  That evening I drove back to Clasheen and at 4.40am Alan and I caught the airport bus before our flights to San Fransisco, we are now officially on vacation!

On Thursday night we stayed near the airport at the Quality Inn and Suites (clean, relatively cheap and convenient) before collecting our ‘Green’ rental car and setting out on our road trip through northern California.  Our first day we drove through the Sonoma Valley, a premier wine producing region near Napa taking our time and just enjoying the scenery before heading cross country for the rocky coastline near Bodega Bay.  Once we got near where we had planned on staying for our first night it soon became apparent the due to Labour Day weekend lodging prices were extremely high.  Eventually we headed back inland a bit and ended up staying in Santa Rosa, not ideal but actually not the worst.  As we left the following morning I was delighted to see a knitting store called Village Knitters by chance and what do you guess, we had to stop so that I could get my fibre fix.  The store was a little like Stephanie Kennedy’s new shop ‘The Yarn Room’ in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, gorgeous yarns, loads of books and a knitting workshop in progress at the back of the store!  I bought some gorgeous new Noro yarn in a black and lime colourway, it is a 45% silk, 35% cotton and 20% wool mix (hope I have the proportions right) which feels beautifully soft and tactile in the hand.  This is earmarked for myself, I am making a crochet cowl and in fact I have already made a wool cowl on the flight, a great opportunity to complete some Christmas presents during the time I am away from felting!  We then ambled along small rural roads and arrived in Bodega, a pretty little village where Hitchcock filmed ‘The Birds’.  The village had some interesting antique shops as well as a great artisan’s co-op where I was delighted to buy some locally produced wool yarn as well as some gorgeous soft combed alpaca tops, also local I think.  We ate some tasty barbecued oysters and had a beer for lunch and then visited the schoolhouse where much of the movie was filmed before heading out to the coast and continuing north along route 1.

The only difficulty that we have had so far in the States is that internet access appears to be a problem for us.  Alan did bring his computer but for some reason doesn’t appear able to connect to wi-fi anywhere that it says it is enabled so unfortunately my posts may be sporadic and constrained by finding locations where there is an internet cafe.  Apologies in advance for the sketchy posting, I will keep you as up to date as possible but it may be with intervals of 4 or 5 days between posts.  To be continued …..