Wall hanging and felt vessel on days three and four of Dagmar’s workshop

Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.

Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’

Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.

The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo

Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.

My large felt vessel with spiral

Up-cycling mohair off cuts into little felt pouches and hard at work organising my new online presence!

My sister Lizzy requested a little cell phone holder as one of her Christmas presents and since this proved to be a big hit with various members of the family I decided to get in gear and felt some more! Working with woven mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill and a few scraps of silk I laid out a simple design on top of two layers of finnish wool (thanks Chrissie!) and created a piece of flat felt. The completed felt was nice but not very exciting and that’s where the fun began, I got out my sewing machine!!!

Free machine embroidered pouch

Selecting just a few embroidery threads with a lovely high sheen I stitched simple shapes in both contrasting and complimentary colours on top of the silk and highlit various squares of the mohair off cuts. As learnt during a workshop with Lisa Klakulak at ‘Felt in Focus’ in Denmark last July, by stitching in a particular way it is possible to raise the surface area of the felt and create added texture and interest. Beautiful buttons picked up with Kirsten Lang in Odense completed the last two pouches and now I have four more pieces of felt completed just waiting for some stitching today. I do love how in places the stitching echos the shapes of my dry stone walls, free form but effective I think!

Finally for today, I am in the process of organising my online presence to work in the most effective manner possible during 2012 and from this time forth. In effect this means that I have joined Pinterest (check it out, it’s addictive!), set up a Tumblr blog (a little like Twitter for bloggers!), am working on my Big Cartel store and will be reactivating my Etsy shop, busy, busy time indeed!!!  Do please follow me on these new sites if you are interested, they will keep you up to date with all my activities in addition to my biggest love which as you already know is felting!!!

Stitching, finishing and framing felt plus a question I am hoping to find an answer to!

I started this morning by free machine embroidering a couple of abstract felt landscapes.  It’s difficult for me to decide when enough is enough with this sort of work, my personal preference has always been for NO stitching or embellishing but I do realise that not everyone feels the same way!

Stitching into an abstract felt landscape - the background colour is a richer purple but I find it hard to capture accurately

After Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at Felt in Focus I have really been trying to stretch myself in this direction, luckily Carmen arrived half way through the morning and was just in time to stop me stitching on some glass beads too, even she said that they were one step too far!!!  Once the stitching was finished I needed to iron one piece to flatten it a little and then frame them before packing them all away for taking to Carlow tomorrow afternoon.  I like my textiles displayed within a simple white frame without any glass covering the felt and feel that being so tactile they are definitely best displayed in a manner to invite the viewer forwards and tempt them to touch!  Sticking some pieces of velcro to the mount I offer the felt up to the hook side (of the velcro), press it in place and voila, the work is framed.   If this is not making total sense there are some pictures of the process I use in the section about displaying felt in ‘From Felt to Friendship’.

Why are these pieces heading in to Carlow tomorrow afternoon?  The Blueprint group that I am a member of is having a Christmas exhibition with a theme of urban and rural landscapes, the work is juried and curated and I would love to have one of these new pieces accepted.  I almost forgot, I actually ordered a batch of name tags this afternoon to stitch into bags and on the back of framed pieces, I don’t think that they will be ‘pretty’ enough to stitch inside vessels or on to scarves so this begs the question do any of you know where it is possible to order personalised tags online that look gorgeous and don’t cost an arm and a leg???  Thanks!

Rex trots through the flood outside my door this morning!

I’ll leave you with a picture of Rex plodding through the water outside my house this morning!  Following on from this it rained ALL morning but thankfully has now cleared up and is actually warm and humid, amazing.

Saturday’s fun and productive workshop, raw wool bag, nuno felt tutorial, vessel for sale …..

On Saturday Mairead and Sharon really knuckled down to create beautiful pieces of flat felt in the morning and both felted wonderful vessels in the afternoon.  It’s always interesting sharing techniques with other artists because once I demonstrate the basic skills I love watching how participants use the creative process to get stuck in and bring their own experience to the felting table!  Sharon had never felted before and although Mairead’s art practice is often textile based wet felting is not a technique that she has had much prior experience in either.  I’ve posted images of their work to my mobile uploads on Facebook, have a look and I am sure you will agree they both did a wonderful job!

Jacob's sheep bag

I certainly enjoyed the day and I think that they both did too, in fact I was really fired up after they left and started a raw wool bag which I then had time to finish this morning.  The locks that I used were local Jacob’s and the inside is a rich raspberry coloured wool which I bought at Felt in Focus 3 years ago, it just seemed to be a perfect marriage with the rich chocolate and creamy white Jacob’s fleece!  I added a leather strap (an upcycled belt) for the handle and a cool vintage leather button for the closure.  In fact, I think that the button graced a sheepskin jacket yonks ago (isn’t yonks a great word???) so how much more appropriate could the button be than that?

Large autumn coloured felt bowl

The weather has been dreadful here for the last 48 hours.  It is so wet that I haven’t a hope of getting outside to photograph my new framed landscapes, I wanted to get them uploaded to my Big Cartel shop but the light is so poor inside (because it is LASHING outside!) that I am going to have to wait another little while.  I did however decide to upload the large autumn coloured stitched vessel that I felted for the rare breeds show at Gosford.  It’s available for $120 at the moment and if you put the code OCTATCLASHEEN in at the checkout stage you get a 15% discount until the end of this month.  This is a BIG felt vessel!!!

Finally I had a query about a video record/nuno felt scarf tutorial which I uploaded to YouTube a long time ago, here’s the link again for those of you new to this blog and who just might be interested in the info it contains!

Wow ….. thanks and upcoming workshops at Clasheen

Wow, thanks to all of you who have been commenting and leaving such great suggestions about my current woes and successes with free machining on felt, I am going to take everything on board, promise!  Yes, I know that I have always sworn off stitching but since my class with the wonderful Lisa Klakulak this summer I seem to have lost some, but not all of my inhibitions!!!  Investing in my super-duper machine obviously has helped and in order to justify the cost I am thinking that I will be sewing for a little while yet.  I had forgotten Pam that you had problems with some of your thread at Felt in Focus, the thing that I found strange is that I had already successfully stitched another piece of felt with my shiny rayon and viscose threads, it just seemed to be the slightly squishy felt of the yellow vessel that defeated me this time.  Anyway, I will keep persevering and hopefully with time, improve!

This morning I finalised dates for some Autumn workshops here at Clasheen.  I am definitely going to be adding more workshop titles and dates (felt accessories, nuno felt, complex bags etc.) over the coming weeks but since Alan and I are still planning a week away I don’t want to jinx things and book anything for the middle/end of September just yet!  If you are a beginner or improving felter interested in honing your flat felting skills or wanting to experiment with three dimensional shapes check out the workshop page and get in touch with me asap, places are strictly limited to a maximum of 6 per session.  If clicking the workkshop page link seems one step too far, here is the info pasted below!

Saturday 17th September 2011 and Saturday 8th October WET FELTING – the basics

At this one day workshop beginners and improving felters will discover the magical world of wet felting!  Working with a selection of colourful wool and adding beautiful silk, linen and other vegetable fibres to enhance and embellish the surface design participants will each create a beautiful piece of flat felt to bring home with them at the end of the day.  Improvers will have the opportunity to learn new techniques such as adding inclusions like glass, stones and other found objects into the layout of their felt. The emphasis throughout each day will be on solid techniques learnt in a fun and creative environment.  Participants will leave with the confidence and knowledge to duplicate the process at home, learning the basics of flat felting leads to all sorts of exciting three dimensional work and nuno felting in the future!

All materials are included in the cost of E75, tea, coffee and soft drinks are provided throughout the day, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch with them.  The workshop will start at 10am sharp and run until approx 4.30pm.   Everyone is asked to arrive about 20 minutes before the kick off time in order to meet the other participants, relax and have a welcoming hot or cold drink!  Please contact Nicola asap if you would like to reserve a place on either 17th September or 8th October, each class size is strictly limited to 6 people.

Saturday 22nd October 2011 SIMPLE VESSELS AND BAGS – the basics of seamless, three dimensional wet felting

At this one day workshop beginners and improving felters will learn and experiment with the fascinating technique of wet felting around a resist.  Working with a selection of colourful wool and adding beautiful silk, linen and other vegetable fibres each participant will have the opportunity to felt either a simple vessel or a small seamless bag.  Improvers will have the opportunity to learn new techniques such as including internal pockets and integrated handles into the layout of their felt. The emphasis during the day will be to create strong, seamless three dimensional felt in a fun and creative environment and participants will leave with the confidence and knowledge to duplicate this process at home.

All materials are included in the cost of E75, tea, coffee and soft drinks are provided throughout the day, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch with them.  The workshop will start at 10am sharp and run until approx 4.30pm.   Everyone is asked to arrive about 20 minutes before the kick off time in order to meet the other participants, relax and have a welcoming hot or cold drink!  Please contact Nicola asap if you would like to reserve a place on 22nd October, class size is strictly limited to 6 people.

I never thought the day would arrive ……

Many of you know that any kind of sewing has always brought me out in a dreadful sweat and for donkeys years I have sworn NEVER to stitch for pleasure.  I did however break the habit of a lifetime this summer in order to participate in Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’, it was time to stretch my mind!  I always admired Lisa’s beautifully detailed sculptural pieces and free machine embroidery on thick pieces of hand rolled felt just seemed to attract my attention this year, once I actually got to grips with it I actually found that I quite enjoyed the experience!

Selling 4 of the 5 stitched felt seascapes I had on exhibition during Kilkenny Arts Festival made me realise that there is definitely an appreciation for this type of textile art.  I never thought the day would arrive but I decided this week to invest (heavily as  it turned out!) in a specialist straight stitching machine which has the capabilitiy to stitch through amazingly thick layers of felt effortlessly.  This means that not only can I sew through multiple layers of wool but I can also stitch right up to and around thick sections of felt and in this way emphasise and enhance highly textured surface details.    John from Sewing Machines Ireland in Waterford provided expert assistance in my choice of machine.  He said that he wouldn’t dream of supplying me with a machine unless I subjected it to rigorous testing and see if it would be suitable for the type of work I was thinking of so off I went armed with felt on Wednesday afternoon, the intention was to try out a second hand industrial Pfaff complete with knee lift.

Felt prior to stitching

In the event the Pfaff was great but John suggested a new machine he had in stock might actually be even more specifically suited to what I had in mind, drum roll please for the Janome 1600P QC!!!  It is like sewing with a Rolls Royce, incredible, even I liked using it!!!!!  I’m not going to bore you with all the features which make this machine so special for me but suffice to say I can stitch over CRATERS and MOUNTAINS effortlessly and I suspect it would take a total blundering idiot to break it, it weighs a tonne.  For anyone intending in sewing anything other than a straight stitch this is not the machine for you.  Because I knew that the only other possible use I would put it to would be to stitch up the seams of some simple nuno felt clothing it appears as if it is a match made in Heaven!  Anyway, I bit the bullet and invested in the Janome, I am not regretting my descision and have already finished stitching one piece as per the posted pictures.  I will however have to get my finger out, making a return on such a big investment (big for me!) means a heavy work schedual over the coming months and getting my Big Cartel shop stocked but you might ask what’s new???  I love my work!

Felt with free machine embroidery

Printing workshop update, post party news and the innocent big knit

There’s still so much information to share about what I was working on at both the second day of the Kirsten Lundberg printing workshop during Felt in Focus and at the book launch party with Chrissie last weekend but I’ve finally realised I am never going to have enough time to write everything down here on the blog!!!  It’s difficult to be brief but if I’m not I am never going to be able to update you all with the most important info and in turn I’m never going to be able to actually have my planned ‘staycation’, more about that next post!  So, here is a synopsis of the techniques I sampled during day 2 of Kirsten’s amazing workshop …..

  • The use of different binders on silk and cotton with the intention of creating a resist through which fibres would not migrate when working on nuno felt.  These binders could be white, transparent or opalescent and all could have pigments added to change the colour.  They could be applied in a variety of ways such as rollers, screen printing or painted directly on the fabric.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add text and images from magazines.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add metallic foil.
  • We discussed rust dying and had a look at various samples.

My main focus over the course of the 2 days was to print two similar but slightly different pieces of fabric basing my design on the dry stone walls surrounding me here at Clasheen.  I will be blogging about this further because in a couple of weeks I am going to be combining these with a variety of different coloured wool to see how best to replicate the texture and effect of the walls as I imagine them in my head, I’ll keep you posted.  Now, on to the party.  A big thanks to …..

  • Everybody who attended and helped make the day so special for Chrissie and me and added to the wonderful Irish style party atmosphere!
  • All who so generously brought gifts of salad, flowers, wine, soft drinks, yummy deserts and all thoses yummy extras that went to make the buffet table so tasty, you know who you are!!!
  • Nigel and Alan who carted tables, road signs and all the hardware kind of stuff around both before and after the party.
  • Those essentialtal washer upers including Elizabeth Cope, Suzanne, Shaz and Nigel.
  • Chrissie and Nigel for being such fun, isn’t the power of the internet amazing???
  • Good friend Martin Lyttle who introduced me and Chrissie for us to officially launch the book.
  • All those of you who bought the book and those of you who now have to order online because we sold out, thanks!

Chrissie and me revealing the front and the rear of our ewe!

After we both spoke a few words Chrissie presented me with the choice of two identically wrapped parcels, here is a picture of us as we revealed what each one contained, my parcel contained the front end of a sheep and Chrissie’s the rear!!!  Thanks Chrissie for such a well thought out gift, each picture means something by itself but together they make a whole.

As a result of hearing our story about meeting through the internet Sue Nunn kindly invited us both to join her for a slot on ‘The Sue Nunn Show’ before Chrissie and Nigel travelled home on Monday morning.  Thanks Sue for the invitation and allowing us the opportunity to chat and speak about our love of felting, we had a great time!!!  During the course of the programme we discovered that Sue and KCLR are participating in ‘the innocent big knit’, a movement to help keep older people warm in Ireland this winter.  We know that felting isn’t knitting but since crochet hats are accepted too Chrissie and I thought we would put the word out there that we are both felting hats to give to Sue, would anyone like to join us in supporting this worthwhile cause???  If you do decide to help out we need the hats to be with Sue before the end of the first week in October.  I am going to suggest that anyone who wishes to participate felt your hat/hats, post them to me (Nicola Brown, Clasheen, Ballybrack, Borris, Co. Carlow, IRELAND) to arrive no later than the last week in September, I will blog about them and take photos then deliver them in person to Sue before the final date.  Do please let me know if you are participating then I can keep an eye open in my post box!!!  Thanks!