I’m feeling pretty pleased this evening following a surprisingly successful bout with my sewing machine!

I’ve had a reprieve from manning the stand at Mount Juliet today, instead, thanks to Leiko and Emma, I’ve spent the whole day finishing 5 abstract landscapes and creating a vest from a wrap! Basically, I got my super duper straight stitching sewing machine out of cold storage, wound the bobbin and just got to work adding some free machine embroidery to my latest flat felt pictures. Those of you who know me well understand how stressful I find sewing, however, I would like to say that in this case the correct equipment does make a difference, no broken threads, perfect tension and at the end of the day new framed work to bring to Borris market in the morning and Borris House Christmas Fair over the weekend. I was starting to wonder had I been crazy investing in my Janome 1600P last year, fear not though, I’ll definitely get myself organised and continue to do some more stitching in the new year, possibly at Duckett’s Grove considering it’s too cold to felt there at the moment. Pop over to Clasheen on Facebook page to see some photos of the finished work, all these landscapes with the exception of one were felted using a selection of the naturally printed and dyed silk I’ve been working on recently. The odd one out is a piece of needle punch felt which I also naturally printed/dyed, it was then felted onto a backing of undyed needle punch prior to stitching, I’m quite pleased with it and must try some more of this style after Christmas.

Armed with a successful start to the sewing day, I finally was brave enough to cut armholes into a short wrap that I felted last year. This wrap was made in white with a border of black, I dyed it using acid dyes when felted and although loads of people commented on how much they liked it at Duckett’s Grove it never sold.

Armholes underway

Armholes underway

Anyway, after cutting the armholes I pinned the raw edges, tacked them (basted) and having changed the foot on the sewing machine back to a regular one stitched twice around the edges. I’m thrilled with how this turned out, a lovely vest which I hope to take pictures of tomorrow.

Sue’s fabulous felt purses!!!

Today’s post shares pictures of two beautiful purses felted in Michigan by my friend Sue. I first met Sue last May at one of the Plainwell workshops organised by great buddy Dawn Edwards where she chose to felt her first vessel complete with craters, ever since then we have kept in touch via this blog and through Facebook. When I started offering my new felting kits on Etsy Sue ordered one in a beautiful soft butterscotch shade, don’t forget you can custom request your favourite colours and I’ll oblige you if I can! I also included two buttons, one vintage and the other a lovely shiny kind of bronze colour with a very interesting opening where you sew it on.

Sue's beautiful clutch complete with vintage button

For her purses Sue combined the butterscotch fibre from the kit with some wool and hand dyed locks she already had in her stash, laid out some silk scraps on top for embellishment and added the mohair off cuts and cotton gauze, also from the kit. Once felted she added some machine stitching to both the purses and a long leather shoulder strap to one, aren’t they FABULOUS??? I can’t wait to meet Sue again at the 2012 felting workshops in Plainwell on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May, then I’ll be able to hold the purses and admire them in all their glory!!!

Sue's gorgeous leather and felt shoulder bag

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!

New bracelet and felting workshop this Saturday at Clasheen

This afternoon has been a REALLY bad one internet wise (must be some sort of connectivity problem but I really am not sure) so forgive me if I am going to be brief for now!

Detail of the stitching

Here is a picture (especially for you Dawn!) of my latest effort at stitching on felt, a soft bracelet in merino and hand dyed yarn, thanks Lisa from The Tin Thimble for the pressie of the gorgeous yarn, I love it!!!

On Saturday I am hosting a felting workshop at Clasheen and I have one place left if anyone is interested.  We will be primarily concentrating on three dimensional felt but if any total beginner is lurking out there in cyber space do give me a shout, this would be a really great opportunity to learn the basics of wet felting in a fun and supportive environment.

Right, I’m going to shut this computer down now and hope that tomorrow will be a new day, good night!

Another rose hip felt vessel and more free machine embroidery pictures

Apologies for not posting final pictures from the weekend’s free machine embroidery workshop yesterday, tidying up just got in the way!  Seriously, the massive back kitchen/garage restructuring that I have undertaken this week is really coming along famously and I didn’t want to break stride and get sidetracked by the computer, I would NEVER have headed back to the devestation that is my garage otherwise!!!

My mother’s birthday in on Sunday and she has requested a companion piece to the little rose hip vessel (one of the pieces in ‘From Felt to Friendship’) I gave her for Mother’s Day earlier in the year.  Luckily she requested this ages ago (as she requested the original vessel!) and I was able to put some orange, red and black merino aside in a bag so fingers crossed I can make a nice piece this morning, a welcome change from all the tidying and cleaning going on chez Clasheen!  This afternoon I am playing in the last big ladies golf competition of 2011 so thinking of this I have put aside this morning for felting the vessel and hopefully a couple of new bracelets to stitch at the weekend.  I really feel that because I have invested so heavily in my machine I need to get to grips with the technicalities pdq because I obviously need to be selling work to justify the initial cash outlay.  My intention is not to stitch every piece of felt from now onwards rather understand the possibilities and see where that leads me!  Now on to some more pictures and info from Arlene Shawcross’s brilliant free machine embroidery workshop last weekend.

The finished bracelet photographed against the granite stone wall I used for inspiration

On Saturday evening when I returned home after the first day was over, I had a look in my studio to see if any of the beautiful glass buttons I brought home from the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck last October would suit the colours of the bracelet which I had been stitching.  The loop closure is not the widest because I felt I needed to keep it in proportion to the delicacy of the stone wall design so I was delighted to discover the smallest of the buttons was a beautiful grey/blue glass with a band of deep green and iredescent gold, perfect.  It was a bit (or a lot fiddly!) to attach the button and after a failed attempt myself I have to confess that Arlene was brilliant and stitched it on for me, thanks Arlene!  Big strong hands are a huge advantage sometimes (excuse the pun) but for some jobs especially ones involving detailed sewing I just get very frustrated, ah well, one step at a time I suppose.

My next experimental project was to stitch on a dissolvable paper, very interesting.  Arlene has gorgeous samples and I thought this would be a very interesting way of creating interesting pieces to sandwich between two layers of perspex or glass, my mind was humming!  With this method I didn’t need to cross over each line of stitches to the same degree as I had with the Romeo, the second stage of the process is wetting out and removing some of the paper so being selective with this ensures that the remaining paper ‘bonds’ everything together anyway.  Adding paint to your brush and washing it lightly over the surface of the stitches and paper leads to interesting effects if you don’t make it too wet, as the water/paint dries the remaining paper stiffens around the stitching.  I loved this distressed look and will be experimenting further, below is an image of one of the pieces that I made.  The final piece that I created used a very sticky backed plastic, problems, problems with this one but a very impressive final result even if I do say so myself!  I’m going to add a few selective beads to this piece, frame it, photograph it and then blog about it so until then I’m not going to write any more about it here.

A close up of the stitched, dissolved and dried paper sample

New felt bracelets, free machine embroidery workshop and the 2011 Irish Web Awards!

It’s a busy time here at Clasheen but I do seem to be managing my time a little better than usual, thankfully!

Stone wall inspired bracelets

As promised here is a picture of the two dry stone wall inspired felt bracelets I made at Niki’s last week, the bracelet on the right I kept for myself and the one on the left has just been added to my Big Cartel shop.  It has been interesting hearing the reaction of everyone who has seen these two pieces together, with the exception of one friend and myself, everyone has choosen the one on the left hand side as their favourite.  This leads me to believe people find the larger white surround of the stones appealing, whatever, I love them both!!!

I spent a wonderful two days over the weekend participating in a workshop with the South East Textile Group.  Our main focus for the workshop was free machine embroidery on various types of dissolvable fabric or paper but for me the biggest result was getting to grips with my Janome straight stitch machine and feeling comfortable with the results!  Our tutor was Arelene Shawcross, an English lady now living and working from Macroom in Co. Cork.  Arelene was an excellent teacher, I would highly recommend sessions with her for anyone interested in exploring free machining further, her manner is informed, relaxing and highly productive.  There were loads of interesting samples for everyone to examine and exclaim over.  For me the beauty of Arlene’s embroidery was most visable in some subtle tone on tone work, I don’t find highly coloured pieces as attractive to my eye but definitely there was something to suit everyone in the work on display and we all got inspired and ready to get down to business quickly.

Stitching on Romeo, is that a smile???

The first sort of soluble fabric that I decided to experiment with was a thickish plastic kind of one called ‘Romeo’.  Following on with my dry stone wall obsession I wanted to keep my work subtle and elected to stitch a bracelet (after a couple of small sample pieces!) using soft shades of silver, grey and blue machine embroidery threads.  The top two tips that I learnt over the weekend were that it is important not to have the presser foot (free machine or darning) down against the fabric you are stitching on and that you can use machine embroidery and metallic threads on top and in your bobbin if you follow this rule, magic!!!  You may remember I was having problems with my metallic thread breaking constantly when I last stitched into felt, changing to a new needle and following the above tips worked like a dream, I tried stitching into some very thick felt after I had finished the bracelet and no problems.  Following is a picture of the bracelet pinned to some polystyrene prior to dissolving the plastic, images of the finished piece tomorrow!

Finally a big thanks to Cathy for nominating this blog for a 2011 Irish Web Award, YAY!

Bracelet pinned to polystyrene and ready to submerge in water

Beautiful felt flowers!

Just a short post today sharing a couple of pictures from the workshop I facilitated this morning with some clients and helpers at the Carlow Wheelchair Association and NCBI (National Council for the Blind Ireland) facilities in Carlow town.

Happy smiling faces and beautiful flowers!

This is the third session we have had to date although because of the nature of the centre not every participant is able to attend every week, aren’t these flowers amazing???  I have uploaded a few more pictures to my Facebook profile, do ask me to be your friend if you follow this blog and are on FB too!

I will upload pictures of my latest stone wall inspired bracelets next time and hopefully some images taken during the 2 day free machine embroidery workshop I am participating in this weekend.  Although I am very disappointed not to be going away on holidays with Alan tomorrow there obviously ARE some benefits of staying around.  Luckily I got a space at the last minute for the workshop so thanks Jean for organising it, fingers crossed I will learn loads!

Roisin modelling one of her gorgeous flowers!

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.

Felting vessels using wool from rare or less usual breeds

Maureen and I have spent an action packed 3 days catching up, eating, drinking, sourcing supplies, visiting Cushendale Woolen Mills and Threads of Green (a wonderful sewing supplier in Kilkenny) as well as felting vessels using wool from rare or less usual breeds of sheep!  This work was to support Feltmakers Ireland in their drive to have a large display of vessels felted from less usual fibres on display at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust annual show at Gosford Park in Northern Ireland this coming weekend.  The only criteria was that 80% of the fibre used for each vessel had to be from a rare breed and there needed to be an opening in each piece because the public are being asked to drop a note in their favourite one and the vessel with the most notes will win a lovely Wensleydale fleece!

Cleaned and carded Zwartbles with collar of Finnish raw locks

My first vessel was felted from beautiful Zwartbles with a collar of raw Finnish locks, thanks Chrissie for the Zwartbles and thanks Carmen for the locks!

Maureen spent the first evening carding like crazy for her planned vessel, unfortunately I can’t remember the second fibre she used but I do know that they were both white and one of them was Wensleydale.  I liked her idea of felting in a metal chain and sink plug, fun!!!

Maureen with her funky vessel!

My second vessel was a large bowl felted using dyed Kainuu Grey wool.  This is a rare Finnish landrace sheep favoured by wonderful felters Rod and Karolina who specialise in large rugs and wall pieces, thanks again Chrissie for this fibre!  I wanted to see how easy it would be to machine embroider a wide, shallow vessel.  I didn’t have any difficulty actually holding the felt under the needle but I had HUGE problems with the viscose and rayon speciality threads breaking when stitching through the thick, softish felt.  Obviously this had to be a tension problem because there was no difficulty when I used polyester thread, I did try all sorts of different settings on the machine but hopefully when I have some more practice all will sort itself out with time.  Once the stitching was finished I shaped the vessel by steaming it over a large glass salad bowl.  This enabled me to create a deeper centre because I had been worried that it would be difficult to stitch inside the centre if the rim was too high.  I left the outside edge of the felt a little bit ruffled and hopefully now that the vessel has dried it will hold its shape on the long drive up to Gosford Park!

Large felt vessel with free machine embroidery