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!

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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

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

Musings from the exhibition to date and new nuno felt wrap today

It’s been very interesting and revealing invigilating at Grennan Mill Craft School, each of the 6 artists needs to either man the show for 3 full days or 6 half ones, I have chosen to do 3 full days.  If I wanted I could nominate someone else to do my stints but for me a lot of the pleasure at this stage of the process is to meet the public and see how people engage with all the work on display.  It has become increasingly obvious as the days go by that people either love the felt or hate it (maybe hate is too strong a word!), there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground at all.  I love watching everyone’s expressions when they first enter my space, many people are totally surprised when they discover the vessels and sculptures are wool, they know that they appear tactile but they often think that they are ceramic none the less!

Stitched seascape

It has also been interesting to discover that even if people do like these non functional pieces they may not have a place in their homes to display them.  After I sold my only stitched seascape on the first day several people said that they were interested in hanging this type of work in their home, in fact I actually got a commission for a framed piece during the course of the opening evening.  As a result of this I decided to spend Monday and Tuesday working and finishing some more wall pieces, I framed them yesterday morning at Grennan and two of the four sold during the day, actions speak louder than words sometimes!

Today I spent a lovely time at Carmen’s with her and an Argentinian fibre friend Patricia, we started with a big breakfast, felted all morning, had a delicious stew for lunch and then stuffed ourselves on pancakes before more fibre related fun in the afternoon!!!  Getting totally away from vessels and seascapes for the day I planned and felted a large wrap using some of the beautiful silk my Auburn friend Merridee dyed for me at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA recently.  This was an experiment using the tumble dryer method, a technique I want to work on further before offering it as an option for workshops but this might be a good time to say that it entails NO rubbing or rolling making it perfect for larger projects and anyone who might find the methodology of traditional nuno a little time-consuming or dare I say it even boring!  I would like to stress though that I don’t find rubbing and rolling boring, relaxing and therapeutic would be my personal take on this process but I suppose it’s horses for courses isn’t it and who doesn’t want to make a larger piece but with a lot of the effort removed and in a fraction of the time???  I’m not going to blog further about this method until I have fine tuned my timing but I will definitely include a couple of projects in the next book Chrissie and I are publishing (nuno clothing, out before Christmas!), for now here is a picture of todays finished wrap.

Nuno felt wrap

Exhibition set up at last and sneak look at latest Wikio rankings

This morning I made the final adjustments to my space at Grennan Mill Craft School and decided enough was enough, 7 vessels, 2 sculptures and 1 framed piece with a little free machine embroidery.  It’s always nerve wracking but exciting participating in any show and since this is actually my first solo exhibition the stress and worries about the felt I am showing and how the work is displayed are amplified about a thousand fold! Alan was brilliant setting up smart little spot lights on industrial looking tracks for me and Eileen’s plinths look great now that I have given them another couple of coats of paint.  The little holes in the wall are all filled in and painted again as is the radiator and this morning I finished cutting up hundreds of business cards which I printed last night, of course if my house and studio were tidy and organised it would be possible to locate my beautiful professional cards which are just lurking somewhere in all their pristine glory, that’s another story!!!  Fellow exhibitior Brendan Brennan and I helped Grennan Mill director extrodinare Alex Meldrum put up directional signs in Thomastown and now all our fingers are crossed for warm weather tomorrow afternoon to get everybody in a good mood for the official opening at 5.30!  I’ll try and take some pictures then but hopefully we’ll be run off our feet and they might have to wait until another day.

I’m delighted to say that I am still in the top 10 for the latest Wikio knitting blog rankings, here is the sneak preview for this month …..

1 pennies per hour of pleasure
2 needled
3 Daisie Days
4 Confessions of a YarnAddict
5 ysolda
6 The Woolly Adventures of a Knitting Kitty
7 Clasheen by Nicola Brown
8 Wendy Knits
9 Little Cotton Rabbits
10 Lixie Knits It
11 The mogs blog, the meanderings of a cat through yarn and life
12 Dyed in the Wool
13 glittyknittykitty
14 Northern Lace
15 Carolee Crafts
16 Chatiryworld
17 mooncalfmakes
18 Art Yarn
19 Quelle Erqsome
20 Purlpower

Ranking made by Wikio

Felting and stitching …..

I have been flat out this week trying to finish my work for Kilkenny Arts Festival which opens next weekend.  Most of my pieces are totally wet felted but a couple have some free machine embroidery to add surface detail, I know, I can’t believe I am actually writing that!  The exhibition takes place in Grennan Mill Craft School, Thomastown and I am one of 6 individual artists who all have solo shows under one roof, the setting utilises the various floors of a wonderful grain mill poised on the banks of the river Nore.  For anyone within striking distance of Thomastown please do call in during the exhibition and say hi, I will be envigilating on some days (not sure when yet) so if you are interested in meeting up please do email me in advance and I can let you know my schedual!!!

Exhibition Invitation

Apologies to those of you waiting for the final review of the new printing techniques I learnt at Felt in Focus, it is going to be a week or so before I can really relax and get stuck into writing posts properly!