Portugal – some end of week pictures!

I’ve been promising you these pictures for ages now, it’s really lashing outside now (raining heavily for all you non Irish out there!) but looking at these again brings a smile to my face and reminds me of the wonderful time we all had together in sunny Portugal!

Carla, Nienke and Heather

I loved the huge selection of high quality and diverse work produced during the week, these photo’s really only give you a little idea of what we were up to!!! This was the first time that I had facilitated such a long workshop and I found it very interesting to see that as the week developed everyone settled down into the felting with gusto. Being together at a workshop over a longer than usual period of time was very relaxing and inspiring, staying in such a beautiful rural setting and being served delicious food and drink every day added wonderfully to the experience!

More happy faces, thanks Fernanda for looking after our cooking needs so well!
(from left to right Karin, Fernanda, Heather, Terriea and Annemarie)

Our group all gathered together for the last time!

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Felting retreat alert at Clasheen and workshops, current and past!

Final pictures of more finished work from Portugal on their way I promise, there’s just so much catching up to do and I don’t want to forget to advertise upcoming workshops too!

I had a really fun weekend felting and teaching for the first time at Duckett’s Grove, congratulations Maya and Valerie, you both felted wonderful pieces for your first time felting. Head on over to my FB page  to see pictures of the beautiful flat felt and fun flowers they created, please like the page too if it appeals to you and you haven’t already done so!

A few of my own flowers from the weekend

Next Saturday I’m running another full day ‘Simple, Stylish and Colourful Flat Felt’ workshop for beginners and improvers, details over on the workshop page and if you’d like to reserve your place please email me asap. On Sunday felt flowers are the theme again. From 2 until 4pm I’ll be hosting my normal workshop costing E25 (incl materials) where you learn the basics for a variety of flowers with and without stems. Integrating stamens and/or ring backs are also options for more experienced felters and everyone will felt at least two or three complete flowers using the special short fibre merino I love to work with for jewellery. To celebrate Duckett’s Grove hosting Carlow Garden Festival on Sunday afternoon I’m also going to offer short 15 – 20 minute taster sessions costing E10 per flower throughout the day. At these sessions I won’t be doing any actual teaching but rather have the lay out done in advance (simple flowers with no stems) and participants will just have the felting to do, I will of course supervise this and think it could be fun!

I’d now like to alert you all to an exciting bit of news, I’ve decided to host an intensive but relaxing residential felting retreat (hopefully not too late in the day!) at Clasheen. I’ll confirm it next post with all the fibre related details but for now put 7th – 10th August in your diaries, the idea is for this to be an affordable and creative mid week break!!! Participants will stay in ‘Tom’s House’ (the adjoining rental property), felt in my studio and be wined and dined in the evenings, watch this space!

Descriptions for my September workshops at The Tin Thimble in Loomis CA are now online and I’m sure Emma won’t mind that I’ve copied and pasted her text here for you to review (please be advised though that I won’t be teaching anyone how to make a skrit, that should of course read skirt!). Please email Emma asap if you are interested in coming along and joining us, these classes are almost full now I think and it’s always such a fun place to teach and meet fibre friends.

  • Three Days of Felting with Nicola Brown! – Friday, September 28 – Sunday, September 30 10:30-5:00

    We have had the honor of hosting Nicola Brown from Clasheen in Ireland the last two years and we are thrilled to announce that she’ll be back for a third workshop this Fall! Here are some of the projects that she has suggested you can make with her:

    Large Nuno Felt Wrap/Skrit, Shrug or Simple Vest (will start on Friday and continue work through Saturday and Sunday along with joining in on the other projects and demos)

    This workshop will share with participants a stress free way of creating a large nuno felt wrap/skirt, shrug or vest using the tumble dryer method. Because there is no rubbing or rolling involved in this workshop participants are free to concentrate on the design process and spend time enjoying laying out ultra fine layers of merino, colonial, polwarth or other fibre suitable for their pieces. Wraps will be multifunctional and entail no stitching, simple shrugs or vests will have minimal stitching but Nicola will have all the necessary needles and thread on hand so that participants can leave at the end of the day with a fully wearable garment! EMMA’S NOTE: IF THIS IS THE KIND OF PROJECT THAT YOU WANT TO TACKLE WITH NICOLA I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SIGNING UP FOR ALL THREE DAYS – IT’S A LARGE PROJECT

    Funky Felt Vessel or Purse(Saturday)

    This one day workshop will share with participants the skills needed to felt a wonderful vessel or large purse with integrated shoulder strap. Depending on felting previous experience participants will have the opportunity to experiement with adding inclusions such as stones, glass nuggets or other found objects into their felt. Vessels will be strong and sculptural, purses may include internal pockets and interesting flaps and closures.

    Fun and Funky Felt Accessories (Sunday)

    This one day workshop will encourage participants to explore and experiment with a variety of wet felt techniques and discover ways in which they may be combined to create unique felt jewelry and accessories. During the day participants will be able to felt a selection of buttons, belts, brooches, bracelets, necklaces, purses, closures or other small three dimensional items and all the techniques discussed and learnt may be translated into larger three dimensional felt or clothing. Found objects and treasured bits and bobs may all be incorporated into the felt so participants are encouraged to bring along a selection of their favourite stash items and Nicola will help them design one off pieces using these as a starting point.

    Instructor: Nicola Brown
    Class Fee: $150/day or $400 for all three days

Portugal, the fruits of our labours!

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

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

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

Terriea’s fantastic felt bag with flaps

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

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

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

Felting in Portugal, part four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Felting extravaganza in Portugal, part three!

As promised yesterday, I’m going to continue blogging about our wonderful residential week felting in Portugal and today concentrate on our trip to the Museu de Tecelagem dos Meios (the textile museum in Meios) and the pieces we made using the natural Bordeleira fleece from Dominio Vale do Mondego.

Watching a weaving demonstration at the Museu de Tecelegam in Meios

We started Wednesday morning by heading off to nearby Meios, this is a small village approx 1km away from Trinta, site until recently of 40 different wool processing and weaving factories. At Meios there’s a very interesting small museum with wonderful old tools and pieces of weaving equipment on display as well as huge working looms on the upper floor. Eelco and I had already been there on the Saturday prior to the workshop commencing and had found out that Wednesday morning would be the time to go if we wanted to see one of the largest old looms in action! These big looms were only ever operated by men, having seen one working I would never presume that a female could work one (even though I usually believe in equality for all), the physical effort required in the upper body to move the heddle was enormous!!! Alan and I went back for a further visit when he arrived to join me, we learnt that traditionally women did all the spinning and loading the flying shuttles, the men did all the weaving. Back downstairs after our demonstration everyone had fun trying on some of the gorgeous locally produced clothing and browsing the rugs and blankets for sale. The simple floor rugs, shepherd’s blankets and marriage blankets are woven at the museum, if they are to be brushed (as in the case of the natural white wedding blankets) they go one of the remaining working factories at Trinta and then come back to be sold on site. I also discovered some wonderful locally produced hand forged knives (you could easily cut off your finger with these!) and scissors, I bought two knives and a pair of scissors for myself plus some knives to bring home as gifts to Ireland.

Someone wanting a little bit of early lunch too!

Once we returned to base we had an early lunch so that everyone could have a head start in the afternoon selecting and starting to work with the freshly shorn Bordeleira fleece. We headed down to the stables and had the pick of gorgeous brown or white fleece, some people choose to felt smaller pieces while others wanted to felt a whole fleece. Because the climate and terrain is so different to Ireland there were lots of seed heads and various bits of dried vegetation in the fleece. At home our wool may be muddier but we definitely don’t have anything like the amount of little bits to pick out before we can get stuck into the serious besiness of felting! Once participants had selected their fleece everyone worked outside cleaning and sorting, this took quite a while depending on each individual animal that the fleece had come from.

Picking through the raw fleece prior to felting

Next two very fine layers of carded Bordeleira wool were laid out on the side of the fleece that would have been next to the sheep’s skin and everything was felted together using a lot of soap at the early stages of the process. Depending on previous experience and the size of the pieces some of these pieces took a lot longer than others to felt, this in normal, it’s not a race!!! I had laid out a slightly trimmed smaller fleece the night before and was able to finish it late on the Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a picture of it as it’s finishing drying, it’s on my chair at the kitchen table at Clasheen now and is a delicious contrast to the shaggy Norwegian wild mountain sheep fleece I felted last year!

Tomorrow I’ll write about nuno felting and our wonderful time eco dyeing with Terriea!

My fleece felted and drying in the sun

Memories of felting in Portugal, part two!

At the beginning of our first session felting I asked all the participants what was the most important technique for them to learn over the course of our week together. Working with the Bordeleira wool was going to be a new experience for all of us although I had had the opportunity myself to felt 3 small samples and one little vessel prior to arriving at Dominio Vale do Mondego. From the teaching point of view I wanted every participant to be able to leave having absorbed new skills or ways of working and most importantly having had plenty of fun!

Samples and materials laid out at the start of the workshop, picture mosaic thanks to Terriea

For the first two days we felted using washed and carded wool, flat felt pieces first then three dimensional vessels and bags of many different shapes and styles. The wool roving that we used was either a natural white or chocolate brown, it felted beautifully and it’s amazing to me it is not more widely known or appriecated elsewhere. I found that it felted every bit as quickly as mernio with an approximate rate of 25% shrinkage on pieces that I would normally achieve a rate of 33%. We incorporated a selection of other fibres with the Bordeleiera wool for added surface decoration or texture. I’d brought a lot of undyed fibres with me for everyone to share including linen, silk, milk protein, soy, banana silk, wool neps etc. and I’d also got some of my favourite mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill, mohair waste (from the brushing process after weaving), angelina, firestar and various natural and artificial yarns to dip into as well as a few different colours of merino roving in case anyone wanted to use these too. These were displayed inside with the samples and examples of other work I’d made at the beginning of the week, from Terrie’s picture mosaic it looks as if everything was very organised, obviously knowing me you’ll appreciate that it never looked as neat and tidy again!

Sandy working on her large felt vessel

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of our flat felt from day one or two, I think that I was concentrating so much on answering questions and making sure that the new felters had a successful first piece I forgot to take any pictures. Here’s a picture of Sandy though from day two starting to shape her piece, she’s working here on a stunning large vessel felted from the chocolate wool with a design in natural white with gold linen strands. As the week progressed we found that the Bordeleira wool was perfectly soft enough for wearables and nuno felting yet strong and easy to work with for bags and vessels.

On Wednesday morning we all visited a wonderful museum dedicated to wool and started working with the raw fleece in the afternoon. I’ll post about that next time and for now leave you with a great picture of Heather modelling one of her bags as a hat, watch out Dawn, you’ve got some competition!!!

Heather modelling her very flexible bag! Doesn’t she look great???

CRAFTed, Zwartbles, KY, MI and Portugal felting workshop updates and Dawn’s wonderful visit comes to an end

So much news, yet again so little time! Dawn came with me last week to meet the pupils that I’m working with for my 2012 CRAFTed project, they just loved her hats and in turn she just loved them singing two songs in Irish for her!!!

Adding buttons and other bits and bobs to embellish the felt portraits

Tomorrow is my last session with the school and I can’t believe that I haven’t got my paperwork up to date for this. It has been so hectic here the last 6 weeks that for the first time ever I am behind at this stage of the project, the fact that I am working with 35 and not 26 pupils also has contributed to the delay, anyway, onwards and upwards. We’ll be hanging the finished felt portraits tomorrow and making friendship bracelets for all the pupils to share.

After the opening of Duckett’s Grove on Friday morning Dawn and I picked up my great Danish buddy Kirsten Elise Lund and we headed back to Clasheen for an action packed and fun weekend! On Saturday morning we headed over to Suzanna Crampton’s beautiful home and spent a wonderful few hours rambling around the garden and getting up close and personal with her gorgeous Zwartbles sheep!

Kirsten, Dawn and Suzanna, Zwartbles are such a gently breed and SO friendly it's amazing

I want to write a full blog post about this trip, the sheep and felting with their fleece before I leave for US but if I don’t get time please MAKE sure I do so later in the summer!!! After a blissful morning we all went for an early lunch to Nicholas Mosse Pottery, dropped Suzanna home then Dawn, Kirsten and I headed food shopping to Kilkenny followed by a brilliant trip to Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh. Thanks so much Mary Cushen for opening up the mill especially for Dawn and Kirsten, we really appreciated the personal attention, this local mill is my ‘must see’ recommendation for any international textile visitor who comes to Clasheen!!!

Choices, choices at Cushendale Woolen Mill

In the evening Kate Ramsey arrived to stay and we were all joined by some of my closest friends for a plate of curry and a chat. On Sunday morning Niki Collier arrived and we spent the day felting, chatting, eating, laughing and basically having what we Irish call ‘the craic’, Kate and Niki also popped in to Carlow to see Eileen MacDonagh’s amazing exhibition LITHOSPHERE at Visual!!! In the evening our local guy won the final of ‘The Voice of Ireland‘, congratulations Pat Byrne, we voted, cheered and shouted with the best of them. Dawn, Kirsten and I had an early start on Monday morning, 4am to be precise! It was bitter sweet leaving the girls at the airport, our time together was really special and it was very sad to see it ending. I will be however heading to US myself in exactly one week and visiting with Dawn and the three of us have plans laid for a longer session together next spring, lots to reflect on and lots to look forward to!!!

Speaking of the US, I am SO EXCITED that I will be heading off my travels exactly one week from today, in fact by this time next week I’ll actually be airborn and heading over to stay with the wonderful Jan Durham in Lexington and the amazing Dawn Edwards in Plainwell! If you would like to join us in Lexington on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May or Plainwell on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May from 10am to 5pm please just contact Jan or Dawn asap, we have just a few slots left on each of these dates so hurry if you want to have some fabulous felting fun!!! There are also only a few places left for the amazing week long felting extravaganza at Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal, please follow the link to see what’s on offer and contact Karin asap if you wish to confirm your spot! I’ll leave you today with the full workshop descriptions for KY and MI, I’m also going to be in action for 3 days at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival from 18th, 19th and 20th of May in case you can’t make either Lexington or Plainwell!!!

‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ 

Skill Level: Basic felting skills an advantage but total beginners are very welcome too!

Class Description: Let the shapes, forms, colours, patterns, textures and structures of the natural and built environment fire your imagination! During this two-day workshop participants will design and create their own unique and beautiful wearable, functional or decorative pieces of felt using nature and the man-made landscape for inspiration. Some participants may choose to create a purely decorative art piece such as a complex vessel, sculpture or wall hanging while others may decide to design and felt some wearable art or interior accent, possibly a bag, some jewellery, some nuno felt or maybe a framed landscape or table runner.

There will be time to experiment and discover techniques or materials over the two days that you may have never considered using in your felting before. Nicola will be bringing some of her favourite mohair off cuts for everyone to try out and will share with participants how she is currently using free machine embroidery selectively to accentuate design elements in some of her new bags and framed landscapes. She’ll also demonstrate the use of an electric sander during some stages of the felting process and speak about the possibilities of fulling nuno felt using the tumble dryer, Nicola doesn’t use a sander all the time herself but sometimes it can really help with certain tasks and it is definitely useful to know when this might apply. The tumble dryer technique is wonderful for difficult to felt fabrics and to eliminate all the traditional rubbing and rolling, it’s not for everyone but it is fantastic to speed up the process especially if you have a bad back or other health issues so again, another technique it can be handy to know about!

Participants are encouraged to bring along treasured bits and bobs from their stash, buttons, beads, scraps of vintage fabric, shells, stones, glass nuggets etc., these all make wonderful inclusions in felt and help to personalize and create a truly unique work of art! We will have access to a sewing machine during the workshop but if you have your own machine with a free machine embroidery foot please bring it along and some threads too if you have space in your car. We won’t have access to a tumble dryer at the venue but if participants would like to try this technique during the workshop they are free to lay out a large nuno wrap during day one and get it to the stage where they can bring it home with them and finish it using their own dryer that evening. Nicola will clearly explain the steps to take and it should be possible to full the pieces and have them finished to show off on day two!

NB Although participants will get the most from this workshop in either Kentucky or Plainwell if they are able to participate on both Friday and Saturday there may be a few places available for those unable to attend both days, please just contact Jan or Dawn asap to check.