American workshops – a guide to the raw materials required by participants!

My flights are booked, new linen trousers purchased and I am SO excited now about my upcoming workshops in America, meeting old friends, making new ones and simply having the best of fun with like minded fibre nuts!!!  From 13th to 16th May I will be participating and teaching at The Tin Thimble’s wonderful Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat, on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May I will be with my amazing friend Dawn for two days of workshops in Plainwell, MI and then on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May I will be meeting and staying with online fibre friend Jan Durham and facilitating two days of workshops in Lexington KY, how fantastic is that for an adgenda???  

On the Friday participants in both MI and in KY have the option of taking a workshop titled ‘Simple vessels, purses and other three dimensional objects incorporating found objects’ and on the Saturday a workshop titled ‘Nuno mosaic and other interesting possibilities for wearable felt accessories’.  Participants attending both workshops have the option of designing and felting larger and more complex vessels, bags, sculptural items, bigger nuno projects or indeed an art piece for the wall.  As a result I have been toying with the correct materials list to publish for each workshop, eventually I have decided to provide a ‘minimum fabric and fibre requirement’ list for some of the projects participants may want to make and hopefully this will cover most potential eventualities!  In this way each individual participant will decide for themselves what exactly they want to make and what materials then need to bring with them at a minimum,. I know from personal experience that I can never bring too much fibre and embellishment items with me when I attend any workshop so limiting myself can be a challenge, it may also bring unexpected rewards at times!!!  Each participant will need to bring their usual felting equipment, bubble wrap, towels (please bring a few!), hard olive oil/goats milk/glycerine soap, sprinkler, bamboo blind, pool noodle, net, whatever they like to work with themselves.  Anyone felting a bag, vessel or any sort of three dimensional project will need some flexible plastic to use as a template/resist, I prefer laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  For participants felting nuno mosaic or large nuno wraps it is really best to have two long lengths of bubble wrap bigger than the starting size of the silk used, plastic trash can liners are OK too in an emergency so if you have a roll of them please just bring them along!  NB I love working with batts but roving and tops are perfect too, bring whatever you have and like to work with yourself.  I will also be bringing loads of embellishments, inclusions, leather off cuts and artificial glittery fabrics with me for everyone to share as well as some of the mohair waste which I am currently experimenting with in some of my three dimensional work!  Enough of the waffle, hopefully the following will be a guideline and I am always happy to answer any questions directly so please feel free to email me if you have a major concern …….

Clutch bag, vessel, iPad cover and smaller three dimensional items will need 80 – 150g of fibre.

Larger and more complex bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.

A nuno scarf will need either a pre rolled silk chiffon or ponge silk scarf as a base, a long length of silk cut from a roll or alternatively a cotton cheesecloth or muslin length, the longer the better in all cases!  This project won’t need anything like a big amount of fibre but at a rough guide anything between 40 – 60g will be fine for a highly textured end result!

A large nuno wrap (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.

A mosaic nuno scarf will need a total minimum of 1m silk chiffon but this needs to be in at least 3 colours ie. 1/3m from a roll of three different colours, adding a small amount of a clashing colour can work wonders!  Incorporating vintage scarves into nuno mosaic is wonderfully effective and a beautiful way of bringing old fabrics back to new life, to see what I mean check out Marni’s wonderful scarf from last year’s Tin Thimble workshop, isn’t it beautiful?  These scarves will also need over 100g good quality merino preferrably in two colours.

A large nuno mosaic wrap will need 2 – 3m silk fabric in mixed colours and a total of up to or over 200g good quality merino, again two colours of fibre is ideal.

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre.  The figures above are a minimum guideline, I don’t want anyone to feel pressurised to buy more fabric or fibre than they may realistically need but to be honest where felting is concerned, can one ever have enough fibre or raw materials???

CRAFTed news, Michigan workshops open for booking and general workshop information

Laying out merino for the inside of a beret

Friday’s CRAFTed session was chaotic but fun, all the girls are going to have beautiful items to take home with them as a reminder of this transitional year at the school.  Working with 32 inexperienced felters is definitely a challange, I love the enthusiasm with which everyone is attacking their work, it does mean that Mairead (6th class teacher) and I are running all over the art room however during each session and I really hope that I am able to give each girl enough individual attention to ensure the process is an enjoyable one for everyone!  These individual projects will be completed in our last session (they include bags, cell phone covers, vessels, flat felt with/without little pockets, two scarves and one beret!) where we will also work on our collaborative wall hanging, this will be hung in the school when the girls graduate later this summer.  Because of the logistics when working with 32 beginners I am thinking that we will divide the class into three distinct groups next time, each group will rotate and have their turn to finish their individual project, create twisted yarn cords to add to their bags as well as select a square from the group piece which they will then embellish, add a pocket to or otherwise decorate with something of significance which they would like to leave behind as they leave for secondary school and move forward in life.  Not sure if this will work but I am predicting it will be easier and more sensible than having everyone working on the same task at the same time, it will also avoid me running all around the art room all the time, more concentrated effort but less stressful I think for all envolved! 

MICHIGAN WORKSHOPS – I am delighted to say that our Michigan workshops on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May are now open for booking!  Please email the wonderful Dawn if you would like to reserve your place, I am just going to have another go uploading  the full details and descriptions to the workshop page (having problems yet again today!) so in case of further technical issues the Friday workshop is titled ‘Simple vessels, purses and other three dimensional objects’ while Saturday will be dedicated to the fascinating art of ‘Nuno Mosaic’.  One workshop will cost $140 or if both are taken the cost will be $130 per day, for more about what can be covered over two days check out the general workshop information further down this post. 

Wonderful vintage printed silk and chiffon create Marni's gorgeous textured nuno mosaic scarf!

The nuno mosaic technique was taught to me by German felter Sigrid Bannier and is a wonderful way to create memorable wraps, scarves and yardage for incredible one off pieces of clothing.  To refresh your memory (or if you are only visiting this blog for the first time!) here is an image of Marni’s amazing scarf incorporating vintage silk and chiffon from one of the Tin Thimble’s workshops last Fall, this was actually the first time ever that Marni had felted a nuno piece!  If this has not whet your appetite enough there are some more nuno mosaic images from The Tin Thimble workshops here, some from the previous Fall at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco here and a few of my own nuno mosaic skirt and matching wrap here.

GENERAL WORKSHOP INFORMATION – I like to think of my workshops as a place where I share information and provide a recipe for felters to follow or adapt as they see fit!  When I am teaching I always explain that there are many ways possible to reach a similar end result, I will be sharing the methods and tips which I find work best and usually guarantee me a successful outcome, it is up to each individual participant to determine whether they want to follow exactly or adapt the steps to suit themselves.  Although each of my upcoming workshops has a title representing the main technique/techniques covered on that particular day, it will be possible for participants choosing to attend for both days to felt larger more complex projects that may not be specifically mentioned in the titles.  An example would be someone who wanted to felt a complex felt sculpture or bag using several stitched resists, another would be a person wanting to create a reversible nuno felt shrug.  If you have any queries in this respect please don’t hesitate to email me personally, I want to provide all the necessary information in order for people to make an educated descision.  As previous experience has demonstrated most participants at my American workshops are regular felters, it should be noted that all the workshops are open to total beginners so please don’t feel you can’t attend if you are just starting out learning this fascinating craft, I would love to have you come along!!!

Finally, at the risk of sounding pushy, the Kentucky workshops are now provisionally full for Saturday and only have 4 places left on Friday, if anyone is having a little think about things please don’t think for too long!!!

American and Irish workshop updates, ArtL!nks plus FlyLady!

It’s official, Kentucky has now been added as the final stop for my American felting workshops on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May, I am so thrilled to be visiting this beautiful state and am really looking forward to meeting Jan Durham for the first time and catching up with Lindy Huber again!!!  As soon as all the details are ironed out for the workshops I will post here with all the information about the techniques we will be covering as well as update the information on the workshop page

Bookings are now open for The Tin Thimble’s annual Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat in Downeville CA (see I can use American spellings sometimes) so if you are interested in joining us (hi Carole!) for what promises to be an action packed and fun time please hurry, spaces at this event are strictly limited!!!

The introduction to feltmaking for total beginners and improvers at Clasheen on Saturday 5th March is now fully booked but please email me if you would like to be added to my waiting list in case of a cancellation or to discuss the possibility of attending on another day. 

Total mess on my studio tables and beyond

I should in fact be playing in a golf competition this afternoon but needs must, my studio is totally messy once again and I really need to get it sorted and start on my large ArtL!nks vessel by this evening (or more realistically first thing tomorrow morning) at the latest!  The mess isn’t a dirty mess but rather an excceptionally untidy one, the tables mightn’t look too bad but it is everywhere else you aren’t seeing that is the big problem, where on earth will I shove all this stuff to free up my work space???  Note the bird seed, oatmeal and sultanas too, since the harsh weather I have a selection of robins and a blackbird that bombard me every time I leave through the back door so I keep these to hand as a simple way of keeping them happy!  This last part of my ArtL!nks work will be the vessels finished using the yoga balls for the shaping.  I am thinking of making two large vessels, the first one in white Icelandic wool and stiffened with PVA to check out my template measurements and make sure the ball is a good idea, the second in white merino with chocolate and orange shapes.  This merino vessel will require a lot more time and more expensive materials to felt so you can see why I want to try out the Icelandic wool and ball first, if it is a disaster I will need to rethink my plan.

My tidy dining room with felt and fibre accessories!

Lastly I am going to leave you with two pictures of my totally tidy dining room to show that it will be possible to tidy my studio, amazing picture as all my friends know (usually this room is TOTALLY COVERED in paperwork and other assorted ‘stuff’) but it is all down to hard work and a lot of help from FlyLady!!!  Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time may remember that I signed up to FlyLady in January 2009 but I fell by the wayside sometime later that year.  Enough is enough, 2011 is the year I am trying my best to sort out the house, studio and garden in tandem with organising my diary and keeping better track of my felting work.  Keeping a balance between all these things is important but earning a working living is vital and hopefully a bit more structure and a tidy space to live in will help with that!  This first picture shows the view looking over the dining table towards a little nook livened up with a favourite painting by Majid Kahhak, a felt throw on the back of a sofa bed and a light fitting with about 45 felt flower lampshades.  There is another splash of colour in this direction where a shocking pink sheepskin provides a comfy seating place on top of a trunk if necessary, by the way, Alan does NOT like this pink sheepskin at all! 

Simple venacular architecture with individual modern table and chairs!

The second shot is looking in the other direction towards the main bedroom.  In this picture you can see the juxtaposition of the ultra modern dining table and chairs with the unchanged local venacular architecture.  Thanks to friend Duncan Russell whom I comissioned these beautiful pieces from several years ago, I had intended some traditional farmhouse furniture for this room but hadn’t managed to find what I was looking for and totally fell for Duncan’s work, cest la vie. 

When I bought Clasheen approx 5 years ago now it had not been lived in since 1928 and I really wanted to keep the structure and design as it was originally intended (with of course some modern inclusions such as water and an old looking extension to add a bit more space).  This has meant a simple and friendly home which I am totally in love with, there are some drawbacks however including lack of storage space (badly needed) and some draughty spots, even though I had external doors and windows individually made by traditional craftsmen they do not function as well as modern equivalents so I am plannning some improvements which will be put in place as finance and time dictates!

SO EXCITED to announce American felting workshops in May, CRAFTed, upcoming book and process of first mohair vessel explained a little!!!!!

So much to share with you and really not enough time to get everything written down and documented, today I have just had to put felting aside and tie myself to the computer to try and get my diary under control for the next few months!

My biggest news of the day is that I will be paying a return visit to California and Michigan during the month of May and I am just so thrilled and excited to be planning another series of felting workshops with you on that side of the world, watch out, here I come!!!!!  Although provisional dates and venues just need to be finally confirmed and I don’t want to jinx anything it looks as if I will be teaching in San Fransisco on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May, travelling to an exciting fibre retreat in Downieville for 13th – 16th May and with the wonderful Dawn in Plainwell, Michigan either the last weekend in April or the third weekend in May, I am so excited I can hardly speak, unusual for me as those of you who have already met me can readily attest!!!!!  I had such a ball the last time I was over and met so many lovely people, I am really looking forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting more of you, the internet is truly a wonderful place to make contact with fellow fibre addicts!  Although I haven’t actually contacted them yet there might be the possibility of putting something together with a fascinating artist and designer in Los Angeles and if any others of you would like to discuss the possibility of me teaching a workshop while I am over please email me to discuss options asap!

My next bit of news is that I start a short residency called CRAFTed this Friday, a learning skills for life project aiming to connect creativity and innovation through craft.  It is jointly organised through the Crafts Council of ireland and Kilkenny Education Centre and I have been paired with 6th class at Scoile Mhuire Presentation School in Kilkenny, 32 girls aged 11 and 12.  Last Wednesday I met their teached Mairead at a day long training for the project (we had fun!) and we have decided on the working title  ‘exploring transition’ to be the theme for our collaboration.  This residency follows on from my Craft in the Classroom residency but due to financial constraints and funding restrictions in Ireland at the moment we just have 10 contact hours and 6 hours preparation this time (in addition to the training day obviously).  On Friday I will be meeting the girls and showing them some of my work, answering questions, giving a short demonstration of the magic envolved in felting and then we will be discussing and planning how the course of our project will evolve.  This class will be leaving at the beginning of the summer and moving to ‘big school’, they will also be making their confirmation during the Spring so ‘exploring change’ seemed an appropriate theme, let’s hope it proves to be so and I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 

Fibre diva, author and good friend Chrissie Day and I plan on having our collaborative felting book published in time for my upcoming trip to USA!!!  This has been long in the planning and I hope worth the wait when we finally get it together and under one cover at last!  We both love to felt with similar and different raw materials and the book should be an interesting combination of different styles, techniques, tips and advice, watch this space!!!!! (How many exclamation marks can one blog post cope with?????)

Now on to a brief but fairly comprehensive explanation (at least I hope it will be brief and not bore you!) of the process I went through at the end of last week, as with the white, brown and orange ArtL!nks vessels I decided to work with the design inside for my first mohair vessel experiment.  This proved to require more concentration than I had expected; building up the layers of colour and texture in this way and turning the felt inside out near the end of the felting process allowed for the clearest end surface design and least difficulty combining different materials especially around the areas where the fibres met the edge of the resist. 

Nubbly textures and surface detail incl. yellow plastic net, red linen fibres, lilac wool neps and rich reflective mohair

Areas where I trapped hard rectangles of previously felted wool under silk chiffon and fibre (to get both design elements and a raised surface texture) plus the places where I added some pieces of yellow plastic netting needed the most brain power but I kept my flat felt experiment to hand and this was a big help in determining how exactly I would lay out my design.  Once I had the fibres and fabric laid out against the plastic resist on side one I followed this with a thick layer of loose mohair fibres.  As I mentioned before this mohair is a waste product from the weaving industry and as such when Carmen and I get the bags of fluffy, lustrous fibre the colours are both clear and subtly blended, it obviously depends on what fabric the mill has been brushing and what has been previously brushed as to what colours we end up to work with.  I choose the pinkest and purpleist (are these words???) blends to lay against the design and once the first side was totally covered I wet it out using a lot of soap, gave it a brief rub and then turned the package over to the other side.  Next I continued laying the surface design (working with the laminate floor underlay for a resist allows me to see the shapes and colours from side one through the plastic) before folding over the edges from side one and laying out the mohair on the second side as well.  Once that is done (soaped and rubbed lightly) I turned the package over again before laying two even layers of gotland/merino blend on each side.  The important thing at this stage is to place a piece of yarn or contrasting fibre on your work wherever you decide you will be cutting into the felt once the felting has occured and the fulling is progressed enough for you to be cutting out your resist.  If I don’t do this at this stage I totally forget where the upper and lower surface of my vessels will be, live and learn!  I spent a lot of time rubbing lightly on both sides of the package and paid special attention to the edges around the resist, the fibres there need to be nice and snug otherwise you will end up with unwanted ridges when you start to shape the vessel. 

Silk and linen fibres on top of woven mohair squares

Once I was happy that the fibres were starting to felt together well I commenced rolling in different directions alternating with rubbing directly on top of the felt using more pressure and friction at this stage.  When it looked as if I needed to cut into the felt to relieve the internal pressure (the felt is shrinking and therefore the plastic resist is getting scrunched up inside) I knew where to make the insision because I was careful to keep an eye on that odd coloured bit of yarn which was my marker!  I sealed the edges and rubbed carefully around the edge of the resist before turning the package inside out and having a look at what the vessel would finally look like and how the design worked in the round.  Finishing the piece was exactly the same as any other sculptural felt, rinsing, rubbing, rolling, banging, shaping etc. until finally I was happy with the result.  Because I used a combination of mohair with the gotland/merino blend the vessel is nice and strong sculpturally and definitely should hold it’s shape over time.  I like the way the different fibres have blended and mingled although I have to say I pulled off some sequined ribbon (do you remember us buying that Sharon???) once I turned the vessel inside out, a bit blingy for me at the end so it had to go much to Carmen’s delight!

My favourite felt accessory of the moment, raw materials for US workshops and a picture of my new fibre friend!

If you are a regular follower of this blog you will know how hectic things have been here at Clasheen since my return from ‘Felt Naturally’ in Silkeborg at the beginning of August.  Laying out and felting Sylvia’s large rug took a lot longer in actuality than in planning, partially due to the logistics of scaling up to such a degree (especially without another pair of hands!) and partially due to interruptions with Lady Captain duties at Borris Golf Club.  I did however manage to fit in a few small projects between other committments and one of the pieces that I felted is definitely one of my all time favourite accessories, a real conversation opener whenever I wear it at the moment which to be honest is quite often!  

Green felt boa

Charlotte Buch needs to be credited with the design and was very generous in sharing the technique used with all of us who participated in her long workshop in Denmark.  Because I was totally focused on felting my sea creature it wasn’t until I returned to Clasheen that I actually got to try out this method for myself and I absolutely LOVE the versality of the finished piece!  In the workshop many participants felted this boa starting with a base of prefelt but for mine I decided to start from scratch and use some of the gorgeous hand dyed merino roving I recieved from Holly as part of the New Year Secret Scarf Exchange organised via Ravelry.  The boa may be twisted a couple of times around the neck as a necklace, wrapped around the waist, worn as a scarf, tied around a ponytail and in many other ways which might grab the wearer at any given moment.  This felt accessory just goes to demonstrate how totally versatile and adaptable one simple design may be and if you would like to see some of the other ways which I wear mine have a look through my Flickr  photos.  Another amazing advantage of felting this piece is that my horror of a sewing machine has almost disappeared, honestly!  Charlotte uses either an embellisher or a sewing machine (depending on the end result required) during the early stages of some of her work and to be honest once I saw how simple various of the techniques were and the amazing results on offer I have had a major head change with regard to the use of these frightening pieces of equipment (frightening to me!). 

This brings me on to another point which I feel is well worth making before I head over to the US next week.  Many different raw materials may eventually lead to a similar end result and many different end results may be arrived at by numerous different people all starting from the same point and using the same raw materials!  This is something that I can’t stress enough for anyone considering joining me at one of the exciting workshops that are planned for Loomis, Berkeley, San Fransisco and Kalamazoo over the next 4 weeks.  Please don’t feel that you have to copy exactly what I do or use the same fibres and other raw materials that I choose to use but obviously you are welcome to do so if that is what you so wish!  What I will be providing is an insight into how I work, what I find works best for me (I am ALWAYS learning and discovering new materials and texchniques!), sharing some of my own favourite pieces and bringing along with me as many raw materials and embellishments as possible to examine with all of you thereby providing a felting receipe which you may choose to follow or totally adapt dependent on your own wishes.  What I would like all participants to do is to bring with you as many or as few of your own felting materials,  found items, stash goodies, jewellery findings and equipment as you can comfortably transport (in a bag or in a truck!!!) and then we can look at the ways in which you work and find the direction and materials you are comfortable experimenting with in order to create some fabulous and individual pieces during the course of the various workshops!  Is it obvious HOW EXCITED I am to be finally meeting so many of you in the flesh???

Lastly, here is a picture I took of a fibre friend from La Gomera and I have now installed her as my desktop background because I think she is just gorgeous!!! 

My fibre friend from La Gomera!

Back at the ranch!

I got a wonderful greeting from Rex when I arrived back at Clasheen yesterday evening and he was just thrilled today when I let him out of his shed this morning and headed off for a walk before breakfast!  Amazingly enough, although the weather was very cloudy and damp here in Ireland when we landed yesterday afternoon and again today the temperature is actually approx 20 C so it hasn’t been too much of a contrast acclimatizing after the wonderful week we have had in La Gomera. 

Today I am trying to unpack, download some of my photos (over 500 of them!), get some washing done, catch up with emails (not going to get this one finally sorted ’till tomorrow so don’t panic if you are waiting for a reply), collect post from the post office, shop for basic food supplies, call over to Carmen (she is cooking lunch and we will be felting for the afternoon), start to assemble supplies that I need to take to America with me (trying to sort out the most interesting, unusual and relevant materials that I like to work with and share with others!), organise things for a workshop tomorrow morning and generally catch up with all those little things that don’t seem much by themselves but add up to a LOT of work to get done by nightfall!

Three point turns necessary to negotiate the bends!

As promised here is a photo showing the kind of roads and terrain we were travelling  on and traversing across although I have to confess this was just one road too far, we walked the final mile or so down to the little hermitage.  Three point turns on every corner with an horrendous fall if you went over the edge were just not my idea of fun so we parked where we found a spot and shank’s mare was the way to travel for the last stretch of this road!!!

OH NO, for some reason I have just lost a LOAD of writing and images when I uploaded this post for the first time so apologies for the lack of writing now (I’ve run out of time!) but here are a couple of images showing texture and patterns which I am saving in a special folder to spark inspiration for felting work in the future. 

Colours and textures from an old door in El Cercado

Old roof tiles, again in El Cercado

Booking open for my felting workshops at The Tin Thimble, Loomis, CA!!!

I am delighted to say that booking is now open for the two felting workshops I will be facilitating at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, Northern California this Fall!  We will be kicking off the fun with a two day Complex Felt Bag workshop on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September followed by a Nuno Mosaic workshop on Monday 27th September. 

Detail from a recent bag

I am really looking forward to meeting owners Emma and her mother as well as blog readers and friends from Ravelry who are hoping to book into one or even both of the workshops!  It constantly amazes me how the internet brings us all together in a virtual sense and it is always fascinating to meet up in reality and confirm friendships forged online.  Lasy year I had the pleasure of meeting expert nuno felter Nancy Schwab at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco (dates and venues for the general San Fransisco area to follow in a week or so!) and earlier this summer Jamie and Blas from Urban Fauna paid a visit to me here in Clasheen as part of an extended Ireland and England road trip!!!  Mosaic nuno felting was actually the topic I covered in San Fransisco last year and if you are wondering what on earth it entails and would like to see some pictures why not check out this post from October 2009?