Merridee and I had great fun tracking down a big copper pot in California last September. Finally we sourced a lovely one at an antique shop in Auburn, both of us were interested to see how it affected the results of our natural printing and dyeing during the felting retreat we facilitated at Lake Tahoe. The colours of the vegetation appear softer when simmered in the copper so yesterday I borrowed a fantastic antique jam pot from my buddy George, I'll have to source one myself now as we are both very happy with the way this wrap turned out. Here's a close up shot for you to look at, please bear in mind that the wrap needs to be rinsed out and ironed still but you can see the peachy tones and softness of the colours I think.
The second wrap was bundled with the same two varieties of eucalyptus and the same black tea, the only difference was the addition of some onion skins and the fact that the pot was aluminium. Check out how dark this is, it was simmered for exactly the same amount of time, amazing! In both pieces as they dry the bamboo sings out against the wool, I'll take photos of them when they're finished and ironed.
On Wednesday morning I had a very enjoyable session working with 20 fifth year Enniscorthy VEC students helping them complete their first flat felting project. My good friend Shaz is their regular art teacher and had invited me several weeks ago to speak about feltmaking and give a short demonstration explaining the process further. Because there is no funding for this type of activity at fifth year level parents contributed a small fee per student to cover my time and costs while I provided all the materials necessary for everyone to create a beautiful piece of flat felt to take home for themselves at the end of the morning.
Students with their beautiful felt pictures - please excuse the quality of my images today
This workshop was optional for the students and as a result everyone who attended wanted to be there although as always some people found the actual felting and fulling harder than initially anticipated!
I started the morning by asking everyone to choose just two main colours, less choice is MUCH simpler I find at the beginning and weighed out 60g Icelandic wool per person. They laid out the wool in several overlapping layers and when all the wool was used then came the fun part deciding what colours and fibres to use for the decorative top layer. Many of the students were quite adventurous with their selection enjoying a range of fibres including a coarse bamboo, silky corn, fluffy angora (from a friends bunny!), shiny acrylic yarn, painted sliver, merino and more Icelandic wool, there was also some silk chiffon and cotton muslin which a couple of the students choose. I was very impressed with how everyone concentrated on their own work and nobody seemed to copy their friends which sometimes happens when you get a large group working together. Quite a few of the students had started with the same two colour combinations but everyone was amazed at the end of the morning to see how totally unique each of the felt pictures ended up when finished! One of the students incorporated a lock of his own hair in his felt, a modern take on a Victorian idea?
Close up of various fibres and textures
Detail including human hair in the centre of the top right piece of felt
Thanks everyone for your comments and emails in relation to my last post, it has been really interesting studying your replies so please keep them coming! Not having a tumble dryer myself I didn’t even know that there was a ‘fluff or air only’ option but this definitely sounds like an interesting avenue to explore, thanks Dawn for that tip. I also emphathise with Liz when she says that she feels guilty if fulling in a machine. This is something that I ask myself many times every week, is an item handmade if one uses electronic equipment in the process, ie. a sander or in this instance the tumble dryer? The answer I keep coming up with is that other artists and craftspeople use tools so why should we not?? Looking at things from this angle seems reasonable but I STILL have that niggling doubt in my mind! Any thoughts? As you all know I do use my washing machine for part of the process when making felt rugs, this is as a result of Mehmet’s advice and I don’t feel a bit guilty here since he gave me the go ahead.
Now to respond to Deb’s two comments ……. I didn’t use a dryer for the felted seascape, the white fibres that crinkled nicely were either spun wool or mohair (suitable for knitting) and I just laid them on top of my wool and felted by hand as normal. If anything I didn’t roll for quite as long as normal as I wanted to keep a lot of texture in the finished piece. I also used some very fine white mohair (thanks Dawn, it was some of the great yarn from our destash swap!) in an extremely light piece of cobweb felt last week and it felted in beautifully but I did do a LOT of rolling between thin plastic sheeting to deep the felt very smooth and fine. In relation to rolling in a bamboo blind, I find them great. Usually I place my bubble wrap on the blind (bubbles facing up) and lay out my work as normal, wet out and cover with more wrap (bubbles down) and start the rubbing and rolling process. I then roll the whole lot up together as in the image below (have used laminate underlay in this piece but I am sure you get the picture) until the felt is
starting to hold together. At this stage I remove the bubble wrap and roll the felt directly in the blind, everything starts to come together much more quickly at this stage as the friction is greater with the bamboo than with the bubble wrap. I have also tried laying out the fibres directly on the blind as many people actually prefer but I find that using this method I need to unroll the package much more often. For me I find that the fibres have a habit of migrating through the rolled up layers and sticking together a bit before a surface skin has formed on the felt which is really annoying so this is why I prefer starting on plastic and then changing to the blind. Hope this makes sense! You do need to roll the blind quite firmly but once the felt starts to shrink it happens much faster than with bubble wrap alone.
It is amazing how many ways there are to felt a ball. Today I needed to make a couple of felt balls and although they are always trotted out as a beginners project for me they are far from it! I always seem to have difficulty starting them off without getting creases but no more, Australian feltmaker Anita Larkin’s way worked a treat. You lay a few very light layers of wool down on a bamboo blind (I used merino) at right angles to each other and then dry felt for a few seconds. This dry felting is done by placing the palm of your hand of the fibres and moving it gently away from you and back towards you, then do the same from a 90 degree angle. You now have a flattish square of fibres which you fold over at the corner to make an angle, exactly like folding a won ton. Starting from this angle now fold and roll the whole wad of fibres into a ball making sure that the last wisps are as smooth as possible on the outside. Dunk very quickly and very gently into hot soapy water (I use natural olive oil soap) and start to rotate LIGHTLY in your hand. Almost immediately you will feel a skin forming on the outside of the ball, the inside will still be dry and any small creases can now be covered with a light wisp of wool. Work the ball in your hand and on the mat dunking it a couple of times in the hot water as you progress to start working the inside as well. Before you can say ‘felt’ you will have a great ball, amazing! Make sure to rinse it out in hot water and there you go.
Speaking of Australia I mentioned before a great Australian website for felting and sewing supplies, Essential Textile Art. Today I placed another order for various types of sari fabric to incorporate in my nuno felting. I am going away on a felting course to Wollknoll in a weeks time and hope that the fibres will be here on my return. My new Etsy shop is now set up and I will be frantically making some nice pieces to sell as Christmas presents, as soon as I have the items up I will post a link here on the blog! Remember, sign up to Buy Handmade if you want to support artists and craftspeople from around the world.
Swap update: We now have swap participants from Ireland, Germany, Spain and Denmark to join in the upcoming exchange that I am organising. To keep it simple for the first swap the theme will be Autumn and the deadline to join will be 21st September. Swap buddies will be allocated then and your package needs to be posted to your buddy by the 14th October. We will exchange one handmade accessory, one seasonal receipe and a little something extra. Obviously everyone is into different forms of craft so you may make your handmade item anything that you would like to recieve yourself using Autumn at the theme. If you don’t work with textiles there is no problem, just let me know if you would prefer to exchange a piece of art (hand made cards, wall hanging etc.) or some hand made edible goodies and I will pair you up with someone who would like to receive there items. To sign up and for those of you already signed up please email me with your likes and dislikes and let me know if you would be happy to receive gifts other that textiles if necessary and I can forward your preferences on to your swap buddy when the draw is made. If this swap goes according to plan we might consider Christmas as our next theme! To check out other current swaps visit SwapDex, be careful you don’t get hooked.