Workshop at Clasheen on Saturday 23rd and Agnieszka’s wonderful felt bag revealed at last!

You may remember recently, I posted an image of the wonderful ladies who came to Clasheen for a ‘Not so Simple, Not so Complex’ felt bag workshop.  I just love the way how given the same information and shown the same samples workshop participants always manage to end up stamping their own individuality and talent on the felt they create, no two pieces are ever even remotely alike.  This workshop was no exception, four ladies, four bags, four amazing pieces of wearable art!

Glass and bead detail from Agnieszka's bag!

I’ve stolen this beautiful picture from Agnieszka’s blog this morning, check out the gleaming glass she embedded in her felt and the wonderful way the beading adds to the final surface detail.  If you head on over to read her whole post there are some amazing pictures of the completed bag, I know you will all agree it was well worth the wait to see the finished bag in all its glory!!!

I also just wanted to announce a full day felting workshop at Clasheen on Easter Saturday, 23rd April.  Because of my recent computer woes I haven’t had time to write up a workshop description and post it to the relevent page but for anyone interested this is the perfect day for improving felters to come here and learn some new skills!  Possibly a good title would be ‘Expanding your Felting Skills’ but for now it is enough to say that this workshop will help participants expand their felting repoirtoire and skills learnt will depend on the previous experience of each individual felter.  I have two spots left for this workshop, we will work from 10 am until approx 4.30pm (please arrive at about 9.45), the cost for the day is E75 incl. materials, tea, coffee and soft drinks, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch.  If you are interested in joining us please email me asap to book your spot!

Glass beads glisten against the shimmering silk and merino felt …….

Glass beads glistening against the silk and merino felt

I hadn’t intended posting any photos of new work that will be going in the book but couldn’t resist this shot demonstrating how the glass beads glisten against the felt in this silk/merino scarf!  It is pretty bright lightwise this morning so maybe the colours are slightly bleached but you can really see how the high percentage of silk in this fibre combination (50% silk 50% merino) shines when felted and how it also lends a great sense of movement to the piece. 

As many of you know already I have been having HUGE computer problems that still are not sorted two weeks after I started to seriously try and address the issue.  My techy guru posted me an external drive last week when he was having difficulty transferring things remotely and would you believe it my flies are just refusing to transfer over to this new drive for me too, URGH, a lot of work to do today so no felting I fear!  The up side of things will be that once I get all the problems ironed out Chrissie and I will be finally able to share our files online, see the layout of the book, edit and adjust things to our heart’s content, in short, do all the necessary to put the thing to bed, bliss!  Thanks for all your positive messages and comments about this upcoming publication, I hope you won’t all be disappointed!!!  I am also going to be uploading a HUGE amount of photos to Flickr during the day, this will mean that I don’t have to store them anywhere else, at least that’s the idea, hoping it will work.  Some of these photos may be old work I never blogged about before and some of them may be new or unseen, not sure yet exactly what files I still have lurking on the computer!

Sneak preview, exciting news, new swap, an answer and an update ……

Quite a lot of exciting things to talk about this morning and not so much time to write everything down!  Starting with the sneak preview, here is a detailed image of the silk and corn fibres (turquoise and white respectively) that I combined with Icelandic wool for my latest felt bag. 

Corn fibre, silk and Icelandic wool

I am not going to post pictures of the completed bag yet (yay, got the handle finished and fitted this morning!!) in case my swap buddy is following here  but this will give you an idea of how I interperted her favourite ocean inspired colours.  Now that the bag is finished I am very happy with the sense of motion, almost wave like that the white corn fibres add to the surface.  These fibres were one of the goodies that I bought last October from Blas and Jamie at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and I can’t wait until October again this year when I am making a return visit and will be facilitating a workshop as well!  Blas and Jamie are making a visit to Ireland this Spring and as well as participating with me in a workshop at Clasheen I will be spending some time with them showing off some of my favourite spots here in South Eastern Ireland.

That sentence leads me nicely into my biggest news, I will definitely be in America during October 2010 and would love to do a series of workshops across the States and get to meet as many of my blog followers as possible!  Thanks so much to Dawn Edwards who will be organising an event in Michigan.  I can’t say how thrilled I am that we will be meeting up in person at last and I actually get to stay with her and wear her out with all my chatting, how cool is that!!  Over the next week I have to finish my submission for an ArtL!nks bursary, deadline for me is next Wednesday but as soon as that is done I want to chat with everyone who might be even vaugely interested in the possibility of a felting workshop so please email me if you would like to touch base and try and work something out.  My plan is to either start the trip in San Francisco and end in Chicago or visa versa and I am thinking of travelling early in October but need to clarify the dates and see if I could possibly include the last week in September as well.  Please email me directly if you might be interested, it would be great to hire a car and teach all the way from Chicago to San Fransisco!

The Clasheen Spring Swap is now posted to our group on Flickr and sign ups are underway as we speak.  For this seasonal swap we will make one special gift for our swap buddy using Spring as our inspiration. Let your imagination run wild sparked by all the freshness of the season, ideas to consider include light weight scarves, jewellery, hand painted cards, homemade floral scents or body products, fabric covered art journals, anything at all with a spring theme or colour.  We will also include a couple of inexpensive extras (possibly from our stash) and a receipe for a light and appealing main course dish which we enjoy cooking ourselves at this time of year.  If you want to sign up for the swap remember you need to do so through the group on Flickr, joining us is easy if you are not already a member!

For those of you wondering where I got the gorgeous hand made beads that I incorporated into Suzanne’s necklace I bought them from Lori aka Tabmade on Etsy.  Unfortunately Lori doesn’t have anything for sale at the moment but if you do a search for fimo or polymer clay beads on the internet maybe you will be lucky and source some unusual beads for yourself.

And finally, poor Suzanne is having problems with her wrist and now has to go back for more surgery next week.  Somehow the bones have shifted and her cast was removed yesterday.  Now she has a back slab fitted as a temporary support and it is extremely painful so hopefully next week will start some progress and her wrist will finally stop paining her at last.  Thanks for all your messages to her, I am passing them on and she appreciates the thought.

Surface details and inclusions in felt, tutorial for simple felt slippers!

One of the most striking aspects of Dutch felter Lyda Rump’s work is her beautiful attention to texture and surface detail.  At both our accessories workshop and the complex bag workshop on 5th, 6th and 7th February learn how you too can enhance your work  during the actual laying out of your fibre and by embellishing your felt once it reaches the fulled stage.  Including items such as stones and glass pebbles while you lay out your fibres can lead to all sorts of exciting surface possibilities which really enhance the finished felt.  Layering strips of silk, artifical fabrics and other fibres on the top layer provide additional depth whilst further embellishing with stitches and small glass seed beads once the felt is fulled add interest and movement to the finished felt.  On Friday 5th we will be using our imagination to create fun and stylish felt accessories with Lyda and learning all those finishing touches that go to make jewellery, scarves and other felt accessories so special.  This is a great workshop if you have never felted before, come along and leave with some beautiful completed pieces!  I will have wool, silk, glass nuggets and beads on hand and Lyda is bringing some of her gorgeous hand dyed silk with her.  If you have been looking at some fabric or beads in your stash and are looking for inspiration about how to include them in your felt look no further!  Bring everything along and if you have some glittery fabric or mesh bring it along too!!  The two day complex bag workshop on Saturday and Sunday will explore the art of creating strong and beautiful multi pocketed bags and backpacks.  If you are a beginner/improver and are worried that this workshop might be too advanced for you think again.  Felting one of these bags is more involved than creating a piece of flat felt (that’s why they are called complex bags!) but Lyda is a brilliant teacher and I have participated in one of her workshops where an almost total beginner left with a very beautiful and perfectly felted bag.  If you would like to attend either workshop places are booking up now, please contact me asap to reserve your place.

Now on to that tutorial for the simple felt slippers that I made (when waterless) to use up an old piece of felt in my stash.   This project is not designed to be complicated, just an easy way of utilising a well fulled rectangle of felt and an excellent way for a beginners workshop to leave with a lovely warm and comfortable pair of slippers at the end of the day.  You could paint the bottoms with Latex to make them more durable if you wanted, I get mine from Wollknoll.  Measurements are fluid but just remember to cut out your felt a couple of inches bigger that you think you need to allow for the stitching.  This is especially important with the width, I would have needed my piece of felt to be quite a bit bigger all round if I wanted the slippers to fit my own foot! 

Divide in thirds and cut like so

Divide your felt in thirds and cut as per the image.

Round ends and stitch to close

Round the ends and stitch to close.  Pinch the back together and stitch up, voila!  Your first slipper!!

Oops, just lost my internet connection but back again …. in case I lose it imemdiately you can check out my Flickr images for some more pictures of the slippers in progress, even for a bad stitcher such as me they only took about 5 mins from cutting to finishing!

Oops again, lost my electricity this time ….. Just a quick not of warning, check that you have flipper the felt over before stitching your second slipper otherwise you will end up with two right feet like me!

Felting kits for sale in my Etsy store at last!

My first batch of felting kits are finally up for sale in my Etsy store as of this afternoon.  I can’t believe how long it has taken to get to this stage, really I am kicking myself they were not up earlier but truthfully I just seem to have been totally snowed under with other important things as you may have guessed from my recent posts! 

Some of the wool for my new flat felting kits

Each kit contains between 110g and 120g Icelandic wool in mixed colours, a small bag with various embellishments which might include beads, buttons or fancy yarn, bubble wrap and full written instructions on how to make your flat felt masterpiece.  The kits make ideal presents for crafty male and female friends, both adults and children alike.

After Christmas (not going to be too ambitious about the date this time!) I will also be offering nuno felt kits, felt jewellery kits and simple felt vessel kits.  Realistically I need to write up clear instructions for all the tutorials, order in  more silk for the nuno kits, cut out resists for the vessel kits and basically take some good images of each individual kit to upload to Etsy.  The weather has been so bad here recently that I have not been able to take individual shots of the flat felting kits (they kept flying off the table this afternoon in the wind!), at the moment I only have the one photo but in the absence of any others I guess it will just have to do for now!

Pictures of my new fabric and felt neckpiece design

As promised here are some pictures of my new style (loosly based on a Lyda Rump design) fabric and felt neckpiece. 

Printed silver fabric and black felt bead neckpiece

The scarves that I have used in my first two prototypes are a 20% silk 80% linen mix and the beads are wet felted from some of my gorgeously soft short fibred merino.  When I was taking these pictures I thought again how perfect this style would be for anyone who  is allergic to wool.  The felt beads may be moved around the scarf and never touch the skin therefore anyone finding wool itchy would never come in contact with anything irritable.

Detail of printed fabric and felt bead neckpiece

I formed one long felt bead around a wooden dowel and just before I had finished felting cut the piece into five even pieces.  The black beads perfectly compliment the silver printed fabric and I am still deciding if I will add small seed beads to the turquoise neckpiece (pictures on Flickr) or leave it as is, plain and simple.  As mentioned before I sewed the ends of the scarf together and covered the join with a felt bead.  It would of course be an option not to do this but leave the ends open, this way the scarf could be wound around the neck in the normal manner as many times as wanted leaving the ends free to sit to the front or to the back.

I am off now to have a quick snack for lunch and then set in to a long afternoon felting in preparation for Sunday’s craft fair!  Until tomorrow …..

Felt book, felt jewellery, pricing work and Clasheen Crafty Swap update …..

Following on from yesterday’s post about Carmen’s great new book ‘Dutch Felt’, I did an internet search this morning and discovered that it is available directly from the publishars Zijdar.  When I get a few spare hours (whenever that is!) I am planning on trying out Ria’s ‘Heart rug’ project incorporating raw sheep’s wool, silk fabric and merino fibres amongst others.  This looks like the perfect time to try once more some of the gorgeous Jacobs fleece kindly given to me by some neighbours this summer, I will keep you posted!

Orange and grey punched felt necklace

Carmen came over yesterday afternoon and her visit provided an excellent excuse to stop tidying the studio in preparation for the weekend workshop and sit down together and string some felt jewellery.  I pulled some of the colourful felt beads that I have made over the last while out of hiding and then spent some time selecting seed beads that would most do the felt justice.  I always find it difficult to finish projects like these and definitely it is the little things that make the difference, it was SO much easier to have a drink and a chat while putting some of these items to bed once and for all! 

The pictured orange, grey, black, white and hot pink necklace put some of my punched beads to really good use.  Normally I would not seperate these type of felt beads with anything, just string them together in a line but for some reason these screamed out to me to use cheery orange seed beads as dividers.  I like the effect and went on to make some earrings with the other punched beads that I had in my stash, you can check them out on Flickr and some are already up in my Etsy shop.

Speaking of Etsy, how do you price your work???  I am totally aware of the current financial situation globally and while I don’t want to undervalue what I am making I also definitely don’t want to overprice pieces and make them unaffordable to buy.  With this in mind I am constantly comparing dollar prices with euros, hopefully you will agree that $45 (E30.33 at todays exchange rate) is not too expensive for the necklace above, it does have 22 layers of merino in every bead and the felt pad which I punched them from took a full day to make! 

Turquoise and coral felt and bead necklace

The other style of necklace that I uploaded today is retailing at $40 (E26.93), I am trying to reflect the time and skill that went into each various piece as well as the artistic merit and uniqueness or sameness of each design.  These prices are an online special and only available through my Etsy store.  If I am attending a craft fair or other event the prices are a little higher to reflect the extra costs accosiated with participating and travelling to shows.

And finally for today ….. partners are at last assigned for the Clasheen Winter Swap.  Many apologies for the week long delay, things are just hectic here and I think that we will extend the posting deadline to accomodate everyone and allay frustrations!  There is still plenty of time to get your packages prepared, after all we are trying to destash as well as make a personal gift so hopefully there will not be too much shopping to do.

More ramblings from an American road trip and my fibre related finds along the way

Moving on up the coast from Arcata (but not before I bought some gorgeous ceramic beads from Talisman in Eureka) we stayed at a basic but comfortable motel at the edge of Crescent City before heading East through Smith River National Recreation Area and on up into Oregon. 

Stunning Fern Canyon

Stunning Fern Canyon

While in Crescent City we explored some of Redwood National Park including the stunningly beautiful Fern Canyon, part of the Praire Redwoods section of the greater park area.   Passing through Grants Pass we then headed South a little before turning East again and travelling to fascinating and remote Lava Beds National Monument.  On the way we spent one night at Shakespere mad Ashland (I kid you not!) in a gorgeous old hotel on the main street where I had the opportunity to pick up some great buttons and beautiful undyed mohair locks at  a handspinners, weavers and knitters delight called The Web.sters.  I have never felted with pure mohair before so am really looking forward to seeing how it felts when I get home, it feels beautiful and silky to the touch and is in gorgeous natural shades of grey, silver and off white.  We also spent some time chatting (or visiting as you folks say over here) with Alfred Hanan at his brilliant shop ‘Hemporium’, a fantastic place to pick up some stylish, comfortable and natural clothing or accessories and then met Dale Muir in her studio at the Ashland Art Centre.  Dale works with recycled materials creating wonderful funky assemblages which just had to make me smile.  The Art Centre is very interesting, one of many different co-operative type businesses we have encountered along the way and giving me lots to think about for future possibilities back home in Ireland.  We stopped in Ashland for one night before moving on the Tulelake, our base for visiting both Lava Beds and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges.  Thanks to our Californian Lonely Planet we checked in to Fe’s B&B on 660 Main St., a great choice as Fe and her husband Bob were great hosts and Fe’s delicious hot breakfasts with fresh fruit were healthy, tasty and large setting us up nicely for a day exploring the fascinating scenery and wildlife in the area.    Another nice aspect about the B&B was the fact that guests from the 4 bedrooms joined up together at breakfast and shared tables.  We got to spend some time with an interesting young couple Lizzie and Lawrence from England and had a meal together the second night at Captain Jack’s Stronghold, a surprisingly good restaurant at the side of Hwy 139 a few miles south of Tulelake.  One thing that it is hard to convey to friends at home is how BIG this country is and when you are in more remote regions it could be hundreds of miles between gas stations or anywhere to eat, decent or not! 

Alan among the lava beds

Alan among the lava beds

Both Lava Beds National Monument and Klamath Wildlife Refuges were brilliant stops on our trip.  The volcanic activity over the years has created a fascinating landscape, we did some great walks through the lava beds and and into the caves and were lucky enough to see a young mountain lion on our way back to the B&B on our second night.  The refuges provide habitats for a mind boggling array of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway and on the second morning we saw a bald eagle from a distance of about 8 feet while driving around one of the auto routes, the best way of viewing the birds as they seem to be less afraid of cars than of us humans!  We intended staying one or two nights at Fe’s but ended up there for three, if ever you are in the area call in and say hi, you won’t be disappointed with the welcome and the brilliant tasty breakfasts!!

Where to buy the hollow punches that I use on my felt

This is just a quick post to clarify details of the hollow punches that I use to cut out my thick felt beads.  The punches are often sold for use with leather and a good place to check out if you are looking to buy one is eBay, here is the link for our neck of the woods.  I bought my set at a motor factors but Carmen got hers in Spain and they were much more expensive than mine but they do punch much better!

Green punched necklace

Green punched necklace

The edges seem to be very sharp and definitely cut out a nice crisp circle, the thick felt can be difficult to cut through and you need to have a piece of hardwood as a backing to lay the felt on as you work.  Carmen’s set also has punches with a wider diameter than mine, if you do order a set try and go for one with sizes up to 30mm.  When making the felt pad to punch for beads I like to lay out several different colours of wool and it is a good idea to have either a white or a yellow layer somewhere to provide a bit of contrast.  I’m not sure why this image of a necklace I made before Christmas has been inserted so small but if you want to have a proper look at it check out my necklace set at Flickr.  This green necklace is an example of a thinner pad punched in small beads and strung with sreen seed beads for contrast.

Felting mouse, punched felt beads and a nuno felt wrap

Punched felt beads

Punched felt beads

Before I write about the felting I did over the long weekend just let me answer a question that a lot of you have been asking via email.  The ridged wooden object pictured beside the washboard in my last post is called a ‘felting mouse’.  This is a wonderful hand held tool which I bought from Wollknoll and I find it fantastic for spot fulling all types of felt and great for shaping felt vessels.  They sell this hand held style which is so comfortable to use and also a bigger paddle like version with a long wooden handle, I recommend this one!! 

Although I didn’t get to felt for as long as I would have liked to over the weekend (things are hotting up for Alan’s local election campaign!) I do have images of a couple of works in progress to show you.  One of the pieces that I worked on was the thick felt pad pictured above, I had actually made it at the beginning of last week but only started punching it yesterday evening.  I borrowed Carmen’s hollow punch set as it has much bigger punches and so far I have stamped out beads in various different sizes.

Nuno felt wrap
Nuno felt wrap

These beads will be used in a variety of jewellery projects that I have in mind, unfortunately I need to buy more seed beads as both the yellow and the blue that I have in stock just don’t cut the mustard with the colours of the discs!  My main felting project over the weekend was this nuno felted wrap made from some of the gorgeous hand dyed silk chiffon and merino friends from Feltmakers Ireland gave me as a present.  The colours are wonderfully subtle, hand dyed graduating shades of golden olive, now I just need to felt a contrasting flower or button to use as a closure.  I KNOW that I will wear this a lot!  If you check out my Flickr images you can see how textured and subtle this nuno is if you examine the close up image of the wrap.