Success from disaster! My fulled (felted) jumper saga, South East Textile Group …..

I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at the monthly get together of the South East Textile Group.  We meet on the last Saturday of every month at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny for inspiration, textile related tutorials and workshops, good food and a bit of fun!  Stephanie was teaching members how to needle felt a doll so making my apologies (needle felting really aggravates my back and I am NOT a doll person!) I settled in for a relaxing session of wet felting.  I felted a selection of glamorous flowers using some sparkly merino for the top layer and now just need to sew pins onto the backs and upload them to my Etsy shop.  I also felted three new rings and showed everyone how you can also use them as a ‘clasp’ with a scarf, really multi functional and fun items.  After a great lunch in the cafe I gathered a twisted stick and felted a flower onto the branch, part of my experimental work before I submit my proposal for ‘Sculpture in Context’ which is taking place at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin this September. 

When I arrived home from Castlecomer I was faced with my previously beautiful cerise mohair and wool jumper after I had made a mistake with the controls of my washing machine.  Previously I had washed this soft and beautiful jumper on a 30 degree wool wash but for some alsolutely crazy reason this time I had a rush of blood to my head and lumped it in at an active 40 degrees, disaster!  Although it was not totally ‘fulled’ it was getting there so nothing ventured nothing gained, I decided to bung it in on a 90 degree wash and take my chances with the resultant fabric.  Happily it worked a treat (obviously I would have preferred not to have shrunk it but once the process had started there was no going back) and this morning I cut up the jumper into various useful sections.  The piece that I am most pleased about is the neck, it now makes a really beautiful and warm headband with the addition of a crochet and felt green and pink corsage!  The sleeves are now fingerless mittens awaiting some embellishment and the body looks like it may be redesigned into a soft and comfortable cowl!


Seamless felt bags and New Year swap update

Mari's seamless felt bag

Mari's seamless felt bag

The South East Textile Group held our first meeting of the year last Saturday and it was my turn to share some skills and facilitate the workshop.  We met at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny and as usual started the morning with a coffee and chat in the beautiful light filled restaurant/coffee shop.  Our theme for the day was ‘felt bags’ and luckily I got my newsletter from the secretary during the end of last week or they would have been without a tutor as with all the excitement of the rug making I had totally forgotton to make a note of the date in my diary!   We had a great turnout of members and as many of them had only felted once or twice before I really wanted to make sure that they all had a good experience and went home with their own beautiful completed bag. 

Anne's seamless felt bag

Anne's seamless felt bag

We started the workshop by passing around some seamless bags that I had previously made and I explained that I wanted everyone to work using an oval resist, the different shapes of the finished bags would be achieved by cutting the opening in different positions.  I prefer using laminate floor underlay as my resist and we had a brief discussion about how this layer of plastic is like a letter in an envelope and prevents the fibres from both sides sticking together when starting the felting process.  Because I had a lot of wool ordered for Mehmet’s rug making workshops I had a nice selection of colours for anyone to choose from if they didn’t have their own wool to work with and once everyone had selected and weighed their wool (mainly long fibred American merino but also a few colours in New Zealand merino batts) I showed them how to lay out the fibres in even layers on top of their oval shaped resist.  When using this method it is really important to take care when turning your package over and keeping the fibres tight around the outside as you flip the loose strands from one side to the other.  Because some of the members had only felted once before we did have a few laughs trying to get to grips with the concept of seamless felting; which layers of wool would become the inside of the bag, which the front, which the back, where would the design end up etc.  but once everyone understood what we were aiming to achieve some beautiful bags started to take shape.  Interestingly enough one of the completed bags actually looked even better when turned inside out, something that quite often happens when felting, one of the reasons that I love the process!  Wonderful bags made by novice felters!We wet the layers of wool out (all the bags were worked between 2 layers of bubble wrap) with warm water and olive oil soap, massaged the fibres, flipped the whole thing over and then laid out the other side.  In order for everyone to have a well finished bag I kept a close eye on how the members were laying to wool out, some used 3 layers before laying out any final decoration, some 4 layers.  I had brought a goodie bag with a selection of different coloured wool for the final layer and also some great mulberry silk which some people choose to incorporate into their design.  We broke for lunch at this stage and returned in the afternoon to roll, throw and complete the fulling process.  Once the packages had shrunk enough and the members could feel the resist culing inside the felt it was time to cut open the package and decide where to place the handles.  Some members cut out a semi-circle of felt as I had done in my demo bags, Mari and Mary actually didn’t cut a whole piece of felt out but created clever little flaps to use as closures in the finished bags.  Once the bags were felted fully I showed everyone how to make a simple cord handle and a couple of people went on to decorate their bags with great felt flowers as well!

The Clasheen New Year destash swap is now underway and swap partners have been assigned! 

Annabie swaps with Clear2glass
edwardsdawn41 swaps with Shelivesacharmedlife
Clasheen swaps with ABarrett
Girly Girl Bags swaps with weepereas

Check out our Flickr group to see exactly what we are up to and why not join in the fun next time around!

Felt, ceramic, cookies and frustration!

Yesterday morning I started the day by showing a friend Leonie how to make three dimensional stars using 1.5m strips of coloured paper!  These are great strung as a garland or hung individually from the tree as Christmas ornaments.  We chatted over a cup of coffee and before Leoine left she gave me a lovely present of some home make star cookies (very appropriate!) which her girls had make.  They are all eaten now, thanks Esme and Nessa! 

I  spent a happy afternoon  felting a stripy ‘man’ scarf for a friend’s Christmas present and followed this by stringing some simple necklaces with commissioned ceramic buttons as the centre piece.  Because I wanted the scarf to be very soft and warm I used both merino and a merino and silk mixture which I had carded myself in the stripes.  I laid out the fibres crossways practically the whole length of my big table and proceeded to felt.  Never having made a striped scarf before (amazing that when I think about it!) I possibly should have laid some of the fibres in the opposite direction as well.  Everything felted perfectly but the scarf got longer instead of shorter, much longer in fact!!  Anyway, Martin is tall and the scarf feels wonderful wrapped a couple of times around the neck, I hope that he likes it.

All the naturals necklace

All the naturals necklace

The buttons that I used for the necklaces (initally intended for felt necklaces and bags!) were commissioned from Hillary Jenkinson, a talented maker working from a studio in the Demanse Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  It is well worth a trip to Castlecomer to visit this yard, in addition to the craftspeople’s studios and workshops there is a well stocked restaurant, a history of coal museum, beautiful parkland to walk in and a brilliant kid’s playground.  Each of the buttons is a one off and I think that they look great with the crocheted cream cotton beads that I made  ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ and some simple wooden or glass beads.   You can check them out on my Flickr photostream and the necklace above is actually on sale through my Etsy shop.  This is where the frustration sets in …. I had intended to put loads of felted items and these new necklaces  on my shop this morning but the battery on my camera just limits how many things I can upload in one session.  I had thought that they would make lovely pressies and was pricing everything between E10 and E20 but after 4 hours I have only managed to get 4 items up,  aghhhhhhhh.  Anyway, here is a picture of one of the necklaces and it is priced at $20 which equals E14.16 if anyone is interested!

Using a wire brush while felting! Silk paper workshop.

An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush!  People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect.  We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post).  I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know.  The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about.  Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area.  Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other.  It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying.  Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over.  This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully.  Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt. 

I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth.  This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making.  She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental.  I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process.  Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.